The Libyan Political Dialogue Forum started on November 9 in Tunisia. This forum was organized by the UN Support Mission to Libya (UNSMIL) headed by Stephanie Williams, former US chargé d'affaires in Libya.
The Forum, attended by 75 representatives of the parties to the Libyan conflict, might be seen as an important step towards unification of Libya and the end of the military conflict held against the background of the negotiation process and a two-month truce. But sadly, the forum is unlikely to lead to peace in Libya. The reason is that UNSMIL and Stephanie Williams have usurped their key functions, and almost nothing will depend on the Libyans themselves if they agree to Williams’ proposals.
In fact, it is Williams (and by extension Washington) who is personally going to be appointing people under her control to key positions in the new Libyan leadership and this is their playbook: The UN Mission in Libya, as the organizer of the Libyan Forum for Political Dialogue, has disseminated the proposals on mechanisms for selecting candidates for key positions in Libya. These are the mechanisms for selecting the Chairman of the new government of Libya, as well as the President of the Presidential Council and his two deputies.
UNSMIL believes that 75 attendees participating in the Libya Political Dialogue Forum should choose all these people. But who are these people and how did they come to participate in the Forum? These are the people that UNSMIL itself chose. So, this is the first limitation. Those who were not approved by Stephanie Williams have already been excluded from Libya’s future.
The list of 75 participants was criticized by representatives of all political forces in Libya. Their legitimacy is already being questioned.
The Supreme Council of Sheikhs and Notables of Libya expressed concern that 45 of the 75 participants selected by UNSMIL are affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist organization banned in many countries.
And in addition, a candidate for any position in the new Libyan leadership must gain the support of at least ten delegates to the Forum (already selected by UNSMIL). However, the UN Mission in Libya has one more lever of control. They themselves determine whether the candidates for the posts meet the necessary criteria to be in power. And one of the particularly vague criteria noted is “psychological balance”. In essence it means that UNSMIL can remove any leader from the election process, even if he gains the necessary support, declaring that he is not “psychologically balanced” enough. Or they may cite the fact that he represents the wrong demographic group (gender, age or ethnicity), or, for that matter, present any other reason to remove the undesirable candidate.
Finally, the UN Mission in Libya assumes the right to decide for itself who takes up a particular position (including the members of the Presidential Council and the Prime Minister). If no candidate for the two rounds of elections receives 75 percent of the votes (57 people), the final decision on the candidates and the outcome of the election will be determined by the UN mission based on its assessment.
In practice, this system will mean only one thing: UNSMIL, which means that the US (since it is an American diplomat only who is currently leading all the work being done) and the UN bureaucracy will have an opportunity to select people loyal to themselves for the new leadership of Libya. There is virtually no chance for candidates independent from Washington to win in this system.
The US, by electing a government under its control in Libya, will delegitimize the positions of all other external players in the Libyan conflict. Not only the supporters of Khalifa Haftar will lose out, but perhaps even Turkey and Italy, who have so far benefited from special relations with the UN-recognized Government of National Accord.
UNSMIL did everything it could to prevent Libyans from determining their own destiny. The UN bureaucrats and Ms. Williams must personally do so for them. The sycophants of the American side will probably rush to declare a new government in Libya. Apparently, based on them, Washington will try to restore its influence in Libya, because the US has conceded its position in the region to Turkey, Russia, France, Italy, Qatar and the UAE.
It is important for the Americans to return to Libya’s political arena, which they lost under President Donald Trump. Symbolically, the Libya Political Dialogue Forum coincided with the discussion of a possible new foreign policy team, which is preparing to follow Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to the White House. These also happen to be the architects of the US intervention in Libya in 2011 – Susan Rice and Michèle Flournoy, who have been promised the posts of Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense.
Moreover, this system could turn out as inefficient as the previous attempt. If the voice of Libya is drowned out by that of UNSMIL, and if independent political actors have no chance of gaining anything from the system, there is no chance that the agreements reached at the Libya Political Dialogue Forum will be respected.
That would mean that UNSMIL has learned nothing from the experience of the Libyan Political Agreement of 2015. That agreement was based on a much stronger foundation, with real players in the intra-Libyan process. Neither was it fully implemented, however, because the interests of the forces behind Khalifa Haftar and the Libyan National Army were ignored. As a result, the Government of National Accord (GNA) that had been created, never laid to rest contentious issues, but exacerbated them instead.
However, within the framework of the UNSMIL mechanism, there is a much greater chance that it will collapse when faced with the first crisis. But it enables Washington to legitimize a new invasion of Libya, only will expand its rule of chaos in the region.
“This forum will produce an agreement that would bring the Libyan crisis back to square one of division and put the Libyans in a state of confusion that may last for several more years,” said one of the participants in the Libya Political Dialogue Forum, the Libyan parliamentarian, Misbah Douma Ouhida.
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