Although there are periodic respites, the conflict in Tripoli, Lebanon has become almost routinized with sporadic outbreaks in clashes—some more intense than others. Coverage of “the conflict” has also become routinized, with bursts of reporting, some stronger than others. Generally, analysis revolves around the three S’s: Spillover, Sectarianism, and Salafists. This trifecta of reductionist analysis problematically misrepresents the unfolding situation in Tripoli. To the extent that the causes of the clashes are considered at all, they are considered a security problem. The claim is that Tripoli is overrun by militias and their arms. However, this view conflates cause and effect. Alternatively, one could attempt to reach beyond the headlines of armed clashes and understand the root causes.
Root Causes: What They Are Not
Tripoli’s conflict is not well understood. Media, and even many policy accounts, often focus on either a simplistic sectarian explanation or “Syrian spillover.” Yet, these two explanations are as inaccurate as they are common. Neither of them accounts for the timing of the conflicts.
Many reports on the situation in Tripoli causally refer to the main actors in sectarian terms: “Sunnis” and “Alawis.” Despite the reality that politics break down into a dizzying array of alliances, this lazy dualism of “Sunnis vs. Alawis” is unfortunately a familiar framework often applied to allegedly “ancient conflicts.” Yet, Alawis and Sunnis lived together for years without violence, with a history of intermarriage and other forms of sociopolitical mixing. There are no clear-cut sectarian “sides.” Perhaps there are political “sides,” but even then there are myriad “sides” within “sides.” Furthermore, beneath the politics, many of Tripoli’s civilians resist through their varied embodied refusals to be reduced to a “side,” sectarian or political.
Similarly, the conflict cannot be reduced to that familiar phrase of “Syrian Spillover.” Violence in Tripoli re-erupted due to electoral disputes during Lebanon’s parliamentary elections in 2009, well before the uprising in Syria in March 2011. So “spillover” is not to blame. However, the two conflicts interact, including combat support. On the regime side, Hizballah has moved to open professions, not mere admissions, of fighting in Syria. On the other side, combat support has been divided between secular supporters of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and Salafists. These actors go through cycles of extending beyond the border for training, refuge and/or support and then falling back to retrench or reinforce as needed. Although the flow of refugees and arms across the Syrian-Lebanese border can escalate tensions—often used by political actors to exert “pressure”—we cannot explain away Tripoli by the war next door.
These two myths serve a political purpose: they promote a fatalistic disengagement. The sectarian explanation suggests “ancient hatreds” which have always existed and will always exist so any international effort will not bear fruit. The spillover explanation suggests that nothing can be done until there is a “regional solution.” This notion absolves international actors of an obligation to address the conflict since efforts will not bear fruit until the Syrian crisis is resolved. These myths also deprive Lebanese actors of their agency in the conflict.
Rather than being a function of sectarianism or spillover, conflict in Tripoli is actually the result of institutional breakdown at both the state and the social levels. These have in turn created a void into which militias have stepped. On the political level, confessional contention and personalized politics have led to institutional breakdown of state institutions. While it is not a simplistic cultural explanation of intractable Alawi-Sunni conflict, the confessionalization of public resources incentivizes competition and inevitably leads to conflict. On the social level, political crisis has led to a collapse of state social service institutions and increasing reliance on personalized political networks for basic needs. Part 1 in this two-part series addresses the security situation. Part 2 address the political.
It is not uncommon to read a story about security forces seizing a cache of weapons in Tripoli, Lebanon. But this appears to be a somewhat regular performance accompanied by a photo op. Often, the targets are militia leaders who suddenly find themselves without political cover as their patrons maneuver at the national level. This is good political theater.
There is no doubt that weapons pose a security risk to the residents of Tripoli. This is precisely why there are more civil society campaigns against arms and/or weapons in the city than one can count. But it would be wrong to focus on arms as the problem in and of themselves. One can only properly understand the role of arms if one understands the dynamics of the militias that wield them. Therefore, arms are not the source of insecurity in the region. Instead, the source of insecurity is the collapsed state that empowers politicians who create and support the militias. But before we get into the root causes of insecurity, it is important to analyze the problem of weapons—and the militias who use them—in Tripoli.
