Who is responsible for the deepening crisis in Libya?
The last week of April has seen a series of important developments in Libya which have further fueled concerns that the war-torn country has entered a road of no return.
The most attention-drawing one was a statement by the commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA), General Khalifa Haftar, who proclaimed himself as the ruler of Libya on April 27. Haftar claimed the LNA has accepted to take the formal control of the country upon a mandate given by the Libyan people.
More interestingly, he has described the Libyan Political Agreement endorsed by the U.N. Security Council Resolution 2259 as “a thing of the past.” For those who are not familiar with the Libyan civil war, the agreement Haftar now denies was aiming to unite the country, which has been suffering from an internal conflict since 2011.
The agreement had paved the way for the establishment of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord under Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj and set a road map for the removal of differences with the Tobruk-based LNA under Haftar.
Haftar’s unilateral move is a blatant attack against the U.N.-led global efforts to prevent the oil-rich country from disintegrating with signals that he will further escalate the tension by use of military means. And it’s not the first time he is doing that.
In May 2019, he launched a massive military attack to capture Tripoli at the expense of civilian casualties. His offensive remained unsuccessful as Turkey rushed to the help of GNA as a result of a bilateral security and defense agreement late 2019.
Although unwilling, Haftar had to accept to attend an international conference held in Berlin which was aiming to broker a ceasefire between the warring parts and to re-energize talks to unite Libya. Reluctant to sign off on civil war, Haftar’s forces have immediately breached the Berlin conclusions and intensified its military campaign against the U.N.-recognized government in Tripoli, thanks to the military and political support he has long been receiving from a number of countries, including the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, France, Russia and etc.
This brief summary of the Libyan civil war was necessary to question the responsibility of the aforementioned countries in dragging the Mediterranean nation to the brink of fragmentation. Who can forget, for example, France’s abuse of the 2011 U.N. Security Council resolution by initiating a military intervention into Libya which had thrown the country into the fire? The then-president Nicholas Sarkozy’s ambitions to turn France into a global power had just plunged Libya into chaos while his successor, François Hollande’s double-game by secretly providing military support to Haftar while backing Tripoli government had changed the paradigm in the field to the worse.
Take the UAE, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. In fear of democracy and the outcomes of the Arab Spring, this trio has merged powers to crack down on any pro-democracy move in the Middle East and North Africa and launched a massive struggle in different theaters, sometimes in a covert and sometimes in an open way.
The UAE and Saudi Arabia supported Egypt’s Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s coup d’état against Mohammed Morsi, launched a full-scale war in Yemen, imposed a blockade against neighboring Qatar, provide military assistance to Haftar by deploying thousands of mercenaries and is now encouraging Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad to break an ongoing cease-fire in Idlib province.
On all these fronts, particularly in Libya, these countries find Turkey as an obstacle in front of their ambitions. Comparing to all said nations, Turkey has become the latest nation in intervening into Libyan affairs and it did it by signing a formal deal with the internationally recognized government of Libya.
Turkish assistance has foiled Haftar’s plans to claim a military victory, as suggested by international experts who closely follow the course of the civil war in Libya. It’s no coincidence that Haftar has declared his unilateral rule in Libya which signals his ambitious plan of the complete fragmentation of the country.
To put a note: Neither France nor the UAE have properly condemned Haftar’s denial of the 2015 deal and his self-proclamation as the leader of Libya. Under current circumstances, a lingering question about who is responsible for the worsening crisis that can lead to the disintegration of Libya becomes much more relevant.