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Beyond the Revolution External Actors in Pre- & Post-Revolutionary Libya. Review of Current Research



External actors appear to be one of the key factors in post-revolutionary Libya – country divided by a civil conflict. Aim of this research review is to summarize major Western academic publications that focus on the role and interests of external actors in Libya. The review reflects on the writings dealing with the interests of Western actors –France, UK, Italy, Germany, USA - and the activities of Russia, Egypt, Qatar, Saudi Arabia or UAE, whose increasing influence in post-revolutionary Libya is related to the ongoing conflict and mutual rivalry.
Received: 15. 10. 2017
Accepted: 20. 10. 2017
Published on-line: December 2017
Available from:
doi: 10.3849/1802-7199.17.2017.02.101-116
Externí aktéři v předrevoluční a porevoluční Libyi. Přehled aktuálního
External Actors in Pre- & Post-Revolutionary Libya. Review of Current
Hana Votradovcováa
Jedním z klíčových faktorů vývoje v Libyi, rozdělené porevolučním děním mezi
znepřátelené tábory usilující o kontrolu země, jsou vnější aktéři. Cílem předloženého
přehledu výzkumu je shrnout významné západní publikace zabývající se otázkou role a
zájmů vnějších aktérů v Libyi. Reflektovány jsou publikace zabývající se zájmy
západních zemí Francie, UK, Itálie, USA či Německa a na druhé straně aktivitami Ruska,
Egypta, Kataru, Saudské Arábie či Spojených arabských emirátů, jejichž rostoucí význam
v porevoluční Libyi je spojován s probíhajícím konfliktem a vzájemnou rivalitou.
External actors appear to be one of the key factors in post-revolutionary Libya
country divided by a civil conflict. Aim of this research review is to summarize major
Western academic publications that focus on the role and interests of external actors in
Libya. The review reflects on the writings dealing with the interests of Western actors
France, UK, Italy, Germany, USA - and the activities of Russia, Egypt, Qatar, Saudi
Arabia or UAE, whose increasing influence in post-revolutionary Libya is related to the
ongoing conflict and mutual rivalry.
This article resulted from specific research of Masaryk University: Europe in the
Changing International Environment III (MUNI/A/1067/2016).
a Department of International Relations and European Studies, Faculty of Social Studies, Masaryk
University. Brno, Czech Republic. Researcher ID R-2511-2017.
Klíčová slova
Libye; akademický výzkum; vnější aktéři; strategické zájmy; ekonomické vztahy;
migrace; bezpečnost.
Libya; Academic research; External actors; Strategic interests; Economic relations;
Migration; Security.
Nations have no permanent friends or allies, they only have permanent
Lord Palmerston (1784-1865)
The Libyan revolution in 2011 meant a turnover from the perspective of both internal
and external actors. Considering the latter, overthrow of one of the most hardline
authoritarian régimes of the 20th century opened the door to a greater engagement of
foreign actors that have become one of key factors in deepening of the post-
revolutionary divisions of the country. However, a gradual change in the spectrum of
actors involved in Libyan developments can be observed. Concurrently with the
disengagement of Western states, which were pursuing strategic relations with the
Qaddafi régime before the revolution, actors such as the Gulf states, Russia or Egypt
gradually took over the role in shaping internal developments in Libya.
Despite the relevance of the role of external actors for both internal and international
developments, Western
academic reflection on the interests or role of external actors
in Libya seems to be rather selective and limited. The contemporary Western research
on Libya is dominated by debates on internal drivers of revolutionary and post-
revolutionary developments,
challenges of state-building, internal and wider regional
the issue of Islamism,
or, last but not least, the controversial issue of the
international intervention and the R2P doctrine.
The aim of this text is to review recent academic publications that discuss the role and
interests of external actors in Libya that were considered as the most widely discussed
The choice is led by the aim to reflect on the current Western research and its possible gaps
from within. This should help in gaining a better understanding of the Libyan strategic
COLE, Peter and MCQUINN, Brian (eds.). Libyan Revolution and its Aftermath. Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 2015. ISBN 978-0-19-021096-0; BRAHIMI, Alia. Libya’s Revolution. The Journal of
North Africal Studies. 2011, vol. 16, no. 4, pp. 605-624. ISSN 1743-9345; PAOLETTI, Emanuela.
Libya: Roots of a Civil Conflict. Mediterranean Politics. 2011, vol. 16, no. 2, pp. 313-319. ISSN
JEBNOUN, Noureddine. Beyond the mayhem: debating key dilemmas in Libya’s statebuilding.
The Journal of North African Studies. 2015, vol. 20, no. 5, pp. 832-864. ISSN 1743-9345; SAWANI,
Youssef Mohammad PACK, Jason. Libyan constitutionality and sovereignty post-Qadhafi: the
Islamist, regionalist, and Amazigh challenges. The Journal of North African Studies. 2013, vol. 18,
no. 4, pp. 523-543. ISSN 1743-9345.
RONEN, Yehudit. Libya: Teetering Between War and Diplomacy The Islamic State’s Role in
Disintegration. Diplomacy & Statecraft. 2017, vol. 28, no. 1, pp. 110-127. ISSN 1557-301X.
BELLAMY, Alex. Libya and the Responsibility to Protect: The Exception and the Norm. Ethics &
International Affairs. 2011, vol. 25, no. 3, pp. 263-269. ISSN 1747-7093; KŘÍŽ, Zdeněk –
FRIDRICHOVÁ, Kateřina. Libya and Criteria for Humanitarian Intervention. Czech Journal of
Political Science. 2015, vol. 22, no. 3, pp. 183-199. ISSN 1805-9503; KŘÍŽ, Zdeněk. On some
aspects of the UN Security Council Mandate Application during the NATO Operation Unified
Protector. Obrana a strategie. 2012, vol. 12, no. 2, pp. 17-26. ISSN 1802-7199.
or most influential in the context of their involvement in Libya. The review also aims to
point out the white spaces or opportunities for further research on involvement of
foreign actors in the country. Most of the publications are written in lingua franca of
the academic world English. Some of the papers are considering both the origin of
the author and the audience of the article written in Czech. The primary focus of the
review lies in academic, peer-reviewed articles, monographs, or proceedings by
distinguished Western authors. Reports, working papers or other forms of publications
are mentioned marginally for thematic triangulation or comparison purposes.
