Egypt’s President, Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, has threatened direct military action on the Turkish-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) currently operating in Western Libya, kindling the potential for further conflict within the country and beyond. The Egyptian backed Libyan National Army (LNA), headed by the warlord Khalifa Haftar, have come under increasing pressure after a failed 14-month offensive on the country’s capital, Tripoli. With Turkish help, the GNA has pushed the LNA back, threatening to take the strategic city of Sirte, labelled as a “red line” by Al-Sisi.
“If the Libyan people asked us to intervene, it is a signal to the world that Egypt and Libya share … common interests, security and stability” claimed the Egyptian president. “Any direct intervention from the Egyptian state has now acquired international legitimacy.” His remarks were welcomed by the LNA, with the House of Representatives calling on Egypt “to assist the Libyan armed forces in their war against terrorism and to thwart the foreign invasion.” However, the GNA responded, stating that Al-Sisi’s comments amount to a “dangerous threat to national security,” with Turkey also calling for the retreat of Haftar’s forces from Sirte for a “sustainable ceasefire.”
The severity of the Egyptian threat is under question. Speaking to the Washington based Al-Monitor, Hassan Nafaa drew caution, arguing it to be “highly unlikely” that Egypt would enter in direct warfare with Libya. He argues however that the overgrowing influence of Turkey, “perceived by Egypt as an ‘enemy state‘ owing to Turkey’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood”. Instead, it seems more likely that Egypt, amongst other allies including the U.A.E, Saudi Arabia and Russia, will continue arming, and supplying the LNA.
Critiques such as Maj. Gen. Samir Farag, senior strategist at the Security and Defence Advisory Board of Egypt, have warned that whilst “Egypt would prefer to exhaust all diplomatic channels and if possible avert military intervention,” he perceives Al-Sisi’s warnings as “very serious.” These views suggest that the already precarious situation between both factions shows no sign of abating, especially if no ceasefire, as recommended by the Arab League, is struck between both factions
The Arab Spring uprisings that contributed to the Libyan civilian war resulted in the toppling of Dictator Muamar Gaddafi in 2011. Despite ‘victory’ over Gaddafi’s forces, the country has been a failing state since. Terrorist and militia groups have taken advantage of the mess in the wake of the US-backed revolution, with the politically fragmented landscape giving rise to the two greatest powers within the country, the GNA and LNA that now look to edge Libya ever further to collapse and greater conflict.
Al-Sisi’s remarks look to only aggravate tensions in the war-torn country. If talks for a ceasefire continue to fail, Libya may find itself as a battleground not only for internal interests such as that of the GNA and the LNA. As Egypt and Turkey’s “Proxy War” progresses, this conflict has the potential to drag greater geo-political powers, such as Russia, the UAE and Saudi Arabia, into the already volatile region. For the sake of the Libyan people, a ceasefire must be reached between the parties so tensions, both internal and foreign, are abated.
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