Tag Archives: indicator

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.


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

Scenarios for the Future of Libya – Sc 3.1 An Islamist Libya

In our previous article we detailed three sub-scenarios of combined partition and spill over where Libya disappears as such through the creation of three new states, while consequent weaknesses is the cause of spill over to neighboring nations. We thus concluded the series of scenarios 2, which depicted a continuing civil war but with different terms, i.e. change of terrain or actors (see Mitchell, “Scenarios for the Future of Libya Within the Next Three to Five Years,” June 1, 2015; and Lavoix, “How to Analyze Future Security Threats (4): Scenarios and War,” December 30, 2013). This article focuses on the first of the two possible scenarios detailing a total victory in Libya, either by the Islamists or the nationalists. Scenario 3.1 and its sub-scenarios will discuss a total victory by the Islamist government and armed factions, where Libya becomes an Islamist state ruled by Sharia law. In scenario 3.2 and its sub-scenarios, we shall discuss a victory by the nationalist government and its coalition.

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Note: Considering the future names of potential factions that would result from a new split between the unity government, we shall use the label nationalist for those that supported the nationalist/liberal-dominated Council of Representatives (COR) and any future anti-Islamist factions; Islamist to note those that supported the General National Congress (GNC) and any future pro-political Islamic movements; and Salafist will remain the label of choice for groups that reject democratic institutions and embrace jihadism.

Sub-scenario 3 – A Real Victory in Libya

In this scenario, a “real victory” refers to the cessation of major hostilities resulting from a belligerent’s military domination of the other. Once a belligerent militarily defeats the other, it will be in a position to rebuild Libya as either an Islamist or secular state.

After achieving military victory, the triumphant government begins the stabilization and peacebuilding processes necessary to rebuild the Libyan state. The victorious government faces the arduous tasks of uniting the country, finding a solution to control the various militias, preventing a renewed insurgency by the vanquished, and achieving both domestic and international legitimacy.

Indicators to Monitor

Below are the main indicators we identified that impact the likelihood to see scenario 3 occurring. They should thus be monitored.

  1. The level of exhaustion suffered by each side. Heightened levels of exhaustion will decrease the likelihood of a real military victory and increase the likelihood of a peace settlement or uniting under a unity government.
  2. The level of resolve by each side to achieve a military victory instead of submitting to a peace agreement. Considering the Islamists’ level of hatred for General Haftar, and Haftar’s hatred for Islamist groups, both sides have a high level of resolve to achieve military victory. The higher the level of resolve, the more likely this scenario is to occur.
  3. The level of each side’s military strength. If one side is able to continue recruiting fighters, increase its troop strength levels, and gain advantages with air and ground power while the other side progressively loses military strength, the likelihood of this scenario increases.
  4. The ability of one side to make territorial gains. A real military victory depends on the conqueror’s ability to take and hold territory. Territorial gains by one side and consequential territory loss by the other increase the likelihood of scenario 3 occurring.
  5. The level of military assistance provided by external actors. External military assistance has a large impact on the battlefield. Depending on the level of support, the likelihood of this scenario increases. Past indications occurred when Turkey and Qatar allegedly provided arms and political support to the Islamists (Kirkpatrick and Schmitt, The New York Times, August 25, 2014; Tastekin, Al-Monitor, December 4, 2014), while Egypt and the United Arab Emirates provided military assistance to the nationalists (McGregor, Terrorism Monitor, September 5, 2014; Wenig, The Washington Institute).
  6. The presence of extremist groups that are opposed to both sides. If extremist groups fighting both coalitions have a strong presence in Libya, both the Islamists and nationalists will have added complications to achieving a military victory. Groups like the Islamic State force both sides to divert military forces and other assets – thus decreasing the likelihood of this scenario. A past indication occurred when the Islamic State stronghold in Sirte forced both the Islamist and nationalist coalitions to divert forces to prevent the Islamic State from gaining additional territory and launching attacks on their populations (Kadlec, War on the Rocks, June 23, 2016).

