In this article, we shall assess the likelihood of a lasting victory by the GNC, GNA, and COR—in other words, the ability of each government to not only achieve victory, but also to maintain lasting control. By victory, we mean a complete victory by one side over its adversaries, which is not imposed from the top down by external powers. In the previous article, we evaluated the likelihood for the initial victory of each government, finding that a COR victory was least unlikely.

Now that intervention is already occurring, as we saw in our article on intervention scenarios, the “Total Victory” scenarios are considered sub-scenarios of Scenario 2: Intervention instead of independent scenarios. As such, this will be reflected in the indicators, mapping and likelihoods. Indeed, as events unfolded and intervention took place, scenarios 3, which were about “total victory” without intervention, have now become impossible (likelihood = 0).

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The assessments of these lasting victory scenarios are solely based on the efforts of the Libyan governments, meaning they do not account for the possibility of significant international support during the stabilization and reconstruction phases. Furthermore, a few of the dynamics in the indicators deserve a more in-depth look that would affect the likelihood. But for the purposes of this post, we made general assessments.

Note: In the following article, we shall use the acronym COR for the Council of Representatives (nationalists), GNC for the General National Congress (Islamists), and GNA for the UN-backed Government of National Accord (unity government).

Evaluating the Indicators

*The likelihood of each indicator below is based on the current reality on the ground, which may warrant a change of likelihood as we progress through each scenario in the forthcoming articles, as is happening in this article regarding intervention.

The following scenarios and their indicators will show how we determined the numerical likelihoods based on current realities. We use the following table for our likelihood levels:

Scenario: A Nationalist Libya: <1%

1. Would a nationalist government have minimal complications integrating various armed factions under its control? 15% (Highly Unlikely) / 25% (Improbable). Considering the coalition supporting the COR is comprised of various militias, brigades, and army units affiliated with different tribes and regions of Libya (see Nationalist Forces I and II), the COR is highly likely to experience complications exerting control depending on how it attempts integration. After the fall of Qaddafi and his regime, the new government utterly failed in controlling the various armed groups, which allowed militias to ultimately rule their own jurisdictions (Stephen, The Guardian, June 9, 2012; CNN, February 16, 2012). Many armed groups refused to integrate into the “formal security apparatus” (Wehrey, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, September 2014), and often used their autonomy to achieve political aims (Al Jazeera, October 24, 2013; Wehrey, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, September 2014). If the COR tries integrating the varying militias into a single national army with a top-down command structure, it will likely achieve the same result—based on the autonomous and competing nature of Libya’s armed groups, as well as similar failed attempts to rein in armed groups. With these realities in mind, we gave this single army, top-down approach a 15% likelihood. For the purposes of our broad assessment, previous attempts of pursuing a national guard integration strategy failed (Wehrey and Ahram, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, May 7, 2015)—although the contributing factors for failure could be better examined in a commissioned study, the results of which could affect the likelihood of this indicator. However, if the COR pursued this strategy and applied the lessons learned from previous national guard attempts (see Wehrey and Ahram, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, May 7, 2015), the approach has the potential to slightly increase this indicator’s likelihood to 25%. Considering Libya’s tribal society, we deemed it worthy to explore a national guard option – or other approaches proceeding from a similar perspective (e.g. Saudi Arabia’s National Guard) – that could potentially work as a better model to integrate local militias.

2. Would exclusionary policies and the inability to maintain political cohesion minimally affect the COR’s legitimacy among the Libyan people? 18% (Highly Unlikely). Based on the combined likelihoods of indicators 2A, 2B, and 2C, this indicator has an overall likelihood of 18%.

