Tag Archives: Muslim Brotherhood

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.

Bibliography

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

Scenarios for the Future of Libya – Sc 2 (4) Qatar Intervenes on the Islamist Side

This article is the fourth of our series focusing on scenarios depicting interventions in the Libyan war. In our previous article, we discussed an Egyptian intervention in Libya on the nationalist side. In this article, we shall detail a Qatari intervention on the side of the Islamists, as well as possible scenario outcomes for an intensified, protracted conflict that results from either an Egyptian or Qatari intervention. At this stage for our scenarios, external actors have decided to militarily intervene in Libya by taking a side with either the Islamists or nationalists that could emerge from a renewed split in the Government of National Accord (see previous article).

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 the nationalist/liberal-dominated Council of Representatives and any future anti-Islamist factions; Islamist to note the General National Congress and any future pro-political Islamic movements; and Salafi will remain the label of choice for groups that reject democratic institutions and embrace jihadism.

For intents and purposes of not detailing every possible unilateral intervention scenario, we chose to detail one country per unilateral intervention type, as we deemed as most likely and representative.

Libya, scenarios Libya, Islamic State, Haftar, GNC, CoR, scenarios
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Sub-scenario 2.1.1.3: Qatar Enters the Libyan Conflict on the Islamist’s Side

Doha, Qatar

Concerned with installing a friendly, Islamist-dominated central government in Libya, Qatar decides to intervene. As detailed in the previous post, other regional powers – with the exception of Egypt – are less inclined to unilaterally intervene (see Sc 2.1.1.2). At this point, Egypt has not unilaterally intervened in Libya, and is potentially awaiting an international coalition to intervene before deploying its forces. Thus, Qatar has decided to preemptively intervene to boost the power of the Islamists in Libya. Its objective is to assist the Islamists in rebuilding Libya as a Muslim Brotherhood-dominated state with Sharia as its basis for governance, and to avoid an international intervention that may reduce the chances to see this specific Islamist Libya emerging.

Indicators to Monitor

Below are the main indicators we identified that impact the likelihood to see scenario 2.1.1.3 occurring. They should thus be monitored.

  1. Perceptions of national interests regarding the outcome of Libya’s civil war. As detailed in indicator 1 of Sc. 2.1.1.2, currently, Algeria and Tunisia are highly unlikely to intervene considering their fear of increased destabilization caused by interventions. Saudi Arabia is currently focused on more pressing national interests, and is also unlikely to intervene. Egypt has significant national interests in the outcome of Libya’s civil war; particularly fear of an Islamist government coming to power and the Salafi threats originating next door. Generally supportive of Islamist movements, Qatar and Turkey have national interests in Libya in the form of helping the Islamists come to power.
  2. The level of risk between unilaterally intervening and providing extensive support. If unilaterally intervening to ensure that Libya becomes an Islamist state is worth the risk – compared to just providing extensive support without deploying forces – the likelihood of Qatar intervening increases.
  3. The level of risk for Qatar to intervene in favor of the Islamists and help to make Libya a Muslim-Brotherhood state. Currently, Qatar may not be as willing to unilaterally intervene in favor of the Islamists, so as to avoid international disapproval and not be subject to retaliatory measures such as sanctions or border closings (for example, see The Clarion Project, “Saudis Threaten Qatar Over Muslim Brotherhood Support,” February 23, 2014). A higher level of risk decreases the likelihood of this scenario.
  4. The level of external constraints on Qatar that could prevent it from fully intervening in favor of the Islamists. For example, with ground troops currently deployed in Yemen to support the Saudi intervention, its involvement in Syria, and its backing of Saudi Arabia in the intensifying Saudi-Iran crisis, Qatar may be too constrained to focus on Libya and unilaterally send forces in support of the Islamists (Cafiero and Stout, LobeLog, December 8, 2015; Al-Jazeera, January 6, 2016; Gulf State Analytics, September 2015).
  5. The level of risk for Egypt between waiting for an international coalition or not. If Egypt decides to wait for an international coalition to be formed for a Libyan intervention, the likelihood of this scenario increases as Qatar could take advantage of Egypt’s hesitance and preemptively intervenes to help remove the nationalists from the Islamists’ road to power. However, if Egypt decides to wait for a UN intervention, Qatar might also decide that intervention is not necessary, but rather provide extensive support from outside the country – thus decreasing the likelihood of this scenario.

Sub-scenario 2.1.1.3.1: Qatar’s Intervention Succeeds as No Other External Actor gets Involved Meaningfully to Support the Nationalists, Libya becomes an Islamist State

Having decided to intervene in the conflict on the Islamist side, Qatar deploys air and ground forces in Libya. With full Qatari military forces on the ground coordinating with Islamist military coalitions, the nationalists gradually incur losses of territory and legitimacy – eventually leading to a successful intervention for Qatar. Without a political and military rival in the East, the Islamists become the uncontested central government and rebuild Libya as an Islamist state. With an Islamist government in power that implements Sharia law, some Salafi-nationalist groups may be allowed to exist, considering their recent announcement declaring that any government that supports Sharia law would be recognized as legitimate in their eyes. The Islamic State stronghold in Sirte would pose a problem for the rebuilding of an Islamist state, and thus would have to be dealt with by the Islamist government and Qatar’s forces in Libya.

However, we consider a successful Qatari intervention scenario highly unlikely, considering Egypt’s likely decision to either unilaterally intervene first, or immediately intervene in favor of the nationalists in response to a Qatari intervention in Libya.

Indicators to Monitor

Below are the main indicators we identified that impact the likelihood to see scenario 2.1.1.3.1 occurring. They should thus be monitored.

