The Evolution of the Crisis in Libya and East Mediterranean Region

December 27th, 2019

INTRODUCTION

Eight years have passed since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi and Libya is still in a state of disarray. On one hand, The Libyan Coalition Government is working to establish its presence in front of the international community; especially the United Nations which has already recognized it. On the other hand, the Libyan Army is seeking to control the rule of Libya. Meanwhile, terrorist groups and armed militias are taking advantage of that state of unrest, using Libyan territories as a base for extremism and organized crime and posing a threat to the entire region and neighboring countries.

FIRST: CONCERNED PARTIES IN THE LIBYAN CRISIS

The crisis in Libya involves three main parties, four effective regional parties and important international players seeking to intervene in that crisis.

Domestically

In Tripoli

There is the Government of the National Accord of the Presidential Council headed by “Fayez al-Sarraj” and the Supreme Council of State; the outputs of the Skhirat Agreement signed on December 17th, 2015. the Supreme Council is an advisory entity in Tripoli consisting of 145 members dominated by Muslim Brotherhood representatives, other Islamist factions and the armed militias with an Islamist orientation (Dawn of Libya). There is also the Salvation Government that has emanated from the outgoing National Congress headed by Khalifa Al-Ghuwail who is loyal to the Muslim Brotherhood. The Salvation Government has come back to declare its dominance upon the seizer pf its militias of a number of government offices which were taken from Siraj government.

In Tobruk to the East, there are three main elements:

  • The Libyan House of Representatives (Parliament) headed by the internationally recognized Councilor “Aqeelah Saleh”. The Libyan House of Representatives has yielded The interim government headed by “Abdullah Al-Thani”.
  • The Libyan National Army, led by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar.
  • The remains of ISIS and its affiliated terrorist groups; such as “Ansar Al-Sharia and the Shura of Islam”, as well as some of al-Qaeda’s.

Regionally

  • Egypt, the most affected neighbor, UAE and KSA who support the National Libyan Army and the elected Parliament.
  • Qatar which supports the presidential Council and Islamist Militias in Tripoli.
  • Turkey which supports the militias in Misrata and in harmony with Qatar. Turkey has started its political and military support to Tripoli.
  • Tunisia and Algeria currently declare their neutrality towards the crisis and no alliance with any of the parties.

Internationally

USA, Russia and the EU especially the E3 countries i.e. Great Britain, France and Germany as well as Italy and the countries that are affected by the crisis of irregular immigration and terrorism. 

SECOND: EU AND NATO STANCE AT LIBYA

The situation in Libya has transformed into a more expanded security crisis in the Sahel and Saharan Region amidst concerns from European medium at the potential transportation of violence and turmoil into Europe itself; especially that the North Africa represents the real southern borders of that old continent. Therefore, security in that region has become another priority and is no more marginal concern of the Europeans. That priority has come to the foreground, if compared to the rest of the Middle East, after the terrorist attacks in France, Germany and Belgium that have proven the intermingled nature of security in the north and south Mediterranean region. Most of the individuals who have carried out those attacks descend from North African Arab origins who have been recruited to join ISIS in Syria. Thus, the Mediterranean and its seaways remain as an open arena that have to be secured.

The EU has convened its first regional conference with the League of Arab States in February 2019 in Sharm Elshiekh. some of the most important issues that have been tackled are the Libyan crisis, irregular immigration and Mediterranean security. On the same day, the Egyptian judiciary has issued death sentences on tens of the Brotherhood members accused in terrorist attacks. Such sentences have caused a quake in Ankara as Erdogan accused the EU with following double standards and supporting the Egyptian president who, from Erdogan’s view, violates the criteria of human rights.  

THIRD: THE ADVENT OF GENERAL HAFTAR AND THE DESIGNATION OF THE LIBYAN MILITARY PATH:

Haftar’s appearance on the Libyan scene as a key player dates back to mid-February 2014 when seen on an Arab satellite channel screen declaring the freezing of the Constitutional Declaration (the ruling constitution ) and the dismantling of the General National Conference (the legislative Authority) and Al Ragma Region in South East Benghazi as his headquarters .

