Khalifa Haftar, whom the Western media believe the main creature of Moscow in Libya and the potential recipient of arms deliveries from Russia, won another victory over the local jihadists than it has significantly strengthened its position. The West sees the Haftarot a threat and a potential dictator. Moscow – a chance for Libya. Who is right this time?
Although the focus of the Russian media remains the conflict in Syria, last week more significant events occurred on the Libyan front in the war with ISIS*. “Libyan national army” under the command of field Marshal Khalifa the Haftarot of Belkacem won an impressive victory over the extremist and terrorist groups in the East of the country. Namely, completely liberated from the militants is the second largest city in Libya Benghazi, thus completing the motion on 16 January operation “the Right of the Martyr.”
“In 1987, the Haftarot were captured by Chadian troops backed by France and Qaddafi officially denied the presence of Libyan military in Africa, have renounced their own officer”
At the same time, moving South of Libya, the Haftarot forces clashed with the forces loyal to the Government of national unity, which Haftar himself did not recognize. This caused obvious concern in the UN and in the West, where support STUMP and see what is happening the risk of launching a new full-scale confrontation. That is the strength of the national unity Government assumed a major role in the liberation “of the Libyan capital of ISIS” – Sirte. However, they strongly oppose the Haftarot, accusing him of wanting to impose on Libya a military dictatorship. In the West the Haftarot are perceived as the main competitor of the STUMP, the appearance of which, according to the plan the UN has to unite a divided country. The advance of the field Marshal to the South is annotated as “provocation”.
Officially, Russia also supports the STUMP, although stressed that talks with the other members of the political conflict. For its part, the STUMP also applies to Russia, emphasized friendly, including as a mediator. In early January, Deputy Prime Minister STUMP, Ahmed Mitig even claimed that “Libya is ready to accept any initiative of Russia to establish political dialogue in the country”, explaining that Moscow “has a balanced position and good relations with all parties”.
But things have a STUMP going, to put it lightly, and Western media insist Russia is inclined to support the Haftarot, which controls all fields especially in the oil-rich East of the country. Reasons to think they have more than enough. Last year, the commander stated his agreement with the Russian middle East policy and has twice visited Moscow (in September, according to some data, he had a meeting with Mikhail Bogdanov, the special representative of Vladimir Putin on the Middle East). And on January 11, according to the defense Ministry, the field Marshal visited the Russian cruiser “Admiral Kuznetsov”, where he met with Vice-Admiral Viktor Sokolov, and took part in the videoconference with defence Minister Sergei Shoigu.
“Admiral Kuznetsov” was off the coast of Libya not casually – the cruiser left the port of Syrian Tartus in the composition of the carrier strike group of the Northern fleet, fulfilling the order of downsizing the Russian military grouping. And a meeting with Russian servicemen held in fact, in Libya, was to demonstrate to the political rivals of the Haftarot that he is ready to cooperate with Russia not less closely than the late leader Muammar Gaddafi.
On Thursday, the Italian La Stampa wrote that Russia is ready to supply the forces of field Marshal weapons for a total amount of 2 billion dollars, raising thereby the agreement with Gaddafi in 2008. And in order to circumvent the UN embargo, Russia allegedly “ready to act according to the scheme of the triangle, with the participation of Algeria, a long time ally of Moscow”. The publication claims that the agreement to this effect was achieved both times aboard the “Kuznetsov”. The side of the Haftarot has described these agreements as the supply of spare parts for Russian weapons systems used by the Libyan national army.
He Haftar hopes that it is an effective and uncompromising fighter against extremism – will also support the new US President Donald trump. This has not happened yet, but is that really the chances of field Marshal to push the UN supported the government to unite Libya under his leadership?
Instead Of Gaddafi
Khalifa Haftar is the most prominent figure among the veterans of the Libyan policy. As a young officer, he was in a group the coup, in 1969 overthrew king Idris as-of Sanusi under the leadership of Muammar Gaddafi. The proximity to the “leader” has determined the fate of the Haftarah to the mid-eighties he had already received the title of field Marshal. But his future political exaltation has prevented military conflict between Libya and Chad. In 1987, the Haftarot and his subordinates captured by Chadian troops backed by France and Qaddafi officially denied the presence of Libyan military in Africa, have renounced their own officer.
After this, the disgraced captain was released the US, where he spent the next twenty years of his life, being sentenced in absentia to death by a Libyan military Tribunal. Naturally Haftar was the American “fallback” for Libya, waiting for the right moment to “join the game”. That moment came twice. In 1996, Haftar tried to lead a rebellion in the mountains of southern Libya, but it failed. The next attempt to lead the revolutionary movement against Gaddafi he has made during the “Arab spring”, returning to Libya in 2011.