  1. The level of external support for the Islamic State in Libya. An influx of external support in the form of foreign fighters, resources, and leadership would boost the current operational capabilities of the Islamic State in Libya – which would help disrupt the Qatari intervention, and decrease the likelihood of this scenario occurring. Past indications include reports of an influx of foreign recruits headed to the Islamist State stronghold in Sirte, as well as reports of senior Islamic State leaders arriving in Libya (El-Ghobashy and Morajea, The Wall Street Journal, November 29, 2015; Crilly, The Telegraph, December 2, 2015).
  2. Ability of Qatar and the Islamists to simultaneously combat the Islamic State and nationalist forces if both concentrate their efforts against the Qatari intervention. The nationalists will actively deploy their forces to counter the Qatari intervention, and, depending on its goals and military situation, the Islamic State may try to target the Qatari forces or increase their attacks against the Islamist leaders – forcing the Qatari-Islamist coalition to simultaneously confront two enemies. Combatting two enemies at once (one conventional, one unconventional) decreases the likelihood of this scenario occurring. However, if the Islamic State is more focused on attacking oil facilities in Libya to deplete the governments’ vital oil resources – as is currently the case (STRATFOR, January 18, 2016), they may be less inclined to fully focus on countering a Qatari intervention.
  3. The willingness of Islamist and Salafi-nationalist groups to coordinate their efforts against the nationalists. The Islamists currently have ties to the hardliner Islamist groups in Eastern Libya (some of the coalitions include Salafi-nationalists), and have loosely allied with them to oppose Haftar’s Operation Dignity (Amer, The Washington Institute, December 18, 2015; Mitchell, “Islamist Forces II,” January 26, 2015; Libya Channel, December 31, 2015). By allying with coalitions of mixed Islamists and Salafi-nationalists, the more moderate Islamists have already shown their willingness to unite with extremist groups against a common enemy. Recently, the Derna Mujahidine Shura Council – a Salafi-nationalist group (see Mitchell, “Islamist Forces II”) – announced its support for “any government” where “(Islamic) Sharia Law is the only source of any legislation, and anything in the form of legislation, laws or rules that contravenes sharia is rejected” (Libya Herald, December 24, 2015). The willingness on both sides to ally and coordinate against a common enemy, as well as the Salafi-nationalist’s support of a Sharia-based government increases the likelihood of this scenario.
  4. The perception of Libyan tribes towards foreign troops on the ground. Considering the deep impact of colonization on Libya’s tribal groups, some may consider foreign troops on Libyan soil reminiscent of colonization. Tribes siding with the nationalists will likely perceive Qatar’s involvement in a negative light and be willing to fight both the Qatari forces and Islamist forces. However, Qatar has had previous interaction with Libya’s Tuareg and Toubou tribes by brokering a ceasefire in November 2015 (The Peninsula, November 24, 2015). Although the ceasefire was quickly violated, the Tuareg have reiterated their commitment to the ceasefire agreement brokered by Qatar (Middle East Monitor, December 22, 2015). Considering Qatar’s interaction and temporary success with the two Libyan tribes, it may positively impact their perception of Qatar. The likelihood of positive perception, and possible assistance, by Libyan tribes towards Qatar will depend on the tribes’ previous interactions with it and their allegiances to either the nationalists or Islamists.
  5. The level of cohesiveness among Islamists when rebuilding the state. If Libya’s Islamists lack cohesiveness, it will be very difficult to rebuild Libya as an Islamist state, and certainly impact the likelihood of this scenario. Past indications of internal splits occurred when rifts appeared in Jordan and Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood groups (Al Sharif, Al-Monitor, March 3, 2015; Alabbasi, Middle East Eye, December 17, 2015; Trager and Shalabi, The Washington Institute, January 17, 2016).
  6. The level of ideological appeal for Salafi groups in light of the new Islamist government. If an Islamist government comes to power and manages to begin making progress in rebuilding the state, Salafi groups may lose their ideological appeal. However, if they choose to raise the stakes ideologically by declaring the Islamist government as an apostate, the government may have more difficulty in stabilization and rebuilding efforts. A past indication signifying the Islamic State’s opposition to Islamists in Libya occurred when the eleventh issue of its Dabiq magazine noted the indignation of Abul Mughirah al Qahtani (leader of Islamic State’s Libyan wiliyat) towards the armed Islamist groups that support the General National Congress, calling them “apostate forces” (Dabiq, Issue 11).

Sub-scenario 2.1.1.3.2: Qatar’s Intervention Fails, Forces a Withdrawal

Qatari intervention forces deploy, and coordinate with the Islamists to defeat the nationalists and then focus on the Islamic State threat in Sirte. Realizing the intervention threat of being caught in a more effective pincer movement (see map below), the Islamic State in Sirte bolsters its power with overwhelming external support and fighters. Forced to simultaneously confront the expanding Islamic State and nationalist forces in and around the Islamist territory, Qatar’s intervention force and the Islamist forces begin to get bogged down in a drawn-out, bloody conflict. With no assistance from Turkey (the other pro-Islamist external actor), Qatar decides to withdraw its forces and the intervention fails.

Libyan military situation as of January 6, 2016

Indicators to Monitor

Below are the main indicators we identified that impact the likelihood to see scenario 2.1.1.3.2 occurring. They should thus be monitored.

  1. Indicators 1, 2, 4 from scenario 2.1.1.3.1 act here in a similar way to impact the likelihood of a failed intervention.

Sub-scenario 2.1.1.2.3: The Egyptian (or Qatari) Intervention Results in Intensified, Protracted Conflict as Qatar (or Egypt) gets Involved to Support the Islamists (or nationalists)

This scenario is interchangeable between Egypt and Qatar. However, we deduce that Egypt is more likely to launch the initial intervention with a Qatari intervention response, rather than the other way around.

Sub-scenario 2.1.1.2.3.1: General Conflagration of the Region

The deployments of Egyptian and Qatari forces, or full-scale war would likely cause general conflagration of the whole region and significantly impact the current geopolitical paradigm. Additionally, this could potentially lead to broader international involvement, as we shall detail in future scenarios.

Sub-scenario 2.1.1.2.3.2: Egypt and the Nationalists Emerge Victorious, Qatar and the Islamists are Defeated, and Libya becomes a Secular State

The intensified, protracted conflict forces Egypt to increase the strength of its intervention force, which, when combined with the nationalists’ forces, allows them to gradually inflict losses on the Qatari and Islamist forces. Not willing to commit even more military forces to a drawn-out intervention or not able to match Egypt’s increased military commitment, Qatar and its Libyan Islamist allies on the ground suffer gradual territorial losses until defeat. Qatar withdraws its intervention forces and the Islamists are subject to the victorious nationalist and liberal-dominated government that becomes the uncontested central government. Pressured by Egypt to repress Islamist groups in Libya and reinforced by its own dislike of Islamists, the nationalist and liberal government cracks down on Islamism while rebuilding a more secular state. With a more secular, anti-Islamist government in power, all Salafi groups would be targeted and not allowed to exist.

Indicators to Monitor

Below are the main indicators we identified that impact the likelihood to see scenario 2.1.1.2.3.2 occurring. They should thus be monitored.

