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Op-Ed: Libya’s Marshal Haftar apparently did not ask Russia for arms

Haftar is commander of the Libyan National Army(LNA) the armed forces associated with the Al-Thinni government of the House of Representatives based in Tobruk. Haftar had visited Russia in late June A report claimed that a Haftar representative, Abdel Badri, met recently with Russian officials according to a diplomatic source close to the situation: “The meeting really did take place. Badri came to Moscow for one day. During talks with Bogdanov, they discussed the issue of lifting the embargo on arms supplies. Libyans are asking us to send them small arms, but also equipment, including planes. Also, they asked Moscow to start an anti-Islamist military operation in Libya that is similar to the one in Syria.”

However, a source , said to be close to Haftar, said that the envoy’s mission had “nothing to do with arms deliveries” and had no special message. This would not have been the first time that the eastern-based HoR had asked for Russian help. Last year PM Abdullah al-Thinni had said that he would welcome Russian aid in operations against the Islamic State. Russian columnist Sergei Ishchenko said that some Libyans were trying to draw Russia into a senseless war. He describes the war in 2011 with the NATO attacks and support of anti-Gadaffi rebels as senseless. Russia actually supported the UN resolution for a No-Fly zone allegedly to protect civilians but the actions of NATO went far beyond what Russia had envisioned.

Ischenko said the present Libyan situation was a mess “where tribes whose loyalties are unclear slaughter one another, storming government buildings and burning international airports. Daesh militants hang out out in the open in government dachas of the Gaddafi government and prepare for new battles in Syria. A countless stream of refugees from all across Africa race endlessly to Europe, while Europeans argue in confusion about who is to blame for the crisis.” “And it’s definitely not Russia,” Ishchenko stressed. “But we are the ones being called to clean someone else’s dirty military and political laundry…”

Ischenko sees no good reason for Russia to be involved with Syria. Russia alreads has more than enough on its plate trying to sort out the situation in Syria. Ischenko suggests that those who are responsible for the present situation such as the US and France should help sort out Libya’s problems not Russia. While Ischenko said Russia should support the efforts of other countres to stablize the country, it should not get involved itself. He praised the US bombing of Sirte to help Libyan forces defeat the Islamic State. Ischenko said that Russia was not anxious to be involved in any further anti-terrorist operations especially with someone such as Haftar who he points out is widely believed to be a CIA agent.

Perhaps, Ischenko is correct that Russia does not want to get directly or deeply involved in Libya, certainly not with troops on the ground. Nevertheless, it is clear that Russia is trying to develop relations with the HoR and Haftar as a means of increasing its power in Africa and no doubt creating good relations with Egypt, the UAE and other supporters of Haftar. Since Russia also gives lip service to supporting the Government of National Accord GNA as the sole Libyan government it is not likely to provide arms in any open manner but will continue to claim support for the arms embargo that would not allow Russia to legally provide arms to Haftar.

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