Oil-rich African country, Libya has been under a crisis yet again, but this time incited by a quest for control. The national turmoil is escalating at a greater pace, as the international powers continue to fuel the feud and support the two sides as per their preference.
Fighting against the United Nations-backed government in Tripoli, military commander Khalifa Haftar was recently offered tens of millions of dollars by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for the ongoing operations, according to The Wall Street Journal.
At present, power in Libya is split between two regions: West, the internationally recognized government in Tripoli, and the East, a government allied with Haftar.
On April 4, the rebel leader ordered the Libyan National Army (LNA) to move on Tripoli, commencing his military campaign to affiliate the country being led by two contrary powers, prior to which he visited the Kingdom.
The Saudi King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) welcomed the military leader in Riyadh on March 27. According to the senior advisers to the Saudi government, the funds they offered were intended to buy the loyalty of tribal leaders, recruiting and paying fighters, and other military purposes; and were accepted by Haftar.
“We were quite generous,” one of the advisers said.
Later, the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs tweeted, “King Salman stressed the kingdom’s eagerness for security and stability in Libya.”
The latest upheaval in Libya — between the rebels backed by Haftar and militants of the Government of National Accord (GNA) of Fayez al-Sarraj — has forced nearly 9,500 people to flee their homes, according to the UN figures. Besides, at least 74 people have died and 320 others are wounded.
Weeks before the campaign began, the rebel leader had been meeting foreign dignitaries, which has secured his status in the dispute.
A delegation of ambassadors and officials from 13 European states and the European Union was held by Haftar. While other foreign powers have been backing his mission in all possible ways — weapons, funds and other — the US and EU urged him to avert military involvement.
Besides, the US backed the government militants in Tripoli. The Trump administration has been calling on the military commander to stand down and act under a possible political settlement, before the attack. National security adviser, John Bolton said, “I suspect he was on the move already,” before the phone call between the two.
Apart from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt also extended air support to Haftar. While Egypt denied it, nothing was confirmed by UAE, which reportedly has been supporting the commander since 2014. Besides, the Emirates has also indulged in talks with the Libyan military commander to export Libya’s oil outside the UN-approved channels, as per the reports last year.
Citing the international support towards Haftar, a Libyan expert at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, Wolfram Lacher said, “Haftar would not be a player today without the foreign support he has received.”
It is being considered that the international powers continue to use the North African country as a proxy warzone to accomplish their interests, after the death of Muammar Mohammed Gaddafi in 2011. The former US special envoy to Libya Jonathan M. Winer had earlier said that that such activities threaten the collapse of Libya as a nation.
Oil, which is the major asset in Libya, is also believed to be a substantial reason behind the Middle Eastern (Saudi Arabia & UAE) support towards Haftar, who is quite capable of exploiting the country for his obsession of gaining control.
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