Sub-scenario 3.1 An Islamist Libya

Mohamed Hassan Swaan. President of Libya’s Justice and Construction Party

The Islamist government – dominated by the Justice and Construction Party (considered an extension of the Muslim Brotherhood) – gradually begins directing Libya towards an Islamic state ruled by Sharia law. If the government decides to increase its domestic legitimacy with Libya’s mixed population of secularists, Islamists, Arabs, Tuareg, Amazigh, and Toubou, it allows secular liberal freedoms to exist, and allows the tribes to maintain their tribal courts and councils. Despite being allowed to maintain their tribal governance, the Amazigh, Tuareg, and Toubou tribes continue to be marginalized in the Islamist government. Libya’s new government works to keep the peace between the tribes in the south, but does not make an effort to fully include the minority tribes. However, if the Islamist government is pressured enough to immediately make Libya a strict Islamic state, it removes secular liberal freedoms and attempts to impose Sharia on tribal courts and councils. Considering the tribal beliefs and organization of the Amazigh, Tuareg, and Toubou (see Mitchell, Tribal Dynamics and Civil War I, II, and III), as well as their inability to match the military strength of the government, the tribes feel forced to submit to a Libyan Sharia state – and thus progressively turn again, with time, towards insurgency.

Once the Islamist government takes power, Turkey and Qatar are among the first states to recognize its legitimacy – considering their interest in supporting Sunni Islamist governments. The EU and U.S. also recognize the new government as a way to prevent spill over and act as a bulwark against Libya’s extremist groups. Not wanting a Muslim Brotherhood state as its neighbor, Egypt expresses its opposition to the legitimacy of the new Islamist government.

After initiating steps to implement Sharia law, the Libyan Islamist government immediately passes a binding law that excludes anyone once affiliated with Qaddafi’s regime from obtaining any positions in local or national government as well as the court systems and armed forces. Following the passage of this political exclusion law, the new government takes legal action to exclude military officers and politicians that were steadfastly loyal to General Haftar. To protect the integrity and cohesion of its new political system, the Islamist government fills its various ministries with leaders that were loyal throughout the civil war – notably those from the Islamist and Misrata factions. In response to being excluded from ministerial positions, Haftar loyalists protest the new government, and eventually join small guerilla movements that continued on after military defeat. This leads to scenarios that we shall detail later.

Followers of Ansar al-Sharia (a Salafist group) protest in Benghazi (2012)

Although the Islamists differed from the Salafists during the conflict, they worked together to defeat the nationalist coalition. With the nationalists defeated and the Islamist government in power, the Salafist groups demand the strictest interpretation of Sharia be immediately implemented throughout the country. If the government follows the Muslim Brotherhood’s strategy of gradualism (see The Clarion Project’s special report on the Muslim Brotherhood) and has the necessary amount of force to protect itself against a Salafist insurgency, it decides to refrain from immediately implementing strict Sharia law in Libya. However, if it cannot afford to repel a brutal insurgency by a variety of strong Salafist groups, the Islamist government capitulates and decides to make Libya a strict Sharia state.

This scenario can thus evolve in two outcome scenarios. In the first scenario, the government is strong enough to maintain a state that includes liberal freedoms at first, and then gradually transitions to an Islamic state. However, once the state reaches a point where all Libyans must adhere to strict Sharia law, the tribes and secularists begin turning towards insurgency. In the second scenario, the government is forced to immediately implement strict Sharia law by the threat of a deadly Salafist insurgency, which hastens a return to insurgency, however in a weakened, hidden way at first.

Indicators to Monitor

Below are the main indicators we identified that impact the likelihood to see scenario 3.1 occurring. They should thus be monitored.

