The next disaster: ISIS expands as Libya descends into chaos

Christoph Reuter reports: The brass band starts playing. The musicians march along the Corniche, their blue uniforms starched and instruments polished and shining. The foreign minister has arranged for the celebration of several grand openings. Shops and cafés have opened their doors and red-black-green flags have been strung up all over, marking the fifth anniversary of the revolution.

Nothing in the capital city of Tripoli hints that Libya is in the throes of a civil war.

Still, an advance car equipped with a signal jammer that is supposed to block the detonation of any remote controlled explosives drives ahead of the foreign minister’s motorcade. And there are only a few consuls from neighboring countries walking along with the parade. After a brief address, the foreign minister plants an olive tree and then inaugurates a new low-rise government building. As he does so, secret service operatives dressed in civilian clothing go after a cameraman from the US TV station HBO. His offense is having filmed one of their white automobiles parked on the side of the road, though around three-quarters of all cars in Libya are white. They jerk the camera away from him amid the loud protestations of his crew. The band continues playing and then cake is served.

The scene is reminiscent of an operetta. Ali Abu Zakouk is the foreign minister of a government that is not recognized internationally. Politicians in Tripoli act as though they are running a state — but it is one that has in fact already broken into three pieces and is now on the verge of coming undone completely. The militaries of two Libyan governments are threatening each other, an array of militias and clans are involved as well, and the population is divided. Meanwhile, amidst this chaos, Islamic State (IS) is expanding. [Continue reading…]

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