Most of the discussion about security in Tripoli focuses on the role of militias. Yet, state security institutions also play a role—especially since the continuing strain on the state has led to polarized state security institutions. It is therefore worth conceptualizing the field of security institutions to encompass both formal and informal institutions. Doing so, however, is not to suggest that the distinction between formal (state) security institutions and informal (militias) institutions is irrelevant. The Taif Accords—the 1989 agreement that ended the Lebanese civil war— outlaws militias. After all, the enforcement of a legal prohibition on arms outside of the state apparatus is essential to the rule of law. Still, we must analyze how militias actually operate outside of their legal standing. Although armed groups operate outside of the state and legal sanction, militias in Tripoli often do so with fairly close connections to state officials and institutions. Yet, both militia members as well as civilians, especially those on the front lines, who reluctantly seek their protection paradoxically justify recourse to arms outside of the state by arguing that state security institutions are weakened and/or politicized. We therefore must understand the intersection of state and non-state (or extra-legal) security institutions.
It is also worth dividing security institutions into two political camps. Sometimes these are called 14 March and 8 March, named after the anti-Syrian regime and pro-Syrian regime rallies following Former Prime Minister Hariri’s assassination in 2005. However, this distinction is no longer entirely accurate following the February 2006 alliance between the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) and Hizballah. The FPM, led by General Michel Aoun whose—anti-Syrian stance during the end of the civil war forced him into exile—was the backbone of the 14 March demonstrations. The FPM current alliance with Hizballah, the backbone of the 8 March camp, means these terms are no longer accurate. Furthermore, their continued use says more about regional politics than Lebanese politics.
The divide was also once called “government vs. opposition.” Although this too no longer makes sense, especially after the January 2010 collapse of the 14 March government, when the erstwhile “opposition” nabbed a significant share of cabinet seats and the premiership (although then Prime Minister Najib Miqaati claimed he remained centrist, between the two camps). March 14 is still sometimes used as a self-description marking a pro-Western (i.e., US) orientation. The contending camp, led by Hizballah, instead supports the resistance in the south as well as increasingly overt assistance to the Syrian regime. These camps have become increasingly fractured at the national level, but generally still represent two political trends in Lebanon.
However, the notion of two camps has never quite captured Tripolitan politics. For example, former Prime Minister Najib Miqaati, a key figure in Tripoli’s politics, has always operated in between them. In the current context, militia alliances are particularly fluid. Even though most—although not all—Sunni militias are loosely allied with political camps traditionally described as 14 March, the militias do not operate within one unified political framework. With militias constantly for sale to the highest bidder, politicians often complain that militias are not sound investments. Infusions of cash and arms are constantly required to ensure the loyalty and operation of various militias.
State Security Institutions
State security institutions are increasingly politicized and polarized, occupied by contending political camps as part of the increasing weakness of the state. Even during during 2009 elections, the Internal Security Forces (ISF) was viewed as 14 March and the army was viewed as the “opposition” (as it was called at that time). In particular, the Far‘ al-Ma‘lumat (Information Branch of the ISF) was seen as 14 March, especially the Future Movement. Whereas mukhabarat (intelligence) was considered opposition, particularly Hizballah.
The situation has become even more polarized. The Lebanese army is regarded by some as a politicized institution, either incapable of intervening or unwilling to risk intervention. Even after the October 2014 offensive in Bab al-Tibanneh, this is still the case. Yet, general ISF forces are not on the ground to the same extent as the army. There are also credible reports of coordination between the Arab Democratic Party (ADP)—the Alawi party that morphed into a militia in recent years—and military intelligence (mukhabarat ‘askariyya) as well as between the Far‘ al-Ma‘lumat and Sunni militias.
Since January 2013, some Sunni militia leaders have been making preparations for the dissolution of the army in the case of an all-out confrontation. They have reached out to officers. However, based on interviews with militia leaders involved in the planning from 2012-4, it would appear that the main sticking point was arrangements for salaries and pensions of army members who choose to leave. Salafist leaders reported that any direct confrontation between the army and salafists would be accompanied by a call, through video, to disintegrate the army. Since the summer of 2013, international efforts to support the Lebanese army have tried to prevent its dissolution through redoubled efforts at providing financial and military support.
Militias: Non-State or Extra-Legal Institutions
Some might object to a description of militias as mere “non-state institutions,” rather than institutions of insecurity. They operate in violation of Taif Accords and are extra legal. Indeed, as discussed below, the proliferation of militias has created a security environment that makes it even more difficult to reconstitute state institutions to provide law and order for civilians. However, it would be wrong to suggest that militias are the root cause of the problem. They are a symptom—albeit perhaps the fatal symptom—of an underlying condition of institutional breakdown, including of formal security institutions. It is therefore essential to understand the operation of militias, including their perhaps self-serving narratives of their necessity in the absence of a functioning state.
