After Libya’s renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar failed to seize Tripoli following a 14-month military campaign, his foreign backers are repositioning themselves on the battlefield for maximum leverage, analysts say.
In the past month, the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) recaptured strategic locations including the al-Watiya airbase and Tarhuna, Haftar’s last major stronghold in western Libya, which had been used to help launch an offensive against the capital.
Libya: Haftar’s forces ‘slow down’ GNA advance on Sirte
What’s behind GNA’s decision to launch offensive to seize Sirte?
UN says Libya’s warring parties engaged in ‘productive’ talks
Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) has since been pushed back from Tripoli and has withdrawn to Sirte, 450km (280 miles) east of Tripoli, and the al-Jufra airbase in central Libya.
Following a series of victories with the help of Turkey, the GNA now controls much of western Libya.
Forces loyal to the Tripoli-based government have launched an offensive now to capture the coastal city of Sirte, located close to major energy export terminals.
Libya, home to the richest proven crude reserves in Africa, has been mired in conflict since the 2011 civil war that saw the overthrow and killing of longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi.
The country is now divided into two administrations: Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj’s GNA based in Tripoli, and the House of Representatives allied with Haftar, who controls the oil-producing regions of eastern and central Libya.
Over the years the conflict has spiralled into a major proxy war, with the United Arab Emirates (UAE), France, Russia and Egypt backing Haftar, while Turkey supports al-Sarraj.
Transition away from Haftar
Following a series of setbacks for the LNA over the past two months, Frederic Wehrey, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told Al Jazeera that Haftar’s foreign backers have since been reformulating their support as there is frustration with him on the battlefield.
“There’s splits within his foreign patrons,” Wehrey said. “The LNA is mobilising to confront the GNA attack on Sirte and that could perhaps give a slight boost to Haftar. But I think we have to underscore that much of his prestige, his appeal was wound up in the expectation that he would deliver a victory in Tripoli.
“I think all of these powers are trying to position themselves on the battlefield for maximum leverage,” Wehrey said.
Emadeddin Badi, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and a Libya analyst, told Al Jazeera that rational and opportunistic backers of Haftar, such as Egypt and Russia, will now focus on succession planning and a transition away from Haftar’s own persona.
“This will, of course, be concomitant with an effort to consolidate his control in central and eastern Libya to avoid significant territorial losses that could have a knock-on effect on eastern Libya.
“In addition to Cairo and Moscow, Abu Dhabi and Paris – which come out as losers having backed a losing gambit – will also now jockey for influence over Libya’s political process moving forward,” Badi said.
According to Anas el-Gomati, founder and director of the Sadeq Institute, Haftar’s backers may have stopped using military force to attack Tripoli, but they’re still willing to fight to preserve their interests in eastern Libya and oil assets east of Sirte, where the UAE and Russia are deploying air assets.
“Their investment goes beyond Haftar so they may be willing … to prop up Haftar. But if Haftar becomes politically embarrassing, I think they’ll drop him,” el-Gomati said.
On the other side, there has been manoeuvring by Turkey, and the United States has asserted itself to a greater degree as well.
Last week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced “some agreements” had been reached with US President Donald Trump, which could usher a “new era between the US and Turkey regarding the [Libya] process”.
US policy has seen a significant shift from April 2019 when Trump telephoned Haftar and expressed encouragement for his military operation to seize Tripoli.
“I think we can expect to see a greater diminishing of any US hope that Haftar can be a unifying figure for the country, or obviously achieve victory,” Wehrey said.
‘Weaponisation of peace’
Days after Haftar’s offensive on Tripoli collapsed, he appeared in Cairo to accept an Egyptian-sponsored ceasefire and renewed talks alongside Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and Aguila Saleh, Libya’s east-based parliament speaker.
Russia and the UAE welcomed Egypt’s call for a ceasefire. The European Union also echoed the move last week while urging all parties involved to withdraw their foreign forces and start peace negotiations.
However, calls for a ceasefire are unlikely to result in a meaningful peace any time soon because of a lack of pressure on the ground forces, analysts say.
When Haftar reignited the war in April 2019, Western powers blandly mulled over how to respond.
Libya offensive: Government-backed forces push into city of Sirte
The United Kingdom discussed the imposition of UN sanctions against Haftar, but consensus remained unlikely.
El-Gomati said calls for a truce are based cynically on some actors trying to “preserve their game”.
“They need to be serious about applying those tools, to apply pressure. Specifically, the litmus test for this is whether or not they can agree to a ceasefire and also an end to the arms embargo violations. This is the weaponisation of peace,” el-Gomati said.
