A Saif-Haftar Alliance Could Save Libya

The news has just come out that Gaddafi’s son Saif will run for the Libyan Presidency next year.

A family spokesman made the announcement over the weekend when speaking to Egyptian media, remarking that Saif has the support of many of his country’s major tribes and that this will help him restore stability to the war-torn country.

The former Jamahiriya descended into lawlessness after the 2011 NATO War on Libya violently removed Saif’s long-serving father from office and thereby unraveled the complex tribal relationships that the Colonel had woven over the decades in unifying this previously divided society. The resultant civil war that has raged on and off since then created the opportunity for a host of foreign-backed terrorist groups to take root in the country, including Daesh, but it’s also seen the unexpected return of General Khalifa Haftar to the political scene after decades of exile in the US.

Haftar has since become the most powerful military force in the country and the de-facto leader of the internationally unrecognized House of Representatives government in the eastern city of Tobruk, which is vying with the UN-supported Government of National Accord in Tripoli for control of the entire country. It should be mentioned in this regard that Haftar is backed by Egypt and the UAE, and he also enjoys the broad support of Russia, which has hosted him on several occasions. Saif, meanwhile, used to be known for his relationship with the West, where he studied and lived for a while before the war and which used to hold him in very high regards. Even though these same one-time “partners” assassinated his father, as the saying goes, “politics makes for strange bedfellows”, and a “pragmatic” arrangement might be struck between them in the future.

An interesting scenario is therefore now presenting itself whereby these two political giants might join forces to save Libya next year.

Haftar has the military prowess needed to maintain peace and security within state, while Saif has the political acumen to broker tribal deals just like his father used to. Whereas Haftar is powerful in the east, Saif might be able to establish influence in the west, and each leader needs one another in order to peacefully assert themselves in the opposite corner of the country. The eastern tribes hate the Gaddafi family, just like the western ones fear Haftar, but they might reconcile with one another if Haftar and Saif are jointly at the helm of the Libyan state. Furthermore, Haftar’s multipolar contacts and Saif’s unipolar ones could allow Libya to balance between both blocs in reaping the best from both of them while playing one off against the other, thus presenting a “win-win” scenario for all stakeholders. This would undoubtedly be the most optimal solution to the war, but it’s nevertheless uncertain whether or not it would be sustainable.


DISCLAIMER: The author writes for this publication in a private capacity which is unrepresentative of anyone or any organization except for his own personal views. Nothing written by the author should ever be conflated with the editorial views or official positions of any other media outlet or institution.