In Libya, a Coup. Or Perhaps Not.


While Egypt’s military ushered out President Hosni Mubarak three years ago and then dominated the political transition, the Libyan military never had much cohesion even under Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, and it had splintered apart long before his ouster.

The Libyan transitional government has struggled in vain to build a national military or internal security force that might subdue fractious local militias that have sprung up across the country. Perhaps the most positive aspect of the Libyan chaos may be a rough balance of local powers, in which no single leader or institution is strong enough to declare a coup or dictate a “road map.”

But that did not stop Maj. Gen. Khalifa Hifter from trying on Friday. He was once a senior officer under Colonel Qaddafi but broke with him more than two decades ago over his unsuccessful war with Chad. General Hifter then fled to exile in Northern Virginia and returned in 2011 to join the Libyan uprising.

He was falsely rumored at one point to have been named to lead the rebel military offensive. But he has never held a top military title like defense minister or chief of staff. Some reports on Friday indicated he was retired, although the distinction between active and inactive military personnel is blurry in Libya’s loosely organized armed forces.

“The national command of the Libyan Army is declaring a movement for a new road map” to rescue the country, General Hifter declared Friday in a video posted online and sent to news outlets.

His speech echoed the declaration that General Sisi, now Field Marshall Sisi, made last July 3 about a new “road map” for Egypt and like the field marshall, General Hifter also pledged to “hold meetings with different parties and groups regarding implementing this road map.”

Mr. Zeidan, who has also struggled to organize and control a government, quickly shot down the idea. “Libya is stable,” he told Reuters. The Parliament “is doing its work, and so is the government,” he added.

“The army is in its headquarters, and Khalifa Hifter has no authority,” Mr. Zeidan said. “No military units have moved to touch any institutions.”

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