The review considers literature that covers both pre- and post-revolutionary
involvement of actors that are considered as having the most intense relations with
Libya. The text proceeds in a thematically-chronological order. Chronologically, the
literature under review in each part is related to three periods: the pre-revolutionary
times that include the colonial, monarchical and Qaddafi era, the revolutionary and
intervention era, and post-revolutionary developments. Thematically, the first part
mentions publications dealing with the role of Western states or supranational entities
whose involvement in Libya is dated back to the pre-revolutionary and revolutionary
periods: France, the UK, Italy, Germany, the USA, and the EU. The second part
mentions the role of states whose activities emerge or re-emerge in Libya during or
after the 2011 uprising, namely Russia, Egypt and the Gulf states; among them most
notably Qatar, UAE and Saudi Arabia.
The publications under review points out an overall weakening of the Western strategic,
economic and security ties in the post-revolutionary times and on the other hand
increased strategic, but also economic interests of non-traditional actors that
concurrently represent two sides of a proxy conflict in Libya and are generally
considered as contributing to deepening the divisions of the country. The review
identifies a number of white spaces on an imaginary Western research map of Libya,
which include a deeper research on strategies of both Western and Middle-Eastern
states on the state, sub-state and regional levels, but also critical insights into the role
of the European states in the proxy war led by the Gulf states in Libya.
France, UK, Italy and Germany: Colonial Past, Ideological Confrontation and
Strategic Ties
A considerable number of writings reflecting on the Euro-Libyan relations focus on the
pre-2011 era. One of the issues, that were subject of academic research before 2011,
includes Libya’s relations with Italy former colonial power, Great Britain and France,
which administered the Libyan territory until 1951 after Italy’s military capitulation in
1943. Several papers dealt with Libya’s historical experience with Europe or the West,
respectively, which was considered as the determinant of ties with the Qaddafi régime
that came to power in 1969. Among others, Joffé
pointed out that the Libyan
experience with French, British and Italian colonialism contributed to forming of
JOFFÉ, George. Libya and Europe. The Journal of North African Studies. 2001, vol. 6, no. 4, pp.
75-77. ISSN 1743-9345; cf. VANDEWALLE, Dirk. A History of Modern Libya. 2nd edition. New York:
Cambridge University Press, 2012. pp. 24-84. ISBN 978-1-107-61574-8.
Qaddafi’s anti-Western pre-conceptions. However, Green Book régime’s anti-Western
ideological orientation can be considered rather as a background topic in the available
writings on Libya’s relations with its former colonial powers. Particularly mentioned in
this context is the negative influence of the UK US proximity on Euro-Libyan relations
during the first two decades of Qaddafi’s rule.
In this context, Ronen’s analysis of the
rupture in the UK-Libyan relations may be pointed out together with the parallel
rupture in the US-Soviet, and, respectively, the rapprochement in the Soviet-Libyan
Available writings report on a highly pragmatic nature of the Euro-Libyan relations:
despite the above-mentioned politically-ideological tensions, European states, such as
Italy, France or Germany, maintained good economic relations with Libya for several
decades. Among the authors writing on this topic, Joffé and Zoubir pointed out that
mutually beneficial economic relations were developing between Libya and its European
partners particularly on bilateral level. While Libya served as a major hydrocarbon
exporter almost 80 per cent of Libya’s exports were sent to Germany, Italy and Spain
European countries were identified as producing three quarters of Libya’s goods
In accordance with Joffé and Lombardi,
Zoubir considers as the most
important Libyan commercial ties those with Italy. He focuses on a gradual
strengthening of these ties since the end of 1990s; in particular, he mentions the act of
Italian apologies for the crimes committed during the colonial period and subsequent
contracts, which included construction of pan-Libyan highway connecting Tunisia and
He addresses also the Libyan economic ties with France, Libya’s sixth trading
partner. France was one of the first states pursuing mutual economic relations in the
early 1970s; these were re-established after a period of instability in the early 2000s.
The line of relations of European states with Libya, which was driven by pragmatic
economic and strategic considerations, however, is far from unproblematized.
Particularly, these relations have become subject of discussion in the context of the EU
security and migration policies. Among non-academic works related to the implications
for human rights issues, a paper written by Lutterbeck claims that EU privileges areas
perceived as key migration and energy - over human rights or political reforms agenda,
which are seen as low profile.
In a similar vein, Joffé criticized the proposal of the EU-
Cf. JOFFÉ, George – PAOLETTI, Emanuela. Libya’s foreign policy process. The Journal of North
African Studies. 2011, vol. 16, no. 2, pp. 194-202. ISSN 1743-9345; ST JOHN, Ronald Bruce. Libya:
Reforming the Economy, not the Polity. In: ZOUBIR, Yahia H. AMIRAH-FÉRNANDEZ, Haizam.
North Africa. Politics, Region and the Limits of Transformation. London, New York: Routledge,
2008, pp. 56-58. ISBN 978-0-415-42921-4.
RONEN, Yehudit. Libya's conflict with Britain: Analysis of a diplomatic rupture. Middle Eastern
Studies, 2006, vol. 42, no. 2, pp. 271 ff. ISSN 1743-7881.
JOFFÉ, ref. 1, pp. 77-80; ZOUBIR, Yahia H. Libya and Europe: economic realism at the rescue of
the Qadhafi authoritarian regime. Journal of contemporary European studies. 2009, vol. 17, no.
3, p. 404. ISSN 1478-2790.
LOMBARDI, Ben. The Berlusconi Government and Intervention in Libya. The International
Spectator. 2012, vol. 46, no. 4. pp. 37-39. ISSN 1751-9721.
ZOUBIR, ref. 9, p. 410
Ibid. p. 412-14; Joffé, ref. 6, p. 81
LUTTERBECK, Derek. Migrants, weapons and oil: Europe and Libya after the sanctions. The
Journal of North African Studies. 2009, vol. 14, no. 2, pp. 180-181. ISSN 1743-9345.
Libyan Framework Agreement, which was negotiated since 2008. He considers the whole
policy line as driven by interests of Member states in controlling the European
According to Hamood or Paoletti, Euro-Libyan cooperation in the migration
control, or the extra-territorialization of European border control as a result of
transgovernmental cooperation in the justice and home affairs among EU member
was mirroring the European inability or unwillingness to adopt a coherent
approach to migration management in the region. With the view of the revolutionary
and post-revolutionary times, European power politics and the lack of humanitarian and
human rights protection on both sides of the Mediterranean was considered to have a
too high cost in migrants’ lives.
Probably the most intensively discussed issue related to the role and interests of
European actors in Libya has been the issue of the anti-Qaddafi intervention. The
reviewed publications focus on different attitudes towards the intervention in the
context of internal and external interests of the European countries in question.
