If Muammar Gadhafi had survived the 2011 revolt, he would be celebrating the 50th anniversary of his own revolution, the one which toppled the hapless King Idris and brought him, a young colonel, to power. Conversely, the fallout from Libya’s 2011 revolution ultimately turned an oil exporting country into an impoverished one 'controlled' by two governments and a collection of competing militias.
The rump-state governed by the internationally recognised government is itself run by a nine-member presidential council headed by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj. This eastern government, which is headquartered at the Abu Sitta naval base near Tripoli, is neither supported nor recognised by the House of Representatives, which is based in the western city of Tobruk. The speaker of the house is Aguila Saleh Issa, effectively a puppet & rubber stamp for his ally Khalifa Haftar, the renegade military commander who seeks to take over the capital, Tripoli, and become the country’s leader.
Haftar, who accompanied Gadhafi through the 1969 revolution and later served the CIA following his capture during the Libya-Chad War, is the head of a well-armed militia styled as the Libyan National Army. Haftar has taken over the eastern areas of Libya and set up headquarters in Benghazi, from which he has waged a successful campaign against the Islamic State and other terrorist forces. He is now receiving the assistance and support of Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, the United States and Russia.
Sarraj enjoys the support of Turkey and Qatar. Although he can rely on a consortium of armed militias, they have proven incapable of defeating Haftar’s forces. They also need to deal with over a dozen tribal militias, as well as the Islamic State in southern Libya and another army, called the Petroleum Facilities Guard, which operates independently.
The military confrontation also naturally has stark economic consequences in that Haftar’s forces have control of the oil fields and export terminals in the east of the country and have deprived the government of highly needed revenue for running the country.
The diplomatic disagreements between France and Italy over a solution to the Libyan situation and between Turkey and Qatar on one hand and Egypt and the UAE on the other, and the UN’s limited ability to forge a political consensus have so far halted prospects that a plan for a solution would be accepted by all of the parties involved — or at least by the country’s military forces.
As long as Haftar believes in his ability to impose his will militarily and conquer Tripoli, and as long as the recognised government of Libya expects that it can foil Haftar by force, Libya will continue to be a country that is the sum of its parts.