Libya’s Sorta-Kinda Civil War

Tripoli residents are fleeing their homes by the thousands after militia clashes destroyed the country’s main airport and left 47 people dead. A look at the airport:

The Economist brings us up to speed:

Militias from Misrata, frustrated at their failure to capture the airport after a week of fighting with the Zintan militia that holds it, arrived with tanks to pound the perimeter. The Zintanis responded with shells and anti-aircraft fire. As the violence expanded, huge fires burned in the city’s western districts. “A shell hit my neighbour’s house and a lot of people left,” says Seraj, a resident of the western suburb of Janzour.  “We stayed inside, it was not safe on the streets.” When the smoke cleared, Zintanis remained in control of the airport, but it is now a shambles of wrecked buildings and burned-out aircraft. …

Without command of any troops willing and able to intervene, Libya’s foreign minister, Muhammad Abdul Aziz, on July 17th asked the UN Security Council to send military advisers to bolster state forces guarding ports, airports and other strategic locations. He warned that Libya risks going “out of control” without such help. But he found no takers. The Security Council, which passed resolution 1973 authorising NATO bombing of Gaddafi’s forces in March 2011, worries about committing troops to a war featuring a mosaic of competing factions. “Whose side are we supposed to intervene on?”  asks a Western diplomat in Tripoli.

The government is apparently weighing whether to ask the International Criminal Court to go after the leaders of these militias. Mark Kersten, who finds this idea pretty rich given Libya’s prior refusal to hand over Saif al-Islam Qaddafi to the ICC, is skeptical that it would do anything:

Libya wants the ICC to be very selective in who it targets. The government wants the ICC to target its adversaries which, at the moment, are those forces responsible for violence at Tripoli airport. According to some estimates, clashes between the Zintani militia (the same one that has Saif al-Islam Gaddafi in its ‘custody’) and the Misratan militia have resulted in the destruction of 90 percent of the airport’s aircrafts. The fighting also prompted the UN to pull its staff out of the country.

But it is hard to see how the Court could become involved. After all, it isn’t clear how one militia attacking another to gain control of an asset like an airport constitutes a crime against humanity. The destruction of Sufi shrines, political assassinations and illegal detention and torture of thousands of former combatants hasn’t led to an ICC investigation. The battle for Tripoli airport pales in comparison.