  1. Egypt’s willingness to increase its intervention force strength. If Qatar comes close to matching Egypt’s original intervention force strength (particularly with air power), Egypt will likely need to increase its strength in order to emerge victorious. Thus, its willingness or not to deploy additional forces will impact the likelihood of this scenario.
  2. Qatar’s willingness to commit more military forces to match Egypt’s military commitment. If Qatar is unwilling to commit sufficient military forces to match the level of Egypt’s committed military forces in Libya, the likelihood of this scenario increases.
  3. The level of diplomatic effort to prevent other external actors from getting involved. If Egypt is concerned for the possibility of other external actors getting involved on the Islamist side with Qatar (primarily Turkey, in this case), it may pursue intense diplomatic efforts to keep the external actor out of Libya. If other external actors get involved, it may lead to general conflagration of the region (see above).
  4. The level of Egyptian pressure to repress Islamist groups in Libya. Once Egypt and the nationalists emerge victorious, there remains the question of rebuilding the state. Considering Egypt’s position on the Muslim Brotherhood within its own borders and its intervention in Libya to see the nationalists defeat the Islamists, it will likely put significant pressure on the nationalists and liberals of the victorious government to repress or entirely ban Islamists from participating in the government. If it gives in to Egypt’s pressure, the nationalist and liberal dominated government will attempt to rebuild a more secular state. A past indication of this occurred when Egypt – under El-Sisi’s rule – implemented an “unprecedented crackdown” on the Muslim Brotherhood (Brown and Dunne, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, July 29, 2015). Furthermore, our peacebuilding mission scenario (Mitchell, “A Successful Peacebuilding Mission?”) details indications on what is needed to successfully stabilize and rebuild the Libyan state, with the primary differences being that 2.1.1.2.3.2 is based on a nationalist victory and lacks some of the strength it might have had with a united government from Sc. 1.1.1.2.

Sub-scenario 2.1.1.2.3.3: Qatar and the Islamists Emerge Victorious, Egypt and the Nationalists are Defeated, and Libya becomes an Islamist State

Qatar Emiri Air Force C-17

Deciding to deploy significant forces to Libya in support of the Islamists, Qatar increases the chances of an Islamist victory. To further increase their chances of victory, the Islamists increasingly ally with hardliner Islamist groups and Salafi-nationalist groups in Eastern Libya. With full Qatari military forces on the ground and strengthened alliances between the Islamists and Salafi groups, Egypt and the nationalists gradually incur losses of territory and legitimacy – eventually leading to a victory for Qatar and the Islamists. Without a political and military rival in the East, the Islamists become the uncontested central government and attempt to rebuild Libya as an Islamist state.

With an Islamist government in power that implements Sharia law, some Salafi-nationalist groups may be allowed to exist, considering their recent announcement declaring that any government that implements Sharia law would be recognized as legitimate in their eyes. However, some Salafi groups – notably the Islamic State – may react to the Islamist government in one of two ways. They either lose ideological appeal in Libya, thus facing a decrease in mobilization power, or, they increase the stakes ideologically to declare the Islamist government as an apostate government unless it declares allegiance to the Islamic State. Both reactions impact the Islamist governments’ ability to rebuild and govern.

However, we consider a Qatari-Islamist victory scenario highly unlikely, considering Egypt’s high level of motivation and military power, as well as Qatar’s seemingly limited ability to match Egypt’s military strength in a Libya intervention scenario.

Indicators to Monitor

Below are the main indicators we identified that impact the likelihood to see scenario 2.1.1.2.3.3 occurring. They should thus be monitored.

  1. Qatar’s willingness to commit more military forces to match Egypt’s military commitment. If Qatar is willing to commit sufficient military forces to match or exceed the level of Egypt’s committed military forces in Libya, the likelihood of this scenario increases.
  2. The willingness of Islamist and Salafi-nationalist groups to coordinate their efforts against the nationalists. The Islamists have ties to the hardliner Islamist groups in Eastern Libya (some of the coalitions include Salafi-nationalists), and have loosely allied with them to oppose Haftar’s Operation Dignity (Amer, The Washington Institute, December 18, 2015; Mitchell, “Islamist Forces II,” January 26, 2015; Libya Channel, December 31, 2015). By allying with coalitions of mixed Islamists and Salafi-nationalists, the more moderate Islamists have already shown their willingness to unite with extremist groups against a common enemy. Recently, the Derna Mujahidine Shura Council – a Salafi-nationalist group (see Mitchell, Islamist Forces II”) – announced its support for “any government” where “(Islamic) Sharia Law is the only source of any legislation, and anything in the form of legislation, laws or rules that contravenes sharia is rejected” (Libya Herald, December 24, 2015). The willingness on both sides to ally and coordinate against a common enemy increases the likelihood of this scenario.
  3. The level of cohesiveness among Islamists when rebuilding the state. If Libya’s Islamists lack cohesiveness, it will be very difficult to rebuild Libya as an Islamist state, and certainly impact the likelihood of this scenario. Past indications of internal splits occurred when rifts appeared in Jordan and Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood groups (Al Sharif, Al-Monitor, March 3, 2015; Alabbasi, Middle East Eye, December 17, 2015; Trager and Shalabi, The Washington Institute, January 17, 2016).
  4. The level of ideological appeal for Salafi groups in light of the new Islamist government. If an Islamist government comes to power and manages to begin making progress in rebuilding the state, Salafi groups may lose their ideological appeal. However, if they choose to raise the stakes ideologically by declaring the Islamist government as an apostate, the government may have more difficulty in stabilization and rebuilding efforts. A past indication signifying the Islamic State’s opposition to Islamists in Libya occurred when the eleventh issue of its Dabiq magazine noted the indignation of Abul Mughirah al Qahtani (leader of Islamic State’s Libyan wiliyat) towards the armed Islamist groups that support the General National Congress, calling them “apostate forces” (Dabiq, Issue 11).

In our next post, we shall discuss international interventions (from beyond the region) that take sides in Libya’s civil war.

Bibliography

Featured Photo:  Qatari Mirage jet by Mikhail Serbin [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0] via Flickr

“Derna Mujahidine Shura Council will support ‘any’ Islamic Sharia government,” Libya Herald, December 24, 2015

Eric Trager and Marina Shalabi, “The Brotherhood Breaks Down,” The Washington Institute, January 17, 2016

Fikra Forum, “The Use of Violence in Libya,” The Washington Institute, December 18, 2015

“From the Battle of Al-Ahzab to the War of Coalitions,” Dabiq, Issue 11, The Clarion Project

Giorgio Cafiero and Alex Stout, “Qatar and the Islamic State,” LobeLog

“Islamic State Will Keep Targeting Libya’s Oil Infrastructure,” STRATFOR Global Intelligence, January 18, 2016

“IS rebukes Benghazi Revolutionaries’ Shura Council in verbal counter-attack,” Libya Channel, December 31, 2015

Jon Mitchell, “War in Libya and Its Futures: State of Play – Islamist Forces (2),” The Red Team Analysis Society, January 26, 2015

“Libya’s Tuareg affirm commitment to ceasefire agreement signed in Qatar,” Middle East Monitor, December 22, 2015

Mamoon Alabbasi, “Rift widens in Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood after spokesman’s sacking,” Middle East Eye, December 18, 2015

