In-Depth: Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) introduced this bill to clarify and strengthen U.S. policy in support of a peaceful diplomatic resolution to the Libyan conflict and to deter foreign interference in Libya:
"The United States cannot afford to ignore the Libyan conflict, which is undermining the stability of North Africa, exacerbating a humanitarian crisis, and impeding a return to UN-sponsored peace talks. Libya is increasingly exposed to severe threats by terrorist groups and other non-state actors, and foreign interference is escalating the conflict. It is essential that the United States establish a clear and principled policy towards Libya to mitigate instability, stem the humanitarian crisis, and promote political reconciliation. This legislation seeks to clarify U.S. policy towards Libya and empower the United States with sanctions authority to revitalize diplomacy, secure our national interests, stabilize Libya, and provide peace and opportunity for the Libyan people."
Original cosponsor Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) says:
“The ongoing turmoil in Libya has paralyzed the country’s post-Qaddafi political trajectory, created an ideal breeding ground for jihadist terrorist groups of all stripes, and continues to destabilize the broader region. I am grateful for Chairman Deutch’s leadership in crafting a robust, comprehensive, and thoughtful approach to address Libya’s instability and target those that have fueled and exploited the chaos.”
Testifying before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on May 15, 2019, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Middle East Program senior fellow Frederic Wehrey expressed his belief that the U.S. needs to be more involved in the Libyan peace process:
“[I]n my recent conversations with numerous Libyans, as well as foreign diplomats, it is clear that the U.S. maintains unique leverage in Libya and is viewed as a relatively neutral broker. A more resolute U.S. policy response in this current crisis does not mean “owning” the Libya problem. But even modest U.S. diplomacy could prevent the country from spiraling into broader conflict.”
Wehrey identified three key areas for the U.S. to focus on:
Exerting diplomatic leverage to dissuade regional meddlers form sending arms and materials to both sides, including through greater Congressional scrutiny of violations of the UN arms embargo and sanctions on logistical companies that facilitate these violations.
Safeguarding Libyan oil assets and preventing oil from being sold outside the country.
Using the threat of sanctions and war crimes prosecution against all sides to deter attacks on civilians, medical workers, and critical infrastructure and marginalize spoilers.
Other countries, including Turkey & Russia, are seeking to intervene and influence the future of Libya as Ethan Chorin & Wolfgang Pusztai write in Forbes:
“For Turkey, intervention in Libya is the foundation for a growing expansionist posture, enabled by the Arab Spring and driven by both ideology and economic imperatives. First, and most immediately, it buys time for Turkey’s Islamist and Misrata-based clients in Libya and their allies (collectively, part of Erdogan’s base) - and establishes Turkey as a fixture in any future Libya settlement. To counter parties’ interventions, the GNA has purchased large amounts of Turkish military equipment, including at least 25 combat drones, most of which have been destroyed in combat.
While Russia has to date backed Heftar, Russian President Vladimir Putin appears content to accede to Turkey’s actions in Western Libya, as it serves higher priorities - not least of which, undermining NATO. Assuming no significant U.S. or European pushback, Turkey could force an eventual partition of Libya between an Islamist-Misrata dominated West, and a military-ruled East. If Turkey does send troops into Western Libya, as it threatens, and seeks to push farther, into Libya’s oil rich east, it will very likely draw Egypt into an all-out war: Egypt’s President Sisi has already intimated he will intervene militarily in Libya to protect Egypt’s interests. That may impact, among other things, traffic through the Suez Canal.”
This legislation has three bipartisan cosponsors, including two Democrats and one Republican.
Of Note: Libya has struggled to rebuild state institutions since the October 2011 ouster and subsequent death of former leader Muammar al-Qaddafi. After the transitional government ceded authority to the newly-elected General National Congress (GNC) in July 2012, the GNC faced numerous challenges over the next two years. Those included the September 2012 attack on the U.S. consultate in Benghazi (which was the work of Islamist militants) and the spread of the Islamic State and other armed groups throughout the country.
In May 2014, Libyan National Army (LNA) leader General Khalifa Haftar launched Operation Dignity — an LNA campaign to attack Islamist militant groups across eastern Libya, including in Benghazi. To counter this movement, Islamist militants and armed groups, including Ansar al-Sharia, formed a coalition called Libya Dawn. Fighting between the two groups eventually broke out at Tripoli’s international airport, leading to a civil war.
Attempts to create a unity government (there are currently three power centers in the country) have had limited success, as the House of Representatives (HoR) based in the eastern part of the country, which is a key Haftar supporter, and the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) have struggled to come to an agreement.
In late September 2019, the UN warned that escalating violence and a deepening humanitarian crisis in Libya are pushing the country closer toward a full-scale civil war like the one that overthrew Qaddafi. The UN warned that progress toward achieving a more stable, effective, and humane government had been shattered by Haftar’s April 2019 offensive on Tripoli. UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Kate Gilmore said she fears the chaos, unbearable civilian suffering, and widespread human rights violations (including summary executions, abductions, enforced disappearances, torture, gender-based violence, and arbitrary detention) will continue.
Now, Libya is the site of a geopolitical proxy war: the LNA has received financial and military support from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and France (this is particularly controversial because France’s official position supports the GNA). On the opposite site, the GNA has received massive support from Turkey, which has sent both troops and weapons to the region.
At the end of October 2020, the LNA and GNA agreed to a ceasefire. The two sides agreed to a complete, country-wide, permanent agreement effective immediately. United Nations secretary-general, António Guterres, who has been calling for ceasefires around the world to help contain the COVID-19 pandemic, called the truce a “fundamental step” toward ending the Libyan conflict.
In mid-November 2020, Stephanie Williams, the head of the UN Support Mission in Libya, announced that the LNA and GNA agreed to hold elections on December 24, 2021. The two sides also agreed to establish a new Presidential Council and an executive body to manage the transition period and hold national elections.
The Libyan people have now lived with instability and violence for nearly a decade. They are now facing ever-worsening conditions: public services, including healthcare, are collapsing amid COVID-19; inflation of basic goods’ prices is pushing more people into economic instability and poverty; the country is in the middle of an electricity crisis, with frequent outages that can last for days without prior warning; and water outages have become a common occurrence for many.
As of September 2020, the UN Refugee Agency
(UNHCR) estimates that 928,000 people in Libya are in need of humanitarian assistance. This population includes returnees, internally displaced persons and refugees.
Summary by Lorelei Yang(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / zabelin)