Turkey, Russia and a former CIA informer change the course of the war in Libya
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MOSCOW, (BM) – Over the past few weeks, Turkish drones and air defense systems have helped the UN-supported national consensus government regain control of almost the entire west of Libya, recapturing it from the Haftar army.
ANALYSIS: Libya: The next NATO crisis
Haftar’s offensive in Tripoli in April 2019 marked the beginning of one of the bloodiest periods since the uprisings of the Arab spring of 2011 and the intervention of NATO forces, which led to the overthrow and death of dictator Muammar Gaddafi.
Last week, he announced the withdrawal of his militants from the front line in Tripoli. But his opponents continued to advance, as a result of which they managed to capture a number of coastal settlements and a key air base.
“Haftar is experiencing the worst crisis in six years,” the Libyan analyst and political analyst Anas al-Ghomati, head of the Sadek Institute in Tripoli, quoted the Washington Post as saying.
However, the UN believes that the end of the war is not yet visible, but there is a risk that Turkey and Russia will be drawn into the conflict, which could make a second Syria from Libya.
Haftar still controls a significant territory of Libya, and he enjoys the strong support of external forces.
In Tripoli, they say that two weeks earlier from the territory of Syria, the Russian Air Force arrived to help the rebel. The capital also claims that mercenaries from Sudan, Chad, Syria and the Russian PMC Wagner are fighting on the side of Haftar’s forces.
As UN special envoy to Libya Stephanie Williams told the organization’s Security Council, the country’s “alarming buildup of military capabilities,” despite the arms embargo.
“We have reached yet another turning point in this conflict. Escalation could entail a real indirect war,” the official said.
According to the Washington Post, Libya is already in a state of such a war – one of the most internationalized conflicts in the world – because now the battle is unfolding there for oil and gas resources, territories, as well as for the realization of ideological and geostrategic ambitions.
On the side of Haftar, in addition to Russia, there are also the UAE, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan. EU countries divided: France and Greece – for the field marshal, the rest support the government in Tripoli.
The United States officially speaks of its support for a UN-recognized government, but gives mixed signals about its willingness to engage in dialogue with Haftar – who has American citizenship and who was previously a CIA informant.
Turkey entered into conflict at the request of the Libyan government of national consent earlier this year and for five months it abruptly turned the course of events, taking advantage of Haftar, under whose control most of the oil facilities.
Today, together with Russia, Turkey has become an influential player in Libya. Both countries can ultimately receive billions of dollars of oil, gas and construction contracts, as well as access to military bases that will help them spread their influence over much of Africa.
The Government of National Accord has already opened Ankara access to the Mediterranean gas fields in exchange for increased military assistance: Turkey sent drones, mercenaries, military instructors, armored vehicles and weapons to Libya.
Government forces held several successful battles, recapturing, among other things, the al-Watiyah Air Force Base 130 kilometers from Tripoli. They captured the Russian self-propelled anti-aircraft complex Pantsir and drove it through the streets of the capital like a trophy. Turkish drones managed to capture and destroy several more SAMs.
Now the trajectory of the conflict in Libya, writes WP, depends on the reaction of the main foreign allies of Haftar, primarily Russia and the UAE, as well as on their attempts to control the growing influence of Turkey.
On May 21, Air Force Commander Haftara threatened Ankara with “the largest air campaign in Libyan history.”
At the same time, the interior ministry government announced in the Ministry of Internal Affairs that six Russian MiG-29 fighters and two Su-24 aircraft arrived to help Haftar from Syria. If this is so, the newspaper notes, then Libya is on the verge of a serious escalation, since Moscow used to help mainly with mercenaries from Wagner.
In January, Russia and Turkey tried to achieve a truce, but Haftar unexpectedly refused to participate in this process. Soon, the United States and the European Union also tried to find a political solution to the conflict in Libya. But negotiations in Berlin did not stop the UAE from expanding their military support for Haftar, which forced Turkey to take a more aggressive stance.
On May 25, the American agency Bloomberg reported that more than a thousand Russian and Syrian mercenaries, acting on the side of Haftar, left the front lines.
According to Anadolu, the representative of the headquarters of the Libyan government forces, Colonel Mohammed Kununu, 1.6 thousand mercenaries flew in two military transport aircraft from Beni Walid Airport. Kunun added that the new location of the mercenaries is unknown.
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