Monthly Monitor Report, Gulf State Analytics, September 2015

“More countries back Saudi Arabia in Iran dispute,” Al Jazeera, January 6, 2016

Nathan J. Brown and Michele Dunne, “Unprecedented Pressures, Uncharted Course for Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, July 29, 2015

Osama Al Sharif, “Unprecedented rift splits Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood,” Al-Monitor, March 3, 2015

“Qatar brokers deal between Libya tribes,” The Peninsula, November 24, 2015

Rob Crilly, “Islamic State is building a ‘retreat zone’ in Libya with 3000 fighters, say UN experts,” The Telegraph, December 2, 2015

“Saudis Threaten Qatar Over Muslim Brotherhood Support,” The Clarion Project, February 23, 2014

Tamer El-Ghobashy and Hassan Morajea, “Islamic State Tightens Grip on Libyan Stronghold of Sirte,” The Wall Street Journal, November 29, 2015

Scenarios for the Future of Libya – Sc 2 (3) Egypt Intervenes on the Nationalist Side

Recently, announcements have been made regarding the acceptance of a UN-facilitated peace agreement with a framework to form a Government of National Accord (UN News Centre, January 2, 2016). However, only 88 lawmakers from the rival governments were in attendance at the signing, while the Deputy Speaker of the GNC stated on January 2nd that the GNC rejects the agreement, and the attending lawmakers represented “only themselves” – signifying difficulties and confusion regarding a fully-endorsed agreement by both sides (Abbas, Albawaba News, January 2, 2016; DePetris, Quartz, January 1, 2016). Furthermore, although the peace deal is supported by the international community and the UN has promised to support Libya in its transition (Ibid; Narayan and Robertson, CNN, December 17, 2015), there is an array of indicators discussed in “Scenarios 1: Towards Peace? (1)” and “Scenarios 1 (2) – A Victorious United Government?” that impact the likelihood of not only successfully forming a united government, but also one that is effective enough to retain control and eliminate Salafi threats. With a highly fragile peace agreement that continues to lack full Libyan support (Soguel, The Christian Science Monitor, December 17, 2015), there is a high possibility of regression over the next three years – and thus, it is still valid to envision the scenarios below as Libya may return to a civil war between Islamists, nationalists, and their armed coalitions. Furthermore, the high likelihood of a failed unity government in conditions of heightened need for an allowed international intervention against Salafi threats may have prompted the international community’s decision to support that government – despite its extreme fragility (see Mitchell, Scenarios 1 (3) – A Successful Peacebuilding Mission?”).

This article is the third of our series focusing on scenarios depicting interventions in the Libyan war. In our previous article, we discussed a Joint Arab Force intervention in Libya on the side of the Council of Representatives (COR). In this article, we shall detail types of unilateral interventions from the region. At this stage, external actors have decided to militarily intervene in Libya by taking a side with either the General National Congress (GNC), COR (Sc 2.1.1), or any other future entities, still divided over nationalist versus Islamic lines, that could emerge from a renewed split in the Government of National Accord (GNA – a label used by the UN for the Libyan peace agreement framework). Continue reading Scenarios for the Future of Libya – Sc 2 (3) Egypt Intervenes on the Nationalist Side

The Red (Team) Analysis Weekly 231 – 3 December 2015

Each week our scan collects weak – and less weak – signals… Each section focuses on signals related to a specific theme: world (international politics and geopolitics); economy; science; analysis, strategy and futures; technology and weapons; energy and environment. However, in a complex world, categories are merely a convenient way to present information, when facts and events interact across boundaries.

Read the 3 December 2015 scan  

The Weekly is the scan of The Red (Team) Analysis Society and it focuses on national and international security issues. It was started as an experiment with Paper.li as a way to collect ideas, notably through Twitter. Its success and its usefulness led to its continuation.

The information collected (crowdsourced) does not mean endorsement but points to new, emerging, escalating or stabilizing problems and issues.

If you wish to consult the scan after the end of the week period, use the “archives” directly on The Weekly.

Featured image: “C-band Radar-dish Antenna”. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Facing the Fog of War in Syria: The Syrian Islamists Play the Regional “Game of Thrones”

This second update covers the evolution in Syria from July to October 2013. It focuses first on dynamics of change involving the interplay between the Syrian Islamist factions on the ground and international players – especially the declaration of an “Islamic framework” and then the creation of the Islam Army, with impact on the overall situation, and provides an updated mapping for Syrian Islamist groups. It then looks at evolutions related to the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces.

Syrian Sunni factions intending to install an Islamist state in Syria

(For background and past state of play, see here)

It is within those groups that we have been witnessing throughout September-October 2013 the most potent changes. As always, and as Lund stressed again recently, the situation in Syria remains fluid and quickly evolving. However, Landis also suggested something else was happening:

“Over the last several months, the insurgency has undergone a “Darwinian” shakedown. Powerful leaders are emerging and smaller militias are lining up with the larger sharks. All the same, we are only at the beginning of this process. The opposition remains extremely fragmented and volatile. ” (Landis, Syria’s Top Five Insurgent Leaders, 1 October 2013, Syria Comment)

The “Islamic framework”

Islamic Framework SignatoriesIn a nutshell, and as synthesized on the new updated mapping below (click on image to see a larger picture), on 24 September, eleven factions, five of them being among the most powerful on the battleground (those factions are in bold on the mapping – from Landis, Syria’s Top Five Insurgent Leaders), have announced that they “should unify their ranks in an “Islamic framework”, which is based on “the rule of sharia and making it the sole source of legislation” (Lund translation – original here), and therefore did not recognize the NC, the latter being seen as “exile groups”. The detailed account by Lund (Islamist Groups Declare Opposition to National Coalition and US Strategy [updated], 24 September 2013, Syria Comment), stressing the potentialities and uncertainties of this event is a must read.

Considering the aim of the SMC to unite all armed opposition forces, this is a major blow to the “moderate” opposition forces. It has the potential to be even more damaging because, according to Nassief, six of those eleven groups were, loosely or strongly, “associated” with the SMC (Isabel Nassief, “Islamic Alliance Signatories“, 26 September 2013, ISWblog). However, President Jarba (see below), of course, minimizes the negative impact (7 October Press Conference) for the NC and the SMC.

Szybala of the ISW interprets the emergence of the framework as “a move against ISIS by its Syrian nationalist rivals”, focusing on clashes between the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS also ISIL) on the one hand, FSA forces and Jabhat al-Nusra fighters on the other, in the Northern part of Aleppo (Valerie Szybala, “The Islamic Alliance Emerges“, updated 9/26/13, ISWblog). Lund, for his part, being much more cautious, only suggests that those clashes may have played a part, but also underlines that “the statement is in no way hostile to the ISIS” (Ibid.).

