Can Libya find Unity through Oil?

By for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Libya Business News.

For years, Western policymakers have sought to sweep the post-Moammar Gadhafi mess under the rug.

Although they are not primarily responsible for the country’s post-Arab Spring implosion — as the recent report by conservative member of UK Parliament Crispin Blunt erroneously implies — Western leaders have chosen to keep Libya at arm’s length by delegating to the United Nations the dirty job of sorting out the warring factions.

The UN aim to forge a unity government through negotiation has always been a noble goal, but its approach has often been half-baked and tainted by UN corruption. When the Government of National Accord (GNA) formally came into being in March 2016, it was not representative of Libya’s key factions.

Instead it was dominated by stakeholders from Misrata and Tripoli, with a sprinkling of Islamists. This compounded fears of political exclusion among Easterners and led to greater support for the anti-Islamist Gen. Khalifa Hifter, who has long sought to upend the UN-backed political framework and establish military rule.

After months of a stalemate, Hifter may have finally found the appropriate means to put a nail in the GNA’s coffin. On Sept. 11, he wrested the oil crescent away from his federalist opponents in a military offensive, dubbed Operation Sudden Lightning. The Libyan National Army’s (LNA) largely bloodless takeover of the oil crescent ports led to the National Oil Corporation’s (NOC) immediate resumption of exports of stored crude oil.

Although these shipments were halted by a federalist and Islamist counterattack on Sidra and Ras Lanuf ports Sept. 18, the LNA swiftly repelled the attack. It is possible to imagine the swift export of all the remaining storage of crude oil. Due to these victories, the power balance has completely shifted in the LNA's favor, further undermining the GNA and their federalist and Islamist allies.

Just days after the first tentative exports, the black market value of the Libyan dinar had jumped 20%, signaling the Libyan street’s positive reception of recent developments.

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