Tensions between the warring sides of Libya are on the rise again. On one side is Government of National Accord (GNA) led by Fayez al-Sarraj, the UN-recognised Prime Minister of Libya, while on the other side is Libyan National Army (LNA) led by military General Khalifa Haftar, the strongman of eastern Libya who has been trying to capture the capital, Tripoli, in the far west of the African country.
The nation has been a victim to constant civil wars and foreign intervention since the end of Muammar Gaddafi’s rule in 2011. The nation which fought brutal autocracy for a refreshing democracy fell in to the trap again as its democracy was mere sell-out to gain access to the country’s major oil fields. Serraj government though recognised internationally was not accepted by the factions within the country.
Serraj took Turkey’s help in strengthening its control over the country which was slipping away due to Haftar’s forces. Libya’s rapid deterioration was because it is the only one of the 22 Arab nations with the right assets – a small population and vast oil resources – that could afford both reconstruction and a political transition.
Libya also had the potential to become a key economic player in North Africa and Southern Europe. Hence Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan send all the military, and war equipments to the aid of Sarraj.
In June the Libyan Review revealed that Libya’s UN-recognised Government of National Accord, led by Fayez Al-Sarraj, paid 12 billion USD to Turkey for military assistance in order to gain control over Tripoli. The Libyan Review in its investigative report mentioned that the Sarraj’s government recently deposited 4 billion US dollars in the Central Bank of Turkey, while it gave Ankara another 8 billion USD for its ‘recent military intervention in Libya’.
Turkey intervened in Libya not only to establish its military and economic might in the region but also to gain upper hand over European Union. “Turkish military presence in Libya would strengthen its position vis-a-vis EU in general and Germany in particular,” said international relations expert Zaur Gasimov of Bonn University. Turkey has been threatening the Union of sparking refugee crisis in the region.
“The fears of more influx of refugees have never been stronger than now in Europe, already heavily challenged by the [coronavirus] pandemic and economic recession,” he added.
Libyan crisis worsened with Turkish intervention as it not only sent in Turkish forces but Syrian fighters as mercenaries, most of whom were Iinked to Islamic State and other jihadist groups earlier operating in Libya. The US States Country Reports on Terrorism 2016 said, “Many members of the terrorist organization fled to Libya’s western and southern deserts, abroad, or into neighboring urban centers.”
Back in 2014, with air support from the United States, the GNA has sought to hold territory and protect its legitimacy as Libya’s central government. Haftar, who launched an offensive in 2014 to cleanse Benghazi of jihadist militants, has been conducting airstrikes on militants, moderate Islamist militias and GNA positions as part of a campaign to wrest power from the GNA. Hence infesting the country with more IS and jihadist fighters was a plan which worked well for Turkey and Sarraj gained control over Tripoli.
After re-establishing hold over capital, GNA came up with the demand for ceasefire, which Haftar’s forces called a fake demand as all the while when LNA and nations who backed it (including Russia, UAE, Egypt and France) asked for a ceasefire agreement Sarraj and Turkey declined the offer.
On Sunday, Haftar’s forces rejected a ceasefire proposal tabled by Sarraj, calling it a “deception”. LNA head claimed that the GNA was preparing to attack the strategic city of Sirte, and this agreement was a mere cover or even a plan to show LNA in bad light.
Ahmed al-Mismari, a spokesman for Haftar’s forces, said that Libyan Prime Minister’s proposal “represents nothing but throwing dust in eyes and deceiving the local and international public.” He added, The initiative that Al-Sarraj signed is for media propaganda.
There is a military buildup and the transfer of equipment to target our forces in Sirte.” He highlighted, “If Sarraj wanted a cease-fire, he would have drawn his forces back, not advanced toward our units in Sirte.”
Besides, Sarraj is known for playing the victim and through the blame of its own folly on the rival group, like it recently did by accusing UAE of supplying war to Haftar’s LNA which led to the killing of several dozens of civilians. It is not the first time that Serraj’s forces has pulled a stunt of orchestrating an attack and accusing General Haftar’s forces for it.
On September 20, 2016, residents of Hoon, an oasis in Libya’s Fezzan region. The planes, which were reportedly flying from Misrata in western Libya, bombed Ninah Park, a water park in Sokna village, in an attempt to strike a rival group in the area. As per the reports, at least nine people were killed and 20 were injured, including women and children.No group claimed responsibility for this attack.
Though Misratan forces, which are allied with GNA, denied responsibility for the attack via spokesman Mohammed Qannouno, but several local social media accounts attributed the attack to them. The GNA has relied on a mix of Islamists and Misratan militias to counter armed rivals.
Sarraj and Erdogan together targeted UAE as last month, Anwar Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), openly slammed Turkish intervention and urged the international community to curb Ankara’s unacceptable activity in the Libyan civil war.
He also criticised the perverse use of Islam by Turkey and its allies in Qatar and the Muslim Brotherhood in favour of a belligerent and expansionist policyHow long would Sarraj keep playing the game of hide and seek and using media as a propaganda tool to win popular opinion and fool the world.