Libya: Conflict Escalates Between Military Leaders in the Government of National Accord

The manifestations of division and disagreements between the symbols of power that control the West of Libya are numerous in a scene where there is an unceasing struggle for influence, fuelled by personal and Brotherhood agendas,  linked to the Turkish expansion project in Libya and the region.

These differences began to escalate dramatically after Fayez al-Sarraj expressed his intention to resign from his post, and the announcement of the oil production and export agreement between the Libyan army and the Vice President of the Presidency Council, Ahmed Maitiq, reviving the tensions looming over the confused relations between the pillars of the reconciliation government.

Libyan sources revealed to Al-Arab that there is an intense struggle between the military leaders of the Government of National Accord over the powers and arrangements for the next stage in the ongoing consultations within the framework of the Libyan-Libyan dialogue, a conflict that Turkey is fuelling,  as it fears a decline in influence after the resignation of Sarraj.

This conflict is currently taking place between Salah al-Din al-Nimroush, who was appointed by al-Sarraj as Minister Plenipotentiary for Defense in the Government of National Accord, and Osama al-Juwaili, commander of the Western Military Region and the Joint Operations Room of the Government of National Accord.

Al-Juwaili considers himself the most capable of assuming the Ministry of Defense in the Government of National Accord, and he raises the problem of military rank, given that Al-Juwaili has a higher rank (major general), while Al-Nimroush is a colonel, in addition to the problem of old differences between Zintan (Juwaili) and Zawiya (Al Namroush).

The harmony of the positions of Al-Juwaili and Al-Nimroush regarding rejection of the oil agreement between the Libyan army and Ahmed Maitiq, the first vice president of the Government of National Accord, could not ease the conflict between them, which is expected to worsen in the coming days due to the collapse of the reconciliation agreement signed in July 2015 between the two cities of Zawiya and Zintan.

Libyan political researcher, Kamal Al-Marasha,  believes that the motives and causes of this conflict are profound and not separate from the acute conflict developments. He said  this conflict would develop as Al-Juwaili “does not recognize the appointment of Al-Nimroush, who is affiliated with the Libyan Revolutionaries’ Chamber Brigades, based in Zawia, led by terrorist, Shaaban Hadiya, (nicknamed“Abu Ubaida”) as defense minister.

He pointed out that Al-Juwaili, who often “complained about the marginalization of the Zintan militia and the failure to provide them with financial and military capabilities, considers al-Nimroush to be ineligible to lead the Ministry of Defense, and he also criticizes al-Nimroush for his loyalty to the Muslim Brotherhood and participation in military negotiations with their Turkish ally”.

And he considered that this conflict,  likely to paralyze the Ministry of Defense in the Sarraj government, “is encouraged by Fathi Bashagha to weaken Juwaili and Nimrush together, so that he can control the capital, Tripoli, using Turkish influence and Syrian mercenaries if a military confrontation with Tripoli’s militias takes place.”

Al-Marshah stressed that the essence of the conflict “is the extent of registering loyalty to Turkey, which is considered the main controller in the game, which with Juwaili’s involvement in its project, is managing the differences so that they do not get out of hand.”

He concludes that “this conflict is likely to produce more surprises, in terms of the emergence of alliances that were not possible before, in which yesterday’s enemies are expected to become friends today, because the power equation is variable and not fixed.”

Nevertheless, observers link this conflict to the ongoing dialogues to find a political solution,  the protection of personal interests, with the frequent reports of intensive meetings and between a number of Libyan Brotherhood figures in Misrata, Libya and Istanbul, Turkey.

Libyan political and media sources said that these meetings, in which leaders of political Islam organizations and leaders of armed groups loyal to the Government of National Accord, are preparing for the upcoming negotiations on the distribution of sovereign positions, in accordance with the outcomes of the Moroccan Bouznika consultations and the Montreux meetings.

Two days ago, Ali Al-Sallabi participated in meetings in Istanbul devoted to developing new action plans to confront any emergency that may result from consultations scheduled in Switzerland during the next week to choose a new presidential council and government.

According to Kamal al-Marasha, “the Brotherhood organization, represented by leaders such as Muhammad Sawan and Ali al-Sallabi, is making great efforts to get Qatar to support the Nimroush Movement and the Libyan Revolutionaries’ Chamber at the expense of other currents, but the Turkish president still prefers Fathi Bashagha as the most capable of fulfilling future Turkish interests”.

In this context, he did not rule out the possibility that Turkey would employ its Syrian mercenaries in Tripoli, to support Bashagha in the event of an armed conflict to control the capital, thus enabling Bashagha to control the Presidency Council and present a  fait accompli to the international community.

Al Arab