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Generational Dynamics Web Log for 21-Dec-2019
21-Dec-19 World View -- War in Libya escalates as Tripoli receives military aid from Turkey

Web Log - December, 2019

21-Dec-19 World View -- War in Libya escalates as Tripoli receives military aid from Turkey

Turkey-Libya maritime agreement threatens Egypt, Greece, Cyprus

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from

War in Libya escalates as Tripoli receives military aid from Turkey

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) and Fayez al-Sarraj (L), the head of Libya's Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), meeting in Istanbul on November 27 (Anadolu)
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) and Fayez al-Sarraj (L), the head of Libya's Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), meeting in Istanbul on November 27 (Anadolu)

The ongoing civil war / proxy war in Libya escalated sharply on Friday as warplanes from the renegade government bombed targets in the capital city Tripoli, as well as Misurata and Sirte.

The internationally recognized government is the Government of National Accord (GNA), with headquarters in the capital city Tripoli, in western Libya, led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj. On Thursday, the GNA and Turkey announced that Turkey would be supplying the GNA with weapons, military advisors and, if requested, soldiers.

The renegade government is headed by General Khalifa Haftar, who defected from the internationally recognized government in 2014 and formed a government in eastern Libya in Tobruk, known as the Libyan National Army (LNA).

The bombing of Tripoli and the two other cities began after the announcement that Turkey would be supplying military aid to the GNA. Haftar also issued an ultimatum that all GNA militias must pull out of the three cities by Sunday evening. Haftar announced on Friday that his forces were making "pre-emptive airstrikes against three separate locations near Tripoli that were expected landing points for Turkish military forces."

GNA Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj asked Turkey, the US and several European countries to come to their aid.

Russia's president Vladimir Putin said on Thursday said that he was "in contact with all regional parties to try and end the conflict in Libya."

It's been known for several months that the Wagner Group, Vladimir Putin's "private" militia, has been operating in Libya in support of Haftar. Putin has used Wagner in Syria, Ukraine and Central AFrican Republic when he wants to intervene militarily, but maintain deniability by not using the Russian army directly. (See "7-Nov-18 World View -- Suspicions grow about Russia's Wagner PMC mercenary group in Central African Republic")

On Friday, Russia's Foreign Ministry said that the "possible deployment of Turkish troops in Libya is a source of worry" because it "could trigger a reaction from neighboring states."

It's unclear what will happen when Haftar's deadline passes on Sunday evening, but there is certainly a possibility of a much larger conflict.

Brief history of Libya's civil war / proxy war

The ongoing civil war / proxy war in Libya is about to be escalated as the Government of National Accord (GNA) in western Libya in Tripoli has accepted Turkey's offer of military help. The GNA, headed by prime minister Fayez al-Sarraj, is the government officially recognized by the United Nations, the United States and the European Union, and is militarily supported by Qatar, Italy, the Muslim Brotherhood, and now Turkey.

Libya's civil war began in 2011 with the "Arab Spring" that was triggered by the death of a food vendor next door in Tunisia. There were widespread riots in multiple Arab countries in Spring 2011, including Libya, where there were hundreds of thousands of Libyan refugees pouring into neighboring countries, and thousands more crossing the Mediterranean Sea into Europe. With a growing bloodbath in Libya, the leader Muammar Gaddafi threatened to kill all protesters, and crush any enemy, with mass slaughter. With Libya's civil war destabilizing the entire region, the Arab League unanimously requested the UN, the US and Europe to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya, to keep Gaddafi from bombing and killing civilians. Nato implemented a no-fly zone, but the conflict in Libya continued until Gaddafi was killed.

In the aftermath, Libya became increasingly lawless and ungovernable. Libya is a land of hundreds of militias, all competing with one another for money and power. The United Nations attempted several times to set up a stable government. The latest attempt is the Government of National Accord (GNA), which is currently the government internationally recognized by the UN, US, the EU, and particularly by Libya's former colonial power, Italy. It is also an an Islamist government supported by Qatar, Turkey and the Muslim Brotherhood.

However, in May 2014, General Khalifa Haftar defected from the government and joined a group of anti-government militias who claimed to be fighting Islamist terrorists. He was supported by Egypt's General Abdel al-Fattah al-Sisi, who overthrew the Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt in 2013. Haftar was an ally of Muammar Gaddafi in the 1969 Libyan revolution, but he turned against Gaddafi in the 1980s, and fled to the U.S. where he apparently became a citizen living in Virginia and became a CIA asset. He returned to Libya after the 2011 war. Haftar set up his own capital city in Tobruk in eastern Libya, where he formed the Libyan National Army (LNA), and backed by many former military officers as well as militias tied to the cities of Benghazi, Tobruk and Ajdabiya in the east and Zintan in the west.

Starting in 2014, Haftar's forces moved west with the intention of defeating the GNA government in Tripoli and taking control. Haftar was supplied with weapons and backed by warplanes from Egypt and United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Since then, Qatar and UAE have been supplying weapons to the opposing sides, the Islamists and secularists, respectively, in Libya, making it a proxy war. However, the war has continued with neither side being successful in landing a decisive blow.

But now Turkey is joining Qatar in supplying weapons and military advisors to the internationally recognized Islamist Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli. So far, this is only advisors and weapons, but not troops. We'll have to see if this results in a victory by either side, or if there's a major escalation.

Turkey-Libya maritime agreement threatens Egypt, Greece, Cyprus

Yes, Dear Reader, there's more.

The military agreement under which Turkey is now providing weapons, advisors and possibly soldiers to Libya was signed on November 28.

On the same day, the two countries also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on "Delimitation Of The Maritime Jurisdiction Areas In The Mediterranean." In this second agreement, Libya and Turkey agreed to the boundaries of the continental shelf and the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of each country within the Mediterranean Sea. The result is that they've created a 200-mile wide strip between their countries that they claim they own as their shared EEZ, and which are rich in minerals, oil and gas.

However, Egypt, Greece and Cyprus are pointing out that their own EEZ regions supercede and conflict with the claimed Libya-Turkey EEZ regions. In particular, the Libya-Turkey EEZ regions interfere with a gigantic gas field off Egypt's coast, and with a planned pipeline between Israel and Cyprus.

However, Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan says that on the basis of his country’s occupation since 1974 of Northern Cyprus, he might lay claim to all waters around Cyprus.

There have already been verbal threats of war between Greece and Turkey over oil and gas exploration around Cyprus, and those threats may increase as a result of this new agreement between Libya and Turkey.


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