General Haftar

2A. Is the COR intent on dissolving Islamist political groups and implementing a more nationalist and secularist system? 90% (Almost Certain). Heavily influenced by General Haftar, the victorious COR would almost certainly implement policies to exclude Islamists from political power. Indeed, Haftar’s path to power began with Operation Dignity against Islamist militias in eastern Libya (BBC News, September 15, 2016), and he has shown a desire to rid Libya of the Muslim Brotherhood: “There are three options for Islamists…death, imprisonment, and expulsion from the country. Libya will be the graveyard of terrorism…I am fighting the scourge of the world and the world needs to support me,” (Wehrey, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, September 2014). In 2014, COR Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni equated all Islamist groups to “terrorists,” (see Nationalist Forces I). Furthermore, the COR has shown its willingness to delegitimize the Islamists by voting to sack Libya’s Grand Mufti Sadiq al-Ghariani and dissolving the Dar al-Ifta—the country’s fatwa-issuing body—although it could not be enforced, due to Ghariani’s location outside the control of the COR (McGregor, Aberfoyle International Security, December 2014). The seemingly personal rivalry between Ghariani and Haftar (McGregor, Aberfoyle International Security, December 2014) may also influence Haftar and the COR to force the Grand Mufti out of his role, or even imprison him. Considering these realities, we gave this indicator a 90% likelihood.

2B. Would the COR’s inclusion of former Qaddafi officials minimally affect its domestic legitimacy? 50% (Improbable). Since 2014, the COR has included former Qaddafi soldiers in its ranks, and has included former regime officials in the government—most recently with the appointment of Qaddafi’s close aid Mohamed Belgassem Zway as the COR President’s adviser (Tagba, The North Africa Post, April 3, 2017). Thus, we can safely assume that it would remain inclusive of former regime officials in the case of a Nationalist Libya. Using its momentum following a total victory, as well as playing to the politics of its major supporters, the COR could remove any barriers preventing former Qaddafi officials and soldiers from participating in the new state. The pro-revolutionary stance of the Islamists and much of Misrata (see Islamist & Misrata Forces I) may or may not push some of their groups towards violent protest; however, the willingness of defeated Libyan groups to resist the new government or not is yet another dynamic that would need to be thoroughly reviewed in a commissioned study. As a result, we gave this indicator a 50% likelihood.

2C. Would the COR be able to adequately manage the various fragmenting agendas and ideologies that threaten political cohesion? 40% (Improbable). Although Haftar has the support of many tribes, militias, and local councils in his opposition to the Islamists, a total victory for the Council of Representatives would bring their differences to the forefront. However, if handled properly, the COR could potentially mitigate fragmenting agendas that threaten its political cohesion. If it empowered provincial governments and ensured equal representation, Cyrenaica’s federalists could be appeased—a strategic move that would satisfy one of the COR’s largest blocs. In fact, a new federalist bloc from Cyrenaica has already been formed and has gained support from some COR members in an effort to reform the COR while installing and giving additional powers to provincial governments (Libya Herald, March 27, 2017). However, COR members with a different ideology did leave the parliament in support of the GNA (Zaptia, Libya Herald, January 12, 2017), highlighting its inability to mitigate fragmentation. Considering these realities, we gave this indicator a 40% likelihood.

3. Would the GNC and GNA politically fragment without armed support? 95% (Almost Certain). With their forces defeated militarily in this scenario, we ascertain that the GNC and GNA would almost certainly politically fragment—considering they have lost political cohesion even with armed support. As a result, we gave this indicator a 95% likelihood.

