Since November 27th, Libya’s on the brink of a new full-scale escalation, which could potentially involve Turkey, the UAE, and Egypt.
The two competing factions in the country are:
- The UN-assigned Government of National Accord on one side, as well as forces “loyal” to it, with their primary forces located in Misrata, Tripoli and Sirte.
- Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, with the Libyan National Army (LNA), who fights on behalf of the House of Representatives, the democratically elected government, which operates out of Benghazi.
On the side of the GNA, since signing a memorandum of understanding on military cooperation and logistical support is Turkey, and with the diplomatic support of Italy and France. The two European countries predominantly call for a de-escalation and peaceful negotiations.
On the side of the LNA are Egypt, the UAE, as well as to some extend Russia, which provides limited logistical support. Egypt and the UAE supply the LNA with military equipment. Additionally, the UAE is providing drone strikes in support of the LNA.
There are some Russia-linked private miltiary contractors on the side of the LNA. However, their number is drastically exaggerated by MSM. Regardless, Russia supports Field Marshal Haftar and wishes for the issues in Libya to be resolved and a peaceful resolution to be reached.
The current round of crisis in the country began on April 4th, 2019, when Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar announced “Operation Flood of Dignity,” and launched an offensive on Libya’s capital Tripoli with the aim of cleansing it of terrorist elements.
The offensive reportedly resulted in over 2,200 dead. It began by the LNA cleansing a lot of smaller villages and cities in Western Libya, due to the manner the GNA consolidates its power in the region. Since the GNA has no de fact authority, it imposes its decisions and consolidates its power by hiring various elements from militant and terrorist groups, many of whom harass the local population, after carrying out what they were paid for.
In turn, Haftar’s forces clean the settlements and position forces there, who protect the peace and a sense of normality can be established.
Between April and July 2019, the offensive on Tripoli and Sirte was in a hot phase, with both sides partaking in frequent propaganda, as well as frequently exchanging various positions and then subsequently abandoning them as a result of losing a clash.
On August 11th, a truce was launched for the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, described as a “substantial reduction in violence along the main fronts in southern Tripoli and elsewhere” with “some violations” and that “broadly speaking, the truce held for the duration of the Eid festivities.” The truce constituted the first stage of the 3-phase Ghassan Salamé peace plan.
Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya Ghassan Salamé’s plan involved three steps and was introduced on July 29th.
- A truce between the Government of National Accord (GNA) and Libyan National Army (LNA) and their associated militias on Eid al-Adha, along with confidence-building measures such as prisoner exchanges, releasing arbitrarily detained prisoners and exchanging the remains of victims of the conflict;
- An international meeting of countries implicated in the conflict, to stop the fighting, implement the legally existing arms embargo, and promote the following of international human rights law;
- A Libyan meeting similar to the originally planned Libyan National Conference.
Out of these, only the first part of a truce on Eid al-Adha actually happened, with numerous attempts to organize international meetings in Berlin, which led to nothing. However, the fighting did subside, and an apparent standstill was reached, with the offensive by the LNA on-going but with a much lower intensity.
In November, Turkey appeared to have come to the conclusion that Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar had his chance to achieve his goals, but the standstill meant that he was incapable of doing so.
Thus, the deal for military cooperation was signed, and in a very short timeframe, Turkey initially said that it would wait for the GNA to invite its military assistance, and then directly offered it, which the GNA then accepted.
As soon as news of the military cooperation between Ankara and the GNA began circulating the media, Field Marshal Haftar rallied his troops, saying that the “zero hour” had come and the offense on Tripoli began anew, with renewed, much higher intensity.
Within several days, Tripoli was completely besieged, and the LNA spokesperson gave the GNA forces in Tripoli and Sirte a three-day ultimatum to withdraw, otherwise they would be slaughter. The deadline began on mid-day December 19th and would last through Sunday December 22nd.
— M.LNA (@MElmalehLNA) December 19, 2019
— M.LNA (@MElmalehLNA) December 18, 2019
— M.LNA (@MElmalehLNA) December 18, 2019
Ankara appears to be sure that the GNA, with Turkey’s active support can secure Tripoli, and has thus plans to enter the conflict in full-scale. This is with the sole aim of providing legitimacy to its activity in the Eastern Mediterranean, as well as spreading its influence in the northern African region. These plans faced a strong opposiition from Egypt, the UAE and Greece.
As the conflict is escalating, tensions between Turkey and teh UAE-Egypt bloc will intensify. And the tension between the UAE and Turkey is also due to get worse, as relations between the two states were quite strained following the UAE’s failed blockade of Qatar.
Currently, it appears that an escalation between Turkey and Russia is unlikely, since Russian President Vladimir Putin said that dialogue was happening and that there would be subsequent meetings in order to avoid any mishaps. The only remaining question is how will Turkey and Russia coordinate their activities in Libya, as they support rival sides.
MORE ON THE TOPIC:
- LNA Gives Ultimatum to Besieged Tripoli, While GNA Accepts Turkey’s Offer for Military Assistance
- Egypt To Send Tanks In Support Of Libyan National Army’s Offensive Of Tripoli