Discussed are the support of the intervention on the side France and Great Britain,
also the hesitation of Italy and Germany. The common French and British support for
the uprising was analyzed from international, internal and historical point of view.
Northern and Pack point out the support of the anti-Qaddafi uprising by Sarkozy’s
cabinet, or, respectively, by the highest diplomatic-intellectual circles. On the other
hand, they argue, that Cameron’s liberal-conservative government’s stance was in
accordance to previous cabinets sharp position towards the Qaddafi régime.
argues that the support of the British and French governments could be explained by
the belief in the effectiveness of low-cost air war and view of the inability of free-riding
on other’s efforts.
According to Ronen, one could only speculate about the role of the
JOFFÉ, George. Libya and the European Union: shared interests? The Journal of North African
Studies. 2011, vol. 16, no. 2, pp. 246-247. ISSN 1743-9345.
LAVENEX, Sandra. Shifting up and out: The foreign policy of European immigration control. West
European Politics. 2006, vol. 29, no. 2, pp. 329-350. ISSN 1743-9655.
HAMOOD, Sarah. EU-Libya Cooperation on Migration: A Raw Deal for Refugees and Migrants?
Journal of Refugee Studies. 2008, vol. 21, no. 1, pp. 37-38. ISSN 1471-6925; ANDRIJASEVIC,
Rutvica. DEPORTED: The Right of Asylum at the EU’s External Border of Italy and Libya.
International Migration. 2010, vol. 48, no. 1, pp. 148-174. ISSN 0020-7985; PAOLETTI, Emanuela.
Migration and foreign policy: the case of Libya. The Journal of North African Studies. 2011,
vol. 16, no. 2, pp. 215-231. ISSN 1743-9345; PAOLETTI, Emanuela. Power Relations and
International Migration: The Case of Italy and Libya. Political Studies. 2011, vol. 59, no. 2, pp.
269-289. ISSN 1467-9248; SEEBERG, Peter. The Arab Uprisings and the EU’s Migration Policies –
The Cases of Egypt, Libya and Syria. Democracy and Security. 2013, vol. 9, no. 2, pp. 157-176.
ISSN 1555-5860.
OVERBECK, Maximilian. European debates during the Libya crisis of 2011: shared identity,
divergent action. European Security. 2014, vol. 23, no. 4, pp. 583-600. ISSN 0966-1545; KOENIG,
Nicole. The EU and the Libyan Crisis In Quest of Coherence? The International Spectator. 2011,
vol. 46, no. 4, pp. 26-30; MENON, Anand. European Defence Policy from Lisbon to Libya. Survival.
2011, vol. 53, no. 3, pp. 75-90. ISSN 1468-2699.
NORTHERN, Richard PACK, Jason. The role of outside actors. In: PACK, Jason (ed.). The 2011
Libyan uprisings and the struggle for the post-Qadhafi future. Houndmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave
Macmillan, 2013, pp. 117-121. ISBN 978-1-349-45582-9.
DAVIDSON, Jason W. France, Britain and the intervention in Libya: an integrated analysis.
Cambridge Review of International Affairs. 2013, vol. 26, no. 2, pp. 310-329. ISSN 1474-449X.
historic legacy of the British military campaign in North Africa during the Second World
War in influencing the British government’s decision to intervene in the Libyan conflict
in 2011.
In contrast to the Franco-British motivation, the initial Italian hesitation to join the
anti-Qaddafi intervention is explained mainly by the efforts to maintain strategic
security and economic ties from the Qaddafi era. Lombardi focuses on the Italian
migration and commercial policies, claiming that the main goals of the Italian policy at
that time were to preserve the commercial relationship with Libya and to prevent a
mass exodus of illegal migrants from North Africa towards Italy.
Last but not least,
several authors analyzed the abstention of Germany from the UN Security Council
Resolution 1973. As such, the abstention from the vote was interpreted unlike Russia’s
or China’s as a veiled no’.
Miskimmon suggests, that the German abstention was
given by the inability of the Bundestag to lead an informed debate on the issue, by
reluctance of leading politicians to ask the Bundestag for a mandate, by the concerns
about the risks involved in the intervention, uncertainty about the French and British
motives or, not less importantly, by the personal influence of Guido Westerwelle and by
the constraints due to the upcoming regional elections.
Similarly, Bucher and
colleagues observe a significant role of domestic audience in the German decision,
which was influenced, in comparison to France, by a less clear guidance by the national
Compared to a relatively large number of publications dealing with Euro-Libyan pre-
revolutionary relations, the post-2011 interests of European actors in Libya are
mentioned in a significantly smaller amount of academic research paper, which Gaub
calls ’bumpy relations’.
In other words, the structure of publications reflects general
reduction of interest of European states in post-2011 Libya and an ongoing need to
profile a new role in the country,
which finds itself in a vicious circle of a conflict, in
which it cannot accept offers being made.
Focusing on the few academic
publications that reflect on post-2011 Euro-Libyan relations, there have been rather
multilateral initiatives, including the activities of the UN support mission (UNSMIL),
RONEN, Yehudit. Britain's Return to Libya: From the Battle of al-Alamein in the Western Libyan
Desert to the Military Intervention in the ‘Arab Spring’ Upheaval. Middle Eastern Studies. 2013,
vo. 49, no. 5, pp. 675-695. ISSN 1743-7881.
LOMBARDI, ref. 11, pp. 39-42; cf. NORTHERN PACK, ref. 18, pp. 121-122
BROCKMEIER, Sarah. Germany and the Intervention in Libya. Survival. 2013, vol. 55, no. 6. pp.
63-90. ISSN 1468-2699.
MISKIMMON, Alister. German Foreign Policy and the Libya Crisis. German Politics. 2012, vol. 21,
no. 4, p. 404. ISSN 1743-8993; BROCKMEIER, ref. 23, p. 82.
BUCHER, Jessica ENGEL, Lena HARFENSTELLER, Stephanie DIJKSTRA, Hylke. Domestic
politics, news media and humanitarian intervention: why France and Germany diverged over
Libya. European Security. 2013, vol. 22, no. 4, pp. 524-539; ISSN 1746-1545.
GAUB, Florence. The EU and Libya and the Art of the Possible. The International Spectator.
2014, vol. 49, no. 3, pp. 40-53. ISSN 1751-972.
TOALDO, Mattia. Europe: Carving Out a New Role. In MEZRAN, Karim VARVELLI, Arturo (eds.).