Local tensions and battles may be part of the story, however, as often, events are more likely to have multiple causes. Another type of explanation may also be at work here, all the more so if we consider the importance of money (for an enlightening account, read Lund Syrian Jihadism, 2012: 18-21), of being supported and of clans – as reminded by Lund:

“Size, money and momentum are the things to look for in Syrian insurgent politics – ideology comes fourth, if even that.” (Ibid.)

On the revised mapping below (click for larger image) of the “Nationalist Salafis” groups (Lund 2013:14) fighting in Syria have been inserted, when found, financial support (pink arrows), and links of enmity (red) and “friendship” (black).

update salafis 18 10

If we note:

  • that, according to Lund, the SLF (which includes Liwa al-Tawhid) receives – probably among others – financial support from networks affiliated with Mohammed Surour Zeinelabidin “whose relations with the government of Saudi Arabia are not good at all,” (Lund, “Sorting out David Ignatius“, 04/03/13, Syria Comment and Syria’s salafi insurgents: The rise of The Syrian Islamic Front, 2013: 11 & 40),
  • that Liwa al-Tawhid, more specifically, is funded by “exiled Islamists including the Muslim Brotherhood (Lund, 2012: 17),
  • and that Harakat Ahrar al-Sham al-Islamiya received support from Salifi Kuwaiti (Hakim al-Moteiri), Salafi Qatari and from the Muslim Brotherhood (Lund, 2013: 30),

then the emergence of the “Islamic Framework” could be interpreted as an attempt by the “Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and Qatari side” to resist the new preeminence of Saudi Arabia as major support of the Syrian insurgency.

This might also explain the presence of Jabhat al-Nusra, an Al-Qaeda affiliate, knowing that Saudi Arabia is not in best terms with Al-Qaeda (among others Frederic Wehrey, “What to Make of Saudi Hand-Wringing“, 15 October 2013, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace). However, Jabhat al-Nusra declared it was actually not part of the “Islamic framework”, and refused to be set up against ISIS (Pieter Vanostaeyen “Syria – a new Islamic Union or an informal alliance?“, Sept 28, 2013, Pietervanostaeyen; Valerie Szybala, Developments in Syria’s Armed Opposition, 5 October 2013, ISWblog). President Jarba seems to ignore this development (see update for the NC below).

With or without Jahbat al-Nusra, we would still be potentially within the aftermath of the Egyptian blow to the MB, and the fight of the Brotherhood to remain relevant.

Such an interpretation could appear to be in contradiction with various statements by members of the “Islamic framework”, as reported by Lund, where they emphasize their rejection of representatives appointed externally. If external involvement and backing is not a novelty in Syria, its origin and thus nature may be seen as having changed. The members of the “Islamic framework” may have been sincere in reinterpreting previous support as being “more Syrian” (the Syrian branch of the MB and the “Syrian character” of other funding networks), which thus would remove the contradiction.

In no way an explanation of the evolution on the ground involving Qatar, the MB and Saudi Arabia means that the war in Syria is solely a proxy war, which would wrongly cast Syrian actors in a passive role. What we face are complex dynamics involving all actors, where each attempts to achieve its goal considering the overall situation.

Liwa al-Islam becomes Jaysh al-Islam or Islam Army

Syria, Syrian civil war, Islam Army, Red (team) AnalysisOn 29 September 2013, Zahran Alloush announced that the Islam Brigades were becoming the Islam Army, and that it was now constituted of “50 brigades”. The army “flies the black flag and not the Syrian flag and Alloush “calls for Muslims from the world over to come do their duty in Syria and fight Jihad” (Landis, Syria’s Top Five Insurgent Leaders, 1 October 2013, Syria Comment). The Islam Army operates mainly around Damascus. Read also Hassan Hassan, “The Army of Islam Is Winning in Syria“, 1 October 2013, Foreign Policy; Pieter Vanostaeyen, “Al-Jaysh al-Islāmī ~ another Merger in Syria’s Opposition?“, 29 September 2013, pietervanostaeyen. See also Youtube Channel for Liwa al-Islam/Jaysh al-Islam.

According to Landis, Alloush is the “son of a Saudi-based religious scholar named sheikh Abdullah Mohammed Alloush”, and following Hassan Hassan, Saoudi Arabia is the main supporter behind the formation of the Islam Army (see also Khaled Yacoub Oweis, “Insight: Saudi Arabia boosts Salafist rivals to al Qaeda in Syria“, 1 October 2013, Reuters)

If we go back to our hypothesis regarding the reasons behind the creation of the “Islamic framework”, i.e. an answer by a nexus composed of Qatar, the MB and “their” supported factions, to the new preeminence of Saudi Arabia, then the creation of the Islam Army would be an answer by the Saudi and their supported faction to this move, as well as an effort against Al-Qaeda, as suggested by Oweis, and an attempt to position themselves more strongly in an international configuration that does not suit them (from the potentially better relationships between “the West” and Iran, to the way the chemical attacks in Syria were handled, as suggested by Oweis and Szybala) . But then, why would have Liwa al-Islam signed the “Islamic framework” in the first place?

It might have been, from Liwa al-Islam part, a way to gain more support from Saudi Arabia, while not cutting themselves initially completely from their former allies, yet allowing for isolating those powerful groups that were benefiting the most from Qatari support, as could let assume Harakat Ahrar al-Sham al-Islamiya’s reaction right after the creation of the Islam Army (see Hassan Hassan & Vanostaeyen). Alternatively, the presence of Liwa al-Islam as signatory of the framework could also have been a “sincere” move on the ground, followed by an offer by the “Saudi nexus” looking for a way to counteract both the formation of the “Islamic Framework” and thus a reassertion of a Qatar/MB nexus on the ground and an international evolution it disapproves. The 18 October 2013 refusal by Saudi Arabia of its seat at the security council shows how strong its discontent is (Angus McDowall, “Saudi Arabia, angered over Mideast, declines Security Council seat“, Oct 18, 2013, Reuters).

Would it make sense for Saudi Arabia to promote the NC and the SMC, while favouring other powerful groups on the ground? According to Wehrey (Ibid.), it does, and Wehrey calls this policy hedging. Oweis (Ibid.), using a “Western diplomatic source” agrees: “… Saudi strategy was [is] two tiered: back less extreme Islamist figures in the exile SNC political organization and woo Salafist brigades on the ground with arms and money.”

We should also note that the Islam Army, according to Oweis (Ibid.) has “avoided declaring personal opposition to Al-Qaeda or to the SNC. But … criticized failures to bring unity to rebel ranks in explaining the creation of the formation.”

