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General Haftar. Screenshot from AfricaNews report

Ankara is playing with fire in Libya

Just like Suleiman the Magnificent five centuries ago, the Turkish leader Recep Erdogan launched an offensive in North Africa. Ankara approved the dispatch of Turkish troops to Libya as expected. It will be a campaign with an unknown outcome and a high risk, says German journalist Jürgen Liminski.

Published: January 6, 2020, 4:11 am

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    The fighting situation in the civil war country is confused and the militias in Tripoli are particularly unpredictable.

    Libya was where the slave trade flourished in pirate nests and rulers ruled with brutal force, only a few centuries ago.

    The situation is similar today, says Liminski. “Libya has broken down into its tribal structures, foreign powers are trying to harness the wealth – geopolitical situation, oil and gas.” While Russia and France support General Haftar, Turkey has now stepped into the fray.

    If Erdogan succeeds in at least stabilizing the opponent, the Sarraj government, he will be given a second lever to control the flow of migrants, with which he can blackmail the EU. There are currently more than 700 000 “refugees” – mainly from Africa – in Libya waiting to come to Europe. If they succeed in entering the EU, many more will follow.

    To prevent this, Erdogan could offer Europe to his country’s weak economy with billions.

    It is more than a regional showdown, since the Mediterranean will soon be witnessing a proxy war that will also impact directly on Europe’s migration policy and energy supply. Europe can thus be put under great pressure through North Africa.

    The vote in the Turkish Parliament was supposed to have taken place only next week. But Russian President Putin’s scheduled visit to Ankara ostensibly pushed Erdogan to present him with fait accompli of a parliamentary license.

    And the planned Libya conference in Berlin, for which no date, programme or participants have been listed, is currently nothing more than a vague idea.

    Erdogan’s presence in Libya could virtually exert an imaginary Turkish influence on the oil and gas fields in the eastern Mediterranean – against Cyprus, Greece and international law.

    But in Erdogan’s calculation there are many unknowns, for example Russia and France, argues Liminski.

    Militia chiefs, the descendants of the tribal princes and pirates, are not impressed by political slogans. They will not allow Erdogan lay claim to their lucrative businesses involving human trafficking and oil. It could become a wild ride for the new Ottoman leader.

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    • LuciusAnnaeusSeneca

      Latest reports as of today (6 January) indicate that Haftar’s forces have taken Sirte, which has been a jihadist enclave for some time. The LNA may head west toward Tripoli, or could move northwest toward Misrata. That city would be a very hard target. The LNA might do better to move against Tripoli again, before the Turks can get their military support under way. And, let’s see what the Russian forces in Libya do.

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