Tag Archives: geopolitical uncertainty

Evaluating Likelihoods for Libya’s Future – Scenario 1

Having detailed the various potential scenarios for Libya’s future over the next three to five years, we shall now evaluate the likelihood of the scenarios thanks notably to their indicators. We shall use the methodology developed by The Red (Team) Analysis Society, building upon Heuer (“Assessing Probability of a Scenario”, in Psychology of Intelligence Analysis, pp.156-157) and the capability given by indicators. This methodology allows us to obtain an estimated likelihood, which is considered not only as good enough for the purpose of anticipation through scenarios but also as remaining usable by analysts. Bayesian Networks (BN), using Pearl’s work (1985), would provide us with even more accurate estimates, but the use of BN for analysts, furthermore in the framework of issues which analysis is mainly qualitative, remains so far too heavy and time-consuming.

In this article, we shall determine the likelihood of the primary scenarios for a peaceful solution between the main Libyan actors (excluding Salafist groups), which we started to detail in “Scenarios for the Future of Libya – Scenarios 1: Towards Peace? (1).”

Organizing the Scenarios & Indicators

In order to mathematically deduce the likelihood of this scenario and its sub-scenarios, we organized the sub-scenarios in such a way as to correctly account for scenarios not detailed in our posts previously because they were not necessary in terms of narrative and understanding of the future of Libya – they were implicit (see graph below).

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With the main scenarios now organized, we compiled all their indicators from their corresponding articles and selected the indicators that were absolutely necessary for that scenario to occur. There were two reasons for this approach: first, we wanted to be as accurate as possible with determining the likelihood; indicators like the creation of a Joint Arab Force would be far less significant than the Islamists’ view of General Haftar affecting their willingness to participate in peace talks. Although these ‘lesser’ indicators do indeed contribute to strategic foresight and warnings for Libya’s future, and will provide us, in terms of monitoring with indications regarding the evolution towards a scenario or another, they are not absolutely necessary for that specific scenario or sub-scenario to occur*. Second, only having ‘primary indicators’ allows us to more easily monitor their reality on the ground for assessing the likelihood, and thus let us update their likelihood between posts to maintain the accuracy of the final likelihoods at the conclusion of this series. Monitoring for warning once the likelihood of all the scenarios is established would however use also ‘secondary indicators’.

To ensure the reliability of the mathematical process, each scenario’s group of indicators is mirrored in its counterpart or opposite scenario, but the way each indicator is phrased is inversed to match that scenario’s likelihood of occurring.

For example, indicator 6 of scenario 1.3 [Peace Negotiations, Without an External Mediator, Lead to a Signed Peace Treaty] is “Do the Libyan actors agree on the role of Islam in the unity government?” Since the Islamists advocate for the use of Sharia, and the nationalists do not, their agreement on the role of Islam in a new government is necessary for this scenario to occur. However, in scenario 1.4 [Peace Negotiations, Without an External Mediator, Fail], indicator 6 states “Do the Libyan actors disagree on the role of Islam in the unity government?,” since this disagreement on the role of Islam would prevent a signed peace treaty.

After organizing the scenarios, selecting and grouping their primary indicators, we began to compare the ideal indication for each indicator to see the scenario occurring with the reality of the indication on the ground to determine the likelihood for each (for more on indicators and indications, see Helene Lavoix, “Evaluating Scenarios and Indicators for the Syrian War”, 10 March 2014, RTAS).

Evaluating the Indicators

*The likelihood of each indicator 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 posts.

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

Scenario: Libyan Actors Agree to Participate in Peace Talks Mediated by External Actors

Are Libyan actors willing to attend and participate in peace talks mediated by external actors? 50% (Improbable). Currently, there are major factions that are either refusing or delaying to participate in peace talks facilitated by UN actors or individual states (such as Algeria). The Steadfastness Front has refused to join such negotiations, and has opposed the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) (Toaido and Fitzgerald, European Council on Foreign Relations). Meanwhile, General Haftar turned down Algerian-led peace talks between himself and the GNA (Middle East Monitor, January 3, 2017) and refuses to meet with UN Special Representative Martin Kobler (Fishman, The Washington Institute, January 19, 2017). However, other actors have already shown their willingness to participate in UN-led peace talks, as exhibited by those who have supported and joined the GNA. Furthermore, a group of members of the Council of Representatives (COR) have engaged in dialogue with Algerian mediators and a UN delegation regarding a peace agreement (Libya Herald, January 26, 2017; Libya Herald, January 17, 2017), although other COR members are still resistant to peace talks. Considering these realities, we gave this indicator a 50% likelihood to see the necessary indication happen, which rates as improbable.