4. Would external actors be willing to recognize the COR as the legitimate government, even though it opposed the UN-backed GNA? 90% (Almost Certain). If the GNC and especially the GNA quickly collapse in the wake of a COR victory, we surmise that most external actors would accept the COR’s legitimacy as the sole government of Libya. With the GNA dissolved and the COR’s strongman Haftar acting as a bulwark against extremist threats in Libya, external actors would likely gravitate towards accepting the COR’s legitimacy. Even after the formation of the GNA, some external actors rhetorically supported a unity government but militarily backed General Haftar and the COR (Eleiba, Ahram Online, June 7, 2017; Ali, Middle East Observer, February 21, 2017; The New Arab, May 30, 2017; Papagiorcopulo, Foreign Brief, June 5, 2017; Pearson, The National, July 21, 2016). Egypt and the United Arab Emirates currently have forces supporting Haftar’s army (The New Arab, May 30, 2017; Papagiorcopulo, Foreign Brief, June 5, 2017; Malsin, Time, May 9, 2017); Russia has taken actions that exemplify its support for Haftar (Luhn, The Guardian, March 14, 2017; Delalande, War is Boring, March 1, 2017; Arab News, February 2, 2017; World Tribune, November 13, 2016); and France has solidified security ties with Egypt in relation to Libya (Irish, Reuters, June 8, 2017). Furthermore, the new French government has voiced its support for including Haftar in a united Libyan government – specifically noting the need for strong forces to fight terrorism (Reuters, May 18, 2017). By recognizing Haftar as a strongman to tackle terrorism, France would likely recognize the COR’s legitimacy. Considering the current regional crisis surrounding Qatar and the other Gulf countries, the anti-Islamist COR and General Haftar would be an acceptable alternative to most of the regional actors (except Turkey and Qatar) if the GNA collapsed. Thus, we gave this indicator a 90% likelihood.

Summary: Likelihood of a Nationalist Libya

After calculating the likelihood of each scenario and multiplying them by the likelihood of their victory scenarios in the previous article (upon which they are dependent), we assess that A Nationalist Libya would be highly unlikely—less than 20%. Nevertheless, a lasting COR victory has the highest probability of the three governments. As noted in the introduction, this likelihood does not account for international involvement or support during the stabilization and rebuilding of Libya.

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Scenario: A United Libya: <1%

GNA fighters prepare to attack an ISIS position in Sirte, Libya.

1. Would a GNA government have minimal complications integrating various armed factions under its control? 10% (Highly Unlikely) / 20% (Improbable). For the same reasons discussed in this corresponding COR indicator, the GNA will likely have great difficulty integrating the various militias into its security apparatus and exerting control over them. There has already been a significant instance where GNA-aligned forces attacked an airbase without orders—resulting in mass casualties and executions (The Guardian, May 19, 2017). Also, tribal and other local militias may not be willing to integrate into the security apparatus of the GNA, considering some Libyans’ distrust of what they see as a UN-imposed government (The Guardian, October 23, 2015; Libya Tribune, March 27, 2017). With these realities in mind, we assess the likelihood of minimal complications stemming from a top-down unified military at 10% and a national guard integration strategy at 20%.

2. Would the GNA be able to adequately manage the various fragmenting agendas and ideologies that threaten political cohesion? 20% (Improbable). From the beginning, the GNA’s Presidential Council has suffered from political disagreements and fragmentation (Middle East Eye, July 1, 2016; Lewis, Reuters, January 2, 2017), which shows its inability to adequately manage political cohesion. Adding to the complications would be the dissenting views of the groups and populations that supported the Islamists or nationalists. If the GNA were to include their political leaders as a means to increase domestic legitimacy, it would have greater difficulty managing the spectrum of ideologies. As a result, we gave this indicator a 20% likelihood.

3. Would the GNC and COR politically fragment without armed support? 95% (Almost Certain). As discussed in previous indicators, the GNC and COR would almost certainly politically fragment if they lost armed support. In the case of a GNA victory, they would also likely lose any support from external actors—also contributing to fragmentation. As a result, we gave this indicator a 95% likelihood.

4. Would external actors be willing to recognize the GNA as the legitimate government? 95% (Almost Certain). In the event of a GNC and COR collapse, we surmise that external actors would recognize the GNA’s legitimacy. Since most external actors currently recognize its legitimacy (while some rhetorically support the GNA, but still militarily support the COR), and because GNC and COR supporters would no longer have a non-GNA government to support, we gave this indicator a 95% likelihood.

