Key Points

The United States, a declining power, isn’t going to transform the Middle East. But it can still aid a cause that could restore some dignity, pride and purpose to the region. Authoritarianism, however revamped by billionaire princes and sheikhs, isn’t going to bring stability, security, religious reform or basic decency. Westerners need to be more honest and humble about their own bloody past — the long, tortuous road to democracy. Muslims need time — and fewer Western apologists for dictatorship.

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These findings clearly demonstrate that Turkey is pursuing a policy of backing Islamist groups in Libya. Ankara’s failure to align with UN efforts to promote stability has exposed it as a spoiler that fuels divisions and armed clashes among Libyans. To address Ankara’s destabilizing role, Washington should work closely with the UN to facilitate strict implementation of the arms embargo and prevent Libya from becoming a key hub for illicit arms sales and transfers to neighboring countries and Europe.

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Despite UN-backed efforts to reconcile the two main political bodies, namely the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) and eastern-based House of Representatives (HoR), Libya’s persistent volatility is likely to provide IS a fertile ground to rebuild. To prevent an IS comeback, the United States should work with the internationally recognized GNA and other responsible parties to unify counterterrorism efforts, avoid futile rivalries, and reach a durable solution under the auspices of the UNSMIL. Short of intervention, this is likely the best way to counter IS and armed groups attempting to exploit political divisions or further undermine Libya’s stability and security.

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The State Department condemned the terrorist attack on the NOC, and the threat from the Islamic State necessitates continued U.S. engagement in Libya. But the United States should also work with the GNA to bring an end to militia violence and prepare for credible and secure elections. Failure to do so would allow terrorist groups like IS to exploit the continued instability.

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