As intervention in Libya enters its sixth week, the multinational coalition currently enforcing U.N. Security Council resolution 1973—which calls for an immediate ceasefire, the implementation of a no-fly zone, and undefined means to protect civilians—must reckon with several possibilities as the conflict continues. The most favorable outcome of the conflict is for the rebels to capture the remaining western portion of Libya, for Qaddafi’s regime to crumble, and for a new government to quickly be established via the Interim Transitional National Council, or ITNC, which is a representative body of the anti-Qaddafi Libyans currently based in the eastern city of Benghazi. But such an outcome is unlikely at this time given the de facto stalemate, the stubbornness of Qaddafi’s inner circle, and current intervention policy.
Consequently, the United States and its NATO allies must prepare for alternative situations. Rebel forces are proving unable at capturing regime-held cities and Qaddafi supporters are failing to defect en masse even as NATO airstrikes restrain attacks by Qaddafi forces in western areas. This de facto divide of Libya will either require further military intervention or a negotiated settlement.
It is likely, though, that at least part of Libya will be controlled by an opposition-led government no matter which scenario emerges in the next few weeks. The ITNC has assumed the political role on the governance level while affiliated rebels constitute the military struggle.
A key challenge in averting further deterioration of the situation in Libya is ensuring the potentially fractious Libyan opposition does not collapse from internal divisions. Understanding whom the rebels and opposition leaders are is vital in gauging the amount of interaction the United States should have with them, as well as measuring prospects of instability and violence as the situation progresses.
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