Foreign Actors in Libya’s Crisis. Milano, Ledizioni LediPublishing, 2017. p. 57. ISBN
9788867056453. Available from:
GAUB, ref. 28, p. 40
MARTIN, Ian. The United Nation’s Role in the First Year of the Transition. In COLE, Peter
negotiations of the meanwhile failed Skirath Agreement,
assistance to the fragile
security sector, or European Border Assistance Mission (EUBAM) that aims to assist the
capacities of Libya’s border control.
The United States
The structure of the available publications focusing on the US interests in Libya
resembles the pattern of the research on Euro-Libyan ties: more papers can be found on
the pre-revolutionary developments than on the revolutionary and post-revolutionary
period. Rather marginally are hereby mentioned the US and British interests in the
Sanussi monarchy.
Several authors focused on the development and wider geopolitical
implications of the uneasy US relationship with the Qaddafi régime, which was handled
as an utmost rogue
one during the Raegan period especially after 1986 and later
after the Lockerbie bombing yet, after the reconciliation of mutual ties dating to the
late 1990s, it became a partner in the fight against Islamic extremism and terrorism.
The available writings demonstrate a highly pragmatic character of the US-Libyan
relations over a longer period; both countries were willing to withdraw from their
ideological positions to achieve other their economic and strategic security goals. In this
context, Zoubir claims that Libya’s policy decisions towards cooperation with the once
despised Western enemy can be understood in relation to the US ‘coercive diplomacy
strategy’, rather than by the overall ideological rapprochement. On the other hand, he
observes the concessions on the US side along a limited number of issues.
Zoubir claims that although Bush initially sought the régime change, both he and Clinton
shifted their policies from the ‘régime change’ to ‘policy change’ around the WMD,
Lockerbie and terrorism issues.
The US were considered as remaining highly cautious
MCQUINN, Brian (eds.). The Libyan Revolution and its aftermath. Oxford: Oxford University Press,
2015, pp. 127-152. ISBN 978-0-19-021096-0; BODUSZYŃSKI, Mieczysław P. The external dimension
of Libya’s troubled transition: the international community and ‘democratic knowledge’ transfer.
The Journal of North African Studies. 2015, vol. 20., no. 5. ISSN 1743-9345.
TOALDO, ref. 27, pp. 57-72; cf. International Crisis Group. The Libyan Political Agreement:
Time for a Reset. Middle East and North Africa Report [online]. 2016, no. 170. [cit 2017-6-26].
Available from:
GAUB, ref. 25, pp. 47-51
VAN GENUGTEN, Saskia. Libya in Western Foreign Policies, 1911-2011. London: Palgrave
Macmillan, 2016, 59 ff. ISBN 978-1-137-48949-4; cf. ZOUBIR ref. 34, pp. 48-49; pp. 31-32.
VAN GENUGTEN, ref. 31, 105 ff.; cf. ZOUBIR, Yahia H. The United States and Libya: the limits of
coercive diplomacy. The Journal of North African Studies. 2011, vol. 16, no. 2, pp. 278-289. ISSN
ZOUBIR, Yahia. H. The United States and Libya: from confrontation to normalization. Middle
East Policy. 2006, vol. 13, no. 2, pp. 54-56. ISSN 1475-4967; ZOUBIR, Yahia H. Libya in US foreign
policy: from rogue state to good fellow? Third World Quarterly. 2002, vol. 23, no. 1, pp. 46-47.
ISSN 1360-2241; VAN GENUGTEN, ref. 31, pp. 127-146.
ZOUBIR, ref. 32, p. 283
ZOUBIR, Yahia H. The United States, Islamism, Terrorism, and Democracy in the Maghreb: The
Predominance of Security? In: ZOUBIR, Yahia H. AMIRAH-FÉRNANDEZ, Haizam. North Africa.
Politics, Region and the Limits of Transformation. London, New York: Routledge, 2008, pp. 56-58.
ISBN 978-0-415-42921-4; cf. ZOUBIR, ref. 32, p. 282-284; ST JOHN, ref. 7, pp. 58-62
during the last decade of interaction with the Qaddafi régime.
Despite reaching the
limits of cooperation in 2007, St John argued that considerable amount of important
’unfinished business’ remained on the table,
which he or Zoubir located on an
intersection of the US strategic interests
in wider regional security and Qaddafi’s
in Maghreb, Sahara and the Sahel region.
The US-Libyan relationships in the post-revolutionary era have been subject to relatively
few academic writings; they can be tracked in several policy-oriented papers.
fact also relates to Fishman’s argument on the relatively low priority of Libya in the US
foreign policy agenda even considered in the context of Middle-East policies.
The US
participation in the anti-Qaddafi intervention was reflected rather via the optics of
multilateral NATO or UN involvement,
or, respectively, the liberal interventionism
Northern and Pack note in this context that the Obama administration
reluctant to take a leading role in this case encouraged European countries to do so,
while making clear their support for the interveners’ cause.
The reflection of the
American post-revolutionary involvement is further set into the context of multilateral
initiatives, including support of the efforts lead by Martin Kobler and Bernardino Leon to
end the ongoing civil war, the continued fight against extremist Islamism, which found
expression also in the anti-ISIS Operation Odyssey Lightning in summer 2016, or help
with solving the Libyan Central Bank crisis.
Fishman also points out that the Trump
NORTHERN PACK, ref. 18, p. 120
ST JOHN, Ronald Bruce. Libya and the United States: A Faustian Pact. Middle East Policy. 2008,
vol. 15, no. 1, p. 146. ISSN 1475-4967.
ZOUBIR, ref. 29(1), p. 6; ZOUBIR, Yahia H. The United States and Maghreb-Sahel security.
International affairs. 2009, vol. 85, no. 5, pp. 977995; cf. ZOUBIR, ref. 31, pp. 277-279.
JOFFÉ, George. Libya's Saharan destiny. The Journal of North African Studies. 2005, vol. 10,
no. 3-4, pp. 605-617. ISSN 1743-9345.
E.g. BLANCHARD, Christopher, M. Libya: Transition and U.S. Policy. Congressional research
service [online]. 2017, October 2 [cit 2017-10-15]. Available from:; BLANCHARD, Christopher, M. HUMUD, Carla, E. The
Islamic State and U.S. Policy. Congressional research service [online]. 2017, February 2 [cit 2017-
10-15]. Available from:
FISHMAN, Ben. United States: Reluctant Engagement. In: MEZRAN, Karim VARVELLI, Arturo
(eds.). Foreign Actors in Libya’s Crisis. Milano, Ledizioni LediPublishing, 2017. pp. 20-21. ISBN
9788867056453. Available from:; cf. MEZRAN, Karim VARVELLI, Arturo.
Libyan Crisis: International Actors at Play. In MEZRAN, Karim VARVELLI, Arturo (eds.). Foreign
Actors in Libya’s Crisis. Milano, Ledizioni LediPublishing, 2017. pp. 91ff. ISBN 9788867056453.