Three months later, precisely on May 15th 2014, Hafter launches a military operation labeling it as “Operation Dignity” that aims at countering terrorism in Benghazi in support of expanding his authority southward and westward in Libya.

Time passes and battles continue in Benghazi between Haftar’s forces and the armed Islamist militias who declare a coalition named Shura Council of Benghazi Rebels. That coalition includes a number of armed formations from the Islamist trend and some civilian rebels. A military operation starts in west Libya targeting Haftar’s affiliates in the western region. The operation is launched by armed militias, named Dawn of Libya, from the Islamist politics organizations. Consequently, in 2014, Dawn of Libya and Islam Shura Council are listed among terrorist organizations that are supported by Qatar and Turkey.

Tripoli has become a battleground between the supporters of the so-called February Revolution (Zintan and Misrata), the two largest military forces in the western region, after military battalions affiliated with Zintan (Qaqaa and Thunderbolts) have announced their support for Operation Dignity. Qaqaa and Thunderbolts have given an ultimatum to the Genral National Council “GNC” to hand over power, otherwise they would arrest ALL of its members as being called none legitimate.

Many parties have joined the war.  Battalions from Rogban and Rishfana joined Zentan while rebels from Zalteen, Zawia ,Gherian , Sebrata , some Amazigh cities such as Zawara and Kakla  and battalions from Tripoli ( Souq El Gomaa and Tagoraa) have taken the side of Misrata. The battle ends with the exit of all Haftar affiliated formations from Tripoli. 

Upon the end of the war, a new political and military scene has emerged in Libya with the refusal of the June 2014 elected House of Representative to move to Tripoli to assume authority from The General National Conference whose term has come to an end. The House of Representatives has chosen to stay in Tripoli. The scene of divide has extended until the present moment.

Haftar succeeds militarily to settle the situation in the east and south for his favor:

3 years of combat in Benghazi since 2017 have ended in Haftar’s favor with regional support. He continues to expand his military operations against terrorist elements while succeeding in establishing understandings with tribal components in the eastern region. In May 2018, Haftar launches a military campaign on Derna, the last terrorist stronghold in the eastern region.

At the economic level, the East Mediterranean

The re-demarcation of the East Mediterranean Sea borders carried out by Egypt, Greece and Cyprus aimed at determining the dependency of energy sources, especially natural gas in that region, which disturbed Turkey as it considers that the neighboring countries of the sea (Greece and Cyprus) have ignored its right in this regard, in addition to that Turkey does not see Cyprus as a whole country without what it called (Turkish Cypriots), at a time when the United Nations and the European Union recognize whole Cyprus as an independent state with sovereignty represented by the current government in Nicosia. Hence Cyprus started exploration for natural resources in its economic waters.

In addition to the Egyptian-Cypriot agreement to demarcate maritime borders and share resources in 2013, Italy, Greece, Cyprus, and Israel have agreed on an “East Mediterranean” project that provides for the construction of a gas pipeline from the newly discovered fields to transfer the pipeline, which will extend over 2000 km in the East Mediterranean basin to Greece and Italy. Cyprus and Greece have also signed a separate agreement with Israel to transfer natural gas reserves in the Mediterranean basin via an underwater pipeline from the Israeli “Leviathan” basin and the Greek “Block 12 – Aphrodite” to the Greek island (Crete), then to Europe. On the condition that Egypt liquidate the gas before exporting it to Europe.

On November 20, 2017, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi attended an (Egyptian Greek Cypriot) summit meeting in Nicosia to discuss energy resources, specifically gas in the region, which Ankara considered its results as “null and void”.  On the other hand, Cyprus, Israel and Greece held three joint maritime military exercises in March, June and November 2017, and in November 2017 Greece and Egypt also conducted joint maritime training.

In return, Ankara moved and issued a “navigational telex” to allocate a zone for Turkish military exercises, including the disputed blocks # (6, 7, 8, 9) that Cyprus declared its exclusive economic zone. The Turkish army has kept naval vessels (two frigates, an artillery ship, a scuba divers’ squad and a fuel transport ship) in the East Mediterranean, after completing the exercises of the permanent naval group of NATO (7-16 November 2017), with the mission of securing the first Turkish ship “Dibsi Metro 2” designated for drilling and prepared to sail to explore for gas in the disputed sixth block.