It is difficult, if not impossible, to provide a static mapping of Tripolitan militias. Some have centralized command structures. For example, the ADP was ruled with an iron fist in the geographically compact area of Jabal Mohsen, often with close coordination from Damascus. Yet, even the ADP has internal divisions with some high-level commanders privately expressing dissatisfaction with Rifa’at Eid’s governance of Jabl Mohsen and handling of the series of battles unfolding since 2009. These divisions widened following Eid’s flight from Jabl Mohsen to Damascus in April 2014, in part to avoid arrest and prosecution for armed activities.
Contending centers of religious and political authority within the Sunni community means that Sunni militias are especially fluid. Alliances and force numbers are highly variable, changing from one month (or week) to the next. Funding, a sensitive issue treated with greater secrecy than arms, is also highly variable depending on the favor of the patron.
A shift in alliances is often not gradual: it is sudden and dramatic as militias continuously fracture. One experienced militiaman complained, “Everyone is opening a minimarket. There is no supermarket.” Indeed, efforts in late summer 2013 to found a supermarket, or consolidate militia control, failed. In the current context, it is even easier to open one’s own militia shop. Perhaps it is even easier than opening an actual commercial shop.
There are several factors that shape the fracturing of Sunni militias:
- Although theological characterizations can be reductive, Sunni militia formation is nevertheless influenced by the internal organizational structure of Sunni Islam. In contrast to Twelver Shi‘ism, which has contending hierarchies organized around Grand Ayatollah-Ayatollah-Marja‘a-Mujtahid authority chains, there is no similar hierarchy or certification process for Sunni imams to conduct ijtihad or become an amir. This has led to the proliferation of shaykhs and amirs, leaders of religious groups and religiously oriented militias. Some neighborhood streets—especially central ones like Syria street—can have over a dozen amirs or commanders. There are few militias with a stable and unified structure. The Jamma‘a Islamiyya armed wing (Quwwat al-Fajr), although not yet mobilized, is one example.
- Militia leaders (clients) are able to play contending patrons off of one another to negotiate for ammunition or funds for service provision. This operates at the local (northern Lebanon) level with politicians. At the regional (Middle East) level, the competition between Saudi Arabia and Qatar is well documented. Even within Saudi Arabia, there is also a public-private division, between state-provided funds and foundation/personal wealth. In other words, there is no single spigot to turn on and off. Money flows from many directions, and local actors are able to play the patrons off of one another to retain their autonomy, not becoming too dependent on one patron.
- Patrons are also able to play their clients (militia leaders) off of one another. Patrons, both local and regional, support several militias. Like children under deprived conditions, militias die off, sometimes at a young age. Therefore, patron support also operates like the logic of large families under poverty: investing in many militias ensures that someone survives to take care of you.
- Somemilitias are not yet mobilized. In addition to JI, some community leaders have been amassing arms and developing structures of command, but have not yet entered the street—so to speak. In the absence of a state, they view themselves as the protectors of the civilian populations adjacent to other militias. Participation in recent cycles of battles is not only viewed as premature, but also a waste of ammunition, manpower and other supplies that might be necessary should the conflict continue to escalate.
Despite the challenges in creating a single structure, or maintaining unity, there is a coordinating committee for Sunni militias and politicians: the National Islamic Gathering (MP Khalid Dhaher, Sheikh Salam Rafai, Azzam al-Ayoubi (JI), MP Muin Mirabi, MP Mohammad Kabbara, Col. Amid Hamoud, and Sheikh Kana’an Naji (Miqati or his representatives also sometimes attend)). However, its coordinating success varies dramatically. Based on conversations with participants, it appears to work well when there is agreement, and less well when there is not. For example, the gathering was strained by disagreements about invading the mountain.
The Salafist Factor
The salafist element has also added another dimension to the militia mix. Even before the rise of the Islamic State (Da‘ish), the salafist element was an important dimension of Sunni militia dynamics in Tripoli. If everyone is “opening a minimarket,” then there is no more bustling marketplace than the salafist one. It is a competitive marketplace where there is plenty of talk about who has the real goods—and who has the counterfeit goods. Many interview responses include accusatory distinctions between “real” and “fake” salafists. When asked what is a “real” salafist, interlocutors either demur or quietly reply “loyalty only to God.” The centrality of conflicting loyalties suggests that one of the points of contention is the degree to which salafists answer to outside actors or preserve their autonomy in service solely to God.
