Erdogan paid in kind, in Libya - One step before all-out war

Ω Nefeli Lygerou

The conflict in Libya is taking a new turn after the bombing by unidentified fighters of the largest air base Al Watiya, which is located 140 kilometers southwest of Tripoli. The bombing came after Turkish Defense Minister Akar's visit to western Libya. The attack targeted anti-aircraft systems installed by the Turks.

It should be noted that until about a month and a half ago, this important base was in the hands of Haftar's forces. It was recaptured by forces of the Sarraj government forces with the decisive contribution of Turkey and effectively handed over to the Turkish forces that have been transferred to western Libya. Ankara has made no secret of its intention to set up a naval base and another air base in the African country.

The bombing, however, on Saturday night was a major blow not only to the government of Tripoli, but also directly to Turkey. The devastation was generally widespread. An Egyptian channel has released videos of the bombing that completely destroyed Turkish Hawk medium-range anti-aircraft systems and three radars.

"The bombing of the al-Watiya base was carried out by a cowardly foreign air force supporting the war criminal (Khalifa Haftar) in a desperate attempt to achieve a moral victory," said Salah al-Namous, Saraj's deputy defense minister. Sarraj himself has threatened retaliation.

Although both Tripoli and Ankara have avoided naming the attackers, the initial information that the perpetrators were Russian fighters in eastern Libya was quickly refuted. Arab Weekly cites well-informed sources, which point in two other directions: Egypt and France.

The fighters that carried out the attack were Rafale. Only these two countries have them. The crucial question now is how Erdogan will react. Until now, it has only been Turkey that has used military force to advance its political goals. We have seen this in the Cypriot EEZ and in Syria and Libya, without so far encountering resistance of the same nature.

A first

This is the first time that Turkey has been paid in the same currency, which certainly marks a qualitative shift in geopolitical competition in the Mediterranean. The Turkish Ministry of Defense has released a video about the possibility of aerial refueling of Turkish F-16s, in order to carry out long-range attacks.

Is this a pre-announcement of some kind of military response? And if this incident against whom will the Turkish Air Force attempt to strike? Against Haftar's forces, or against Egyptian targets? It is difficult to imagine that he will attack the French.

Erdogan has shown what the goal will be. "The Jufra air base has been designated as the new military target along with the city of Sirte, following the clearing of Tripoli and its environs of Haftar elements, the Turkish presidency said in a statement. Jufra and Sirte set a strategic line for control of eastern Libya. Its occupation is a clear target of the Sarraj government, but also of Erdogan.

The lines have been drawn

On the other hand, this same line has been officially designated a red line not only by Egypt but also by Moscow. And not unjustly, since if Sarraj's forces occupy Sirte and Jufra, they will have essentially opened the door for the occupation of Cyrenaica (eastern Libya). A Turkish attack on this axis will inevitably provoke the immediate intervention of the Egyptian armed forces, a fact that will immediately bring Egypt and Turkey face to face.

The Prime Minister Sarraj of the internationally recognized government is asking for support from the EU and European countries, through his intervention in the German newspaper Die Welt. "For more than 14 months, our capital and the surrounding western region of Libya have been under siege by the illegal and immoral attack of a ruthless general."

In reality, however, such interventions do not have the potential to affect things. On the Libyan front, the lines have generally been drawn: On the one hand, there is the Tripoli government and Turkey with Qatar. They can, under certain conditions, hope for some diplomatic support from Washington and London.

On the other side are Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. Greece had diplomatically supported Haftar's side, but has recently distanced itself, and this became clear when Greek FM Dendias visited the Libyan parliament speaker a few days ago, but avoided meeting Haftar. It was a clear message of distancing.

There is no doubt that Libya will also play a leading role in the talks that the Italian Minister of Defense will have today in Ankara. According to the statement, he will "hold talks on regional issues and recent developments in Libya with his Turkish counterpart."

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