With prior arrangements and coordination, the Cypriot drilling ship “SIPEM 12000” sailed to carry out drilling operations in the “Calypso” area in the sixth block inside the Cypriot economic zone in the East Mediterranean. This may have developed the situation on diplomatic and security levels to military confrontations in the East Mediterranean; Libyan crisis is included.

I argue that Erdogan at that time was thinking of turning from a reaction to an action position, continuing his diplomatic and security pressure in several directions to achieve his economic, political and security goals.

On the economic level: Guaranteeing a share in the energy resources of the East Mediterranean, through the following:

  • Creating conditions that allow Turkey sharing the economic waters and the wealth in the East Mediterranean and not confining itself to the Gulf of Antalya.
  • The possibility of affecting the East Mediterranean gas traffic (Greek / Cypriot / Israeli / Egyptian) expected to be exported to Europe after liquidation it in Egypt.

On the political and security levels:

  • Ensure that a loyal government rules Libya and other countries that achieve the Turkish interests and may support its ruling party ideology.
  • Attempting to create a Libyan strategic depth opposed to Egypt; Tunisia and Algeria to the West, Sudan, Chad, and the countries of the Sahara to the South.
  • Having an Turkish existence in Libya expanding its influence in the East Mediterranean and Libya in front of Europe, the US and China (besides what it achieved in the Middle East).

FOURTH: THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE LIBYAN POLITICAL TRACK IN 2017 AND 2018

2017 and 2018 have witnessed a relative transformation in the crisis. Some of the parties of the crisis have transformed into active actors to resolve them. Such transformation has been clarified in visits, meetings and exchanges of positive statements between the parties. There have been many meeting where all the parties of the crisis have been present such as the 10th ministerial meeting of the countries neighboring Libya that has been held in Cairo on January 21st 2017. A Libyan Summit is also held between Al-Sarraj and Haftar in Cairo on 13th and 14th of February 2017. On February 19th  2017, the Egyptian Foreign Minister travels to Tunisia to participate in the meeting of Egyptian, Tunisian, and Algerian foreign ministers to prepare for the tripartite summit starting from the initiative put forward by the late Tunisian President “Al-Baji Qaid Essebsi” on Libya entitled “A political Solution through Comprehensive Dialogue  and National Reconciliation in Libya. “

Egypt and its allies continue to support Haftar and bet on a political role in greater ways for him. However, the UNSC continues its ban on arming the National Libyan Army in the presence of powerful armed militias supporting the National Accord Government in the west topped with Misrata Militias in the north west. I believe that Haftar hasn’t accurately estimated the status and capabilities of that militia. That development reduced the possibility of a military escalation between the forces of the Eastern and Western Libyan fronts at the time. However, Egypt and its allies are undoubtedly against any absolute ideological rule in the region; including the rule of political Islam

On another track, the US strategies in Libya have been proven its failure to end the crisis. These strategies have been based on the assassination of terrorist leaders while following a political track to contain the crisis. However, ISIS, Al Qaeda, and other terrorist and armed elements haven’t been eliminated. Thus, Russia gains a greater opportunity to be in Libya through the Wagner Security Company and possibly active military personnel to train the forces in various combat actions.

It is worth noting that Libya is the only theater where USA, Europe, Russia and Egypt and its allies in Gulf have come to consensus to combat terrorism. On the other side, Turkey, Qatar and Italy, at that time, support Sarraj and the armed Islamist militias

FIFTH: THE ATTACK ON TRIPOLI IN 2019

On January 15th, 2019, Haftar declares control over the eastern region. Then he launches a military operation  on the south under the title “Fighting crime and foreign gangs” Haftar’s forces  advances towards Al-Jafra (central Libya) and then to the cities of Sabha, Marzak, and Ubari Barak Al-Shati  with aim of  opening a direct line towards the capital, about 800 km to the north to avoid confrontation with Misrata, which is located on the coastal line east of Tripoli.