Despite these divisions, salafists are an increasingly influential trend in Lebanon. There are two primary groups of salafists: jihadi (militant) and ‘ilmi (scholarly). While media attention has focused on jihadi elements in recent years, scholarly salafism has a long history in Lebanon. Although “salafist” has unfortunately become synonymous with “Islamist,” Salafists have central theological differences with other Islamists (e.g., Jama‘a Islamiyya) over the role of ijtihad (reinterpretation of religious texts). Salafists are textual literalists who reject reinterpretation. Although there have been areas of political agreement and even cooperation, there is a profound theological divide that is often overlooked by casual analysis. However, debates over textual literalism has been overtaken by politico-security considerations.
The current security environment has led to the jihadi sheikhs having greater influence than the ‘ilimi. This is, of course, true of any community or country: conflict conditions increase the power of the gun. As a result, those who wield it have greater influence. And those who previously refused to do so, often eventually opt to take up arms.
Although many salafist sheikhs are unarmed and focused on educational and humanitarian work, there are salafists who embrace violence. The targets of the jihadists are those deemed “kuffar.” The definition of “kuffar” varies widely. For some salafists, kafir are Sunni rulers whose policies (and personal practices) indicate they have abandoned Islam. For most salafists, however, “kuffar” are heterodox Muslims that Salafists deem non-Muslim. Yet, this also varies widely. In North and Northwest Africa, Sufism is the target of anti-kafir mobilization. There, salafists argue Sufism incorporates bid‘a (or innovation) into their practice of Islam. In Tripoli—a historical center of Sufism in the Levant—anti-kafir mobilization is not focused on Sufism. In fact, one high-profile Salafist shaykh from Fnediq, Akkar, notes Sufi sources of inspiration. Instead, Lebanese jihadi Salafists target Alawis, whom they call “Nusayri” to suggest a Christian heresy. The Salafist relationship to non-Salafi Lebanese Sunnis is more complicated. This is especially true of those in the army.
Aware of the fact that many army rank-and-file come from economically marginalized and predominately Sunni areas such as Akkar, some high profile sheikhs from Bab al-Tibbaneh express concern about an all out battle between the Salafists and the army. While killing those deemed “kuffar” is permissible for Salafists, killing observant Sunni Muslims in the army poses theological problems for Salafists. Moreover, unrestricted clashes between Salafists and the army, which many in the area fear is in the offing, would pose other more general problems for security in Lebanon. For example, Salafist-army clashes could precipitate a fragmentation of the army and, as such, several high profile sheikhs have sought to restrain open confrontation with the army.
Although it has had a weak presence (involving mostly recruiting through local proxies) in Tripoli for some time, Da‘ish has suddenly become part of the conversation. While some might be tempted to group Da‘ish in with other salafists (much like homogenizing all Salafists), Da‘ish has had a fraught relationship with salafist groups in the area. Like a successful franchise, Da‘ish—and the increasingly global brand it represents—is taking away market share from local mom-and-pop outlets. As events campaign against Da‘ish continues in the Levant, Tripoli will see intra-salafist competition escalate.
Guns and Ammo
When talking about the dynamics of weapons in the city—or in northern Lebanon the north—it is important to distinguish between guns and ammo. When we think of “weapons,” the image often called to mind is of the iconic AK-47 machine gun. But in determining the dynamic of the conflict—especially once as localized as that of Tripoli—is the availability of ammo is more important.
Ammunition supply determines the degree of dependence of the combatants upon their patrons. Militia leaders seek multiple sources of ammunition, but there have been confirmed of ammunition coming from Saudi Arabia through the Information Branch of the ISF at least since 2012. Other militia leaders with ties to Miqaati have gone through periods of limited ammunition. However, they were able to negotiate their way back into a bountiful supply.
Although it is impossible to obtain data on the availability of ammunition in the north, there are possible proxy measures. One such measure is the profligate use of ammunition in non-combat contexts. Ammunition is expensive. Individuals, especially the poor, are not likely to use it in times of ammo-scarcity. Therefore, use during weddings and funerals could be a good indicator of availability. If this is accurate, the picture is chilling. For example, during the May 2012 funeral for Shaykh Abdel Wahid, TV announcers could not be heard for several minutes. Other lower-profile public events suggest that the north is awash in ammunition.
