I am always suspicious of reports of this type but what they often do is project what a country wants the public to think is happening. This report
comes courtesy of anonymous senior US officials who claim that the meddling is by several Middle Eastern countries including the UAE and Egypt on the side of the internationally recognized government in Tobruk led by Al-Thinni and Qatar on the side of Islamist militias such as Libya Dawn in Tripoli.
senior Libya analyst with the International Crisis group, believes that Egypt has undermined diplomatic efforts to find a solution by encouraging Haftar to attack with the blessing of the Tobruk Al-Thinni government. This support has led the eastern forces to think they can retake the whole country and also to launch air strikes in Tripoli and elsewhere. This may be correct but from his very first attempt at a coup
in February of this year Haftar has exuded confidence even when he was extremely weak and his coup attempt completely fizzled. When he started Operation Dignity
, groups loyal to him still controlled Benghazi and Tripoli with the Zintan brigades responsible for security at the International Airport — even though they were the same group who sacked and burned the parliament as part of Operation Dignity. Militias from Misrata and elsewhere came to Tripoli and formed the umbrella group Libya Dawn that took the airport away from the Zintan brigades and also occupied all of Tripoli and set up a competing government. Benghazi was also taken over by an umbrella group of militias opposed to Haftar including the militant Ansar al-Sharia group.
The Reuters article
Washington says it has spent months trying to ease rivalries inside and outside Libya. In September, Secretary of State John Kerry met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Cairo and urged him to let Libyans decide their own fate.In November, American officials threatened to impose sanctions on Libyan factions who continued fighting, and urged regional powers to back dialogue, not military action
The Al-Thinni government gave Haftar the green light
to retake Benghazi and Tripoli. Haftar even boasted
about his campaigns to retake Benghazi and Tripoli. There were no sanctions forthcoming from the US or anyone else nor did the US do anything to prevent Egypt from its continuing support for Haftar. If the US were serious about ensuring that the diplomatic process worked, it has the ability to punish the Tobruk government which is in great need of international support. After all, on November 6th the Libyan Supreme Court declared the June elections unconstitutional and that the Tobruk House of Representatives should be dissolved.
It certainly is possible that the US is worried that Haftar is not up to the job of taking control of Libya. The US may very well hope that the talks tomorrow do fail. This is likely independent of any foreign meddling since the Al Thinni government
has placed impossible conditions on there being any dialogue:
Thinni laid down new conditions for talks with the rival government, asking the Tripoli administration to recognize the elected parliament first, the website said. Armed groups such as Dawn also had to withdraw from the capital.
As the bombings and attacks by Haftar continued, prime minister Omar al-Hasi of the Tripoli government also rejected dialogue. The key to what may happen in the next while is to be found in a statement
of a number of countries on the talks and the situation in Libya:
France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom, the United States, the EU and the UN reiterated their calls for an immediate cessation of hostilities and underscored their willingness, if key stakeholders fail to participate in the UN-led process, to consider additional measures to protect Libya's unity, stability and prosperity, and to counter expanding terrorist threats to Libya and the region.
The last part of the statement ties the consequences of a failed dialogue into the US favorite narrative for intervention the war on terror and radical Islam. There certainly are radical Islamists in Libya. There have been for decades. Gadaffi put them in jail and often tortured suspected militants. The CIA even rendered one prominent Libyan rebel Abdelhakim Belhadj
to be jailed in Libya by Gadaffi. Now the internationally recognized Libyan government in Tobruk has been bombing its own people in the name of combating terrorism. This is a repeat of the Gadaffi narrative. However, this time it is American citizen, and probable former CIA asset Haftar who is doing the bombing and with the support of Egypt.
If the UN talks fail then Haftar will not be punished for assuring they failed — he will have even more help to "counter expanding terrorist threats to Libya and the region." This is what Haftar's Operation Dignity was supposed to be all about.
Dr. Theodore Karasik
is the Director of Research and Consultancy at the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis (INEGMA) in Dubai, UAE. He is also a Lecturer at University of Wollongong Dubai. Dr. Karasik received his Ph.D in History from the University of California Los Angeles. Dr. Karasik wrote in an article
in June that analyzed the situation as he saw it then:
Remarkably, it seems that President Obama’s new national security doctrine is at work: Egypt, along with General Haftar, are taking the lead on reversing Libya’s decline with back-up support from America. This move should be interpreted for exactly what it is: Egypt and allies are helping General Haftar first and foremost and relying on America for partnership through a stand-by position in this particular case. America has no appetite to get involved fully in Libyan and Egyptian affairs in North Africa.
However now the Haftar, Egypt, mission is not delivering. If the talks fail tomorrow as the US officials believe, this will trigger additional measures to counter the expanding terrorist threat in Libya. A number of countries have already signed on for a possible round two of international intervention in Libya. Dr. Karasik
Will General Haftar be the next charismatic, nationalist leader of Libya? General Haftar’s vision for Libya seems to be already in place and his appeal to a good number of Libyans is evident. With additional victories and the wiping out of the opposition, General Haftar’s portrait will soon be posted not only on buildings and streets but across cyberspace. General Haftar has already congratulated President Sisi for his victory. Will President Sisi congratulate a President Haftar in the near future?