On April 4th 2019, Haftar declares via recorded audio broadcast the commencement of his combat against terrorist elements in Tripoli while his forces are engaged on its outskirts.  Moreover, US President Donald Trump telephoned General Haftar to support his advance to complete the counter-terrorism operations in western Libya, that phone call is followed by an attack by two multipurpose aircraft from outside Libya to bomb military targets in Tripoli. However, Haftar has been unable to achieve significant progress towards Tripoli, especially with the armed militias in Misrata, which play a major role in fending off the attack of the forces coming from the east. In addition, the ISIS terrorist forces in the city of Sabha are striking Haftar’s forces to disperse their efforts and deny them to continue their offensive inside Tripoli. Such counter Haftar’s forces operations confirm the harmonization and cooperation between the Misrata militias, Tripoli, and the ISIS terrorist organization.

It is important to note that on April 13th 2019, news have been reverberating about recurrent Turkish attempts to send arms, equipment, vehicles and mercenaries from the operations in Syria to Misrata and Tripoli via Malta. Some evidences of foreign forces participation in Tripoli have emerged; among which is the Portuguese pilot who is taken as a POW when his plane has been downed.

SIXTH: FAYEZ AL-SARRAJ’S MOVES AND A LAST HOPE IN EUROPE:

During a three-day visit by the Prime Minister of the Accord Government,
Fayez al-Sarraj to Europe from 7-9 May, 2019, during which he has visited a number of its capitals where he announces that he is trying to search for a peaceful solution to the crisis in the capital, Tripoli. Nevertheless, such moves and words may appear as a preparation for receiving support from the supportive countries (Turkey and Qatar) in case his trip to Europe fails. The visit has covered Rome, Paris, Berlin and London; the most influential capitals in the European and international decision making.

Observers note that Al-Sarraj’s visit to Europe as a failure; especially in Germany and France, since he hasn’t received any explicit support from theses country’s leaders when he is asked to return back to the political track according to Abu Dhabi Agreement. Howver, Al-Sarraj rejects that because it means that he has to return to negotiations with Field Marshal Haftar as the commanding General of the National Libyan Army.

Meanwhile, the political support that London and Rome have reiterated to him is not enough and not exactly what Al-Sarraj has sought to achieve from the visit. The visit is summed up in the refusal of the military operations and the call to return to the political dialogue table. That is the first time in which Italia expresses its intention not to sustain its support of Al-Siraj government for.

In the meantime, Haftar visits Cairo to meet with President Abd Al-Fattah El-Sisi who declares Egypt’s continued support to the efforts of the National Libyan Army in countering terrorism and achieving stability and security in Libya.

Tripoli’s reaction to the position of European countries

What confirms the failure of Al-Sarraj’s tour in Europe is his government’s response upon his return from the visit. The Minister of Economy and Industry in the Accord government Ali Al-Issawi issued a decision on Thursday May 9th 2019, to stop dealing with a group of European companies. Most notable of which is the French oil company “Total”. The decision has included a number of foreign companies for violating the Libyan Commercial Activity Law on the pretext of expiry of the licenses granted to them, despite the fact that the history of some of them have come to an end two or four years before issuing that decision, the Accord Government has not regarded it throughout that period as a violation. The decision also stipulates the suspension of dealings with the giant French company Alcatel, Thales and Bruges, as well as the dealings with the German company Siemens, leader in the electricity sector, and the supervisor of most energy projects in Libya. The decision also includes stopping the work of some companies operating in the Oil sector in the fields of “Zuitina” and some offshore fields and others; also on the pretext of expiring the permission granted to them, despite the clear political nature of it, including one Italian company, “Bocelli”, in a clear message to the Italians that the matter depends on their position, and may include larger companies Eni may be among them. The whole process appears as a sign to Italy to resume its support of Al-Sarraj government.

Haftar visits Rome on Tuesday May 16th, 2019 and a week later visits Paris may be to explain his status and gain European support in his march to Tripoli. His eyes are also set on finding support from USA, Russia, France, Egypt and UAE.