Available from:
E.g. JONES, Bruce D. Libya and the Responsibilities of Power. Survival. 2011, vol. 53, no. 3, pp.
51-60. ISSN 1468-2699.
E.g. MURRAY, Robert W. Humanitarianism, Responsibility or Rationality? Evaluating Intervention
as State Strategy. In HEHIR, Aidan MURRAY, Robert W. Libya. The Responsibility to Protect and
the Future of Humanitarian Intervention. Houndmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013.
ISBN 978-1-137-27395-6; CHIVVIS, Christopher. Libya and the Future of Liberal Intervention.
Survival. 2012, vol. 54, no. 6, pp. 69-92. ISSN 1468-2699.
NORTHERN PACK, ref. 18, p. 120
MEZRAN, Karim VARVELLI, Arturo. Libyan Crisis: International Actors at Play. In MEZRAN,
Karim VARVELLI, Arturo (eds.). Foreign Actors in Libya’s Crisis. Milano, Ledizioni LediPublishing,
2017. p. 21. ISBN 9788867056453. Available from:; cf. BODUSZYŃSKI, ref.
29, pp. 742-744. ; cf. BODUSZYŃSKI, ref. 29, pp. 742-744
administration’s disengagement from Libya has enabled other actors, including Russia,
to pursue their own interests in Libya.
Russia and Egypt: Game with the Haftar Factor
Whereas available publications cover the role of Russia and Egypt during the Qaddafi
rule and in course of the 2011 uprising rather marginally, an increased discussion of
their activities and interests in the Middle East can be observed in the recent years.
Russia and Egypt are considered two key countries with respect to internationalization
of the ongoing Libyan civil conflict.
In the literature focusing on the role of Russia in
Libya, a broad consensus can be observed on importance of strategic security and
geopolitical ties between the USSR and later Russia with the Qaddafi gime. Among
others, Lefévre and Beccaro point to various Russian efforts to re-establish previous
Soviet-Libyan, or Russia-Libyan, respectively, relations.
Lefévre argues that the
Russian comeback after 2015 can be related to the void left by the Western countries
and, at the same time, by the national economic interests determined by the faltering
Russian economy. His position is in line with Beccaro, who claims that Russian Middle
Eastern strategy is motivated by the imperative of consolidation of Russia’s position in
international politics. In this context, Becarro mentions Russian activities on a wider
regional level in Algeria, Morocco or Egypt and on the local level. Here, Russia
provides military and technical support to the camp of Khalifa Haftar, but declares
support also to the internationally recognized Government of National Agreement
In line with view shared by Megerisi or Toaldo, Beccaro considers the support
for both sides of the conflict the Haftar camp, or the Tobruk government, respectively,
and on the other hand the GNA - as a further impetus for the escalation of the Libyan
In a short note, Katz, who dates the renewal of Russia-Libyan strategic ties
back to the end of 2012, mentions negotiations about the renewal of operations
between the Russian oil company Tatneft and Libyan National Oil Corporation and talks
on resuming arms sales to Libya.
Krylova aims to answer the question of conditions of
the continuity of Russia’s involvement in Libya. She observes Russia’s role in the country
via the optics of path-dependence or the lock-in effects logic.
She argues that the
FISHMAN, ref. 41, pp. 92, 101
BECARRO, ref. 47, p. 73; cf. MEGERISI, ref. 54, p. 24
LEFÉVRE, Raphaël. The pitfalls of Russia’s growing influence in Libya. The Journal of North
African Studies. 2017, vol. 22, no. 3, p. 330. ISSN 1743-9345; BECCARO, Andrea. Russia: Looking
for a Warm Sea. In: MEZRAN, Karim VARVELLI, Arturo (eds.). Foreign Actors in Libya’s Crisis.
Milano, Ledizioni LediPublishing, 2017, pp. 75-76. ISBN 9788867056453. Available from:; cf. ZOUBIR, ref. 8, pp. 409, 412.; cf. ZOUBIR, ref. 8, pp. 409, 412.
BECCARO, ref. 48, pp. 78-83; cf. LEFÉVRE, ref. 47, pp. 330-331
BECCARO, ref. 48, pp. 86-89; cf. MEGERISI, Tarek TOALDO, Mattia. Russia in Libya, A Driver
for Escalation? Carnegie Endowment for International Peace [online]. 2016, December 8 [cit 2017-
10-15]. Available from:
KATZ, Mark N. Russia and the Conflict in Syria: Four Myths. Middle East Policy. 2013, vol. 20,
no. 2, p. 42. ISSN 1475-4967.
Especially the path dependence approach provides a useful perspective for research on the role
of Western actors.
Russian-Libyan economic relations in the gas and oil industries, transportation or
military sphere, which date back to the Qaddafi times, had effects on constraining the
ability of Libya’s new elites to decrease significantly Russia’s presence in the country.
The involvement of Egypt, Libya’s most influential neighbour,
has been recently
discussed in the context of economic and security activities pursued by the Sisi
administration since 2013. Egypt has been considered as driven by various interests and
ties. It was considered as an important ally of Russia,
but also as an active participant
of the UAE anti-Islamist mission.
In the reflection of Russia’s influence in Egypt,
Becarro argues that Moscow gained a new position in Cairo after the disagreements
between the US and Egypt in the aftermath of the Arab Spring. He reports on Egyptian-
Russian ties on the military, economic, but also on diplomatic levels.
According to
Megerisi, who focuses on Cairo’s involvement in the Libya’s divided arena, Egypt’s
unqualified support for Haftar’s camp and its anti-Islamist ideology, which casts
Islamism associated also with the Libyan Muslim Brotherhood as a vehicle for
terrorism, has only hampered the possibility of a political solution and escalated the
ongoing proxy war.
In agreement with Megerisi’s findings, Mühlberger’s paper argues
that Egypt’s internal motivation is the prevention of insecurity spillovers from Libya.
Further, Egypts activities on the one hand the support for Haftar’s coalition, on the
other hand the declaration of support for the unity government (GNA) is in line with
the currently prevailing foreign-policy narrative of Egypt as a bridge between Africa and
the Middle East. This stance implies also the proactive posture in regional and
international affairs. Hereby, the support for Haftar’s anti-Islamist Dignity coalition is
considered as a fallback option in case of escalation of the Libyan conflict.