  1. The level of power that the Justice and Construction Party hold in the government. If the Justice and Construction Party holds the majority of the seats in the new government, the likelihood of an eventual strict Sharia scenario increases, nonetheless following the gradual policy favoured by the Muslim Brotherhood. However, if the National Forces Alliance gains more power than the Justice and Construction Party, the likelihood of this scenario decreases. The National Forces Alliance is the main contender to the Justice and Construction Party in the Islamist government; it “rejects political Islam”; and recognizes Islam as a source of law, but maintains a more liberal stance on the rights of non-Muslims (Thorne, The Christian Science Monitor, July 9, 2012). A past indication occurred when the National Forces Alliance took the majority of seats in the General National Congress during the 2012 election (Karadsheh, CNN, July 18, 2012). However, as the Islamist obtained a military victory, everything will depend upon their willingness to allow for power-sharing, first, and, second, upon the remaining strength and capabilities of the defeated factions to still act as a political force (see indicator 7).
  2. The willingness of the new government to allow secular liberal freedoms to coexist with Sharia law. If the Islamists want to increase domestic legitimacy in a complex population, it makes an attempt to create a flexible Islamist state where secular liberal freedoms and Sharia coexist – although this would be a very complicated endeavor and too complex to detail here. After the Arab Spring, Tunisia successfully created a new constitution that made Islam that official religion of the state and still allowed secular liberal freedoms (Kranz, The Gate, January 20, 2015), but the dynamics of Libya’s post-civil war environment may severely complicate attempts to create a similar mixed system.
  3. The willingness of the government to allow tribes to retain their councils and court systems. If the Islamists want to gain legitimacy among the Amazigh, Tuareg and Toubou tribes, they will not impose Sharia, and instead allow them to maintain their tribal councils and courts as their source of law for personal status issues.
  4. The government’s level of tribal inclusion in the political system. By not giving the tribes full representation in the political system, the Islamist government risks losing any and all legitimacy with the minority tribes. A past indication occurred when these tribes felt underrepresented in the Constitutional Drafting Committee and protested the General National Congress that did not allow them more representation (Minority Rights Group International, State of the World’s Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2014 – Libya, July 3, 2014).
  5. Level of pressure on the new government to implement strict Sharia law. Once the Islamist government takes power, the Salafist groups will likely demand an immediate implementation of strict Sharia law across the country. Considering the Islamists’ (i.e. Muslim Brotherhood) long-term strategy of gradually progressing to a strict Sharia state by winning the hearts and minds of the people (see The Clarion Project’s special report on the Muslim Brotherhood; and MEMRI’s Special Dispatch No. 3969 on implementing Sharia in phases), the government is not willing to submit to the Salafists’ demand. The only way the government might be pressured to speed up its implementation process is if it were threatened by a significant Salafist insurgency and could not survive another civil war.
  6. The international community’s willingness to recognize the Islamist government as the legitimate government. If the international community recognizes the legitimacy of the new Islamist government, the stabilization and peacebuilding processes will likely benefit as a result of assistance from other countries. The willingness to recognize the new government depends on the level of democracy incorporated in the new Libyan state, as well as a state’s view on Islamist governments. For example, Egypt’s experience with the Muslim Brotherhood (BBC News, December 25, 2013) will likely cause the Egyptian government to withhold recognition of an Islamist Libyan government. The EU and U.S. will be more willing to recognize its legitimacy if the new government holds democratic elections and appears to oppose Salafist’s calls for strict Sharia law. Tunisia, Algeria, Niger, and Chad would likely recognize this Islamist government – particularly if it took steps to crack down on spill over.
  7. The willingness to exclude former adversaries from government. The Islamists’ level of hatred and opposition to General Haftar may significantly increase their willingness to exclude his loyal supporters from political roles. If the government does not pass legislation on excluding Haftar loyalists, it may simply fill ministerial positions with faithful allies, such as politicians and military leaders from Misrata and Tripoli. The new government may also take steps to exclude former Gaddafi supports from political positions. If it doesn’t actively take steps to exclude Gaddafi officials, its loyal supporters may protest and force the government to do so. A past indication occurred when the General National Congress passed the Political Isolation Law (allegedly under duress) to prevent former Qaddafi supporters from participating in local or state government (Full Text: Libya’s Political Isolation Law, May 16, 2013; Abadeer, Muftah, May 9, 2013).
  8. The level of commitment to a gradualist strategy in spite of Salafists’ demands to immediately implement Sharia law. If the Islamist government is willing to risk a Salafist insurgency to maintain its gradualist strategy of implementing Sharia, the likelihood of this scenario increases. However, this largely depends on its ability to protect the people from a Salafist insurgency (see indicator below), as well as what phase the government is in regarding their gradualist goals of a Libyan Sharia state and the overall Caliphate. The less phases achieved by the government in gradually implementing strict Sharia law will likely keep them committed to a gradualist strategy. If they are in the later stages of gradualism, they may be more likely to rush the last stages in order to avoid tension with the Salafists.
  9. The ability of the government to protect itself against a Salafist insurgency. If the Islamist government does not have a functioning military or enough loyal armed groups at its disposal, it will not be able to sufficiently protect the Libyan people from a Salafist insurgency. If that is the case, and if the government decides it cannot afford another civil war, it may capitulate and turn Libya towards a strict Islamic state.


