The crisis in Libya appears to be reaching a turning point. The military situation is at a standstill, yet the political status quo cannot hold for much longer as control of the Central Bank and the oil wealth has become the primary field of contention. This presents an opening for outside mediation. The international community, and especially the U.S., should redouble their efforts to broker a resolution.

The anti-Islamist Zintani militia have been calling for a counteroffensive to take back Tripoli and regain ground lost over the summer. The leader of the Qaqaa, the main militia associated with Zintan, was recently in Tobruk to discuss the supply of weapons to his troops as they coordinate a plan of attack against Islamist-leaning Libya Dawn forces in the capital. In the east, especially in Benghazi, anti-Islamist Operation Dignity troops are intensifying their offensive against the jihadists of Ansar al-Sharia. Yet neither group has the military power to roll back their opponents. In fact, they will remain military outmatched for quite some time. Meanwhile, their adversaries are growing stronger by the minute.


The rogue Tripoli government, established by Operation Dawn and led by Omar al-Hassi, received a major boost this week when the governor of the Central Bank transfer enough funds to the country’s commercial banks to cover three months of family allowance payments. This measure demonstrates that al-Hassi exercises some control over the Bank even though the rogue government he leads lacks international recognition and should not be able to access Bank funds. Meanwhile, the elected, internationally-recognized House of Representatives (HoR) exerts little authority beyond its offices in Tobruk and the man it attempted to fire is still running the bank.

These developments seem calculated undermine the attempts to foster a negotiated solution. Nevertheless, certain signals indicate a different trend. The UN-sponsored meeting in Ghadames has opened a window of opportunity for finding a peaceful solution to the current crisis.

The most significant point that emerged from these talks is the reported commitment by some Misratans to pursue a negotiated solution. This has brought to light a fissure within Operation Dawn between those who wish to exert their military dominance and those who wish to trade it for recognition. Savvy foreign diplomats seem to recognize that this presents a small window of opportunity that ought to be exploited if Libya is to be brought back from the brink. UN Special Representative Bernardino Leon has insisted that another meeting, this time inclusive of the rival military leaders, be convened as soon as possible. Algeria has offered to host such a meeting.

As Libya’s factions have found support from outside states, raising fears of the country being transformed into a proxy battleground like Syria, Algeria has maintained a principled neutral stance rooted in counter-terrorism and the search for stability. To defuse accusations of Algeria's anti-Islamist inclinations, the Bouteflika regime has joined forces with Rached Ghannouchi, leader of the Tunisian Islamist party Ennahda. With his endorsement secured, Sudan and Iran endorsed the Algerian efforts. Qatar and Saudi Arabia have also issued declarations of consent. Unanimous approval from the United States and European countries is expected over the coming days. But the U.S. must do more than passively issue its support; it must lean on its regional allies to make the conference a success.

Egypt and the United Arab Emirates have so far been intransigent in their support of the anti-Islamists. They have been bombing Islamist arsenals but have failed to tip the scales. Washington 'leaked' its allies indiscretions, but has yet to pressure them to stop.  Now it must do so. It should start with covert diplomacy. But if that fails overt threats must be made. Egypt and the UAE are staunch American allies -- some might say clients. Obama possessed the tools to bring them into line. He must not be hesitant to deploy them.

Finding a peaceful solution to the Libyan crisis will not be easy. The effort can succeed only with the wholehearted support of all the involved international actors -- each pressuring their Libyan clients to buy into a negotiated – rather than an armed – resolution to the conflict. If handled correctly and inclusively, the Algerian-sponsored meetings could yield a decisive breakthrough.

Pack is president of  Mezran is a senior fellow with the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East. They are co-authors of Libya's Faustian Bargains: Breaking the Appeasement Cycle.