Alwaght- When the talk is about Africa’s pro-independence movements, Omar Mukhtar’s movement in Libya against Italian colonialism in the early 20th gets a top mark. A century after the execution of Mukhtar, Libya is a scene to influence disputes of various Eastern and Western powers and things can only get worse as time goes by.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday during a speech at a ceremony marking the World Human Rights Day commented on the eastern Mediterranean developments saying that if Libya wishes, Turkey is ready to send forces to the conflict-hit nation. Such an overt comment by the Turkish leader demonstrates that the power transfer and the dispute over it have reached a highly sensitive juncture and so does the foreign rivalry for a toehold in the North African country.
Libya power coordinates
After the fall of Muammar al-Gaddafi in 2011, new political groups rose in the largely foggy political scene of the country. Four years of clashes between the opposite sides finally ended in an agreement by mainly liberal groups that formed the Government of National Accord (GNA). Following the agreement in 2015, Faiz al-Siraj, a diplomat under al-Gaddafi, was picked the head of the Presidential Council. When al-Siraj arrived in the capital Tripoli in 2016, he introduced a cabinet to the parliament. To his frustration, his cabinet did not win confidence from the lawmakers.
Political fracture and fresh competition started again as a result. The GNA had the backing of the United Nations Security Council and other international bodies. The Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated political parties dissolved their local governments across the country and joined the GNA. At the same time, in eastern Libya a government was founded in association with General Khalifa Haftar and Abdullah al-Thani, the speaker of the local Tobruk Parliament. Then Haftar organized loyalist forces under the Libyan National Army. The Haftar-led bloc, supported by Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Russia, France, and some other European countries, seeks to establish a rule in Libya similar to that of Egypt where military strongman leads. On the opposite side, Turkey, Algeria, and some other sides support the GNA. This support is not for the sake of international values. Rather, each side in Libya dispute supports one side for the good of their interests. The country is turning into another Syria as it since 2011 saw no stability despite a set of agreements reached.
Syria model in Libya
Libya, with 47 billion known oil barrels is one of the top 10 oil reserve holders in the world and a top country in Africa. The marriage of geo-economic issues with the political interests of the foreign powers subject Libya to devastating civil war. Britain’s The Sun newspaper has recently warned that Libya could be another Syria.
Following a meeting of Haftar with the Saudi officials on March 27, the general’s forces led a massive campaign to Seize Tripoli. The Wall Street Journal revealed that Saudi Arabia promised Haftar with tens of millions of dollars to fund his offensive against the capital. The Arab kingdom reportedly issued 1750 visas for the families of the anti-GNA militants.
Haftar’s new advances towards Tripoli extremely concern Turkey. On Tuesday, Erdogan, reflecting this concerns, said: “We still see Russia, the UAE, and Egypt support Haftar and are allied under any conditions. If the Government of National Accord asks, we can send military forces based on our independent stance and will not ask anybody’s permission.” Turkey, once holding close ties with Libya’s al-Gaddafi, made special investments in Libya upon the assumption of power by the GNA. This approach is inspired by Ankara’s neo-Ottomanist foreign policy. According to Bloomberg news, Turkish companies working in Tripoli have projected $18 billion to be invested in Libya’s infrastructural projects.
Additionally, Libya takes center stage in Turkey’s eastern Mediterranean policy. On November 27, Erdogan and al-Siraj signed two MoUs on security and military cooperation and also determining the bilateral Mediterranean distribution. As a result, Libya and Greece’s relations went frayed and Athens expelled the Libyan ambassador.
Erdogan strongly supported the pacts with GNA. He recently said that Ankara's agreement with the legitimate and internationally-recognized government of Libya provide the two countries’ rights and “we sent a copy of these pacts to the UN.” The agreement represented the strongest response to Cyprus and Greece's efforts to encircle Turkey in the eastern Mediterranean. “Now, Turkey and Libya can jointly produce energy from the sea resources,” he said.
Moreover, Erdogan had stepped up his foreign adventures as he at home sustained political defeats. His party lost Istanbul and Ankara in June municipality elections. As his neo-Ottomanism drove his intervention in Syria, the same thing is driving him to step in the Libyan crisis.
When Turkey announced the intention to send forces to Libya, pro-Saudi groups protested against Erdogan. Jahed Ermekan Dylak, a reporter to Yani Cağ newspaper, comments on Libya's developments and Ankara’s Libya policy said that Turkey is repeating its mistakes in Syria.
Russian and American influence in Libya
The Russian President Vladimir Putin, owing his power to the rise of oil prices and increased incomes, overtly and covertly supports any tensions that add to the global markets’ demand for Russia’s oil. Since last year, Russia rebuilt its influence in Libya. The Sun, quoting a senior British government official, reported that Moscow supports Khalifa Haftar and equips him with fighters and heavy weaponry.
Qassan Salama, UN envoy to Libya, in an interview with an Italian newspaper, said that since the time the Russian forces came to Haftar help, the anti-Tripoli push intensified dramatically. Haftar pushes for Moscow help to lift UN arms embargo on the Libyan National Army.
The US is also present in Libyan developments, though Trump administration’s stances are erratic. In June, The Guardian newspaper wrote the Trump administration has given the cold shoulder to Libyan warlord Khalifa Haftar, less than two months after Trump appeared to show support for him in a surprise phone call, and is now rethinking its policy towards the country’s civil war. Still, it watches the Russian moves there closely, the British paper added.
Many say Libya's significance for the US is because of Russia's presence. Recently, an American delegation visited Libya, talked to Haftar, and expressed worry about Russia’s “abuse” of the conflict in the African country. On Monday, reports said that the Russian forces in Libya shot down an American reconnaissance drone last month near the capital.
As the crisis in Syria moves to an end, a new front for ISIS terrorism seems to be opening in Libya, as reports say that ISIS is transferring its remnants to other regions including Libya. Tightening competitions between powers raise the global concerns about a new disaster cooked up by the new colonial powers like what they did in Syria.