From the archive of Abdelrahim Ali
Keynote speech by Dr Abdel Rahim Ali on Turkish interference in Libya: Reasons and results
We will discuss today an issue that threatens peace, not only in the Middle East region, but also across the world. However, I want to invite your attention to two important points:
- We cannot separate Turkish interference in the Middle East region from the dreams of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to revive the geographic boundaries of the Ottoman caliphate. Erdogan is using political Islam, including the Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) to fulfill his dream.
- We cannot differentiate between these dreams and Erdogan's desire to create a support base for him in Europe. He encourages is supporters within European societies not to integrate into these societies, in a desperate attempt to put pressure on European governments.
Erdogan started interfering in Libya at the end of 2019 after signing memos on the delimitation of maritime boundaries and security cooperation with Fayez al-Sarraj, the prime minister of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord(GNA).
Nonetheless, it is important to know the situation in Libya before Erdogan's interference. The Libyan National Army (LNA), which is commanded by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, and the House of Deputies, which is headed by Aguila Saleh, used to control 83% of all Libyan territories. The LNA was close to entering Tripoli and unifying Libya.
By signing the aforementioned memos with Turkey, al-Sarraj, abetted by the Muslim Brotherhood and Qatar, wanted to create new realities in Libya.
The Egyptian intervention in Libya, one instituted by the redlines announced by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, was seminal because it sabotaged Turkey's colonial plans.
Egypt showed firmness in dealing with attempts to change Libya's geography by Erdogan and the Syrian mercenaries he transferred to Libya.
Before Egypt intervened, the Turkey succeeded in helping the GNA and its militias control 30% of Libyan territories.
Erdogan laid out the following seven objectives for his interference in Libya:
First, he wants to get a share of Libyan energy. Turkey imports the equivalent of $50 billion in energy products every year.
Second, he wants to control some of Libya's natural gas fields in the Mediterranean. The coast off the area controlled by the GNA has confirmed natural gas reserves of 100 million cubic meters. Turkey wants to have the lion's share in these reserves at the expense of Egypt, Greece and Cyprus.
Third, he wants to have the lion's share in Libya's reconstruction. In 2010 and 2011, Turkish contractors signed $28.9 billion in reconstruction contracts in Libya.
Fourth, he wants to rescue the Turkish lira. The Central Bank of Libya transferred $4 billion to this Central Bank of Turkey this year alone.
Fifth, he wants to offer additional support to the Muslim Brotherhood in North Africa.
Sixth, he wants to come close to Egypt, Turkey's traditional Middle East rival.
Seventh, he wants to put pressure on Europe, using the refugees' card.
Interference and violations
1 – Turkey started offering military support to the militias affiliated to the GNA as of January 202. This support came in the following forms:
First, launching an airlift from Turkish airbases to Misurata and Mitiga bases in the period between January 2020 and September 2020.
Turkey sent between three and four cargo planes to Libya every day. In the first half of 2020, Turkey sent over 300 flights to Libya.
Second, Turkey sent up to 12,000 mercenaries from Syria to western Libya, including 400 children less than 18 years old. The mercenaries get $2,000 a month. Those injured in Libya get compensation up to $50,000. The families of the mercenaries get $100,000 in compensation if they are killed in Libya.
Third, Turkey deployed an advanced air defense system in al-Wattiya base in western Libya.
Fourth, Turkey sent advanced military defense systems to Libya.
Fifth, it sold over 100 drones to the GNA. Over 60 of these drones were downed by the LNA.
Turkey also sent some of its military commanders to act as advisors for the GNA militias.
The United Nations prepares to hold a conference on October 15. The conference will take place in three places, namely Malta, Geneva and the coastal Tunisian city of Djerba.
Attending the conference will be 70 Libyan figures who represent all Libyan parties. The conference, according to U.S. President Donald Trump, will aim to form a presidential council in Libya. The council will be made of a president and two vice-presidents.
An interim government of national unity will be formed in Sirte. There will also be a legislative council that will be made of the eastern Libya parliament and the Supreme State Council which is based in Tripoli. The legislative council will be headed by someone from southern Libya. The council will expire after 18 months, a period during which preparations will be made for presidential and parliamentary elections.
There are also attempts to unify the Libyan security establishment.
The heads of what are known as sovereign institutions will also be named, including the heads of the Central Bank of Libya, the National Oil Corporation and the Libyan Investment Authority.
The problem, however, is that Libya's Muslim Brotherhood, which is backed by both Turkey and Qatar, will try to sabotage efforts aiming at finding a political settlement to the conflict in Libya. They will also try to carve a niche for themselves inside the new Libyan institutions.
The areas controlled by the GNA, namely Tripoli, Zawiya, and Misurata have at least a million Libyans living in them. Between 2.5 and 3 million Libyan citizens live in the areas controlled by the LNA. Most of those living in the aforementioned cities did not vote for the Muslim Brotherhood in the last elections.
This is why there are expectations that the Muslim Brotherhood will try to rig or control the vote in any coming elections.
Turkey and Qatar agree that any political settlement in Libya will not give them what they want in the country. This is why they will do their best to sabotage efforts aiming at bringing about a peaceful settlement to the conflict in Libya.
Turkey will not let go the gains it made in Turkey. The Muslim Brotherhood and the GNA will not accept that Turkey does not become party to any future deal in Libya.
Nonetheless, this will open the door for a major crisis. Egypt will not allow Turkey to be present in Libya. It considers this presence occupation. Libyan tribes will not allow anybody to hamper efforts aiming at bringing about a political settlement to the conflict in Libya. This makes the possibility of an Egyptian interference very tangible. However, Erdogan might act against this interference which will threaten world peace.
The only solution then is for international institutions, including the United Nations and the European Union to put pressure so that Libyans can conduct a healthy dialogue with each other. This will help the Libyans agree on holding fair elections and reconstructing their country.
Thanks so much for listening.