Foreign interference is wholly responsible for Libya’s woes. The US, France and Great Britain will never be held to account for their part in turning this oil-rich Arab nation into an economic basket case overrun with armed militias and terrorist groups. US President Barack Obama admitted that Libya was the worst mistake of his presidency. The United Nations, the grand daddy of a Muslim Brotherhood-dominated unelected Government of National Accord that rides roughshod over the elected House of Representatives based in Tobruk is similarly culpable.
Since the demise of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi who despite his eccentricities held the country together and provided the Libyan people with an enviable standard of living, the will of the Libyan people has never been taken into account.
Libya’s government is in danger of losing its local and international cheerleaders. The country’s parliamentary speaker Aguila Saleh has called upon the UN to withdraw his government’s legitimacy. The Arab League has warned against foreign intervention in Libya and asked Al Sarraj to reduce his government’s ties to Turkey
Today the country is engaged in a civil war waged by the government led by Prime Minister Fayez Al Sarraj — supported by Turkey, Qatar, Tunisia and Italy — and the Libyan National Army under the command of Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar.
Just as Haftar’s forces were advancing into the capital’s heart the Turkish president decided to exploit the situation for his own ends. A deal concocted by Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the besieged Libyan prime minister amounts to a quid pro quo heavily tilted in Ankara’s favour.
In a nutshell, Al Sarraj has unilaterally signed away his nation’s jurisdiction over its own maritime limits giving Turkey the right to explore a swathe of the Mediterranean for oil and gas, a move that has been loudly rejected as illegal by the area’s main energy players Egypt, Greece, Cyprus and Israel. What right does this unelected individual have to give away Libya’s underwater treasure when it has not won parliamentary approval!
Worse, he has invited Turkey to dispatch troops and deploy heavy weapons on Libya’s soil in contravention of a long-standing UN arms embargo, a request that will shortly be ratified by the Turkish Parliament firmly under the thump of its leader. In the meantime according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights based in the UK, Syrian rebels allied with Turkey have opened recruitment offices to lure men willing to fight in Libya for the princely salary of $2,000 monthly while there are reports that thousands of Islamist fighters have already been dispatched. If true, this makes a mockery of Erdogan’s stated aim of cleansing Libya from terrorists.
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Erdogan has sought and received a green light from Tunisia’s Muslim Brotherhood leaning government and suggested that Algeria is on board, which the Algerian officials have denied. On the contrary, Algeria’s new president has embarked on shoring up his country’s border defences.
Egypt which shares a long and porous border with Libya is particularly vulnerable to this new reality. The Egyptian government views any Turkish military presence next door partnered with foreign terrorist organisations as an existential threat.
President Abdul Fattah Al Sissi has held telephone discussions with Presidents Trump and Putin in recent days and it appears that both leaders have voiced their disapproval of Turkey’s intervention which throws cold water over any prospect of a political settlement. It’s no mere happenstance that Egypt’s naval forces conducted military drills in mid-December to develop its capabilities in the face of regional challenges and risks.
Libya’s government is in danger of losing its local and international cheerleaders. The country’s parliamentary speaker Aguila Saleh has called upon the UN to withdraw his government’s legitimacy. The Arab League has warned against foreign intervention in Libya and asked Al Sarraj to reduce his government’s ties to Turkey. Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has urged the international community to be united against actors distant from Libya play a role in the Libyan scenario with military solutions.
Erdogan feels invincible and why not when there is no major power willing to stop his army’s entree into Arab lands. The Trump administration has bowed to his threats of blocking Nato access to Turkey’s Incirlik airbase where US nuclear weapons are stored and fears throwing him into Putin’s welcoming arms. Putin would love to see Nato shorn of its second biggest army.
Europe is being held hostage by Erdogan’s repeated threats to allow millions of refugees an open path to European shores. And so it is left to the United Nations to end its backing of the Government of National Accord (a designation that sounds like a bad joke). The Libyan people must be empowered to take charge of their own destiny before foreign armies remould this Arab state into a Syrian clone for generations to come.
— Linda S. Heard is an award-winning British political columnist and guest television commentator with a focus on the Middle East.