12 January 2020   Leave a comment

In 2011 Libya was thrown into political chaos after the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi. It was an important year because a number of Arab countries went through what came to be known as the “Arab Spring” in which despotic governments were overthrown by protesters looking for more accountable governments. In the case of Libya, however, there was an intervention, led by the US, ostensibly to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe. Since that time, the country has been divided among a variety of factions, none of which has been able to achieve legitimacy or sufficient power to control the entire country. One center of power was located in Tobruk and was led by what was called the Council of Deputies; the other center of power was located in Tripoli and was led by the General National Congress. Since 2014, the UN has recognized a Government of National Accord as the official government of Libya, but it has failed to achieve control over all of Libyan territory.

Since last April, the forces in Tobruk, led by Khalifa Haftar, have mobilized against the government in Tripoli and other powers, notably Russia and Turkey, have sought to gain influence over events in Libya. The fighting has led to concerns that Libya may dissolve into a “second Syria”. The United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Russia, and France have supported Haftar with military assistance. Italy and Turkey support the Government of National Accord in Tripoli, and Turkey has begun to send troops to the country, again, ostensibly for humanitarian purposes. There is also lip service to the Tripoli government by other European governments and, to a very limited and half-hearted extent, the US.

This story, unfortunately, is familiar. None of the outside powers have any real interest in Libya other than oil and a self-interest in stopping the flow of refugees through Libya to Europe. But the direct intervention by Turkey into the conflict may expand the turmoil to a regional crisis. John Andrews tries to determine Turkey’s interest in Libya:

“This will be a military and diplomatic folly. Erdoğan already has the distressing example of the Syrian conflict on Turkey’s own doorstep. Does he really imagine that sending a few hundred – or even many thousand – Turkish troops to aid the beleaguered GNA will somehow resolve Libya’s tragic and bloody turmoil, itself the result of the 2011 intervention by foreign powers that toppled Colonel Muammar el-Qaddafi’s regime?

“If Erdoğan expects either a GNA victory or an imminent peace settlement, he is deluding himself. Haftar’s well-equipped LNA has the support of Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Russia, and (at least covertly) France. With mercenaries from Russia and Sudan on his side, Haftar must feel rather more optimistic than Fayez al-Sarraj, the GNA’s prime minister. Support for the GNA from Turkey and Qatar, along with the fig leaf of UN recognition, weighs rather less in the military balance.”

The great powers almost always take advantage of turmoil in weaker countries. This situation, however, comes close to a free-for-all since the UN, without the strong backing of the US, has proven to been inadequate to the task of protecting the interests of the Libyan people.

Posted January 12, 2020 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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