Featured Photo: Misrata fighters pose outside the Ouagadougou Conference Hall in Sirte after capturing it from Islamic State forces, posted on The Libya Observer Facebook page, 10 August 2016

Amanda Kadlec, “All Eyes on Sirte: Beating the Islamic State, but Losing Libya,” War on the Rocks, June 23, 2016

Andrew McGregor, “Egypt, the UAE and Arab Military Intervention in Libya,” Terrorism Monitor, Volume 12, Issue 17, September 5, 2014

“Article on Muslim Brotherhood Website: Implement Shari’a in Phases,” The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), Special Dispatch No. 3969, July 5, 2011

Caroline Abadeer, “Full Text: Libya’s Political Isolation Law,” Muftah, May 16, 2013

Caroline Abadeer, “The Libyan General National Congress Ratifies Political Isolation Law,” Muftah, May 9, 2013

David D. Kirkpatrick and Eric Schmitt, “Arab Nations Strike in Libya, Surprising U.S.,” The New York Times, August 25, 2014

Dr. Helene Lavoix, “How to Analyze Future Security Threats (4): Scenarios and War,” The Red Team Analysis Society, December 30, 2013

Elliot Friedland, “Special Report: The Muslim Brotherhood,” The Clarion Project, June 2015

Erica Wenig, “Egypt’s Security and the Libyan Civil War,” The Washington Institute

Fehim Tastekin, “Turkey’s war in Libya,” Al-Monitor, December 4, 2014

John Thorne, “Neither liberal nor Islamist: Who are Libya’s frontrunners?” The Christian Science Monitor, July 9, 2012

Jomana Karadsheh, “Liberal coalition makes strides in historic Libyan election,” CNN, July 18, 2012

Jon Mitchell and Helene Lavoix, “Scenarios for the Future of Libya within the Next Three to Five Years,” The Red Team Analysis Society, June 1, 2015

Jon Mitchell, “War in Libya and Its Futures – Tribal Dynamics and Civil War (1),” The Red Team Analysis Society, April 13, 2015

Jon Mitchell, “War in Libya and Its Futures – Tribal Dynamics and Civil War (2),” The Red Team Analysis Society, April 20, 2015

Jon Mitchell, “War in Libya and Its Futures – Tribal Dynamics and Civil War (3),” The Red Team Analysis Society, May 11, 2015

Michal Kranz, “The Tunisian Miracle: A Marriage of Moderate Islam and Secular Democracy,” The Gate, January 20, 2015

Minority Rights Group International, “State of the World’s Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2014 – Libya,” July 3, 2014

“Profile: Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood,” BBC News, December 25, 2013

Seminars in Brussels – Autumn-Winter

Designed and developed by leading faculty and experts from government, research, and industry, the seminars will provide you with the research, analytic and methodological skills you need to avoid surprise, foresee crises and thus manage risks.