Do the identities of the external mediator(s) have a minimal effect on the willingness of Libyan actors to participate? 30% (Improbable). The former UN envoy to Libya, Bernardino Leon, accepted a job in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) while mediating peace talks between the General National Congress and Council of Representatives (Al Jazeera, November 5, 2015). Because the UAE openly backed the COR, supporters of the GNC were enraged, which likely deepened mistrust of the United Nations. More recently, the plane carrying UN Special Representative to Libya Martin Kobler was denied permission to land as he was flying to Tobruk to speak with members of the COR – a government whose members are increasingly opposed to Kobler (Prentis, Libya Herald, January 18, 2017). Even Grand Mufti Sheikh Sadiq Al-Gharyani has expressed disapproval for UNSMIL and Kobler, saying, “The UNSMIL is cooperating with Satan, it has neglected the victory of Libyan people over ISIS, therefore, it’s time to call for replacing it” (The Libya Observer, December 7, 2016). Such distrust and disapproval of UN mediators has certainly had an effect on the willingness of Libyan actors to be actively involved in peace talks, thus we gave this indicator a 30% likelihood.

Do views on General Haftar have a minimal effect on the willingness of Haftar opposition forces to participate? 15% (Highly Unlikely). Considering the Islamists’ overwhelming opposition to Haftar and Misrata’s serious concern of a Haftar dictatorship (Saleh, Financial Times, January 25, 2017), we gave this indicator a 15% likelihood.

Are the armed coalitions facing a prolonged stalemate? 20% (Highly Unlikely). Based on the estimates of military strength and territorial control (see indicator below), we gave this indicator a 20% likelihood.

Are the armed coalitions relatively equal in terms of military strength and territorial control? 20% (Highly Unlikely). Although Misrata forces solidified their presence in central Libya by liberating Sirte from the Islamic State, Haftar’s forces control more territory and recently made significant gains in Benghazi against Salafist groups (Critical Threats, January 2017; BBC News, January 25, 2017). Furthermore, all the Misrata brigades under the command of the Misrata Military Council have joined the forces of the Government of National Accord (The Libya Observer, January 30, 2017), leaving the General National Congress and its coalition significantly weakened. As a result, we gave this indicator a 20% likelihood.

Have Libyan actors failed to secure military backing from external actors? 45% (Improbable). General Haftar and his nationalist allies have recently made gains in finding external actors who are increasingly stepping up their military support. Egypt has reportedly been caught sending arms to Libya in violation of the UN arms embargo (Saied, Al-Monitor, January 23, 2017), although it denies this accusation, and the UAE is speculated to soon deploy fighter jets in support of Haftar (Libyan Express, February 7, 2017). Russia, meanwhile, has made public shows of support for General Haftar and his forces (Daou, France24, January 25, 2017; Libya Prospect, December 1, 2016), including flying wounded nationalist fighters to Russia for medical treatment (Markey, Reuters, February 1, 2017). Considering much of this has not yet transitioned to concrete military backing, and considering that the other actors have not secured support from external actors, we gave this indicator a 45% likelihood.

Are external actors restraining the amount of pressure on Libyan actors to participate in peace talks? 25% (Improbable). External actors have incrementally increasing their pressure on Libyan actors to participate in dialogue and reach an agreement. Last year, the European Union imposed sanctions on Libyan politicians that were considered to be obstructing the Government of National Accord (BBC News, April 1, 2016). More recently, the EU suggested that it might lessen the sanctions against these Libyan leaders in order to facilitate a dialogue (ANSAmed, February 7, 2017). The European Union has also agreed to give the Government of National Accord a 215 million dollar package and funding for the Libyan coast guard in order to stem the migrant flows from Libya (BBC News, February 3, 2017). Such an action puts pressure on the GNC and COR, as evidenced by the COR’s condemnation of the deal (GeopoliticsAlert, February 8, 2017). Considering these realities, we gave this indicator a 25% likelihood.

