GNA Rejected by HoR, US Considers Military Action in Libya

Libyan prime minister-designate under a proposed National Unity government Fayez Seraj attends a joint news conference with European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini in Tunis, TunisiaPhoto Credit: Reuters/Zoubeir Souissi

While there has been an effort among the United States and its allies to find ways of “shoring up Libya’s new government of national accord,” the UN-brokered coalition government was rejected earlier this week by Libya’s House of Representatives (HoR). Of 104 members attending the session in Tobruk, 89 voted against the administration established last week. Some lawmakers condemned Fayyez Sarraj’s government – which included 32 separate ministries – as “too large.” Some, like Omar al-Aswad, argued for a “crisis government” consisting of a maximum of 10 members. Aswad told Reuters, “The country is burning and and citizens are desperate. Some think that we should build a modern civilian state based on justice and equality. In contrast, others think in terms of private interests, based on regionalism.” Other critics claim that a cabinet any smaller than Sarraj’s proposed government would “complicate the demands of the country’s multiple political groups and militias.”

US and EU authorities have supported a unity government as essential to ending Libya’s civil war and combating the Islamic State. The EU is considering sanctions against Libyan figures who are undermining efforts to form the GNA  “amid growing concerns ISIS militants could use oil-rich Libya as a springboard to attack Europe.” This week Human Rights Watch published their World Report 2016, which documented Libya’s 400,000 people who were internally displaced, its domestic criminal justice system that “collapsed”  throughout the country, and more than 143,500 people who arrived in Italy by boat from North Africa – the vast majority from Libya.

According to a Soufan Report released on Wednesday, “Given geography, expansive territory, extensive oil reserves and its history with violent jihadist networks, a failed state in Libya could be disastrous for North Africa and Europe as well as the broader international community.”  UN Special Envoy to Libya Martin Kobler said “This government has to fill the vacuum. If the politicians are discussing problems day and night and they do not act on the ground, those like Daesh (Islamic State) will use the political vacuum to expand their power.”  Ben Fishman, a former top National Security Council official on North Africa affairs told the New York Times, “We have to increase bombing of ISIS while we are working to support the new unity government.”

The Islamic State presence in Libya has been established in three provinces in Libya since 2014 and is now considered the second largest of IS’ strongholds. Following multiple attacks on Libya’s civilians and its oil infrastructure, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph F. Dunford Jr. stated that military officials are “looking to take decisive military action” to target Islamic State strongholds in North Africa. However, Glenn Greenwald is among critics who condemn the United States for intervening in countries too liberally. Dunford indicated that U.S. military authorities would reach a verdict regarding an attack on Libya within the next few weeks.