Libya’s Foreign Minister Najla al-Mangoush and Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu give a joint press conference in the capital Tripoli on May 3, 2021. (AFP)
While the world has been in lockdown because of the Covid epidemic, a new military power has appeared on the world stage: Turkey. One which has shot down Syrian, Russian and Armenian military aircraft and faced no consequences. One which has obtained Russian S-400 anti-aircraft weapons but whose standing as NATO’s second largest and most militarily powerful member has only been enhanced. One which has staged military interventions directly or by proxy from North Africa to the Caucasus with impunity. One which no nation or combination of nations has confronted.
Having assisted its “one nation, two states” ally Azerbaijan in its successful war against Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia a few months ago; while continuing to conduct a large-scale military offensive in northern Iraq currently (the Turkish ambassador to Iraq has been summoned over the recent visit of Defense Minister Hulusi Akar to a Turkish military base in northern Iraq); as it escalates attacks on government targets in Syria directly and through its mercenaries; and as it becomes involved in the war against the central government of Yemen, it has also become the main power broker in post-civil war Libya.
On May 3 a delegation representing the top foreign policy and military leaders of the nation were in Libya to consolidate control over a new coalition government there.
Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, director of the National Intelligence Organization Hakan Fidan, Chief of General Staff General Yaşar Güler and the Justice and Development Party (AKP) governing party’s Foreign Affairs Deputy Chair Efkan Ala visited the capital of Tripoli on May 3. The formal delegation consisted of the first three, with the head of the military and the AKP member accompanying them.
It was the first trip by major Turkish officials since the inauguration of the new government on March 15.
Flanked by his Libyan counterpart, Foreign Minister Çavuşoğlu spoke of the “preservation of Libya’s integrity, sovereignty, independence, and political unity.” Rather, what had been accomplished is the abolition of the nation’s last vestige of sovereignty and independence.
The intricacies of the civil war in the nation from 2014-2020 following the seven-month air war waged by U.S. Africa Command and NATO in 2011 are a matter for historians to interpret for decades to come. The disparate threads of shifting alliances and allegiances, the alternating rivalry and cooperation between foreign sponsors, the often thin line between religious and secular motivations will not be easy, if ever fully possible, to clarify.
During the fighting Turkey backed the Government of National Accord; Russia, France, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates supported the Libyan National Army. (This is from a Turkish account. There are others.) The new coalition government is a combination of the two. As with the anti-government forces fighting in 2011, the belligerents largely consisted of conflicting regional groups; the Government of National Accord is based in Tripoli; the Libyan National Army of General Khalifa Haftar is centered in the east of the country.
The composition of the Turkish delegation yesterday leaves little doubt as to who is control of the nation.
The equivalent would be U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, CIA director William Burns and the top foreign policy official of the Democratic Party arriving on the same plane in a war-wracked, impoverished, fragmented nation of less than seven million people. An event that has never occurred before or ever will.
If it did any discussion of the country’s integrity, sovereignty and independence (see above) would be seen for what it was: the cruelest irony.