Five years after the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, an international military intervention is once again being considered in response to the establishment of a branch of the Islamic State (IS) on the Libyan coast. At the beginning of February, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called on coalition partners involved in the fight against IS in Iraq and Syria to prevent IS from spreading to Libya as well.
Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan has hinted that Canada would play a role in any international military actions in Libya. In an interview on CBC radio, he stated that he had had good meetings with his Italian counterpart on the subject. However, while Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion has also said that Canada will likely get involved in Libya in some capacity, he suggested that no action would be taken until there is a recognized Libyan government in place.
A new analysis by Richard Reeve of the Oxford Research Group called Intervention in Libya: Why Here, Why Now, What Next? examines likely causes and consequences of an international military intervention in Libya. He argues that,
although it is important to prevent the further expansion of IS in Libya, getting the politics right is central to generating the Libyan capacity, willingness and legitimacy to confront IS effectively and sustainably.
He further states that,
international engagement…. [could also] usefully be channelled to healing the divisions within the international community on Libya’s future…. While actors as diverse as the US, Italy, Egypt and Turkey may agree on the need to tackle IS in Libya, it would be foolish for them to do so without agreeing on what comes afterwards.
the Western approach to renewed intervention in Libya is highly dependent on the success of a UN-led process of reconciliation between Libya’s two rival parliaments and the formation of a Government of National Accord that will request foreign intervention and combine its own militia forces against IS.
If the West cannot get the politics right, the likely outcome is a further fragmentation of the Libyan state and a continuation of the conflict.
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