In an interview with website of the Strategic Council on Foreign Relations, Dr. Ahmad Bakhshi said that many of the crises we see in post-Gaddafi Libya are rooted in the political situation or state-building in Gaddafi’s time. The division of Libya into the east and the west created some identity crisis followed by resource distribution crisis as he distributed most of the resources in the western region he was born in.
He added: After the fall of Gaddafi government in 2011 and the developments that followed the Arab Spring, everyone expected the post-Gaddafi rule to be able to fulfill the people’s demands to some extent, but it immediately showed its problems; even before Khalifa Haftar stepped in as an opposition leader we heard some claims that as the revolution had started from the east, the easterners must have the most influence, role and importance, and we saw this in the National Assembly elections and the formation of a council to draft the constitution. . Eventually, because of its smaller population the eastern region was unable to maintain its essential weight.
Emergence of Khalifa Haftar Out of Libya’s Internal Divisions
Noting that Khalifa Haftar had emerged out of these disputes, Bakhshi said under Ghaddafi he had a position and played a big role in the war between Chad and Libya. It was even said that Gaddafi himself, who had come to power in the coup, was worried the popularity Haftar had gained in the Chad war could result in another coup; so in one of the military operations the government refused to back him up and he was captured by Chad. Eventually, with the negotiations that took place, Haftar migrated to the United States and was active as a dissident in opposition to the Libyan regime. With the emergence of signs of Gaddafi’s overthrow he was associated with Islamists at the beginning of the developments, and when he subsequently entered the opposition as a political activist because the eastern region could not play an effective role in the elections and he was not granted an important part to play after the victory of the Muslim Brotherhood.
He described the emergence of Khalifa Haftar as a result of the post-Gaddafi crises and insecurities in Libya and mainly in the eastern region and the attempt to represent the demands of the people of the east. From then on we witness the significant role played by Haftar. The protests began in January 2011 and on May 16, 2014, Khalifa Haftar emerged as a savior in an operation and then acting as the representative of the eastern part, claimed autonomy and the creation of a new parliament so much so that he held his meetings in the eastern region instead of Tripoli.
Referring to some efforts by various groups and governments to reconcile the political groups and control the situation that led to the 2015 Sakhirat Agreement in Morocco, he added: “Under the agreement, the east and west regions must form a national unity government.” Initially, it was argued that the parties, including Khalifa Haftar have a stake in the national unity government. Finally, a delegation from the Eastern Parliament traveled to Tripoli, but still no satisfactory results were obtained, and with the continued discontent in early 2017 Haftar brought oil rich regions in eastern and central Libya under siege.
Egypt, Saudi, UAE Oppose Rise of Brotherhood Tendencies in Libya
Bakhshi said that finally there were clashes that took place at the beginning of 2019, a few kilometers from Tripoli and they occasionally carry out air and ground attacks, noting that protests by Khalifa Haftar have sparked reactions of regional countries; The most important point is that before Haftar’s differences and his attacks began, the Brotherhood tendencies in the Libyan Parliament and the government sparked opposition from Egypt as a neighbor to Libya. As the UAE and Saudi Arabia fear the dominoes and developments in the region, they favor Khalifa Haftar. On the other hand, countries such as Qatar support the government of national unity and Faiz al-Saraj.
Khalifa Haftar Acting on Behalf of UAE, Egypt, Saudi Arabia
The professor emphasized that what we are seeing in Libya today is in one sense a proxy war, and that Khalifa Haftar plays a role on behalf of the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. He said on the other side of the proxy war stand the United Nations and Europe. He said Sakhirat Agreement has the backing of the UN and European countries are trying to somehow support this government or any other government coming to power within this agreement.
EU Concerned about Spread of Insecurity to Southern Europe
He described the insecure situation in North Africa, the dilemma of immigrants and the continuing insecurity as factors behind emergence of terrorist networks, and explaining different countries’ stances, said: “Europe is concerned about the spread of these insecurities to southern Europe and therefore supports a government that will provide some peace.” As we have seen in the past few months, various European governments have taken action in compliance with supporting the head of the National Unity Government, Faiz al-Saraj, as a matter of principle. Like Qatar, Turkey too supports the national consensus plan. Russia has also announced that it is monitoring the Libyan events and supports Khalifa Haftar.
The African affairs analyst emphasized that the proxy war has somehow started in Libya through the intervention of the regional states particularly Arab states . He said the incompetence of the National Unity Government was a factor in escalation of Khalifa Haftar’s provocative acts. By underlining the role he plays in the government he claims he will be able to cope with terrorist groups better by forming a competent government.
Inefficiency of Sakhirat Agreement Following Recent Events in Libyan
Referring to the recent European negotiations with the parties to the conflict in Libya, he said: “It seems that Sakhirat Agreement is no longer effective because it has not been able to form a national unity government since 2016 and failed to achieve stability and fulfill the demands of the people and the purpose of forming a government. While it is true that Faiz al-Saraj has a legitimate government and is backed by the United Nations, European countries and many other countries, but because of this insecurity, he has suffered a crisis of ineffectiveness and in these circumstances there is virtually no prospect for a future Libyan government.
Bakhshi also added: “Khalifa Haftar controls almost 70 percent of Libyan territory, including oil centers and important areas of the vast Mediterranean border and populated areas.
Role of Regional Groups in Fostering Dialogue between Opposing Parties in Libya
The African affairs expert said the role of regional groups was important in creating a dialogue between the parties in Libya, adding that what could be important in the short term is that with the mediation of international organizations and institutions a new government would be formed with a new agreement. Although there is little hope for a deal considering the conflict of interest in Libya, as under the current state Khalifa Haftar claims to be the legal government in terms of territory. He says he has under control the largest population and that his conditions must be accepted, but given the current proxy war, the countries in the region and influential countries such as China and Russia play a role in this issue.
He said although there is a tendency showing support for Khalifa Haftar by the US and the Zionist regime the US itself has not yet taken a particular stance and there are only signs of support from Washington for Haftar. Considering the many weapons in the hands of the people, both when Gaddafi armed many groups and since the civil war against Gaddafi and the presence of terrorist groups, the prospect of peace and stability in Libya is unclear.
East versus West War, Attack on Tripoli Claims Just a Threat
Asked how authentic was the claim of a decisive war by the East the West as well as an attack on Tripoli by Khalifa Haftar, the African affairs expert said it was only a threat that has been raised since April. It may not happen through an offensive but what will happen is that considering the state of chaos and unrest, continuation of the siege and confiscation of the government have led to the inefficiency of the National Unity Government. While other countries are not too keen to ignore the National Unity Government, this internal debate may create some unrest against Faiz al-Saraj and pave the way for the final offensive by Khalifa Haftar.
He said that in recent weeks there have been talks on giving more concessions to Khalifa Haftar but the issue has been raised for almost four years without any results. “We are witnessing people’s exhaustion in the internal space and in Libya we see formation of a multipolar space that does not have a bright future. Khalifa Haftar is seeking to form a national unity government by having the upper hand and getting more concessions. But this is a matter of dispute between the countries because he has little legitimacy among states and in the international arena. The United Nations and the countries that do not want to give concessions to Egypt, the UAE and Saudi Arabia feel that they should not give Haftar this role and that they want to somehow solve the problems of the country through European management and under the auspices of the United Nations.