The Gulf Rivals: United Arab Emirates vs. Qatar & Co.
Whereas any possible pre-revolutionary interests and activities of the Gulf states in
Libya remain rather undocumented in Western research papers, activities of the Gulf
countries during the 2011 revolution and in the post-revolutionary era have been
subject to a limited number of academic and a wider range of non-academic
publications. Several authors hereby mention the strategic cooperation of Qatar and the
United Arab Emirates during the revolution: both of the states are reported to co-
operate behind the scenes to secure the Arab League statement that supported the
adoption of the UN Security Council Resolution 1973. Besides diplomatic efforts, Qatar
and the UAE were reported to deliver strategic, material, humanitarian, but also
personal support to the Libyan rebels; arming rebel militias was also mentioned, along
KRYLOVA, Yulia. Lock-in effect in the Russian-Libyan economic relations in the post-Arab Spring
period. The Journal of North African Studies. 2017, vol. 22, no. 4, pp. 578-594. ISSN 1743-9345.
MEGERISI, Tarek. Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia. Neighbouring States Diverging Approaches. In:
MEZRAN, Karim VARVELLI, Arturo (eds.). Foreign Actors in Libya’s Crisis. Milano, Ledizioni
LediPublishing, 2017. p. 24. ISBN 9788867056453. Available from:
BECCARO, ref. 48, pp. 78-79
MÜHLBERGER, ref. 59, pp. 106
BECCARO, ref. 48, pp. 78-79
MEGERISI, ref. 54, pp. 24-29
MÜHLBERGER, Wolfgang. Egypt’s Foreign and Security Policy in Post-R2P Libya. The
International Spectator. 2016, vol. 51, no. 2, pp. 99-112. ISSN 1751-9721.
with providing jets, surveillance missions, humanitarian supplies or financial help to the
emerging political movements, and, in particular in the Qatari case, support for the
moderate Islamists.
In this context, several authors emphasized the role of the Al-
Jazeera station, in particular, the employment of preacher Alli-al Sallabi as an Al-
Jazeera studio analyst. The broadcaster was considered as contributing to impelling the
uprisings by portraying Islamists as a central unified force in the uprisings.
Writings dealing with the post-2011 developments report on an increasing role of the
Gulf monarchies, particularly the UAE, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia. These countries
provided large amounts of foreign aid mainly to Egypt, but also to Libya. Van Genugten
suggests that they were motivated by creating favourable environment for their
Only few available academic writings hereby document wider
implications of the Gulf rivalry for the development of Libya’s post-revolutionary
internal cleavages.
However, the available literature provides a rather general
identification of the state actors and their interests in Libya. A more detailed
information on the development of the fluid proxy conflict and steps of its main actors
is provided in non-academic publication formats.
Qatar together with Saudi Arabia,
or Sudan are reported to stand on one side of the Gulf proxy conflict. They
support Islamic currents in Libya, which were represented since 2014 by the
administration in Tripoli - the National Salvation Government’ (NSG) and the General
National Council (GNC).
The other conflict side is generally considered to be
represented by the United Arab Emirates, Jordan or Bahrain, together with Egypt,
Russia, or France. These countries side with the Tobruk and al-Bayda authorities, which
are closely tied to the networks around general Khalifa Haftar, who controls Eastern
NORTHERN PACK, ref. 18, p. 122-125; cf. BODUSZYŃSKI, ref. 29, p. 744-745; VAN GENUGTEN,
ref. 56 p. 41-49
AL NAHED, Sumaya. Covering Libya: A Framing Analysis of Al Jazeera and BBC Coverage of the
2011 Libyan Uprising and NATO Intervention. Middle East Critique. 2015, vol. 24, no. 3, pp. 251-
267. ISSN 1943-6157; cf. NORTHERN PACK, ref. 18, pp. 123-124; VAN GENUGTEN, ref. 62, pp. 43-
46; BENOTMAN, Noman - PACK, Jason BRANDON, James. Islamists. In PACK, Jason (ed.). The
2011 Libyan uprisings and the struggle for the post-Qadhafi future. Houndmills, Basingstoke:
Palgrave Macmillan, 2013. p. 192. ISBN 978-1-349-45582-9. Benotman et al. (pp. 191-192),
however, point out that the role of the Islamists in the Libyan revolution should not be
overestimated; they were an important, yet not preponderant force.
VAN GENUGTEN, Saskia. The Gulf States: Channeling Regional Ambitions in Different Directions.
In: MEZRAN, Karim VARVELLI, Arturo (eds.). Foreign Actors in Libya’s Crisis. Milano, Ledizioni
LediPublishing, 2017. p. 49-51. ISBN 9788867056453. Available from:
NORTHERN PACK, ref. 18, pp. 122-125
E.g. MEZRAN, Karim MILLER, ELISSA. Libya: From Intervention to Proxy War [online]. Rafik
Hariri Center for the Middle East. 2017, July 11 [cit 2017-12-10]. Available from:
TASTEKIN, Fehim. Turkey’s war in Libya. al-Monitor [online]. 2014, December, 4 [cit 2017-10-
15]. Available from:; KAYAOGLU, Barin. Why Turkey is making a return to
Libya [online]. 2016, June 14 [cit 2017-10-15]. Available from:
VAN GENUGTEN, ref. 62, p. 55; NORTHERN PACK, ref. 18, pp. 121-123, 133; cf. CAFIERO,
Giorgio WAGNER, Daniel. How the Gulf Arab Rivalry Tore Libya Apart. The National Interest
[online]. 2015, December 11 [cit 2017-10-15]. Available from:
part of Libya and who has declared fight against any form of Islamism.
Only marginal
attention is hereby paid to the wider consequences of the double game played by some
of the external actors, that are concurrently keeping in touch with both warring
The discussion of the role of the Libyan conflict in the light of a wider regional
involvement of the Gulf states is secondary. In this context, Van Genugten claims that
the Gulf states reaction to the emerging Libyan conflict in 2012-2014 was
overshadowed by their interests in the neighbouring countries, particularly in Egypt,
where Qatar supported President Morsi’s administration and Saudi Arabia and the UAE
backed the subsequent military establishment of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. She argues, that
also the change in the Saudi leadership in 2015, subsequent prioritization of the anti-
Iran agenda, or, respectively, of the war in Yemen, and following anti-Qatar tensions
within the GCC had effects on the developments in Libya in terms of gains of the Khalifa
Haftar camp.
