On January 19, representatives from Libya’s rival factions negotiating in Tunis announced they had formed a unity government comprised of a new 32-member cabinet.
Six days later, lawmakers for the country’s internationally-recognized Parliament in Tobruk rejected the proposal.
“The Parliament rejected the 32-member cabinet out of concern that it was too large, and that its members had been chosen not for their competency but to satisfy various regional factions,” The New York Times said on Monday.
As a reminder, there are two governments in Libya, an internationally recognized body operating out of Tobruk in the country’s east (where the House of Representatives was exiled in 2014 after elections produced an outcome that wasn't agreeable to Islamist elements in the west) and another group in Tripoli which claims to be the only legitimate authority.
The country’s inability to come to some manner of political consensus has opened the door for ISIS which recently mounted a series of assaults on the country’s oil infrastructure. Earlier this month, Libya’s National Oil Corp issued a “cry for help” in the midst of the fighting. “Pray for us,” a spokesman for Ibrahim Jadhran (the militia leader who controls the forces tasked with guarding the nation’s oil) said.
“[Islamic State’s] objective is to prevent the new government from stabilizing the economy, and unless they are stopped, they might succeed in their aims,” Mustafa Sanalla, the head of Libya’s state oil company warned on Sunday.
Even if officials in Tobruk manage to float a proposal that’s agreeable to their rivals in Tripoli, there’s little chance the fledgling government will be able to consolidate in time to halt the ISIS advance which means it’s time once again for the Western powers to get involved. Here’s The New York Times:
The Pentagon is ramping up intelligence-gathering in Libya as the Obama administration draws up plans to open a third front in the war against the Islamic State. This significant escalation is being planned without a meaningful debate in Congress about the merits and risks of a military campaign that is expected to include airstrikes and raids by elite American troops.
That is deeply troubling. A new military intervention in Libya would represent a significant progression of a war that could easily spread to other countries on the continent. It is being planned as the American military burrows more deeply into battlegrounds in Syria and Iraq, where American ground troops are being asked to play an increasingly hands-on role in the fight.
Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters on Friday that military officials were “looking to take decisive military action” against the Islamic State, or ISIS, in Libya, where Western officials estimate the terrorist group has roughly 3,000 fighters.
Administration officials say the campaign in Libya could begin in a matter of weeks.
They anticipate it would be conducted with the help of a handful of European allies, including Britain, France and Italy. The planning is unfolding amid political chaos in Libya, which continues to reel from the aftermath of the 2011 civil war that ended with the killing of the country’s longtime dictator, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi.
"Unchecked, I am concerned about the spread of ISIL in Libya," Dunford told reporters on Friday, before saying that "military leaders owe [Defense Secretary Ash Carter and President Barack Obama] a way ahead for dealing with the expansion of ISIL in Libya."
And so, the US now finds itself in a familiar situation.
Washington toppled a dictator leaving a power vacuum that still has not been filled five years later and now, with the country in chaos, the US is headed right back to Libya to fight off ISIS which, in an irony of ironies, was a tool Washington and its regional allies used to topple another dictator in Syria.
In other words, the US-backed effort to bring about regime change in Syria has now spilled over into Libya, a failed state that had already descended into lawlessness thanks to a previous regime change effort by America.
Washington's individual efforts to meddle in Mid-East affairs have now seemingly all melded into one giant, bloody melee and incredibly, America's solution is to go right back in and meddle some more.
What could possibly go wrong?