Due to the ADP’s centralized control, it is more difficult to obtain information about the cost and availability of arms in Jabal Mohsen. It seems plausible that the ADP is fighting with weapons stockpiles left by the departing Syrian army in 2005. Rumors regularly circulate that ADP receives arms from Hizballah through Zgharta. Interviews with Rifa’at Eid from 2012-13 indicated vacillating levels of support, although never expressing iron-clad degrees of support. It is also plausible that—like Far‘ al-Ma‘lumat provision of ammunition to militias in Bab al Tabbaneh—military intelligence also provides supplemental weapons to the ADP from its nearby office in Qibbeh. Eid repeatedly claims that he can “get arms from Spinney’s,” a nearby supermarket, an especially expressive way of indicating the easy availability of arms in Tripoli.
The Lasting Effect of Weapons
Small arms are a little like salt: it is easy to add too much and ruin everything. And, once in, small arms are very difficult to remove.
An overwhelming supply of arms in Tripoli has two short-term and one long-term effects. A steady stream of weaponry into Tripoli threatens the general peace. It has lead to an increase in violence, in both quantity (number of incidents) but also quality (severity of clashes). Before the number of arms (especially automatic weapons) increased, there were recurrent incidents of violence using both handguns and knives. A 2006 Council for Development and Reconstruction (CDR) study reports recurrent knife incidents in Bab al-Tibbanneh. Much of the recent violence within the “city” has also included knife attacks, such as the stabbing of an Alawi civilian in Tal in early November 2013. Therefore, although guns increase the severity of the conflict, their removal is not a “solution” to the conflict. It is an essential measure for the reduction of violence and preparation for long-term solutions.
The increased availability of arms contributes to the process of fractured militias. Militia fragmentation prevents well-coordinated command and control structures, which makes it more difficult to stop the violence and/or constrain it. In addition to clashes, the ready availability of firepower means that personal disputes can quickly turn to gunplay.
Guns also have severe long-term consequences for Tripoli. In the event of a cessation of conflict, it could prove quite difficult to rebuild political institutions in a gun-soaked landscape. Much like in its namesake in Libya, militias in Tripoli act independently from one another and jealously guard their power. In the continuing absence of a state, guns remain the only way in which individuals and collectivities obtain and retain power. As such, it has proven difficult to convince contending militias to surrender their weapons. Reintegration and decommissioning efforts in Libya have faltered for this reason. Thus Libya has been in a catch-22: state security institutions lack the defining feature of a Weberian definition state: a “monopoly over the legitimate use of force over a given territorial area” because of militias. Yet, the state cannot integrate the militias because it lacks this very monopoly on the legitimate use of force over a given territorial area. Similar inabilities to reconstitute the state and tilt the power back in favor of civilian authorities can be seen in other countries inundated with arms such as Somalia and Afghanistan. Lebanon, and perhaps even Syria, has not yet reached a tipping point. However, it is not far off.
Given the prevalence of arms, there have been multiple, and sometimes competing, campaigns to decrease the number of arms within the city. These efforts are absolutely essential to peace building efforts. However, any project to reduce the number of arms must distinguish between two components: decommissioning and reduction in arms trade. The latter is more feasible than the former.
Although there have been some successful decommissioning programs, such as in Northern Ireland, Tripoli poses unique challenges. First, there is no peace agreement in Tripoli, or in the region. Nor is there likely to be one any time soon. Inter-militia violence has continued to rise over the last year and quite possibly could follow a Libyan trajectory. In addition, militia leaders from all sides of the spectrum anticipate that a Syrian solution would only widen the battlefront in Lebanon. Apart from the fact that militias who are shut out of power would then seek “work” in other contexts, several anti-Hizballah militia leaders report having been told variations of “once we finish with Assad, we will come and help you finish Hizballah.”
Second, unlike the IRA, militias in Tripoli do not have unified command structures. Although one might be tempted to look at the decommissioning efforts following the Ta’if Accords, in which militias allegedly relinquished their arms, all the militias involved then had unified command structures: AMAL, Kata’ib, Lebanese Forces, Marada, and the Progressive Socialist Party (PSP). As outlined above, Sunni militias are already deeply divided. Orders to surrender arms would be viewed with disdain and could lead to greater militia fragmentation and anarchy. In the absence of a political commitment to ending the violence, arms control efforts are likely to be Sisyphean. Arms caches can be replaced. Indeed, the weapons seizures and arrests that accompanied the April 2014 security plan did not prevent the re-eruption of clashes to unprecidented levels in October 2014. Even in the context of a negotiated settlement, implementation of decommissioning would be particularly challenging.
