12.06.2020 Author: Yuriy Zinin

Fighting in Libya: the External Factor


“Conflicts in NATO bleed into Libya”, “Washington with Ankara in Libya to spite their regional allies”, “NATO back to the Libyan dossier”. These are some of the headlines in Arab media, commenting on the role of external factors in recent events in Libya.

This is constantly on the front page whenever armed conflicts arise between to reigning camps in the country. This is the Government of National Accord (GNA), which controls Tripoli and a number of regions in the West, and the government in the East (in Tobruk), supported by the Libyan National Army (LNA) headed by Khalifa Haftar.

In the media and social networks of the two opposing sides, there is a skirmish over the results of their armed conflict. Tripoli sources celebrate victory after taking the large military base of Al-Batiya from Haftar, which is 90 km from the capital and other cities.   The LNA explains this as a tactical retreat. The bulk of the base’s equipment, and its 1500 fighters were evacuated. The thinking behind this was regaining strength to prepare for future encounters.

Tobruk and a number of Arab media outlets note the big role played in recent events by the military aid the Government of National Accord received from abroad, including weapons and contractors from Turkey.

Ankara’s actions in Libya are viewed through the prism of ideological, political and other support that it affords the Islamists here and in the Middle East. In particular, we’re talking about the Muslim Brotherhood that are lumped together with jihadists and are banned not only in the Russian Federation, but in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, UAE and other countries in the region.

Experts point to Ankara’s oil ambitions. It is pressuring the GNA to implement its plans for obtaining hydrocarbons in the east side of the Mediterranean. Greece, Cyprus, Egypt. Israel turns down this deal, citing the UN convention on the law of the sea.

In May of this year, the Minister of Energy of Turkey stated that the Turkish campaign is lobbying for permission to search out oil fields in the eastern Mediterranean.

However, drilling in regions that Greece and Cyprus consider part of their economic zone, is difficult due to conflicts between a NATO military pact members.

A number of columnists note that Turkey activated its actions in Libya, while the world was busy fighting the coronavirus, Europe is dysfunctional, the US is consumed with heightened conflict with China, NATO’s key issue is the political battle in the region. The interests of France and its allies in Africa collide with the interests of several of Paris’s partners in NATO, in particular, Britain, Italy, and Germany.

The Arab expert Anis Bou Diab from the International Center of Geopolitics in Paris is pointing towards Washington, which encourages Turkey’s involvement in Libya to spite Russia.

Simultaneously, the informational space was filled with statements from American militants and diplomats fabricating stories of Russian contractors and military aircraft sent to Libya. The LNA categorically denies the presence of Russian forces fighting on its side, or new tech arriving at its airstrips from Russia.

According to the Al-Arab newspaper published in London, the US made a strategic mistake, exaggerating the tale of Russian involvement in Lybia. Clearly, we have a case of media lies for proving Moscow’s intentions to allegedly run the show in Libya, place military bases there, etc. These lies serve several purposes. The first is to justify the aid GNA receives from Ankara as an answer to Haftar’s military actions, supported externally.  Second, to scare allies in Europe and NATO with made up threats of Russia for the safety of their southern flanks, an influx of illegal immigrants etc. This campaign was supported by Jens Stoltenberg, Secretary General of NATO during one of his speeches. He expressed readiness to support Fayez al-Sarraj’s administration in Tripoli.

All this uproar is to stir up realities and whitewash those who 9 years ago sent devastating air strikes onto the infrastructure, military and peaceful locations in Libya in spite of the resolutions of the UN Security Council. That was when the vertical of its statehood fell apart, defragmenting society.

A new phrase was born – “suvar NATO” (in Arabic meaning NATO revolutionaries). These motley paramilitary regiments doomed the oil rich Libya to civil strife and devastation, while two leaders have fought for power since 2014, continuing to bleed the country at the benefit of foreign players.

The latest statements from NATO on Libya, noted the Libyan paper Al-Vasat, have reeked of anti Russian sentiments.  Obviously, the Atlantic Treaty aims to finish what it did in 2011, when it did its part in ousting Gaddafi.

Yury Zinin, Leading Research Fellow at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO), exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”

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