Jointly organized in Brussels by Vesalius College, the Institute for European Studies (IES) and the Global Governance Institute (GGI), with the participation of The Red (Team) Analysis Society for curriculum design and training of the first part “Risk Analysis and Early Warning”,  modules can be taken individually or as a whole, then leading to the award of an Advanced Certificate in Global Risk Analysis & Crisis Management (10 modules).

The course has been taking place since 2013.

Check out here for the ongoing as well as coming sessions.

As far as the Red (Team) Analysis Society is concerned, the trainer is Dr Helene Lavoix. She will show you how to:

  • Find your way in the maze of anticipatory methodologies;
  • Select and use best processes, methodologies and practice in risk management and strategic foresight and warning;
  • Be summarily presented with the main challenges to anticipation;
  • Improve critical thinking and analytical skills;
  • Gain knowledge for identifying and analyzing national, international and global security risks that matter to you and your organization;
  • Initiation to practical IT tools;
  • Identify crucial indicators to monitor risk and for warning;
  • Develop scenarios for strategic decision-making with likelihood and sets of indicators.

The complete list of modules can be consulted on the Vesalius College website. Note that the online version offered since the 2016-2017 session consists in a recording of the real life sessions and is not the same as the online course we offer here (notably there are no specifically designed exercises for the online course, while the curriculum is specific to Vesalius. RTAS online course was also designed as a further deep-dive into the practice of anticipation) .

To register, and for further information please use the contact details here.

Weekend modules start Fridays between 17.30 – 18.30 with a Welcome Aperitif, followed by the senior policy-maker roundtable and discussion from 18.30 – 20.00.

The Saturday Training Sessions run from 10.00 until 19.00.

Featured image: Dr Strangelove, the War Room, Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Building upon the 2012 “Global Water Security” IC Assessment

This post was selected to be re-posted as part of AlertNet’s special multimedia report “The Battle for Water:” The Battle for Water – Global water security: moving towards worldwide assessment

Considering any issue in terms of strategic foresight and warning for national security demands, first and foremost, a minimal understanding of the issue itself, which is notably obtained by reaching out to experts in the related fields, as done by the ICA. This is true for water as for any other issue. Without this initial enquiry, it is impossible to even hope delivering proper foresight and warning to policy-makers. It is only after the issue is understood that we may sieve our analysis through the various filters of national security, mission of the institution carrying the analysis and finally complex policy-making system.

Focusing initially on an understanding of water, without any self-imposed restriction, will underline three major points, already sparsely evidenced in the ICA, and upon which we could build more systematically for an even better, and more actionable strategic foresight and warning on water related security issues.

Moving beyond a deceptive anthropocentric water usage

by US ICA p.ii

First, and as underlined by all studies on water, including by the ICA, water on Earth is distributed according to various forms and places.

The most widely used estimate of water distribution was established by Igor Shiklomanov (1993) and is similar to a more recent assessment (Gleick, 1996), as the two tables below, extracted from the USGS website, show. It would appear that the ICA uses the same figures, approximations on percentages apart.*

As a result, most studies dealing with water as security issue mainly focus on freshwater, especially freshwater most commonly used by human beings, i.e. rivers and lakes, as well as groundwater. This is how the ICA proceeds, indeed emphasising that “we do not do a comprehensive analysis of the entire global water landscape” (Scope Note). However, one also finds throughout the assessment, evidence that the ICA does not actually limit itself to this approach, as we shall see.

It is indeed necessary to define and most often reduce the scope of any study, as well as to focus on specific objectives, here national interest. Human usage of water is obviously crucial for survival, likely to generate tensions and thus of primary importance to national security. However, because we are here considering potential threats and opportunities to national security, are we sure we can reduce our area of concern to human usage?