However, although decommissioning would be challenging, several interim measures could be introduced to reduce the flow of arms. These could focus on both ammunition and guns. Although often overlooked, control of ammunition might be the most effective way of controlling the eruption of conflict. A recent study has likened the importance of controlling ammunition to the importance of limiting the availability of heroin (the agent of harm) over the syringe (the instrument of delivery). An ammunition-focused effort could not only target the “agent of harm,” but it might also prove more successful. While rank-and-file members might be loath to hand over their guns, ammunition could be limited. But this would be a little like trying to control the trade in heroin and the syringe, not to treat the underlying addiction.
The next installment of this two-part series focuses on the root causes.
[Click here to read Part 2 of this two-part series]
*This article is based on several years of ethnographic fieldwork from 2009-14 in Tripoli and other parts of northern Lebanon. For previous discussion, see Maren Milligan, “Tripoli’s Troubles to Come,” Middle East Report (August 2012) and Maren Milligan, “Tripoli’s Crisis: Identifying Causes, Mapping Sectors, and Crafting Responses,” UNSCOL (December 2013). The author benefitted from the time, assistance, and insights of many friends and interlocutors whose names have been withheld by request given the politically sensitive nature of the material.
 For a more extensive discussion of the problems of characterizing national alliances, see Maren Milligan, “Tripoli’s Troubles to Come.” Middle East Report (14 August 2012).
 Assir’s 2013 summer video calling for attacks against the army was considered to have “jumped the gun.” Despite unfortunately lazy press and policy characterizations of Assir as a Salafist, a description both he and Salafists reject since he is not a textual originalist, Assir used to attend Salafist consultations in Tripoli. However, his silence in the meetings (in contrast to his outspoken approach in the press) led Salafists who participated in the meetings to report that they thought he was either, using the rhyming Arabic phrase, “stupid or a spy.” Even before his disappearance, Assir was no longer a participant in meetings.
 In this regard, it is interesting to comparatively note the difference in language used to describe similar armed actors in Northern Nigeria in news stories, policy analysis, and academic work. Instead of using the term “militias” to describe non-state actors who have taken up arms in defense of their local villages, ethnic groups and religions, the term “vigilantes” is often used. In addition to “vigilantes,” the self-description of “civilian JTF (or Joint Task Force, the name of the military unit combating Boko Haram) is uncritically used by journalists and analysts alike. The use of the qualifier “civilian” before a combatant group erases the fundamental distinction between civilians and combatants that forms the foundation of the laws of war and international humanitarian law. However, although the term “paramilitary” might be more accurate, the term “civilian JTF” does reveals that these non-state armed actors sometimes coordinate with state security institutions, a phenomenon that is not uncommon in conflicts. In Tripoli, the polarized political and security environment creates a scenario in which multiple armed actors interact with multiple state institutions. In the case of Northern Nigeria, the use of the term “vigilante” could also be politicized, implicitly condoning the existence and actions of these armed actors. Both “militias” and “vigilantes” suggest a political orientation and instead this section uses non-state and extra-judicial armed actors, as well as the term “militia” which is the most common term in Lebanon.
 Equally, unlike the IRA, the politicians making the decisions about the clashes do not live in conflict zones. According to interviews with former IRA combatants and Sinn Fein leadership during interviews in July 2001, he ability of IRA leadership to call for cease-fires and decommissioning was strengthened by the fact that the leadership lived in the same neighborhoods.
 One recent study focuses on the question of ammunition and criminal activity in Europe, Marsha DeVries, “From the Instrument of Delivery to the Actual Agent of Harm: Fighting Criminal Purchase of Ammunition” European Journal of Criminal Policy Research (2013) Although this article discusses a case (the Netherlands) in which neither the primary process through which the ammunition becomes available (misdirection of licensed sales) nor the mechanisms for controlling their sale (e.g., robust regulation and centralized computerized record keeping) are applicable to the current Tripolitan context, it is a helpful analytical discussion of the significance of ammunition.
 For a detailed discussion of options to control ammunition, see Milligan “Tripoli’s Crisis.”