As always during wars, we are faced with many possible hypotheses and only the future will confirm if one assumption or the other is correct.

Does it matter to understand the reasons behind the various moves of the actors? Yes, it does, all the more so for strategic foresight and warning because without proper understanding we can not anticipate the next move, and thus not allow policy-makers and decisions-makers to design the right policy.

If the hypothesis explored here is correct, then this could suggest that:

  • More tension might be expected on the battleground, that could be advantageous to the Al-Assad regime groups.
  • It could also mean, after a while, and if the Al-Assad regime groups fail to take full advantage, that the Syrian Nationalist-Salafi side, as suggested by Hassan Hassan, but with a jihadist component, will be strengthened.
  • As a result, either the NC and SMC could lose even more clout, or the Islam Army and other potentially close groups (see  Szybala, on an alliance in Deir Ez-Zor) could join it and, considering their strength, become preeminent within the SMC.
  • All potential evolutions appear to be to the detriment of a secular and moderate Syrian opposition, if no one steps in to support them (while understanding well enough all the intricacies of the situation to make a success of this support).
  • Similarly, the efforts towards Geneva II seem to be increasingly less likely to succeed, at least if no new major event takes place.
  • Meanwhile, the MB may radicalize in other areas and countries where it is stronger or less attacked.

National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces (NC)

(For background and past state of play, see here)

Evolution on the ground

As far as the battles and reconfiguration with and within the various Salafi groups (see above) are concerned, during the Q&A with the press at the 7 October Press Conference, President Jarba recognised that the brigades that signed the “Islamic framework” (see Lund, 24 September 2013) were not anymore “with” the SMC and the NC”. Furthermore, they were seen as “under the command of al-Nusra” (which is actually not in the statement of the “Islamic framework”, and apparently not even true on the ground – see above – but allowed the NC and SMC to save face).

Geneva 2

Syria, Jarba, NC, Syrian civil war, Red (team) AnalysisOn October 7, at a press conference, President Jarba stated “we have decided to deal with Geneva II openly but cautiously. We have said clearly we do not reject Geneva just for the sake of rejecting it. But we agree on Geneva under certain parameters” and those conditions are imperative:

  • “…no dialogue with the criminal regime…”
  • “…prior to any negotiation process there must be guarantees from Islamic and Arab states; … under the supervision of the Arab League.”
  • rejection of the “the participation of Iran as a broker in any negotiation process…”unless it “withdraw its Revolutionary Guards Corps and mercenaries, who have come from Lebanon and Iraq, from Syria immediately…”

In a letter to the U.N., dated 19 September, President Jarba “reaffirms its willingness to engage in a future Geneva Conference”…”all parties must … agree that the purpose of the conference will be the establishment of a transitional government with full executive powers”. (Khaled Yacoub Oweis, Reuters, 22 September 2013).

NC and SMC representatives

A new provisional Prime Minister, Ahmad Tumeh was elected on 14 September 2013. According to Reuters, his priority is “to restore stability in the liberated areas, improve their living conditions and provide security” (Ibid.) Tumeh is an ex political prisoner of the Eastern province of Deir al-Zor and should thus be agreeable to Syrians within Syria. The Gulf States and notably Saudi Arabia should finance the new provisional government (Khaled Yacoub Oweis and Dasha Afanasieva, Reuters, 14 Sept 2013).

The NC must face the evolutions linked to the chemical attacks (see update 8 October Al-Assad Groups).

On potential secret talks between some representatives of the “FSA”/SMC and the Al-Assad regime, see update 8 October Al-Assad Groups.

Strategic Intelligence for Syria – Scenario 3.3.2. A Truly Secular Syria?

This post will outline the last but one scenario for Syria for the short to medium term, i.e. “a Secular Syria” resulting from a real victory by one of the warring groups. Considering the current state of play, this scenario is unlikely, even utopic. Yet, imagining it will also suggest possible policy and strategy that could change the odds.

The various scenarios constructed over the last weeks are summarized in the graph below. This “mapping” starts exploring ways to look at sets of scenarios as a systemic and dynamic whole. The thickness of the arrow shows higher probability and shorter timeline: the thicker an arrow, the more likely and the quicker a scenario would evolve in a specific direction; alternatively a dotted line shows lower probability and/or longer timeline. Probability and timeline will evolve according to events.

Syria, Syrian civil war, scenarios, anticipatory intelligence

Scenario 3.3.2.: A Secular Syria?

To see a secular Syria rising from the ashes of the war would presuppose a victory of the Supreme Joint Military Command Council (SJMCC or SMC), especially won by fighters affiliated with moderate or secular groups, while the ascendency of the Muslim Brotherhood within the political corresponding body, the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces (NC) has waned.

As of today, it is thus even more unlikely than the previous scenario. First, the absence of coordination and of an efficient command-and-control structure, as analysed by Ignatius (7 June 2013, The Washington Post) in the recent loss of Qusair to the pro Al-Assad groups is a severe impediment. Second, the estimated weakness in numbers of fighters of the FSA (if Islamist and Muslim Brotherhood’s supported groups are not included) seriously constrains the possibility of victory (Ignatius, 3 April 2013 and Lund, 4 April 2013). Finally, the secular and moderate within the NC hardly have any external support, as the American and European hesitations show daily.

Nevertheless, let us imagine that dynamics change and that this utopian scenario becomes a reality, under a new type of leadership, successfully unifying and mobilizing the rebellion in a non-sectarian way. Building upon Matthew Barber’s series of three posts (27 May 2013 for Syrian Comment) focusing on Sufi Sheikh Muhammad al-Yaqoubi and how hopes to see him officially elected to the National Coalition were dashed at the end of May 2013, this leadership could be Sufi. Indeed, Barber underlines:

“An emerging Sufi current within the Syrian resistance could soon provide an alternative to Muslim Brotherhood hegemony and change the dynamics of the political opposition.” (Barber, 22 May 2013, Syria Comment)

Countries, such as the U.S., the U.K., or France, who look for a way to support a solution that would end the Syrian conflict, avoid a sectarian bloodshed and the prospect of a Syrian balkanization, respect democracy and fundamental rights, without favouring extremism, and further tensions or even war in the region, would have perceived backing such a current as an answer. Practically, and depending upon further investigation, interested actors would have worked with “the Movement for Building Civilization” or Tiyaar Binaa’ al-Hadara, which should be “operating soon out of an office in Jordan” (Interview with Sheikh al-Ya’qoubi, Barber, 30 May 2013). As explained by Barber,

