Libyan Deal on Course, but Who is on Board?

Last week, representatives of the internationally-recognized Libyan government in Tobruk, and the General National Congress (GNC) – the Islamist-dominated rival authority in Tripoli – signed a U.N.-brokered agreement to form a unity government, which was quickly endorsed by the U.N. Security Council. It is the fruit of nearly a year of sporadic negotiations – a process whose flaws are reflected in the document.

The mediation focused on rival parties and movements, and ignored the tribes that remain central to whatever is still stable in day-to-day life, and are as much a factor as the political movements in the ongoing strife that has characterized Libya since the fall of Moammar Gaddafi.

Thus the Muslim Brotherhood and even more radical Islamist groups that dominate the GNC could only have seized Tripoli and established a rival government after losing elections because they had the support of Misrata tribal militias traditionally opposed to those in Zintan, which supported the legitimate government and subsequently undertook much of the fighting on its behalf, in particular in Tripoli.

Mutual Opposition

The speakers of the rival parliaments announced their opposition to the deal as soon as it was announced. Both men are considered hardliners within their respective camps. GNC President Nouri Abu Sahmain has links to the most extremist elements among the Islamist alliances concentrated in Tripoli.

Agila Saleh, head of the legitimate parliament – the House of Representatives (HOR) – has close ties with…

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