Indeed, usage on the one hand and threats or opportunities on the other are not synonymous, notably in the context of climate change and other anthropogenic changes  (i.e. changes caused by humans) we must face nowadays.

For example, we now know that a drop in biodiversity may enhance the risks of epidemics (Suzán et al. 2009; Sohn 2009). Hence, if biodiversity is reduced as a result of water-related changes, then we could have increased risks of diseases, which go beyond those already underlined by the ICA p.5.

“Patterns of threat” by Rivers in Crisis – data

Instances of such risks to biodiversity have been identified, for example, in “Global Threats to Human Water Security and River Biodiversity” (published in Nature in 2010 and with a dedicated website showing, among other, interactive maps of threats). This study finds notably that “80% of the world’s population is exposed to high levels of threat to water security… while “biodiversity,” is jeopardized, “with habitats associated with 65% of continental discharge classified as moderately to highly threatened.” It shows that technological efforts in richer countries focus on reducing threats to human water security, but do not pay attention to biodiversity.

Thus, most probably, the risks of epidemics are not only higher than emphasised in the ICA, but also present on a much larger territory – including most of the so-called richer world, as shown  in yellow on the map – and could involve a wider range of diseases. Such qualifications of threats cannot be neglected in terms of national security.

This example means that our assessments would be enhanced if we were changing the initial focus of investigation. Security issues related to water usage for humans are only one aspect we must address. We need to consider water even when it is not of direct use to humans, i.e. when it affects biodiversity.

Interestingly, the ICA itself underlines this point – and more – when it judges “that, from now through 2040, improved water management will afford the best solutions for water problems” and explains that efficient water management is the “use of an integrated water resource management framework that assesses the whole ecosystem and then uses technology and infrastructure for efficient water use, flood control, redistribution of water, and preservation of water quality” (p.6).

It would be highly beneficial – if difficult – to start working towards a process allowing us to  also include systematically such integrated approach for threats (and opportunities) assessment.

Integrating the whole water cycle

Second, as far as water is concerned, the Earth is most often considered as a closed system (USGS), i.e. a system that only exchanges energy with its environment.**

If we are in the case of a closed system, this means that the overall amount of water on earth, whatever its form, does not vary. It can neither augment nor diminish but is transformed and transported through the water cycle, as depicted by the USGS picture below, where humans are represented as part of fauna. Animals will take in water from freshwater storage and plants and then return water through evapotranspiration and waste products.

The water cycle shows, even more than the previous point, the need to stop limiting ourselves to freshwater usable by humans. We must, on the contrary, consider all types of water. Indeed, freshwater is obviously heavily dependent upon other types of water, spheres (as in biosphere or hydrosphere) and processes.

Any change either to one component of the cycle, to the flow, or, worst, to the cycle itself – and this at both global and local (ecosystems) levels – has a potential to produce threats to security – or opportunities – to alter timelines for both threats occurrence and response, and to change likelihood. For example, to completely remove anything related to the oceans from water-related threats assessment may create very unfortunate blind spots indeed. As, in terms of national security, this “cycle approach” is already adopted in the case of snow, glaciers and melt-water, including in the ICA, it only needs to be applied systematically.

Considering interactions between cycles

Finally, the water cycle is also linked to two other major cycles, the carbon and nitrogen cycles.

The Carbon Cycle by Wikipedia

The water and carbon cycles are linked, notably through the processes of respiration (living beings). Thus, any change in one cycle has the potential to feed back on the other, creating chain reactions with potential threatening impacts, or, on the contrary, opportunities.

Nitrogen is a vital element of life. As explained by John Arthur Harrison, it is “an essential component of DNA, RNA, and proteins, the building blocks of life” (VisionLearning). Without entering into the details of the complex nitrogen cycle (see for example “The Global Water and Nitrogen Cycles” by the University of Michigan), the water and nitrogen cycles can interact in many ways, for example through atmospheric nitrogen and acid rains, changed water pH, freshwater polluted by excess nitrogen, eutrophication, etc. Again, change to one cycle will affect the other with impact on threats and opportunities assessment.