Summary: Likelihood of a United Libya

After calculating the likelihood of each scenario and multiplying them by the likelihood of their victory scenarios in the previous article (upon which they are dependent), we assess that A United Libya under the leadership of the Government of National Accord would be highly unlikely—less than 20%. However, a lasting GNA victory has a higher probability than a lasting GNC victory. As noted in the introduction, this likelihood does not account for international involvement or support during the stabilization and rebuilding of Libya.

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Scenario: An Islamist Libya: <1%

1. Would an Islamist government have minimal complications integrating various armed factions under its control? 10% (Highly Unlikely) / 20% (Improbable). An Islamist-leaning government may have difficulty integrating the more secular militias into its military forces, based on the GNC’s former and current ties to Islamist militias, Salafist groups, and Libya’s Grand Mufti—a hardline Islamist (Barr and Blackman, Terrorism Monitor, August 5, 2016; Mustafa, Libya Herald, August 14, 2016; Chandler, The Atlantic, October 16, 2015). Also, if the GNC is unable to apply lessons learned from its previous failed attempts to control the various armed factions (see Wehrey and Ahram, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, May 7, 2015), it may again struggle with integrating them. Integrating groups into a standard army would likely pose more complications than a national guard strategy, but pursuing a national guard model based on reformed approaches could increase the likelihood of this indicator. Considering all these realities, we assess a 10% and 20% likelihood, respectively.

2. Would exclusionary policies, the implementation of Sharia law, and the inability to maintain political coherency minimally affect the GNC’s legitimacy among the Libyan people? 3% (Highly Unlikely). Based on the combined likelihoods of indicators 2A, 2B, and 2C, this indicator has an overall likelihood of 3%.

2A. Is the GNC intent on implementing Sharia law? 75% (Highly Likely). In 2016, the Justice and Construction Party (often considered a party affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood) announced its support for the Government of National Accord and threatened to sue GNC leader Khalifa Ghwell for acting against the GNA (Ali, Libya Herald, November 17, 2016; Ikhwan Web, March 30, 2016). Although once strong allies, Ghwell and the Justice and Construction Party now vehemently oppose each other (Ali, Libya Herald, November 17, 2016). However, Ghwell and the GNC have strong ties to Libya’s Grand Mufti Sadek Al-Ghariani, who advocates for full Sharia law and deemed those who vote for political parties that don’t support full Sharia law to be ‘un-Islamic’ (Kwarteng and Docherty, Conservative Middle East Council, March 2017; Pusztai, Libya Tribune, February 6, 2017). Al-Ghariani would likely wield his influence to pressure the GNC to implement Sharia law across Libya. The other possibility lies with the Grand Mufti’s ties to hardline Islamist groups and Salafist groups (Mustafa, Libya Herald, August 14, 2016)—armed factions that could use force to achieve the same goal. Considering the Justice and Construction Party has severed ties with the GNC, but the government is allied with Libya’s highest spiritual leader—who has ties to hardline groups that would be willing to force the GNC to implement Sharia law—we gave this indicator a 75% likelihood.

2B. Would the GNC’s exclusion of former Qaddafi officials minimally affect its domestic legitimacy? 20% (Improbable). As noted in “Islamist & Misrata Forces (1),” the GNC—and at the time, its Dawn of Libya coalition—embrace the principles of the revolution, and thus are fundamentally opposed to including former Qaddafi officials in the new state. When the GNC held power from 2012 to 2014, it passed a “Political Isolation Law” under duress, which prevented any former regime member from participating in the government (Murray, Al Jazeera, April 4, 2015)—a law that would later be revoked by the Council of Representatives (BBC News, February 2, 2015). If pro-revolutionary militias and local councils (such as the Misrata Military Council – Libya Herald, April 15, 2017) put enough pressure on the GNC, we surmise that the GNC would exclude Qaddafi officials from the new government, just as it did before. But considering the division over the previous Political Isolation Law, the exclusion of former regime officials would likely affect the GNC’s legitimacy. Thus, we gave this indicator a 20% likelihood.