Thanks to old contacts and the support of the US Haftar quickly joined the revolutionary movement and became the third most important person in the “National liberation army of Libya”, fighting with the Gaddafi regime. However, the distrust of the national Transitional Council of Libya/General national Council made him “go his way”. By 2014, the country again plunged into civil war, this time between the above-mentioned General national Congress, mainly composed of representatives of the Libyan “Muslim brotherhood” in Tripoli, the Presidential Council/Government of national unity is also in Tripoli and the House of representatives, the elected Parliament of the country, settled in Tobruk. Haftar was on the side of Tobruk, leading the “Libyan national army” to unite in its ranks as former supporters of Gaddafi and the “secular” opposition.
Today the confrontation is still ongoing, and the field Marshal Haftar calls his main goal which is the fight against the Islamists and the subsequent unification of the country.
The issue of support
Despite a controversial biography, the Haftarot a sufficient number of supporters in the divided state in the moment the citizens of Libya residing in Tobruk, Tripoli and Benghazi, more willing to stand on the side of the strong “authoritarian leader” than will be to understand the complex political intricacies. Since the death of Gaddafi “democratic change” brought the country stability the country is governed by three government (in Tripoli at the same time are just two), each of which is directly or indirectly opposed to another.
To the external observer it may seem that the figure of the Haftarot odious, but the other “candidates in the lead” Libya look even more strange: the self-proclaimed head of the government of the Caliph al-Guella does not recognize the UN and, as recent events show, he is not shy to openly terrorist methods of struggle for power, and the head of a government of national unity fees As-Sarraj unpopular and does not have access to any serious levers of the country.
In connection with the recent events the chief analyst for Libya, “International crisis group,” Claudia Gazzini said the publication of The Financial Times: “a year ago I would have said that he (Haftar) is futile, but the mood changed, especially in the West, and support Saraga and his government has become much weaker.”
In this situation, the Haftarah must first international recognition, and the field Marshal is making every possible effort to achieve it. Russia is only one of the possible success. Due to its enmity with the “Muslim brotherhood” field Marshal have not only the patronage of Saudi Arabia, but also partner relations with Egypt under President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi.
Somaliazation of Libya, following the fall of the Gaddafi regime, to a large extent affected the interests of neighbouring Egypt. The Sinai Peninsula has become the end point of the routes of illegal shipments of weapons from the territory of the former Jamahiriya, and the ISIS militants occupied the surroundings of Tripoli, managed to bring a lot of troubles to Egyptian citizens. For example, two years ago, the Internet was published a video with footage of the murder of Egyptian Copts, fishing in the area of the Libyan-Egyptian border and missing a month earlier. Cairo has responded very harshly, not waiting for prior approval of the United States or the UN security Council: the next day after the publication of the video, the Egyptian air force supported by Libyan military launched a heavy attack on the terrorists ‘ positions in the Libyan city of Derna. According to the data obtained media from anonymous sources, the bombing preceded the ground operation, in which Egyptian soldiers were taken prisoner 55 militants.
A year later, on 28 January 2016, after a six-day visit of Prime Minister of a national unity Government Libya’s Faesa As-Caraga Egypt called for and Khalifa Haftar. The Egyptian government has not commented on the visit and negotiations between the field Marshal and his Egyptian colleagues, but in light of the numerous summer visits of the Haftarah was quite obvious that on the background of the prolonged political crisis Tobruk began to rely on Cairo as a potential strategic partner able to assist in the struggle with political rivals and extremists, affiliated with ISIS, and with “Brothers-Moslems”.
At the moment, Khalifa the Haftarot enough problems. His elimination is still a priority goal of the Islamist paramilitary organization “Dawn Libya”. But political rivals from the New General national Congress, according to some, a serious support of Turkey, Qatar and Sudan, and hardly temper their ambitions, even after the possible removal of a national unity Government and complete takeover of Tripoli.
Until recently, the already tense political situation in Libya is complicated by the problem of the occupied ISIS Sirte, but the United States in December last year, operation “Lightning Odyssey”, at least temporarily, solved this problem. We can assume that in light of the recent Syrian events of peredoziruet jihadists in Libya and the problem of “touring” the terrorists will again become relevant.
Most likely, now Khalifa Haftar expects final third “round” of the civil war in Libya and continues to actively prepare for it. Hardly the question of lifting the arms embargo, which presses the official Tobruk, plays such an important role – most likely Egypt and Saudi Arabia have already established the supply of arms for the “Libyan national army” on the shadow and unaccountable logistics channels. The greater importance here is the question of finding strategic partners and investors that can support the future government of a unified Libya, which without any doubt will face many external and internal political challenges.
* Organization in respect of which the court accepted entered into legal force decision on liquidation or ban the activities on the grounds stipulated by the Federal law “On countering extremist activity”