“Sheikh al-Ya’qoubi and other Sufi leaders have been building influence lately, working together for about six months to form an umbrella organization for rebel groups comprised of Sunnis and Sufis aligned with Syria’s mainstream values, rather than Islamist agendas. The organization is called the Movement for Building Civilization. He and his peers have produced a charter document which rebels groups can sign.” (Barber, 22 May 2013, Syria Comment)

Starting from the 200 groups with which the Sufi Sheikhs (ibid.), strengthened by the novel supports received, more groups would join under a fortifying SMC, which would be increasingly victorious, despite fierce battles. Meanwhile, the ascendency of the moderates within the NC would increase. According to Barber (Ibid., see also the series on Salafi and Sufi influences on Islam in Syria in Syria Comment, 2007), Sufi ulema enjoy considerable backing within the Sunni Muslim population in Syria. According to Sheikh al-Ya’qoubi, “probably one-quarter of the Syrian population is Sufi” (interview), which would represent 5.6 million people (on World Bank estimates for 2012). Such highly respected figures as

“Sheikh al-Ya’qoubi represent[s] the kind of moderate, traditional Islam that most Syrians are familiar with, the Islam challenged by both the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists. Though taking an unambiguous stance against the regime’s violence, injustice, and terror, he [Sheikh al-Ya’qoubi] also continues to exert his influence encouraging rebels to avoid terrorism through fatwas condemning tactics such as car-bombings, kidnapping, landmines, the killing of prisoners, and violence against non-combatants politically aligned with the regime… He maintains a very clear position defending the rights of all minorities, including those condemned by extremists as heterodox… He thinks Syria’s current family laws are just fine, and are already sufficiently compatible with the shari’a. He also believes that legal reform should not be pursued before a constitutionally-based committee can be formed which would tackle any needed changes, after the regime has fallen and a new Syrian government has been created.” (Barber, 22 May 2013, Syria Comment)

As a result, a strong mobilization of the Sunni population, starting from the Sufi core, would occur. Sectarian fears decreasing in general, the mobilization capabilities of other groups (including those allowing for the creation of Bashar al-Assad regime’s “People’s Army” or Jaysh al-Sha‘bi (see the excellent report by Joseph Holliday, The Assad Regime: from Counterinsurgency to Civil War – March 2013 for the ISW) would progressively disappearStep by step, non Sunni groups and people would start believing in and actively supporting the new vision of a secular, moderate Syria. Considering the influence of Sufism among Kurds in Syria (Paulo Pinto, Syrian Studies Association Bulletin, Vol 16, No 1, 2011), a reaffirmed common ground would be found and the Kurds would fully join the new forces.

Furthermore, building previous historical ties as explained by Weismann (excerpt reported by Joshua Landis, 11 May 2007), the new Sufi outlook could find common ground with both the Syrian Salafis and the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, and thus integrate them.

As a result, victory would truly mean a Syria where all people and groups are integrated, save for warlords and the most violent actors that would still need to be brought back within society. Syria could constitute a novel model of secular, yet spiritual, and predominantly Muslim polity. As such, it might also be perceived as a threat by other actors in other countries, who could also feel their own power, derived from other models, questioned. The new secular Syria would have to pay attention to such dangers, however without falling into the trap of paranoia.

Estimating Likelihood for Scenario 3.3.2.

Right now, if conditions do not change, and as underlined earlier, this scenario is quite unlikely. However, assuming the Movement for Building Civilization (or a similar initiative) succeeds in being born, then it has the potential for slowly and progressively changing the odds from highly unlikely to plausible and even probable. Most importantly, the right timing for each action will need to be respected, as many times underlined by Sheikh al-Ya’qoubi.

Some indicators that could be followed as influencing the likelihood of this scenario:

  • Creation of the Movement for Building Civilization (or a similar initiative) with real linkages in Syria;
  • Mobilization of the Syrian population, across groups and communities;
  • Strategic, operational and tactical skills of the SMC under this new configuration and of the fighting groups affiliated with the Movement.
  • Propaganda and deception aiming at fueling fears and hatred (external and internal).
  • Proper material support by various actors;
  • Proper discussions and cooperation between supporters and the moderate forces leading to commonly agreed actions if any;
  • Patience of external supporters;
  • Actions against the proponents of a secular Syria by actors (external and internal) who are sponsoring other solutions for Syria;
  • Regionalization of the war;
  • Changes of situation for one of the external players (e.g. what implications may the events in Turkey have on the situation – current and prospects – in Syria?);
  • Changes in the global and regional state of play.

Scenario 3.4.: An Al-Assad Syria?… To be continued.

Featured image: Syria, palmera By Anas Al Rifai (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.

Strategic Intelligence for Syria (8) – Scenario 3. A Nationalist Islamic Syria or a Muslim Brotherhood’s Syria?

This post continues exploring various scenarios around the theme of “a real victory in Syria” by one or the other groups fighting on the ground, starting first with a Nationalist Islamic Syria, and then moving to a Syria under the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood. For each scenario, current estimates of likelihood will be outlined and some indicators influencing probability will be suggested.

Scenario 3.2.: A Nationalist Islamic Syria?

Syrian_Islamic_Front_LogoIf the victorious groups are Sunni Islamist and Salafi-Nationalist factions, then they would implement an Islamic state in Syria. According to Lund, and assuming those groups follow the January 2013 SIF’s official charter, they would “establish a state guided by sharia law at all costs, while also making some gestures towards moderation and tolerance for minority groups”, (p.16) or in their own terms they would  “… build a civilized Islamic society in Syria, ruled by the law of God” (p.19).

Syrian_Liberation_Front_LogoThey would be opposed “to secularism and democracy” (p.17)  because “Islamic Shari’a cannot be put to a vote” (p.20) however, “elections could still be used as a system to appoint representatives and leaders…” as long as modalities and potential parties are bound by Shari’ia.

Rather than adopting a confrontational position they would be “eager to reach a modus vivendi with the West”, as shows their willingness “to open communication channels” during the war. (p.18)

On the path to victory, as they would have given as much attention to war as to building the real foundations for an Islamic society (“the civilian movement, from which springs missionary, educational, humanitarian, media, political and [public] service [movements]” (19), once in power their task towards stabilizing peace would be eased. They would seek to maintain, expand and deepen those already existing structures and processes. They would focus on Syria and its needs.

Succeeding fully in building this type of peace in Syria would most probably be hardest and most challenging as far as non Sunni Islamist groups are concerned. How could the very different faith and ways of life be accommodated by a state abiding to Shari’a ? Could they be successfully integrated and how? Or would this lead to a renewal of civil war, to multiple exodus, and in the case of the Kurds  to a semi-autonomous or fully independent Kurdistan?

Assuming that the best way to integrate those communities are not found, would this lead again to foreign involvement and, as a result to heightened possibilities for war?

Estimating Likelihood for Scenario 3.2.