2C. Would the GNC be able to adequately manage the various fragmenting agendas and ideologies that threaten political cohesion? 20% (Improbable). Once the GNC achieves total victory, its supporters would shift their focus to that of forming the new government in their own image through influence—or even by force. The speed in which Sharia is implemented would likely cause political disagreements, particularly if some GNA leaders have different aims than the Grand Mufti or other Islamist leaders. Hardline Islamist militias and Salafist groups with ties to Ghariani (Barr and Blackman, Terrorism Monitor, August 5, 2016; Mustafa, Libya Herald, August 14, 2016), may try to force the GNC to quickly implement Sharia law—potentially leading to political fragmentation. Considering the past incidents of militias coercing the GNC (Toperich, Huffington Post, July 24, 2014; Gomati, Carnegie Middle East Center, May 21, 2013), the GNC’s inability to manage the divisive decision regarding the GNA (Hanly, Digital Journal, October 21, 2016; Pearson, The National, July 13, 2016), and the threat of hardline Islamist groups exerting pressure, we gave this indicator a 20% likelihood.

3. In the unlikely case of a GNC victory, would the COR and GNA politically fragment without armed support? 95% (Almost Certain). Because the COR and GNA have shown signs of political fragmentation despite already having or garnering new armed support (as is the GNA’s case) (Libya Herald, January 23, 2017; Libyan Express, March 9, 2017; Middle East Eye, July 1, 2016; Lewis, Reuters, January 2, 2017), we gave this indicator a 95% likelihood.

Posted by the GNC Department of Public Information Facebook page, 31 August 2014

4. Would external actors be willing to recognize the GNC as the legitimate government, even though it opposed the UN-backed GNA? 20% (Improbable). If both the COR and GNA quickly collapse from a GNC victory, we surmise that most external actors would not recognize the GNC. The GNC’s former ties to the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Justice and Construction Party (Glenn, Wilson Center), its former and current ties to Islamist militias and the Grand Mufti (Barr and Blackman, Terrorism Monitor, August 5, 2016; Mustafa, Libya Herald, August 14, 2016; Chandler, The Atlantic, October 16, 2015), and external support from Qatar (see Mitchell, “Potential International Intervention in Context”) would most likely cause external actors to oppose its legitimacy—particularly in light of the current diplomatic crisis revolving around Qatar and the Muslim Brotherhood. Thus, the only external actors that are likely to recognize the GNC are Turkey and Qatar, both of which supported the GNC earlier in the civil war and are staunch allies in the current diplomatic crisis (Murray, Al Jazeera, April 4, 2015; Mitchell, The Red Team Analysis Society, February 16, 2015; Butler, Reuters, June 9, 2017; Al Jazeera, June 10, 2017). The United States is likely to oppose the GNC’s legitimacy in line with Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Egypt, considering President Trump’s denouncement of Qatar as a sponsor of terrorism as well as some of his administration’s support of designating the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization (Smith and Siddiqui, The Guardian, June 9, 2017; Taylor, The Washington Times, March 27, 2017; Middle East Eye, June 14, 2017). As a result, we gave this indicator a 20% likelihood.

Summary: Likelihood of an Islamist Libya

After calculating the likelihood of each scenario and multiplying them by the likelihood of their victory scenarios in the previous article (upon which they are dependent), we assess that an Islamist Libya would be highly unlikely—less than 20%. It’s worth noting that out of the three governments, a lasting GNC victory has the lowest probability of occurring. As noted in the introduction, this likelihood does not account for international involvement or support during the stabilization and rebuilding of Libya.

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In our next article, we shall determine the likelihood of a Salafist victory, where Al-Qaida or the Islamic State achieve a total victory over the Libyan governments.

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Feature Photo: Posted by Gabriele Micalizzi Facebook page,  December 5, 2016

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