This text reviewed the recent Western research that deals with the role and interests of
external actors in Libya. The review considered the most influential players in the
Libyan arena that include Italy, France, UK, Russia, Egypt, UAE, Qatar, but also Turkey,
Jordan, or Germany. The first part reflected on the writings focusing on the role of
Western actors in Libya, considered as having a long and winding tradition of their
engagement in Libya dating back to colonial era. A considerable part of the literature
pointed out political tensions between the Qaddafi régime and the West and, on the
other hand, the relatively flourishing economic and strategic security relations. Pre-
revolutionary Libya was presented as an important economic partner of the European
countries, particularly the UK, France, Italy, Germany, or Spain. On the other hand,
several authors questioned the cooperation of individual member states with Libya in
the energy field or migration control, which was in their view pursued at the expense of
human lives. The main topic of recent research related to European actors consisted in
their role in the 2011 intervention; several authors hereby observe differences in the
motivations of France and UK, Italy and Germany given by both internal and
internationally-political constellations. The UK and France main supporters of the
intervention were considered as driven by the international power constellation,
mainly the US unwillingness to take a lead of the intervention. On the other hand, Italy
and Germany were presented as motivated by internal concerns, in particular, in the
Italian case, by maintaining the economic and strategic ties with the Qaddafi régime
that helped them control African migration flows. The writings covering post-2011
relations pointed out an ongoing, yet not successful search for a new European role in
Libya. Several multilateral initiatives were mentioned, including the EUBAM mission or
the negotiations of the meanwhile failed Skhirat agreement.
MEZRAN, VARVELLI, ref. 4, p. 21; VAN GENUGTEN, ref. 63, p. 52; MÜHLBERGER, ref. 57,
pp. 106, 120-121; cf. BARFI, Barak. Khalifa Haftar: Rebuilding Libya from the Top Down. Research
Note, no. 22. The Washington Institute for Near East Policy [online]. August, 2014 [cit 2017-12-8].
Available from:
e.g. MEZRAN, VARVELLI, ref. 46, pp. 17-21
VAN GENUGTEN, ref. 63. pp. 51-54
Research papers focusing on the role and interests of United States deal relatively
deeply with the complicated relationship with the Green Book gime, which
developed, in the US perspective, from a rogue to a partner in the Global War on
Terror. The available literature agrees on the fact that Libya has not been a priority for
the US administration, even in the context of its Middle East policies. Several authors
hereby pointed out the American hesitation to take a lead of the international
intervention and further disengagement from participating in the conundrum of the civil
war. Available literature reflects also on the US decreasing engagement in Libya since
2012. It mentions the US support for multilateral efforts to solve the ongoing conflict
politically, but also anti-terrorist campaigns, which included the Odyssey Lightning
operation of 2016.
Writings dealing with the role of the actors (re)emergent in post-revolutionary Libya
discuss increasing activities of Egypt and Russia, which are currently considered among
the key actors internationalizing the Libyan conflict. Libya was considered as a part of
Russia’s strategy of consolidating its position in international politics. Hereby, several
authors pointed out the relevance of ties dating back to the Qaddafi era, which helped
to re-establish the Russian influence in the gas and oil industries, transportation or
military spheres. In several writings, Russia, together with Egypt, but also some
European countries, was mentioned as playing a double game in the Gulf countries
proxy war. On the one hand, Russia has been supporting general Haftar and his anti-
terrorism campaign, on the other hand, it joined the Western states in declaration of
support to the internationally recognized Government of National Accord. This strategy
was considered as a means of keeping influence on both sides of the ongoing conflict.
Similarly, the current Egyptian foreign policy towards Libya was considered as led by the
aim to increase the country’s influence in the region, or shaped by the idea of a bridge
between Africa and the Middle East, respectively, by the anti-Islamist position of the
Sisi administration, and no less by the pragmatic goal of building up a politically stable
The last section discussed the literature dealing with involvement of Qatar, United Arab
Emirates, Saudi Arabia and their allies. The Gulf states are widely seen as the main
external instigators of a proxy war in Libya, which practically divides the country and
delays any political solution of the conflict. The available literature discusses more a
general line of relations among the Gulf countries from initial cooperation in support of
the uprisings to the Qatari turn to support of the Islamist movement. As the papers
dealing with the engagement of the Gulf states in the further escalation of the Libyan
conflict were considered as providing general information, it was pointed out that more
information can be found in non-academic publications.
When summarizing the reflection of interests of the external actors in Libya provided by
the literature under review, we can observe shift in preferences or possibilities of
external actors to pursue their interests in the pre- and post-revolutionary era. In this
light, post-revolutionary (dis)engagement of Western states, particularly the US, in the
Libyan affairs can be interpreted. This was considered also as given by the inability of
the new internationally recognized Libyan administration to answer adequately to the
offers being made, but also by Western interests and commitments in the wider Middle
East. The shift is visible also in the activities of non-traditional or (re)emergent actors:
Russia and Egypt, and the Gulf states, which were considered as pursuing their wider
strategic geopolitical and security interests in Libya. Both Russia and Egypt were
reported to seek economic, diplomatic and military ties with Libya. Last but not least,
interests of the Gulf states were reflected largely in the perspective of ongoing rivalry
between Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, or Saudi Arabia, respectively, and their
allies, which was considered as a key for their activities in Libya. Compared to the
‘traditional’ ties of the Western states, the non-traditional’ or (re)emergent states
were tentatively reported to have preferred relations with sub-state entities, be it the
Islamist movements, or the Tobruk and Al-Bayda administrations and the networks
around former general Khalifa Haftar. The available literature indicates that the non-
traditional actors have addressed more precisely the actors playing a substantial role in
the ongoing Libyan civil conflict.
Despite the fact that the number of publications focusing on the role and interests of
external actors in Libya is growing, an overall thematic spectrum of the reviewed
publications can be still considered as limited. Future opportunities for Western
research can be observed in deeper investigation on the role of the ‘emerging’ states, in
particular, the identification of development of wider strategies of the Gulf countries or
other Middle-Eastern state- and non-state actors in the Libyan conflict, involvement of
Russia in the pre-revolutionary period, or Russian and Egyptian strategies on the sub-
state level. The participation of European countries
in the proxy war is a topic for a
critical research; this perspective was related mainly to the Gulf states. A deeper
reflection would be needed also on possible factors leading to dis-engagement of
European states and the US in post-revolutionary Libya. Finally, further research should
also address the role of trans-national power networks, individual or group external
actors in post-revolutionary Libya. Nevertheless, security reasons are a factor limiting
opportunities to pursue research directly in Libya. A further limiting factor for an
academic research can be seen in generally dynamic developments related to the
conflict or in the involvement of classified information. Owing to these factors, an
imaginary Western research map of the country, which was called ‘terra incognita’
2011, will stay full of white spaces in the near future.
