Last year, Libya had two major governments, one in Tripoli and one in Tobruk. The UN attempted to resolve this with the creation of a “unity government” which was supposed to bridge the gap between the two. The UN and the West quickly endorsed the idea, but neither of the existing governments did, leaving them with three rival governments.
Is the fourth time the charm? It could be, as the unity government prime minister-designate Fayez al-Sarraj is now promising to try to form a more inclusive “new government” aimed at bridging the gap between these sides, as well as Gen. Khalifa Hifter, a longtime CIA asset who has most recently been working with the Tobruk parliament.
Gen. Hifter’s forces have been attacking the unity government recently, seizing valuable oil ports around Ras Lanuf and expelling unity government forces trying to reclaim them. Serraj says he has “no other choice” but to try to reconcile, and promised Hifter and his interests would be represented in the new government.
Hifter hasn’t had any official positions of governance since the NATO-imposed regime change, but did announce he intended to carry out a military coup at one point. This never panned out, and interestingly didn’t appear to hurt his standing.
Hifter was originally a general in Moammar Gadhafi’s army, but was disavowed during the war with Chad. He then became part of a CIA-led army for regime change, which similarly failed, and spent several decades living around suburban DC. He subsequently went back to Libya during the revolution against Gadhafi, and has been angling for power ever since.