The offensive of the Libyan National Army (LNA) - led by Marshal Khalifa Haftar, the strong man from the Libyan East - on Tripoli, launched on April 4th, has at first glance two consequences: it probably marks the beginning of a "third Libyan civil war"; it reveals in a cruel light divisions, more subtle than elsewhere perhaps but nevertheless essential to understanding the situation in Libya, between the foreign powers concerned.
The internal conflict in Libya is increasingly coupled with a regional civil war, reminiscent in some respects of the protracted one in Syria, but without having degenerated so far, as is the case in Syria, into a globalized civil war.
Marshal Haftar and his rival, the Prime Minister based in Tripoli, Fayez al-Sarraj, met in Abu Dhabi in February under the auspices of the United Nations. As they had done at La Celle-Saint-Cloud in spring 2017, as part of a mediation attempt by France, then again in Paris in May 2018 and finally in Palermo in November of the same year, this time at the initiative of the Italians, the two men made a commitment to find an agreement that would pave the way for elections and the restoration of unified institutions.
It was in fact clear, at least since the Palermo meeting, that the agenda of Gaddafi's former comrade-in-arms was on a different ground than that of a political settlement. The leader of the Western camp, Fayez al-Sarraj, in his capacity as head of the Government of National Accord (GNA) recognized by the international community, was undoubtedly reluctant to implement his part of the contract. If the man of Tripoli had had a more constructive attitude in recent weeks, would there have been any chance that the Marshal, supported by the Tobruk Parliament (the rival authority of the Government of National Accord), adopt a less aggressive line? This is highly questionable for at least three reasons.
Firstly, given Khalifa Haftar's profile, it is difficult to imagine that he can wisely comply with the constraints of a political process. All the diplomats who met him describe a man who is foreign to political considerations, a military leader with the qualities of a dictator, quick to describe his opponents as terrorists, convinced that his compatriots are not ready for democracy, and who is above all a believer in order based on coercion.