Libya: The worst may be yet to come (Opinion)
June 13th, 2012
01:00 AM ET

Libya: The worst may be yet to come (Opinion)

By Ranj Alaaldin, Special to CNN

Editor’s note:  Ranj Alaaldin is a senior analyst at the Next Century Foundation and a political and security risk consultant specializing in the Middle East and North Africa region.

Libya has become embroiled in chaos over the past week.  First, militiamen seized the capital’s international airport for several hours in protest against the kidnapping of their leader.  Islamist militants then targeted the U.S. diplomatic office in Benghazi, following it up with a surprisingly sophisticated attack on a British diplomatic convoy.  And in the south, tribal clashes broke out town in the town of al-Kufra, claiming the lives of at least 20 people. Government troops did not intervene, according to reports from the town.

These developments suggest indecisiveness on the part of the interim government, the National Transitional Council, which appears unable and unwilling to try to assert its control over a complicated network of armed militias. Unless national institutions are developed in Libya, an environment of low-level conflict and bloody lawlessness could soon prevail.

The current security environment, dominated by militias, does not constitute a proper security framework:  It lacks coordination and creates gaps that allow for conflict between rival groups, as well as criminal activities like smuggling – and terrorism, which appears to be a new factor in the east. It is precisely this form of loosely organized, unaccountable security structure that criminal gangs and terrorists thrive on.

The ultimate test of Libya’s fragile stability could emerge after elections take place in July (delayed by three weeks because of logistical problems), when the stakes are much higher.  The question is whether powerful factions, many of them representing tribes and regions, will defer to the new constitutional process or whether they will seek to undermine and circumvent the political process in pursuit of higher stakes and settle what could be longstanding disputes over control of the country and its oil-based wealth.  The potential for civil war could, therefore, be amplified after elections when competing groups jostle for positions of power, like control of the military and the country’s finances or lucrative oil industry.

Challenges will begin to arise over who or what group heads security institutions.  Many will fear the “personalization” of such institutions by well-armed non-state actors, not least since the very individuals and groups who will have positions in the country’s new government head their own, or have extensive links to, existing militia groups.

The situation is compounded by the fact that, since the former regime was ousted in September, the Libyan army and security forces have remained disorganized, devoid of authority and thin on the ground.

As these deficiencies are remedied (assuming they are), so too may militia groups respond by amalgamating into larger groups.  Militia leaders will have a choice: back down to respect the prowess of a more authoritative Libyan army or try to compete with that army.  The latter course would obviously create an uncontrollable environment conducive to instability and potentially irreversible violence.

Like Iraq in late 2003, Libya is enduring a somewhat uneasy period of relative stability after international intervention, disrupted only by intermittent attacks and clashes between rival factions.  But, like Iraq, that could simply be the calm before the storm. Soon, one group among the many competing for power and authority in the new Libya will seek to assert its authority.  For the sake of the Libyan people, one can only hope that it will be the state, with a reformed and capable national army.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Ranj Alaaldin.


Filed under: Libya • Middle East • NTC
soundoff (35 Responses)
  1. Earn Dollars Online

    You really make it appear so easy along with your presentation but I in finding this topic to be really one thing which I think I'd never understand. It seems too complicated and very huge for me. I'm having a look forward for your next publish, I will attempt to get the grasp of it!

    July 3, 2012 at 4:01 pm | Reply
  2. Cadiz

    Thde biggest problem is when people try to use simple minded concepts to understand complex problems. No group of people in any of these countries is all 'RIGHT' or all 'WRONG'. They are all shades of grey whit various personal interests involved in their activities. Many people warned that just getting rid of Ghadaffi was not the end of the problem but was just a start of a new phase. Similar to the situation the USA found itself in after they got rid of Saddam.

    June 13, 2012 at 12:34 pm | Reply
  3. Aaron Chaney

    Covetousness is a sin. Translation: Tunisia only has received proper remuneration during the so-called Arab Spring because they are an original. All the rest i.e. Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain and yes Syria, are all covetous copycats.

    June 13, 2012 at 12:22 pm | Reply
    • EVN

      Only the Tunisian revolt is ligitimate because it was the first? I guess that would mean the American revolution, which was patterned after the French revoluiton, was also a sin?