MEZRAN, VARVELLI, ref. 42, p. 21
WEHREY, Frederic. Libya’s Terra Incognita. Who and What Will Follow Qaddafi? Foreign Affairs
[online] February 28, 2011 [cit 2017-10-15]. Available at:
Full-text available
The war in Libya of 2011 is generally portrayed as yet more evidence of the European Union (EU)'s inability to formulate a coordinated foreign policy. While the crisis took place in the EU's backyard, joint foreign policy action was hindered by member states' disagreements on whether or not to establish a no-fly zone in Libya. While this is true of political decision-makers, this paper investigates whether governmental decisions were reflected in similar divisions in national news media or whether references to European identity and criticism of European disunity transcended national media boundaries. Comparing a total of 6746 newspaper articles from Germany, France, the UK, Austria and the USA, the findings show that intergovernmental differences did not lead to similarly divided public spheres. Public debates in France, Germany and Austria constantly referred to a European foreign policy identity, though EU identity references were largely absent from UK newspapers.
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The article analyzes the European Union's (EU) migration strategies toward the Arab states in the light of the Arab uprisings in a comparative context. Going through migratory processes related to Egypt, Libya, and Syria, the article discusses Middle Eastern migration and its diverse manifestations, critically assessing the relevance of the EU's migration policy ambitions vis-à-vis the different challenges in the Mediterranean region. In its theoretical approach, the article draws on the concept of non-traditional security, demonstrating that migration constitutes an anarchistic element in the relations between states, which goes beyond traditional foreign policy means. The article characterizes recent EU initiatives concerning migration and demonstrates that despite the fact that the EU has declared migration “one of the strategic priorities in the external relations of the Union,” it seems apparent that the EU has not been able to develop adequate new approaches regarding migration. Many of the suggested initiatives within the framework of the new EU foreign policy setup have not been established yet—they remain preliminary works in progress, projects in different stages or legislative procedures under negotiation between EU institutions. Summing up the cases of Egypt, Libya, and Syria, the article concludes that the migration phenomenon since the start of the Arab unrest in early 2011 constitutes a highly important issue in European–Middle Eastern relations, regarding which, the EU foreign and security measures seem to be relevant only to some degree.
Full-text available
Traditionally a core aspect of state sovereignty, immigration control has first moved upwards to the intergovernmental sphere. It has then been brought closer to supranational governance, and is now gradually moving outwards towards the realm of EU foreign relations. This article interprets this move as the continuation of established patterns of transgovernmental cooperation in an altered geopolitical and institutional context. It explains internationalisation as a strategy of immigration ministers to increase their autonomy towards political, normative and institutional constraints on policy-making. Whereas these constraints were originally located at the national level, they are now increasingly perceived in communitarising immigration politics. The shift 'outwards' may thus be interpreted as a strategy to maximise the gains from Europeanisation while minimising the constraints resulting from deepening supranationalism. Yet this might in the long run also yield a widening of the external migration agenda, distracting it from the original focus on migration control.
Full-text available
The EU's inactivity in the face of a crisis with obvious security implications for its member states has led to anguished soul searching.
The Libyan uprisings began with demonstrations in Benghazi on 15 February 2011. Within ten days, the Qadhafi government had lost control of eastern Libya (Cyrenaica) and faced riots in disparate towns in the south and west—including Tripoli (see map 1). The precise sequence of events that led to the mass mobilization of the Libyan populace, the waves of defections from the regime’s bureaucracy and military, and the formation of the rebels’ political structures in Benghazi have been discussed in Chapter 2.
This article examines the broadcast coverage by Al Jazeera and the BBC of the 2011 uprising in Libya and the ensuing NATO intervention in the country. Through a comparative analysis of Al Jazeera Arabic, Al Jazeera English, BBC Arabic, and BBC World News, the article evaluates the impact of these two networks' political contexts on their coverage. Both Al Jazeera and the BBC are based in countries that were active participants in the 2011 NATO intervention, Al Jazeera in Qatar and the BBC in the UK. Thus, the 2011 Libyan uprising and NATO intervention presents a prime opportunity to evaluate how the political contexts of these two networks affected their coverage. The sample under study covered a period of roughly four weeks and was analyzed by means of a framing analysis, whereby framing refers to the way a news story is packaged, organized, and narrated. Ultimately, the study found that the coverage of both these networks was aligned with the national and foreign policy interests of their home countries, making their political contexts the main influence on their news agendas. News frames across the sample reflected coverage that was largely supportive of the aims of opposition and the intervention.
This article seeks to explain the decisions by Nicolas Sarkozy's France and David Cameron's Britain to intervene in the 2011 Libyan crisis. None of the three major theories of international relations—constructivism, defensive realism and liberalism—can explain on its own such intervention decisions as the Libya case. The article's novel analytical model proposes that each theory emphasizes factors and mechanisms that explain part of the decision-making process and that these factors interact with state behaviour in complex ways. Britain and France initially began to consider intervention because they felt that the emergent norm of the ‘responsibility to protect’ applied to the Libyan case and because they believed the massive flows of refugees fleeing the violence were a threat to their border security. Both countries believed military intervention could be successful at relatively low cost and that if they did not intervene the problem would not be solved. At that point, the Sarkozy and Cameron governments engaged in initial action that made them more likely to intervene by jeopardizing their future economic relations with the Gaddafi regime and making him more likely to threaten them with future terrorist attacks. Taking initial action also meant that French and British prestige would ultimately have suffered had they not intervened to achieve a satisfactory solution to the crisis. Paris and London viewed international and regional support as a critical prerequisite for intervention and they sought and attained it. Finally, the Sarkozy and Cameron governments were able to minimize any domestic political risk of intervening because they had public and/or opposition party support.
If Iraq and Afghanistan were instructive lessons in the limits of military intervention, Libya demonstrates what intervention, given the right conditions and limited objectives, may accomplish.
This article provides a critical analysis on migration policies and trends across Libya. I focus on the relations between Libya and its Arab and African neighbours between the 1970s and 2010. In examining migration from the angle of international relations, I document the ways in which the regime has employed migration as a foreign policy tool to affect the behaviour of neighbouring countries.
Libya is a small test for the international order. When harder tests come, rough norms not underpinned by an underlying, shared security concept will not suffice.