Libya Tribune

By Ferruccio Michelin

After the attempted coup, the militia chief of Cyrenaica received little consensus. Indeed, some of its sponsors have abandoned it. 

The Libyan warlord is in trouble, weakened on the ground and politically, and no one will be able to formally support him in such a delicate moment for the country.

On Thursday evening, the president of the Libyan House of Representatives, Aguila Saleh , made it publicly known that his political roadmap, announced last week, had been planned with Russia.

Saleh, the highest representative of the legislative assembly based in Tobruk and recognized by the UN, is a sailed politician born in al Qubbah (in Cyrenaica), with a very strong fabric of regional relations, excellent relations with Saudi intelligence and with the ‘Egypt.

For years it has been the drinking background of the warlord of the East, Khalifa Haftar, but currently there is a furrow between the two.

The initiative launched on April 23, Saleh explains to Agenzia Nova, “aims to get the country out of the crisis with minimal damage”, and then adds that “there is no contradiction” between his idea and “the general’s decision Haftar to abandon the Skhirat agreement and get the country out of the political impasse. “

But there is a rift that affects the heart of Haftarian power: there is a number of figures, first of all Saleh, who have felt the need to revive the political path.

And the two situations, beyond the public statements, seem clearly connected ”, explains Daniele Ruvinetti , expert and knowledgeable expert on the situation in Libya, to Formiche.net .

When Ruvinetti speaks of a coup, he refers to Haftar’s attempt to take over the country, with a televised coup launched on Monday seeking everything.

The problem is now evident: Haftar proposes a model that Libyans do not want. Libya is not Egypt – Ruvinetti continues – nobody wants a militarist regime (the problem of illiberal control of the territory had been highlighted on these columns also by Federica Saini Fasanotti of the Brookings Institution)”.

And then “his military campaign on Tripoli has created deaths and further imbalances in the country, wasting time for the reconstruction of Libya (an action between” the ridiculous and the tragic “, commented Pierferdinando Casini on Formiche.net.)”.

In Cyrenaica, adds Ruvinetti, “he has lost control of the community: now he is no longer even seen as strong man, families mourn their dead children during those fights that, launched on April 4, 2019, Haftar promised that they would last only a few weeks. And instead we are over a year old: a year of victims, many civilians “.

Last year in these times, Haftar declared that he wanted to enter Tripoli and Misrata, welcomed with applause: he spoke of a mission of liberation, but what is evident – now as then – is that Haftar will never be able to take Tripoli, let alone Misrata.

It’s a clear problem: he has always had few men, so he had to send inexperienced children to the front to which he promised military honors with a quick mission.

Gradually, given the inconsistency of his forces, also helped by the external actors who support him (over all the United Arab Emirates) he has strengthened his units with Sudanese mercenaries and Chadans, and some more qualified department of Wagner (a company of Russian military contractor, very close to the Kremlin, who sent his men as advisors behind Haftar).

The fact, however, is that now you can see the difference. On the Tripolitania side the Libyans fight, motivated to reject what they see as a dictator, a repetition of history. On the other, mercenaries far from motivated, with in the background a population from the east who no longer wants to fight for Haftar.

The picture is clear: perhaps the idea of the coup is linked to this crisis too? Exactly.

Weak in popular support, lost the political push guaranteed by Saleh and the ghost government of Beyda (a parallel and not officially recognized executive who guides some decisions in Cyrenaica), without especially the military sprint, he tried the surprise move.

But it seems more like a demonstration of weakness. And the fact that he proposed the ceasefire two days ago to respect Ramadan is also an indication of difficulty. “

Truce that Haftar has already said it will not be final because he wants to continue the military operation. “Ah certainly! Haftar shows that his intention has always been to conquer Libya with weapons.

And then – continues Ruvinetti – it remains firm that we will have to see if he will respect it, because he usually does not respect what he promises.

It was certainly a clever proposal, he knows that Tripoli, a recognized executive, cannot back down from certain offers, although at this time Fayez Serraj’s National Agreement Government seems to have an interest in proceeding with the counter-offensive.

What is the situation on the ground actually like?

Libya has accustomed us to rapid changes: just four months, Haftar seemed on the verge of conquering the country with weapons, but within the last ten days the situation has completely reversed.

The GNA pushed on the positions conquered by Haftar west of Tripoli and has taken over all that coastal strip. Then he counterattacked towards Tarhouna, a very important city because it was the last logistical support for the offensive.

Now Tarhouna is practically lost to him, his men are surrounded as well as in al Watiya, a large base that Haftar exploits as the momentum of the Tripolina campaign. And also south of the capital it has lost ground. They are under siege, with supplies constantly bombed.

What has changed?

There is that series of contributing factors that we have talked about, there is as said the little consistency of his men, and then I believe that the effects of the Turkish presence on the side of the Gna are beginning to be felt.

Haftar has lost the air superiority, guaranteed so far by the Chinese-made drones that the United Arab Emirates had made available to it. 

Turkey, after a close military cooperation agreement between Recep Tayyp Erdogan and Serraj, has sent jammers and anti-aircraft systems, highly efficient drones, advisors of special units and Turkmen guerrillas trained in Syria to Libya “.

Recently there have also been reports of F-16s sent from Turkey to hit Libya, but Ankara has made no official statements. On the other hand, the Libyan skies are very busy right now.

In recent days, the Tripoli government has asked France for an explanation as to why three Rafale fighter-bombers and a tanker plane were over the combat areas east of the capital – it is worth mentioning that the relations between Paris and the GNA have long been very long. delicate, given that the French have provided clandestine support in Haftar in recent years and kept an ambiguous attitude on the Libyan dossier.

Turning to the more political issue on the future of the country, it seems clear at this point that there is a very broad picture, ranging from those problems of tightness in its hypothetical heartland to the almost breaking of the offensive front.

And so? “Moscow and Cairo have had very negative reactions on the decision of the militia leader of Cyrenaica to attempt the coup. And this is already a signal in itself. That is why I believe that the re-balancing of the forces on the pitch could lead to important changes towards a compromise.

We are entering a phase in which the international community has room to recover lost ground with the Berlin conference. The situation – added the expert – got worse with the emergence of the coronavirus and after the resignation of the UN delegate. Now, however, these can also be justifications for opening a dialogue between the parties based on necessity “.

According to Ruvinetti “the future of Libya at this point will have to go through an agreement between tribes, which clearly also includes a stabilization between external actors”.

Far from easy. “True, but today who can give gratitude to a general who wants to make a coup while there is a political process underway, while his country is suffering from an epidemic and while the new generations die from a conflict that the Libyans don’t want to? “

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