Determining Likelihood

After calculating the likelihood of each indicator, we organized each numerical value in tiers with independent indicators standing alone and dependent indicators linked together according to dependency. Using scenario 1.3 again as an example, the likelihood of indicator 5 [Are the armed coalitions facing a prolonged stalemate?] occurring is dependent on the likelihood of indicator 4 [Are the armed coalitions relatively equal in regards to military strength and territorial control?].

We then took the first of each pair of opposed scenarios and multiplied the numerical likelihoods of each indicator to find the likelihood of that scenario. In our first scenario where Libyan actors agree to participate in peace talks mediated by external actors, the product of the indicators’ likelihood was .001134 – a less than 1% likelihood for that scenario. After finding the product of the first scenario, considering probabilities’ rules, we subtracted it from 1 to get the likelihood for its counterpart (1-x[sc 1 likelihood]=sc 2 likelihood). Thus, the likelihood of Libyan actors deciding to not participate in peace talks brokered by external actors is .9982, or 99.82%.

To determine the likelihood of their sub-scenarios, we followed the same process for each pair of scenarios and, because trees of scenarios obey to the rules of probability for dependent events, multiplied the product of each sub-scenario to their parent scenarios.

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After evaluating the main sub-scenarios, as well as their primary indicators, we thus assess that Scenario 1 Towards Peace would be highly unlikely – less than 20%, considering current situation.

In our next post, we shall begin to determine the likelihood of the various 2.x scenarios.

*In terms of graph and network representing the future of Libya, they would be antecede the variables used for this specific scenario by more than two steps and/or be on adjacent paths.

Bibliography

Feature Photo: Row of Libyan flags in Tripoli by Ben Sutherland, [CC BY 2.0], via Flickr

“Algeria continues Libya peace efforts with visit of pro-LNA HoR group,” Libya Herald, January 17, 2017

“Anger at UN chief negotiator in Libya’s new job in UAE,” Al-Jazeera, November 5, 2015

Ben Fishman, “Shifting International Support for Libya’s Unity Government,” The Washington Institute, January 19, 2017

“EU may reduce sanctions to foster Libyan peace,” ANSAmed, February 7, 2017

Fighting Forces in Libya: January 2017 map, Critical Threats, American Enterprise Institute

“Grand Mufti calls for UNSMIL replacement; praises victory over ISIS,” The Libya Observer, December 7, 2016

“Haftar and Russia agreement…Where it goes?” Libya Prospect, December 1, 2016

“Haftar refuses peace talks with UN-backed government,” Middle East Monitor, January 3, 2017

J. Pearl, “Bayesian Networks: A Model of Self-Activated Memory for Evidential Reasoning,” (UCLA Technical Report CSD-850017), Proceedings of the 7th Conference of the Cognitive Science Society, University of California, Irvine, CA, 1985, pp. 329-334.

Jamie Prentis, “UNSMIL’s Martin Kobler refused clearance for Tobruk landing,” Libya Herald, January 18, 2017

“Libya And Italy Sign Migration Deal,” Geopolitics Alert, February 8, 2017

“Libyan Islamists lose Benghazi district to Haftar’s forces,” BBC News, January 25, 2017

“Libyan politicians hit by EU sanctions over new government,” BBC News, April 1, 2016

Marc Daou, “By supporting Marshal Haftar, Russia marks its territory in Libya,” France24, January 25, 2017

Mattia Toaldo and Mary Fitzgerald, “A Quick Guide to Libya’s Main Players,” European Council on Foreign Relations, June 15, 2016

“Migrant crisis: EU leaders agree plan to stop Libya influx,” BBC News, February 3, 2017

“Misrata brigades join Libyan National Army,” The Libya Observer, January 30, 2017

Mohamed Saied, “Egypt goes against international current with Libya support,” Al-Monitor, January 23, 2017

Patrick Markey, “Eastern Libya forces fly wounded to Russia in growing cooperation,” Reuters, February 1, 2017

“UAE on verge of sending Mirage 2000s to support Haftar’s looming war on western Libya,” Libyan Express, February 7, 2017

“UNSMIL team in Tobruk for talks with HoR,” Libya Herald, January 26, 2017