Erdoğan-Putin Deal Tests Russian, Turkish Influence in Libya

Days after sending military aid to prop up the UN-recognized government in Tripoli, Turkey’s strongman, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has done a deal with Russia’s Vladimir Putin to halt the fighting in Libya.

Russian mercenaries fight on the side of warlord Khalifa Haftar, who controls the bulk of the country, including its oil industry.

Egypt and the United Arab Emirates also support Haftar, who has reportedly received Chinese-made drones and Russian-made air defenses from the UAE.

The Arab states see Haftar as a bulwark against Islamist influences, including the Libyan branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is part of the Tripoli government. Egypt’s generals overthrew the Muslim Brotherhood in their country with the backing of most Arab monarchs in 2013.

It is unclear what, if any, effect the Erdoğan-Putin deal will have. Artillery and missile strikes were reported on the outskirts of Tripoli in the early hours of Thursday. The promised ceasefire could be a test of Turkey’s and Russia’s influence over their proxies in Libya. Read more “Erdoğan-Putin Deal Tests Russian, Turkish Influence in Libya”

Five Reasons to Doubt Libyan Truce Will Hold

Libya’s two most powerful leaders have agreed to call a ceasefire and hold elections next year after a meeting with French president Emmanuel Macron in Paris.

Their deal has the potential to end six years of civil war, but there are at least five reasons to doubt it will hold:

  1. Khalifa Haftar, the generalissimo in charge of eastern Libya, and Fayez al-Sarraj, the prime minister of the internationally-recognized unity government in Tripoli, did not agree on a date for elections, so there is no deadline.
  2. The truce exempts counterterrorism, which Haftar and Sarraj could interpret differently. Haftar calls his entire campaign a counterterrorist operation.
  3. Libya’s institutions, including the central bank and National Oil Corporation, have recognized Sarraj’s as the legitimate government, but he has no security force of his own and could struggle to convince the militias that support him to stop fighting.
  4. Haftar, by contrast, has his own army, which occupies two-thirds of Libya, most of its oil ports and the city of Benghazi. But he has to convince a rival parliament in Tobruk to agree to the deal. Given how well the civil war has been going for them lately, they may balk at its terms.
  5. While Western countries and the United Nations back Sarraj, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates support Haftar in his war against Islamists. Read more “Five Reasons to Doubt Libyan Truce Will Hold”

Egypt’s War on Sunni Supremacism Goes to Libya

From Reuters:

Egyptian airstrikes destroyed twelve vehicles loaded with arms, ammunition and explosive material trying to cross the border from Libya, the army spokesman said on Tuesday.

The airforce acted after hearing that “criminal elements” had gathered to try and cross the western boundary, the army statement said, without giving details on exactly where or when the strikes took place.

Despite the paucity of the initial report, it’s clear the Abdul Fatah al-Sisi is trying to look like he’s getting revenge for attacks on Egyptian Christians by Sunni supremacists, who are trying the same old terror tricks of the 1990s to destabilize the regime. Read more “Egypt’s War on Sunni Supremacism Goes to Libya”

Libya’s Haftar Spurns Unity Deal, Blames Militias

Libyan warlord Khalifa Haftar on Friday ruled out joining a unity government until militias that fight on its behalf disband.

“I would like to stress that Mr Sarraj relies on militia and we refuse them,” he told reporters, referring to Fayez al-Sarraj, the head of a proposed government of national accord that has been accepted by most factions.

“An army cannot unify with militias so they must be dismantled,” Haftar added. “It’s unthinkable to work with these armed factions.” Read more “Libya’s Haftar Spurns Unity Deal, Blames Militias”

Challenges as Libya Unity Leaders Win Recognition

A unity government appears to have made progress toward consolidating power in Libya in recent days, raising hopes that the North African country may finally start to put five years of unrest behind it.

But even if most warring factions recognize its authority, the challenges the new administration faces are daunting, from an economy in disarray to militant Islamists professing fealty to the Islamic State group. Read more “Challenges as Libya Unity Leaders Win Recognition”

Tripoli Islamists Make Way for Unity Government

A proposed Libyan unity government made further progress on Wednesday when an Islamist-dominated rival administration in Tripoli resigned.

“We put the interests of the nation above anything else and stress that the bloodshed [should] stop and the nation be saved from division and fragmentation,” the head of the Tripoli government said.

Now only the formerly internationally-recognized parliament in Tobruk and its military strongman, Khalifa Haftar, stand in the way of reunification.

The central bank and National Oil Corporation have both recognized the new government, which came about with mediation from the United Nations. France and Tunisia have said they will reopen their embassies in Tripoli. Read more “Tripoli Islamists Make Way for Unity Government”

Tobruk Parliament Rejects Libya Unity Government

Libya’s internationally-recognized parliament in Tobruk voted down a peace plan on Monday that was meant to end two years of rivalry with a more heavily Islamist administration in Tripoli.

A majority did support a transition plan under which a Presidential Council operates out of Tunisia. But lawmakers rejected transferring power over military appointments to this new body.

The Tobruk-based legislature is protected by Khalifa Haftar, a former army officer who now commands a private army in the east of Libya.

Haftar’s troops battle both supporters of the Tripoli-based parliament and followers of the self-declared Islamic State. Read more “Tobruk Parliament Rejects Libya Unity Government”

Libya Rivals Reach Agreement Toward Ending Division

Lawmakers from Libya’s two rival parliaments signed an agreement late on Saturday toward mending the country’s division and ending a conflict that has shimmered since dictator Muammar Gaddafi fell in 2011.

The power-sharing deal, which has yet to be ratified by the legislatures in Tripoli and Tobruk, calls for a ten-person committee — five from each side — to name an interim prime minister. It also proposes new elections within two years.

The breakthrough came at secret talks held in neighboring Tunisia, separate from United Nations-sponsored negotiations.

UN proposals for a government of national unity have gone nowhere. Read more “Libya Rivals Reach Agreement Toward Ending Division”

Republicans Miss the Point on Benghazi

Opposition Republicans interrogated former secretary of state Hillary Clinton for eleven hours last week about the September 11, 2012 attack on the American CIA and diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya that killed four Americans, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens.

Nothing new emerged from the marathon hearing.

The reason, argues Michael Brendan Dougherty at The Week, is that Republicans keep missing the point.

They keep dragging Clinton — who is likely to nominated as the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate later this year — before Congress trying to prove an imagined conspiracy in which she and the president, Barack Obama, deliberately kept the facts of the Benghazi attack from the public so as not to hurt their party’s chances in the November 2012 election.

The administration did misinform the public about the nature of the Libya attack, claiming at first — without concrete proof — that it was triggered by an American-made anti-Islam video that also inspired violent demonstrations in neighboring Egypt.

The actual motivations of the attack — beyond “terrorists” wanting to kill Americans — remain unclear, though, in no small part because Republican investigators aren’t doing their jobs. Read more “Republicans Miss the Point on Benghazi”