During its first 3 weeks the heat of combat has abated. But the National Libyan Army launches a new offensive on Saturday May 25th 2019. Haftar’s troops advance on a road extending from the old Tripoli Airport to downtown. However, there are no explicit sign of achievement. It is worth noting to say that Tripoli’s battle has wasted no less than 510 people besides hundreds of casualties. The UN is still unable to negotiate cease fire while many European nations have called for a cease fire but to no avail.

SEVENTH: DEVELOPMENTS IN THE EASTERN MEDITERRANEAN AND THE LIBYAN POSITION

Turkey and Libya announced, on November 27th 2019, that the foreign ministers of the two countries signed two memoranda of understanding in Istanbul, the first on security and military cooperation, and the second on defining maritime spheres of influence, aimed at protecting the rights of the two countries stemming from international law, in a move considered a gain for Ankara’s policies in eastern Mediterranean Sea.

The economic agreement includes a new demarcation of the Turkish maritime borders, as it defines the coordinates of the economic zone of Turkey. It also guarantees Libya an area of ​​16,700 square kilometers, while increasing the size of the Turkish economic waters; since Turkey considers itself as wronged by the neighboring countries. There is no doubt that the main Turkish objectives in this are to compel Greece, Cyprus, Israel and Egypt to return to discuss the issue of maritime borders and the division of wealth in the eastern Mediterranean with the inclusion of Turkey. The other Turkish objective   is the continuation to create pressure cards on Europe; but this time in a way that threatens the movement of gas to be exported to it from the neighboring countries of the eastern Mediterranean, after its liquidation in Egypt.

The Turkish / Libyan security agreement includes the transfer of weapons, technical support, information exchange, security training and exchange of weapons systems, as well as the possibility of deploying Turkish forces to Libya for a period of three years to come, executing  combined exercises and establishing a joint office for cooperation in the fields of defense and security between the two countries.

The two agreements give Turkey an opportunity to explore energy more broadly and not limit it to the Gulf of Antalya; on the grounds that Turkey has the longest coast overlooking the Mediterranean and that it is part of the eastern Mediterranean and that it can enjoy  the rights thereof  like its neighbors and based on Turkey’s recognition of what it calls the “Republic of Northern Cyprus”; although Turkey is only country to recognize it in the world. There is no doubt that this agreement has been the last straw that has made Italy divert its support of Al- Sarraj government.

As for Libya, it is also a beneficiary of those agreements. They enable Libya to support the forces of Tripoli and Misrata, and the possibility of providing them with weapons, equipment, training, and possibly even Turkish military intervention if necessary to confront Haftar’s attacks.

On Haftar’s side and after two weeks only, Haftar announces again, on the evening of Thursday December 12th, 2019, the start of what he calls “the decisive battle” to control the capital, Tripoli. On the other hand, the Libyan spokesperson for the “Berkane Al-Ghadab”, Mustafa Al-Naji, says that what Haftar is doing is a final suicide

On a wider scale diplomatic move in preparation of a summit between Putin and Erdogan in the beginning of 2020, a meeting is held in Astana on December 25th, 2019. The joint Russian government delegation is chaired by the Special Representative of the Russian President to the Middle East and Africa, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia Mikhail Bogdanov and the Turkish delegation is led by the Deputy Foreign Minister Turkey. The meeting has yielded an agreement allowing Russia to continue its communications on the Libyan issue, including the provision of possible assistance in the speedy settlement of the Libyan crisis.

Erdogan assumes another move. He visits Tunisia, with political and military leaderships, to be the first president visiting the new Tunisian president, Kais Saied, who is known for his political Islam tendencies. The reasons for the announced visit are summarized in discussing the ways to cease fire in Libya.

However, I believe that it as a Turkish attempt to confirm the strategic depth of the Sarraj government and its militias and to attract the two new presidents in Tunisia and Algeria towards the Turkish-Qatari stance on the Libyan issue. Through Erdogan wants them to attend alongside the Qatari prince in the Berlin conference on the Libyan conflict scheduled in early 2020. While in Tunisia, Erdogan announces that he has asked German Chancellor Angela Merkel to invite the three presidents to attend the conference. All these attempts are backed with the approval of the Turkish Parliament to deploy troops to Libya when Tripoli’s government requests that. 

