Daily Briefing: TURMOIL IN LIBYA: WHY IT MATTERS (September 17,2020)
U.N. Rights Chief Ignores Arab-Israel Peace, Condemns Israel Again:UN Watch, Sept. 16, 2020 — UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet: In the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the escalating tragedy in Gaza is of particular concern. The blockade by sea and land, which Israel has imposed for 13 years, has brought Gaza’s main economic and commercial activities to a complete halt. The blockade, which contravenes international law, has conclusively failed to deliver security or peace for Israelis and Palestinians. … [To read full article and watch video, click the following LINK – Ed.]
The Libya Chaos: A Middle East Wake-up Call Yoram Ettinger JNS, Sept. 16, 2020
The Libyan turmoil is, mostly, the outcome of the reckless toppling of the Qaddafi regime in 2011 by a U.S.-led NATO offensive. The offensive was launched despite the fact that Libya’s ruthless dictator, Muammar Qaddafi, had become a fervent warrior against Islamic terrorism in Libya, North and Central Africa, and in spite of Qaddafi’s dismantling of the Libyan nuclear, chemical, biological and long-range ballistic missile infrastructures.
The stated goal of the U.S.-led NATO onslaught was to stop the Libyan civil war, minimize the loss of civilian lives and promote democracy and peace. However, the authority vacuum created by the demise of the Qaddafi regime has intensified the intrinsic fragmentation and disintegration of Libya, tribally, geographically, ideologically and religiously.
Qaddafi’s demise yielded systematic eruptions of civil wars in Libya, intensified by a heightened presence of Islamic terror organizations, which operate globally, from Central Asia, through the Middle East, Europe, Africa and Latin America, with sleeper cells in the United States.
In defiance of the architects of the assault on Qaddafi, Libya has joined Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq and Yemen as a leading epicenter of international Islamic terrorism. The Libyan pandemonium has stimulated Islamic terrorism in Europe, as well as in neighboring Egypt, the Sudan, Chad, Niger, Algeria and Tunisia, in addition to Morocco, Mauritania, Western Sahara, Mali, Burkina Faso and Nigeria.
Contrary to the expectations of the U.S. and NATO, there has been substantial military and financial intervention by foreign countries, which conduct proxy wars in post-Qaddafi Libya. Thus, Turkey, Qatar, Italy and the United Nations support Prime Minister al-Sarraj’s Tripoli-centered Government of National Accord (which controls some parts of Western Libya), while Russia, France, Greece, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Jordan back General Haftar’s Benghazi- and Tobruk-based Libyan National Army (which controls most of Libya, especially the eastern and southern areas, and most of the oil and natural gas fields and refineries).
Foreign involvement in Libya
The mounting foreign involvement reflects Libya’s geostrategic potential, both economic and military. Libya has an area of 680,000 square miles (2.6 times the area of Texas!), is located between the Mediterranean and Central Africa and possesses 1,000 miles of coastline along the Mediterranean, between Egypt and Tunisia and across from Turkey, Crete, Greece, Malta, Italy and Sicily. Libya’s oil and natural gas reserves rank 8th and 21st in the world respectively, which has attracted major energy companies, such as Italy’s ENI (since 1959) and France’s Total (since 1954). … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
Israel’s Concern with Turkey: Libya in the West, Azerbaijan in the East Dr. Adnan Abu Amer MEMO, Aug. 20, 2020
Over time, Turkish-Israeli relations have grown increasingly tense and their differences have widened. This is due either to Ankara’s support for Hamas and its increased influence in the Mediterranean Sea concerning the conflict in Libya, or because Turkey is competing with Israel in the Caucasus region, where the Israeli area of influence in Azerbaijan increases their polarisation and rivalry.
The Turks being stationed in the Mediterranean is a source of Israeli concern, claiming its negative impact on the future of its gas, which is in danger after Ankara announced its intention to drill off the coast of Libya. This indicated its expansion ambitions in the region.
Meanwhile, the Israeli reading of the internal war and external polarisation in Libya suggests that Turkish President Erdogan cautiously used the military and economic crisis of the Tripoli government led by Fayez Al-Sarraj, and signed a series of agreements and military cooperation. He also established maritime borders between them, according to international maritime law that allows them to go beyond 400 miles from their territorial waters.
Israel observed Turkey’s moves, especially with the increased discovery of gas fields in the Eastern Mediterranean, resulting in forming alliances and agreements between countries that began to define their economic maritime zones in a timely manner. Hence, the race to locate and develop gas fields began, and Israel entered into an economic and strategic cooperation group with Greece, Cyprus and Egypt.
Israel expects that the boldness of Turkey will grow in the future, and this is not what Israel, Egypt, Greece and Cyprus want. Even if the conflict is focused in the diplomatic arena, the chances of a physical confrontation at sea seem realistic, as what happens in Libya greatly concerns Israel. This makes Israel in need of an organised campaign towards Turkey, so that it is not suddenly surprised, as surprises can come from several directions, including the Palestinian-Turkish cooperation in the gas field off the coast of Gaza. At the same time, Israel is awaiting the chances of a naval confrontation between Turkey and Greece, in the area between Crete and Libya. Given its rapprochement in recent years with Greece and Cyprus, this may require increased manoeuvring with the support it expects from its allies in the region, in the face of Turkish policies.
In a related context, Israel, Greece and Egypt are jointly facing what has become known as the “Turkish challenge”, which confronts them with harsh tests. This may carry predictions that the escalation of conflict in the Eastern Mediterranean may reach the degree of deterioration towards a military confrontation, in light of the Israeli reading of Turkey’s behaviour at the geostrategic and economic level. This focuses on the demarcation of the naval borders in the Eastern Mediterranean, which is an issue of great importance to Israel, because it raises concerns about military clashes over economic activity near the energy shores. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
Possible Resignation of Libya’s PM Raises Questions over Ankara-Tripoli Ties Diego Cupolo Al-Monitor, Sept. 15, 2020
A recent spat of protests in western Libya and infighting within Tripoli’s UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) has put pressure on Libyan Prime Minister Fayez-al Sarraj, who is expected to announce his resignation this week and assume a caretaker role over government functions, according to a Bloomberg report Tuesday.