      June 13, 2012 at 2:25 pm | Reply
      • Albanypark

        Your dates are upside down. The American Revolution was 1776-1783: the French Revolution was in the 1790s. Also, they were very different revolutions – ours was against a Colonial power and was essentially a war of independence while the French Revolution may have been the first modern, extremely violent and even sinster social revolution, essentially anticiapting the Russian Revolution and others.

        June 13, 2012 at 9:19 pm |
  4. michaelfury

    http://michaelfury.wordpress.com/2011/03/23/profits-and-losses/

    June 13, 2012 at 11:22 am | Reply
  5. Andrey

    Another great success! Now we have got uncontained terrorists and oil all in one place! Shell we add some WMD: will have fun looking for it!

    June 13, 2012 at 9:50 am | Reply
  6. PJ

    Oh, just overrun Israel, grab some nukes and cargo ships, and the world can be yours!

    June 13, 2012 at 9:33 am | Reply
  7. Yup

    They beg for the help then stabb us in the back

    June 13, 2012 at 9:10 am | Reply
    • Pat

      I don't recall them begging for our help . . . It is for this reason Russia and China will not give the green like to destory and kill thousands in Syria

      June 13, 2012 at 9:27 am | Reply
      • EVN

        Gee Pat, looks like Russia is giving the green light to destroy and kill thousands in Syria after all by supplying Assad with helicopter gunships so that he can more efficiently kill women and children. Hiring henchmen from Shabiha isn't getting the job done quickly enough to suit Assad.

        June 13, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
      • Sasha

        They certainly DID beg us for help, and like fools we supplied the means for the rest of the West to assist them. Ghaddafi was no prize, but the country was better w/him, same as Iraq. We always manage to phuck up royally!

        June 13, 2012 at 8:33 pm |
  8. Yup

    We all knew this was going to happen, our government needs to stop getting involved. Let them destroy themselfs.

    June 13, 2012 at 9:10 am | Reply
  9. George Patton

    What we should have done was to let the French go in singlehandedly and take out Qaddaffy on their own since Sarkozy kept hollering about the "great need" to depose him. The French could have ended that war in three weeks and then handed the government over to the NTC. But then again, France would have gotten almost 100% of Libya's oil!!!

    June 13, 2012 at 9:07 am | Reply
  10. obama leaks endanger many

    well according to obama , Libya was a great success , Gee was he misleading us AGAIN !

    June 13, 2012 at 8:45 am | Reply
  11. Post

    Wow, everyone on the American news boards sound foolish except for yuri pelham. On my country's state broadcaster comment section people are actually literate.

    June 13, 2012 at 8:29 am | Reply
  12. yuri pelham

    They'll all wind up like Somalia.... Libya, Syria, Iraq. Enough already.

    June 13, 2012 at 6:13 am | Reply
  13. JATT_

    GADDAFI ZINDABAD.

    June 13, 2012 at 3:38 am | Reply
    • MAJID

      THIS IS ALL WESTNER CREATED TO GRAB OIL, THEY DONT WANT TO SEE ANYBODY WHO CHALLENGE THEIR ORDERS, SEE THIS IDIOT SARKOZY & BARLOCOSNI THEY WERE THE FRIENDS OF GADDAFI, HE WAS THE PURE AND CORRECT PERSON TO MOVE LIBYA, BUT NOW WESTNERS THEY ARE LEAST BOTHERED ABOUT CHALLENGES IN LIBYA, WHAT THEY WANT THEY ARE GETTING THRU THEIR PUPETS, IMMDEDIATELY AFTER GADDAFI UK ANNOUNCED INVESTORS FORUM IN LANDON TO GRAB THE OIL MONEY.......NOW THEY ARE TELLING INCOCENT LIBIYANS TO GO HELLL................................BUT I PRAY ALMIGHTY PROTECT GREAT WEALTHY NATION " LIBYA " .......THAT IS GADDAFIS LIBYA, NOT PUPETS LIBYA.....

      June 13, 2012 at 6:14 am | Reply
      • George Patton

        Thank you, MAJID. That was well said.

        June 13, 2012 at 9:09 am |
      • Cadiz

        No, it is an Eastern created fraud to grab more Western money using OPEC government owned oil monopolies.

        June 13, 2012 at 12:41 pm |

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