It is doubtless that Haftar’s in ability to conclude the military situation in northwest Libya has some share in what is happening the eastern Mediterranean. If he had seized Tripoli and Misrata, Erdogan wouldn’t have been able to conclude any of his current agreements. Green light has been on for Haftar by all the concerned parties; especially in Europe, USA and Russia earlier this year.

EIGHTH: INFLUENCES OF RUSSIAN / TURKISH RELATIONS AND THE FUTURE OF THE EASTERN MEDITERRANEAN BETWEEN SYRIA AND LIBYA

Russia sees the European Union as the largest, most important and comprehensive circle of attention in the priorities of the Turkish national security strategy. The regions which represent the theater of Turkish competition such as (the Middle East and North Africa, the Sahel and Sahara, the Horn of Africa and the Balkans) constitute a relatively smaller but more dangerous areas of interest.

Russia has made the largest possible use of American, European and Israeli mistakes in all regions of Turkish interference / interest. The most important of which is the Middle East and North Africa, including the eastern Mediterranean where Putin benefited from the American withdrawal from Syria and what the world saw as abandoning the Kurds, where Putin mediated between the Turkey and Kurds, who were about to fall as a prey to Turkey after the American withdrawal.

Even before that, Putin also benefited from Israel’s support for the separation of “Kurdistan” and the escalation of Europe’s problems with Turkey because of the refugees and the Turkish stance in Syria and the Balkans. Such events, have helped Turkey’s gradual transformation from a force that occupies the NATO forward lines of defense of defenses against Russia to Russia’s ally in Sochi and Astana. It can never be disregarded that Turkey is the second largest military force participating in NATO.

Not to mention Putin’s patience with Erdogan more than once, the most important of which was a Turkish interceptor fighter shot down a Russian fighter bomber in November 2015, and a Turkish security officer publicly assassinated the Russian ambassador in Ankara during a live TV broadcast of a press conference in 2017.

All of this enabled Russia to achieve its interim objectives such as ensuring freedom of passage through the Turkish Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits to the warm waters of the Mediterranean, the establishment of the Turkish Stream Project to transport Turkish gas to Europe and the export of anti-American fifth-generation aircraft S400 air defense missiles. above all the Russians have succeeded in widening the gap between Turkey and its Western allies to an extent that may Forbid Turkey to return to them.

Despite of the Russian / Turkish dispute in Idlib in Syria and Libya, Russia appears to have succeeded in achieving a greater presence against Europe, NATO, the Eastern Mediterranean and North Africa, which are the most important source of the threat to southern Europe and the alternative energy source for Russian gas. Russia aims to be a mediator in The Libyan crisis in an attempt to make it a next stage of influence following Syria. Any conflict that Erdogan might cause in the eastern Mediterranean, and whose army has already placed a focus of conflict in northern Syria, will present greater opportunities for targeted Russian mediation in the region.

NINTH: CHINA AND THE EAST MEDITERRANEAN

The Chinese government considers its global Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)as “a bid to enhance regional connectivity and embrace a brighter future”. In the time that some observers see it as a push for Chinese dominance in global affairs with a China-centered trading network. The project has a targeted completion date of 2049, which coincides with the 100th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China.

In any case, I agree with opinion says “The Chinese BRI purports to aims for promoting global peace and cooperation and the economic development of China and BRI related countries. In for it to be a win-win project, the BRI promises both conflict resolutions and respect for the sovereignty of states involved. However, reaching this aim is never as easy as it might seem on paper. The recent tensions for the natural resources in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea exhibit that reality again and are inextricably linked to the future of the BRI as well.

It’s known that the Greek Port Piraeus holds an important share of China’s trade with the European Union. On the other hand, China continues bilateral negotiations with Turkey on the Port of Izmir, and Istanbul holds strategic importance for the BRI, in the time,  the Chinese economic relations with Egypt constitutes a very critical point for China’s trade because of the significance of the Suez Canal for intercontinental maritime trade from Asia to Europe. Moreover, China also has the right to manage the Port of Ashdod in Israel for forty-nine years.

All these ports are in natural competition with each other to take a larger share from the increasing trade in the Eastern Mediterranean. Additionally, the increase in military presence of the US and other NATO countries in the Mediterranean Sea endangers the security of existing Chinese investments and trade via the Mediterranean.

