My hope for Libya becoming a unified country is diminishing. It is a sad conclusion. I had hoped for peace would come through the very capable UN negotiator, Martin Kobler. A peace agreement was finally ready for signing in December 2015, giving rise to hope. Kobler was able to convince lawmakers from the Tobruk and Tripoli factions to sign the agreement, but the leaders of both factions would not.
Wikipedia has done a phenomenal job of impartially chronicling events as follows:
The Libyan civil war end in November 2011, and a period of calm existed until May 2014 when the newly elected congress in Tripoli was attacked. Today, the country is broken into two main factions with the Tripoli and Tobruk governments controlling large portions of the west and east of Libya, respectively and several other groups controlling parts of the country.
To control Libya, the entire Mediterranean coastline of Libya must be secured. This is where the export ports and refineries are located. The regional airports and roads must also be secured for commerce to continue. The onshore oil fields are located more in the central part of the country and pipelines are bring the oil to the coastline for shipping.
The Wall Street Journal reported the destruction of the oil tank storage facility at Es Sider and Ras Lanuf with a million barrels of crude going up in smoke. This was a dramatic show of force. An astute commentator asked what good is the facility to ISIL if it is burned to the ground. The answer is, that they have denied Libya the ability to export their oil, one more step is seizing control of Libya.
ISIL has control of Sirte, so this attack is a move to the east. Next stop is likely Brega, which has a refinery and export port. It would be a major prize to ISIL. It is headquarters to Sirte Oil Company, which before being nationalized by Gaddafi, was the Exxon oil company concession headquarters.
The Gulf News has a very insightful and timely article on the peace talks provided below:
Basically, hope springs from the fact that ISIL has not been able to forge the essential ties to other influential groups, as it did in Syria. I feel that this is likely because there isn’t the same condition of extreme poverty and xenophobia (eventhough Gaddafi tried to instill western hatred) as in Syria. So, ISIL is fighting both Tobruk and Tripoli government, from Sirte, home base of Gaddadi.
But still, ISIL may develop ties to other tribal groups, with their own militias. The New York Times article on Jan 18, 2016 further analyzes the complex situation of the US trying to help defeat ISIL, without a united government in place:
In sum, everybody wants national unity and a defeat of ISIL, but compromise is very elusive. The trajectory, if based on past events, is frightening.