He added it is unclear whether the GNA or its supporters feel they can trust Haftar or his backers, since the LNA entered peace talks several times, only to walk away and resume fighting.
Fathi Bashagha, the GNA’s interior minister, said the government would engage in political talks, but only after taking Sirte and the al-Jufra airbase in the south.
Turkey, meanwhile, dismissed Egypt’s ceasefire proposal as insincere and an attempt to save Haftar. But Ankara said it will continue talks with Moscow on a lasting ceasefire.
In order to forge a diplomatic solution, Wehrey said the main issue is restarting United Nations-led talks, while Haftar’s foreign sponsors would have to find alternatives for him.
The UN support mission in Libya announced recently that GNA and LNA delegations are now in a third round of talks.
While Badi said there may be some form of a diplomatic solution, it is not the likeliest scenario at this stage.
“There will either be a carve-up between Turkey and Russia that will lead to the fragmentation of the two contemporary coalitions, or a more inclusive political process that will see the contemporary political entities in Libya reshuffled,” he said.
Wehrey added while much of the discourse focuses on Russia and Turkey, the alignment of the UAE will be key.
“The French and UAE really enabled and fuelled Haftar’s war from the beginning, which presented an opening for Russians and then the Turks,” said Wehrey.
“In particular, the US has a role in communicating to the UAE the importance of getting back on political track, and also the French. I think the Europeans should play a bigger diplomatic role, but there needs to be greater unity and I think the US can help with that too.”
COVID-19: US passes ‘unfathomable’ 200,000 death toll |NationalTribune.com
Sorry, we can’t find the page that you are looking for. Don’t let that stop you from visiting some of our other great related content.EXPLORE MOREPalestine quits Arab League role in protest over Israel dealsPalestine was meant to chair Arab League meetings for next six months, but FM Riyad al-Maliki has declined the position.At UN,…
Sorry, we can’t find the page that you are looking for. Don’t let that stop you from visiting some of our other great related content.EXPLORE MOREPalestine quits Arab League role in protest over Israel dealsPalestine was meant to chair Arab League meetings for next six months, but FM Riyad al-Maliki has declined the position.At UN, Qatar emir questions world inaction on Israeli occupationQatar’s leader says Israel continues to carry out ‘flagrant violation of international resolutions’.Lebanon: Hezbollah arms depot blast caused by ‘technical error’Lebanon’s official news agency said explosion took place in southern village of Ein Qana, about 50km south of Beirut.
Iran says ‘internal agents’ may be responsible for Natanz blast |NationalTribune.com
Tehran, Iran – The Iranian government said on Tuesday there are strong suspicions that “internal agents” played a role in a massive explosion that occurred at a key nuclear facility earlier this year. On July 2, a fire ripped through a building at Natanz, a major uranium enrichment site. Satellite images showed it caused the…
Tehran, Iran – The Iranian government said on Tuesday there are strong suspicions that “internal agents” played a role in a massive explosion that occurred at a key nuclear facility earlier this year.
On July 2, a fire ripped through a building at Natanz, a major uranium enrichment site. Satellite images showed it caused the roof to collapse and parts of the building were blackened by the blaze.
“One of the strong theories is based on internal agents being involved in the incident,” government spokesman Ali Rabiei told reporters at a news conference, according to the Iranian Labour News Agency (ILNA).
“The issue is being seriously reviewed by the country’s security organisations and we will announce the results after things are clear.”
It is the first time an Iranian official specifically pointed to the possibility of an inside job for the blast.
In late August, Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization confirmed the damage to the facility was the result of “sabotage”.
“But how this explosion took place and with what materials … will be announced by security officials in due course,” spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said at the time, citing “security reasons” for not disclosing further information.
‘Sabotage is certain’
In early September, Kamalvandi announced Natanz saboteurs “have been identified” but refrained from discussing further details, including whether internal agents were complicit.
On Tuesday, Rabiei also reiterated that “sabotage is certain” but the incident still needs to be investigated due to its complexities.
The desert Natanz site, much of which is underground, is one of several Iranian facilities regularly monitored by inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN nuclear watchdog.
Following the explosion, international media reports indicated Israel may have been behind the attack. Israel has been deliberately vague, neither confirming nor denying involvement while stressing the danger of a nuclear-armed Iran.
“Everyone can suspect us in everything and all the time, but I don’t think that’s correct,” Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz said days after the attack.
Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi also said “Iran cannot be allowed to have nuclear capabilities”, adding to that end, “We take actions that are better left unsaid.”
September’s announcement that Iran knows the saboteurs behind the Natanz explosion came one week after IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi visited the country.
The trip was successful, leading to Iran granting access to two suspected former nuclear sites that the UN watchdog wished to inspect.
