Turkey's Neo-Ottoman grand idea will be judged in Libya

Ω Nefeli Lygerou
Turkey's Neo-Ottoman grand idea will be judged in Libya, Nefeli Lygerou

Libya is a country of strategic importance in the center of the Mediterranean, which is in the vortex of civil war. The Western intervention may have overthrown the Qaddafi regime, but left in its place a geopolitical black hole, in which all kinds of jihadists and warlords found breathing space.

Today, the picture, at this time, has more or less taken shape. On the one hand is the internationally recognized Sarraj government based in Tripoli and on the other the internationally recognized Parliament and Haftar's army. While in 2019 Haftar's forces had undertaken the siege of Tripoli, the massive decisive military intervention of Turkey reversed the course of events.

It stabilized the besieged Sarraj government and allowed its forces, backed by thousands of jihadists transferred from Syria, to counterattack and gain ground, although much of Libya is still controlled by Haftar's forces. Following the bombing of Turkish troops at al-Watiya air base, Erdogan is on standby, but this cannot be maintained indefinitely.

The stated goal, of Sarraj and his Turkish allies, is to occupy Sirte on the coast and Al Jufra air base, which is located further south inland. If this succeeds, it will have operationally paved the way for the occupation of Cyrenaica, eastern Libya. Above all, however, Sarraj will have taken control of most oil fields, pipelines and terminals.

The bombing of al-Watiya

This task, however, is both militarily and politically very difficult. This is because powerful powers such as Egypt, France and Russia are hostile to this project, each for its own reasons. The Sisi regime has warned that an attack on Sirte and Al Jufra would cause the Egyptian army to enter the Libyan front, which, due to its proximity, would have an operational advantage.

Egypt will also have France, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia behind it. But the Russians, who are seeking a compromise with the Turks in Libya, are unwilling to tolerate the country's transformation into a Turkish protectorate. The bombing of al-Watiya was a clear message to Erdogan about the determination of his opponents.

Even the Russians, who made it clear that they had no involvement, would probably have noticed the fighters flying to al-Watiya, but did nothing to warn the Turks. It is possible that they were informed. Despite Ankara's efforts to downplay the blow it has received both operationally and politically to its prestige, it is obliged to re-weigh things and think long before launching an attack on the Sirte - Al Jufra line.

Diplomacy did not mean much to Erdogan, but he fully understood the heavy air strike. In fact, his opponents have shown Erdogan that he has exceeded his boundaries and that if he continues like this, he will face tangible answers. As mentioned above, it is now clear that Turkey has an informal coalition of forces against it.

Erdogan and Sarraj want Sirte

Everything shows that the French have crossed the Rubicon. Egypt has not only sent its ultimatum, but also the internationally recognized Libyan Parliament, as well as the Tribal Council have formally asked Cairo to intervene militarily to protect Libya from the Turks. The message of the Arab League is on the same wavelength.

The Arab League clarified that it "rejects the illegal Turkish interference in the internal affairs of the Arab countries, especially in Iraq, Syria and Libya", as stated by the Secretary General of the Organization Ahmed Aboul Gait. Although Putin does not want to break with Erdogan, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said his country is launching an initiative for an immediate ceasefire agreement and expects a positive response from Ankara.

At present, Turkey and Sarraj do not seem to be accepting a peaceful settlement within today's borders. Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said talks could only begin after the Sarraj government's occupation of Sirte and Al Jufra.

Erdogan wants an American involvement

To strengthen his position, Erdogan is trying to involve the Americans in Libya, arguing that this is the only way to prevent the Russians from gaining a second foothold in the Mediterranean. This is what Erdogan said to Trump and in a telephone conversation they agreed to work more closely in Libya.

Washington has even begun alleging violations of the United Nations arms embargo on Libya, which is ironic if one considers that it is Turkey that has completely blatantly violated it, with total disdain for international rules! Once again, the US is proving to have selective sensitivities.

Now the US have leveled allegations against the Russian mercenaries for sowing mines. "Verified photographic evidence shows the traps and minefields that were placed indiscriminately around the region of Tripoli and up to Sirte from mid-June."

Libya is a pressure cooker ready to blow

The only thing for sure is that Libya resembles a boiling cauldron. The question is when the lid will be blown off. Arab media claim, citing satellite images, that in the past 24 hours, Ankara has sent to Libya additional armored vehicles, air defense systems, guns, ammunition, missiles, machine guns and other heavy military equipment.

But the same is true of Haftar's camp. Egypt has sent military equipment, and its own forces have lined up at the border, ready to enter Libya in the event of an attack on Sirte and Al Jufra. At the same time, efforts are being stepped up to reach an agreement, first on a ceasefire and then on a political solution to the civil war.

At the moment, however, it does not seem that such efforts will bear fruit. If Turkey insists on the announced attack, it will probably come into direct conflict with Egypt. In such a case, the Turks will have to fight away from their country, with Greece standing between Turkey and Libya, while the Egyptians will simply need to cross the border, having secure supply lines.

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