The more pragmatic and more Syria-centric agenda of those groups, as well as the number of fighters (between 47000 and 67000 fighters if estimates (Lund, Ignatius, see detail here) for the SIF and the SLF/SILF are added), and their structure, imply that this scenario is less unlikely than the previous one. However, considering the military strength of the Pro-Assad groups, as well as the rising regionalization of the civil war, it is still far from being likely.

Some indicators that could be followed as influencing the likelihood of this scenario:

  • Continuing disunity and internecine struggle within the “moderate” opposition  (NC) with impact on the capacity to garner support without and within and  related consequence on military operations.
  • Success or failure in the opening of communication channels with the West – and more broadly internationally – by such groups on the mode of what is done by the SIF, and in the ability to convince about their pragmatic, Syrian centric approach.
  • Capacity of those groups to endeavour and succeed in providing the Syrian population with “public services” both according to the groups ideology and without creating any adverse reaction.
  • Increasing regionalisation of the conflict and international wish to put an end to it.
  • Change in the overall configuration of the external support.

Scenario 3.3.: A Secular Syria?

This scenario (or rather a variation around this theme) would be meant to happen if the victorious group is the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces (NC) and its corresponding fighting arm, the Supreme Joint Military Command Council (SJMCC or SMC).

This would first presuppose that the various groups affiliated with the SMC succeed in uniting their forces to fight, while the NC would find a widely accepted way to elect  representatives and to function. Notably, this would imply that internecine struggles, as were for example displayed during the last week of May 2013 (e.g. Barber for Syria Comments, 27 May 2013), between more secular and moderate groups, on the one hand, and, on the other, the Muslim Brotherhood – as well as their supports – stop, and that whatever alliances were made with various factions hold and are honoured. The NC and the SMC would also need to find a way to manage the “correct” support from their allies, i.e. enough and in the right manner to have sufficient fire power to fight successfully and to deliver to the population they seek to mobilize and who are under their authority, yet without creating an adverse reaction among Nationalists who could accuse them to sell Syria to foreign interests.

Considering the differences existing between the Muslin Brotherhood and other groups, we may imagine two possible sub-scenarios.

Scenario 3.3.1. A Muslim Brotherhood’s Syria

Syria, civil war, Syrian scenariosAssuming a NC with a Muslim Brotherhood strong leaning wins, and that it has achieved enough power over the fighting forces of the SMC, we would have a system that “supports democratic elections and many political freedoms while espousing a vision for a Syrian state that implements Sunni Islamic frames of reference for its legislation.” (O’Bagy, Jihad in Syria, Sept 2012 :17).

Indeed as Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi notes, the “Muslim Brotherhood’s conception of applying Islamic law [is] through gradual action…step by step, in order to facilitate understanding, studying, acceptance and submission” (for Syria Comment, 20 March 2013). If we turn to the text used as reference by Al-Tamimi, we not only find a description of this needed gradual action, but also reference to the ultimate aim, the restoration of the Caliphate (see previous post for more on the Caliphate).

 “We must not impose Islamic shari’a, forcing the people to adopt something about which they are ignorant and with which they are unfamiliar… If we do this, [various] ploys will be used to circumvent it, and there will be hypocrisy. [People] will exhibit Islamic [behavior] only outwardly…

“Noah, peace be upon him, received a clear sign, a stark vision, a prophecy, and mercy that his people did not understand… Noah could not force or impose [his faith upon the people]. He determined the principle of choosing [one’s] faith [as a result of] persuasion and reflection, [instead of] oppression, authority, condescension, and coercion. …

“There is no other way but gradual action, preparing the [people’s] souls and setting an example, so that faith will enter their hearts… Gradual action does not impose Islam at once, but rather step by step, in order to facilitate understanding, studying, acceptance, and submission.

“The Prophet, peace be upon him, acted in a gradual manner, by first preparing the people, and then [preparing] family, society, state, and finally the caliphate…

“I ask the honorable Al-Azhar to rally the Islamic streams in order to unite the Muslim word and effort, restore the caliphate, and prepare a practical plan to implement the law of Allah the Exalted. ” (Article on Muslim Brotherhood Website: Implement Shari’a in Phases, June 11, 2011; MEMRI, July 5, 2011, Special Dispatch No.3969)

This scenario can thus be seen as a mix of scenario 3.2. in terms of pace and pragmatic approach, being even ready for slower changes, with, at the beginning, a less strict view of what can be done or not, and of scenario 3.1. in terms of ultimate goal, but on a much longer timeframe, and certainly with different means.

Estimating Likelihood for Scenario 3.3.1.

This scenario, so far, seems to be quite unlikely considering the weakness and disunity of the NC and of the SMC. Furthermore, the very history of the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria, implying, as explained by O’Bagy (Jihad in Syria, 2012: 11-13), the distrust of the population and the weakness of their presence and network within Syria, would make it even less likely, despite the strength of the Muslim Brotherhood within the NC today.

Some indicators that could be followed as influencing the likelihood of this scenario

  • Strong external support (up to external intervention) compensating for absence of legitimacy, of support network and of presence on the ground and allowing to create one
  • Ability to unite factions under Brotherhood’s leadership;
  • Absence or disappearance of better alternative for various actors, notably the population
  • Successful “hearts and minds” campaign within Syria to win over the population and build legitimacy.

Scenario 3.3.2. To be continued

Featured image: From the Islam Army Facebook Page

The Red (team) Analysis Weekly No78, 13 December 2012

Political decisions in Greece and Ireland (see videos) question two fundamental norms ruling statehood in the international system: sovereignty and territoriality, while the third one, independence fares not much better under conditions of globalized financial pressure and crisis. What will be the impact of those deep changes in a world where threats abound, some of them conventional, other much newer but no less damaging (as Sandy)?

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fiscal cliff, Sandy, horizon scanning, North Korea, satellite, Greece, Island, sovereignty, territoriality, threat

The Red (team) Analysis Weekly No55, 5 July 2012

No55 – 5 July 2012 – Click on the image below to read on Paper.Li (best with mobiles & tablets)

Attrition warfare: This week is about positioning, reinforcing existing stances and trends, in a quiet but strong way, with, as result, a polarisation across issues, nothing obvious, flamboyant, easy to detect, but polarisation all the same…. meanwhile some mind-forged manacles are starting to open, but isn’t it part of an escalation process?

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The Red (team) Analysis Weekly No33, 2nd February 2012

No33, 2nd February 2012

Convergence? As an opportunity to see tension appeased with Iran, although not shared by all, appears, as beliefs in financial and economic recovery emerge, convergence of heavy threats could also take place in the background, with now a heavy cyber-security component in terms of ways and means.

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