“In this present context, based on analysis of available information to the IAEA, the IAEA does not have further questions to Iran and further requests for access to locations other than those declared by Iran,” the IAEA and Iranian officials said in a joint statement following the visit.
In a speech during the 64th session of the General Conference of the IAEA on Monday, the president of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization Ali Akbar Salehi referred to the Natanz incident.
“These malicious acts need to be condemned by the agency and member states,” he said via video conference, adding “Iran reserves its rights to protect its facilities and take necessary actions against any threat as appropriate.”
Salehi also urged the UN watchdog not to compromise its “impartiality, independence and professionalism”.
Iran, UN and the United States are locked in a major disagreement centred around the landmark 2015 nuclear deal signed between Iran and world powers, which US President Donald Trump unilaterally abandoned in May 2018.
The US on Sunday declared it reinstated all UN sanctions on Iran, an announcement that was roundly rejected by the United Nations Security Council as lacking legal basis.
The US is trying to indefinitely extend an arms embargo on Iran that is set to expire in October as part of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the formal name of the nuclear deal.
Iran, which has always maintained it never pursued nuclear weapons, accepted the nuclear deal that removed all UN sanctions in exchange for curbs on its nuclear programme.
The US reneged on the deal, unilaterally imposing a harsh campaign of sanctions that have hit almost all the productive sectors of the Iranian economy. US sanctions have also targeted Iranian officials and organisations.
In response, starting exactly one year after US sanctions were imposed and other parties failed to guarantee economic benefits promised Iran under the deal, Iran started gradually scaling back its nuclear commitments.
Palestine quits Arab League role in protest over Israel deals |NationalTribune.com
Palestine was meant to chair Arab League meetings for next six months, but FM Riyad al-Maliki has declined the position.Palestine has quit its current chairmanship of Arab League meetings, the Palestinian foreign minister said on Tuesday, condemning as dishonourable any Arab agreement to establish formal ties with Israel. Palestinians see the deals that the United…
Palestine was meant to chair Arab League meetings for next six months, but FM Riyad al-Maliki has declined the position.Palestine has quit its current chairmanship of Arab League meetings, the Palestinian foreign minister said on Tuesday, condemning as dishonourable any Arab agreement to establish formal ties with Israel.
Palestinians see the deals that the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain signed with Israel in Washington a week ago as a betrayal of their cause and a blow to their quest for an independent state in Israeli-occupied territory.
Earlier this month, the Palestinians failed to persuade the Arab League to condemn nations breaking ranks and normalising relations with Israel.
Palestine was supposed to chair Arab League meetings for the next six months, but Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki told a news conference in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah that it no longer wanted the position.
“Palestine has decided to concede its right to chair the League’s council [of foreign ministers] at its current session. There is no honour in seeing Arabs rush towards normalisation during its presidency,” Maliki said.
In his remarks, he did not specifically name the UAE and Bahrain, Gulf Arab countries that share with Israel concern over Iran. He said Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit had been informed of the Palestinian decision.
Palestinians rally against Bahrain-Israel normalisation
The Palestinian leadership wants an independent state based on the de facto borders before the 1967 war, in which Israel occupied the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and annexed East Jerusalem.
Arab countries have long called for Israel’s withdrawal from illegally occupied land, a just solution for Palestinian refugees and a settlement that leads to the establishment of a viable, independent Palestinian state, in exchange for establishing ties with it.
In a new move addressing internal Palestinian divisions, officials from West Bank-based President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah faction and the Gaza-based Hamas movement were due to hold reconciliation talks in Turkey on Tuesday.
Hamas seized the Gaza Strip in 2007 from Fatah forces during a brief round of fighting. Differences over power-sharing have delayed implementation of unity deals agreed since then.
Source : Al Jazeera, News Agencies
Politics7 years ago
In Spanish-Language Interview, Marco Rubio Says He Believes Obama’s Executive Amnesty ‘Is Important’
Politics7 years ago
Kansas Governor Sam Brownback Bans Cruises for Welfare Recipients in Sweeping Crackdown
Politics7 years ago
New Bill Seeks To Ban Former Lawmakers From Becoming Lobbyists
Politics7 years ago
Marco Rubio says ‘same-sex marriage is not a constitutional right’
Politics7 years ago
Obama signals support for medical marijuana bill backed by Rand Paul
Duterte2 years ago
Duterte presidency unravels as coronavirus ravages Philippines |NationalTribune.com
China's2 years ago
US says China’s South China Sea missile launches threat to peace |NationalTribune.com
Belarus2 years ago
Belarus heads to polls as protests rattle Lukashenko |NationalTribune.com