The news comes after a Turkish military intervention helped break a 14-month siege on Tripoli by eastern Libyan forces loyal to commander Khalifa Hifter in June, and now raises questions over the prior and future accords between Ankara and Tripoli.
In November 2019, Sarraj signed a controversial agreement with Ankara delineating a shared maritime boundary in the eastern Mediterranean Sea in an area claimed by Greece. Ankara has since used the agreement as a basis to conduct gas exploration activities in contested waters, raising tensions between Turkey and several European nations in recent months.
If reports of Sarraj’s pending resignation prove true, the maritime accord along with other points of Ankara-Tripoli cooperation may be complicated by turmoil in the Libyan political sphere.
“Turkey has only one piece of paper regarding that maritime accord and it happens to [bear] Sarraj’s name,” Jalel Harchaoui, a research fellow at the Clingendael Institute who focuses on Libya, told Al-Monitor.
He added, “If people keep pushing, which I believe is one of the reasons Sarraj is using this moment to signal to the world he is interested in leaving at some future date, then Turkey better have a plan.”
The infighting in Tripoli comes after advances by GNA forces came to a stalemate in June along the current Sirte-Jufra front line in central Libya. With few developments between the warring sides and repeated attempts to secure a ceasefire, some clashes broke out among militias within the GNA, highlighting ongoing instability in western Libyan territories reclaimed from Hifter’s Libyan National Army.
In late August, protesters took the streets in Misrata, al-Zawiya and Tripoli to demonstrate against government corruption and deteriorating living conditions under frequent electricity and water cuts. Following domestic tensions that led to round-the-clock lockdowns, Sarraj suspended GNA Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha while he was visiting Turkey, though later reinstated Bashagha to his role.
The public rift highlighted discord within the GNA ahead of negotiations in Geneva next month that will seek to lay the groundwork for a new governing structure in Libya. Analysts said Sarraj’s rumored shift to a caretaker capacity may be an attempt to fulfill governing duties without completely relinquishing state power as political leaders prepare for a general election as well as a constitutional referendum in the coming 18 months. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
Breaking the Cycle: The Need for a Sustainable, Long-Term Policy In The Middle East H. R. McMaster The Hoover Institution, Sept. 1, 2020
The inability of the United States, in cooperation with like-minded nations, to implement a consistent policy toward the greater Middle East and North Africa region (spanning Morocco in the west to Iran in the east and encompassing the northern countries of Syria and Iraq to the southern countries of Sudan and Yemen) has contributed to the extent of the region’s unravelling, diminishing American influence there. Taken together, the policies of recent administrations were consistent with America’s tendency since World War II to engage the Middle East episodically, pursuing short-term solutions to long term problems. But since 2003, many Americans have become frustrated with long, costly, and inconclusive wars and now view the region as a mess to be avoided. But disengagement from the Middle East would make a bad situation worse, with negative implications for Americans as well as the peoples of the region. It is time for a reappraisal of what is at stake in the region as the basis for creating realistic objectives. Whatever administration charts the future course of U.S. Middle East policy, the President and cabinet officials will have to make the case to the American people as to why the region matters to them and how it is possible to make progress towards those objectives at an acceptable cost.
The Middle East matters to American security and prosperity. Many who advocate for disengagement from the region argue that the Middle East is no longer important because the United States has become the world’s largest oil producer and a net energy exporter. But world economic growth still remains dependent on the free flow of oil through the Strait of Hormuz just as it did during the oil embargo and crisis of 1973 and the “tanker wars” of the 1980s. Others argue that disengagement from the Middle East is necessary so the United States can focus resources on great power competition with China and Russia. But the Middle East is an arena for competitions involving not only those powers, but also rogue regimes and jihadist terrorist organizations; those competitions converge and interact in a way that threatens America’s security and the security of its friends in the region and in Europe. For example, Russia and Iran aid, abet, and sustain the murderous Assad regime in Syria. Russia has used the crisis in the region as a way to sow division in Europe and to present itself as an indispensable power broker that can ameliorate problems that it is in fact helping to create. Russia’s role in Libya may be even more dangerous as it expands its zone of influence in the Mediterranean, coordinates with Egypt and UAE to support the rebel army of Khalifa Hafter against the Government of National Accord, and plans to emplace advanced anti-ship and anti-aircraft missiles and radars in Benghazi. Iran, too, has taken advantage of regional chaos by increasing its political and economic influence in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq; reinforcing Hezbollah in Lebanon with precision-guided rockets to threaten Israel; enabling its proxies in Yemen to launch missiles into Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates as well as gain control of strategic terrain astride the Bab al Mandeb strait. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
Forgotten Southern Libya: Khaled Okasha, Ahramonline, Sept. 15, 2020 — In Libya, which is customarily treated one-dimensionally as a case of sharp polarisation between the eastern and western parts of the country (a reductionism that is perhaps intentional on the part of some stakeholders), the south has reared its head as a bundle of threats with major security implications.
Turkey’s ‘Filthy War’ Against Syria, Libya: Khaled Abu Toameh, Gatestone, Sept. 8, 2020 — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is committing “horrific violations” against civilians in northern Syria, according to a report in the Abu Dhabi-based newspaper Al-Roeya on August 30. As a result of these violations, a million civilians living in the area, parts of which are controlled by Turkey, are facing “an unprecedented humanitarian crisis.”