Over the past nine years, the world has failed to deal effectively and humanely with any of Libya’s geopolitical challenges.
The primary contributing factor for this failure is that following the fall of Moammar Gadhafi, Libya has become a hotbed of many global intelligence agencies. These can be roughly divided into three groups: The first group is there for political and security reasons, while the second group is there for economic reasons, most notably having to do with Libya’s well-known oil reserves. The third group is there for Islamically-driven ideological reasons.
The first group is primarily represented by the United States, which strongly influenced the withdrawal from Libyan affairs after the infamous killing of its ambassador. The second group is represented by France, which attempted to gain control over the lion’s share of Libya’s economic opportunities in the energy sector, in addition to combatting terrorism. The third party is jointly represented by both Qatar and Turkey, which have contributed greatly to the support of terrorist organizations affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood to achieve a variety of objectives, be they political or economic.
Divided by an ideological wall that is even more formidable than the Berlin Wall, today Libya is currently split into two parts — east and west. The eastern side is both patriotic and pragmatic, refusing to fall prey to ideological possession. The western side, on the other hand, is backed by tens of thousands of Syrian mercenaries and armed militias previously affiliated with ISIS and Al-Nusra Front, all of whom are financially supported with monthly stipends courtesy of Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government.
The eastern side is led by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, who is not only commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA), but also happens to be someone who was democratically elected by the Libyan House of Representatives, currently under the leadership of Aguila Saleh Issa. In contrast, the western side in Tripoli does not enjoy the same level of national legitimacy, especially after the Al-Sarraj government’s violation against the internationally recognized Skhirat Agreement, which was unanimously welcomed by the U.N. by adopting Security Council Resolution 2259.
Unfortunately, the agreement was doomed to failure since its inception in 2015, as it failed to address a fatal flaw back when it was publicly televised to the world, which is the issue of swiftly pulling political leverage away from all elements that engage in terrorism or propagate extrmeist ideologies. How do you consider militias and mercenaries that only understand the language of violence as part of the political process without instituting an iron-clad law that disarms them? Ankara has taken complete advantage of this flaw, admitting that it has sent in nearly 3,000 to 4,000 Syrian proxies to Tripoli.
The question now is: Where is Washington in all of this? Without a clear role in Libya’s dire situation, people are now speculating whether the White House has given the green light to Mr. Erdogan’s government to unleash its brutality against Libya by engaging in direct and indirect military operations in the North African country. The reason for this is twofold.
First, it’s quite obvious that Ankara has successfully persuaded Washington to curb Russia’s efforts toward quelling Islamist groups. Second, Mr. Erdogan’s insatiable Neo-Ottomanist ambitions have compelled him to trick the White House into believing the unproven notion that Russia is firmly on the side of Libya’s eastern faction. This in turn would make a Turkish victory against Mr. Haftar seem like an American victory against Russia, a view that only contributes to Washington’s narrow and inaccurate understanding of the Libyan crisis.
As it currently stands, France has taken the best approach in facing the Mediterranean’s national security threats. In fact, Emmanuel Macron is now presented with a unique opportunity to show that France is the true leader of the European Union in a post-Brexit world. Combined with the efforts of Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, who asserted that the restoration of security in Libya is also a part of Egyptian national security, Paris and Cairo also have a historic opportunity to prove to the international community that they are forces of stability and prosperity for the region and beyond.
The ideologically-based breakdown of order that Libya is incurring may take multiple generations to repair. This is why they must be faced with solutions that are firm, resolute and steadfast, which is why a decisive unification of policies that work toward a lasting solution to the Libyan crisis is a priority that simply cannot be postponed. The Egyptian and Arab stance has always been a historically resolute stance, which was recently affirmed when the Egyptian leadership stated that the Sirte region in central Libya is a red line that cannot be crossed.
Had it not been for this position, Libya would now be a prey to the most extremist terrorist group in the world, under the auspices of a NATO member country, Turkey. If Mr. El-Sisi’s decisiveness were to join forces with Mr. Macron’s ability to rally his allies, then both men stand a real chance to push back and eventually eliminate Mr. Erdogan’s radical actions and illegitimate presence in Libya.
• Salman Al-Ansari is an independent Saudi political analyst and founder of the Washington, D.C.-based SAPRAC Inc.
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