Parts of the feedbacks between cycles are already considered, for example, through the increasingly reduced availability of safe drinking water, and through various water-related impacts on food security. However, it would be necessary to develop a multi-disciplinary effort that would allow us to truly and exhaustively envision potential feedback effects between cycles aiming at improving threats and opportunities identification and evaluation (including impact, timeline and likelihood).

Water Dolphin by JJ Harrison (http://www.noodlesnacks.com/) (Own work) GFDL 1.2 or CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Grounding systematically global water security and related threats and opportunities assessment  in an approach moving away from restrictive and deceptive anthropocentric usage, focusing on the whole water cycle at both global and local level and integrating feedbacks with other related cycles would yield crucial further insights in terms of likelihood, timeline, impacts as well as nature of threats. It would thus enhance the overall product, as well as pertinence for policy-makers and decision-makers. It would also generate vital improvements in terms of indicators and monitoring, which would need to be organised with outreach, considering the scope of the endeavour. Transition towards such an approach is already underway as many of its elements, besides the more classical national security orientation, are found in the ICA, if we take the “Global Water Security” assessment as representative of anticipatory products for national security. Change needs however to be systematised, for example through building bridges and integration with or similar to such crucial forward–looking multi-disciplinary endeavour as the FuturICT project.***


* The source given by the ICA, “World Bank 2010,” is incomplete and insufficient to trace the data used.

** We should however note that the endogenous and the exogenous (for example “having been delivered by comet impacts – e.g. Morbidelli et al 2000”) appearance of water on Earth seem to be still debated (UCLA IGPP) and that the water system can also be considered as open through exchanges at the level of the atomic constituents of water (hydrogen and oxygen).

*** I heard first about FuturICT through Philip Payet, Afrikasources



FuturICT website. Accessed 27 March 2012.

Gleick, P. H., 1996: “Water resources.” In Encyclopedia of Climate and Weather, ed. by S. H. Schneider, (Oxford University Press, New York, vol. 2).

Harrison, John Arthur, “The Nitrogen Cycle: Of Microbes and Men.” VisionLearning, Accessed 27 March 2012.

Morbidelli A. Chambers J. Junine J.I. Petit J.M. Robert F. Valsecchi G.B. and Cyr K.E. 2000. “Source regions and timescales for the delivery of water to the Earth.” Meteoritics & Planetary Science 35: 1309-1320.

Shiklomanov, Igor “World fresh water resources” in Peter H. Gleick (editor), 1993, Water in Crisis: A Guide to the World’s Fresh Water Resources (Oxford University Press, New York).

Sohn, Emily, “Animal Biodiversity Keeps People Healthy.”  Discovery News, May 19, 2009.

Suzán G, Marcé E, Giermakowski JT, Mills JN, Ceballos G, et al. (2009), “Experimental Evidence for Reduced Rodent Diversity Causing Increased Hantavirus Prevalence.” PLoS ONE 4(5): e5461. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0005461.

U.S. Intelligence Community Assessment, Global Water Security, 2 February 2012.

UCLA IGPP Center for Astrobiology – NASA Astrobiology Institute;  “Cosmochemistry in an astrophysical context – relating the origin of the Solar System to processes of planet building elsewhere (Hansen, Lyons, McKeegan, Morris, Shuping, Wasson, Young); accesed 27 March 2012.

University of Michigan, “The Global Water and Nitrogen Cycles.” Accessed 27 March 2012.

USGS, Water Science fo Schools, last updated 2012. Accessed 27 March 2012.

Vörösmarty, C. J. et al. “Global threats to human water security and river biodiversity.” Nature 467, 555–561 (30 September 2010) doi:10.1038/nature09440.

Wikipedia, various entries, Accessed 27 March 2012.