Mediterranean gas disputes constitute the first stage of the ever-complex journey of China’s Going Global Strategy. It seems that China prefers to remain or appear to remain, more neutral in the politics of the region.

On the other hand, and in order for China not to lose its planned spheres of influence, it prefers alliances and conclude agreements with current governments and improve economic relations with them. Although China may see that maintaining its alliance with Egypt is sufficient for its national interests due to the importance of the Suez Canal for its global initiative Belt and Road, but it’s, from the point of achieving the largest possible gains, and for the success of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in the East Mediterranean, will work to develop its diplomacy from non-intervention in State affairs to a more positive step, which is to preemptively defuse tension between concerned parties to prevent any potential conflicts. As I expect China to work to reduce tension between the East Mediterranean most important countries, namely Egypt, Turkey and Israel. Therefore, I expect that we will see very soon Chinese diplomatic moves towards the East Mediterranean specially with the US, EU and the concerned countries.

TENTH: THE DEVELOPMENTS OF THE POLITICAL AND SECURITY SITUATION DURING THE LAST WEEK OF DECEMBER 2019

The development of political and security situations

While the Turkish side continues to support its agreements and even start to enter them into force. The countries affected by the “Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum” will assume all necessary measures at the United Nations and the European Union to challenge the validity of the Turkish / Libyan economic agreement, and put pressure on Turkey and the Sarraj government by all possible means. This could be decided by the Russian position towards Turkey through a trade-off between Russia and Turkey over the Russian role in Syria and Libya in connection with one of two possibilities. The first is the explicit Turkish concession in Syria, especially Idlib, to the Russian demands, in exchange for a Russian role less supportive of Haftar in the Libyan crisis. As for The second, it is the opposite i.e. a Russian concession to the Turkish move in Syria, in return for giving Russia a greater role in Libya while containing the expected Turkish move in the crisis

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi has contacted the American and Russian presidents. It is a move which appears to be an attempt to confront the growing Turkish escalation towards the Libyan crisis. In the meantime and in front of the divided Tunisian parties , the Tunisian president has stated frankly that his country is neutral to all the .The Algerian president met with the leaders of his armed forces to secure the eastern and southern borders of his country against the effects of an ongoing armed conflict in Libya and Mali, which the Algerian interior considers an opportunity for the country’s unity against direct threats.

The development of the military situation

Haftar may not have estimated the real size of Misrata’s forces who are highly combat trained troops. He may have also underestimated terrorist elements in Sebha. Today, the Libyan crisis seems to have become more complex, although Haftar has gained the advantage of reaching the outskirts of Tripoli and has imposed himself firmly on the Libyan political and military scene. In any case, I expect one of two scenarios:

Potential military scenarios

First

Haftar seizes the driving force of the offensive and advance into Tripoli and succeeds to assume control over its entrance and vital targets. This will ultimately threaten Al-Sarraj’s political future; especially that the Presidential Council is about to collapse politically due to his connections with extremist militias in Tripoli and Misrata besides the failure of any Turkish endeavors to support it. Based on that scenario, the two agreements with Turkey have the potential of being cancelled.

Second

Turkey keeps the possibility of providing necessary support to Tripoli and Misrata forces with military equipment, arms and even troops on a side, and involve in a maritime operation in the East Mediterranean. In the time that Haftar’s troops fail in their mission and stop the attack while This will negatively impact the status of the National Libyan Army and my lead Libya to a civil war the will not be controlled for a long period of time. That scenario may seem as most favorable for Turkey since it achieves the desired regional role; and hence favorable for the Accord Government in Tripoli. However, it might be the worst scenario on the long term because it might involve Turkey in swamp that is similar to Syria. It will increase Turkey’s political, security and economic problems due to the huge cost and immense losses that will be suffered.

Third

An Egyptian military intervention to settle the security situation in Tripoli and Misrata within the context of guaranteeing Egyptian national security and securing the western strategic depth wile securing the Libyan coasts against any potential exterior intervention.

Sayed Ghoneim, MG (ret)
Chairman, IGSDA