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Who stands where on Libya?
Published in Ahram Online on 08 - 01 - 2020

The political and military escalation in Libya has turned the world's worried eyes to the South Mediterranean country. Libyan official statements are making international headlines after the battle of Tripoli has reached the point of no return, especially after Turkey announced deploying its troops to bolster the government in Tripoli.
Arab countries' disagreements surfaced over the signing of the economic and military cooperation agreement and maritime demarcation between Turkey and the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) on 27 December 2019.
Egypt, along with a number of Arab countries, stressed their rejection of the agreement. Soon after, Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan flew to Libya's neighbour, Tunisia, to announce his Tunisian counterpart, newly elected President Kais Saied, was seeing eye-to-eye with him on supporting the government in Tripoli.
Hours later, Saied declared his refusal his country be used as a military base for meddling in Libyan affairs. Nonetheless, he announced his support of the “internationally recognised” government in Tripoli.
Saied rose to power on the back of the Islamists' votes. Therefore, he will not stand against the Islamists, particularly on this matter, since the Tripoli battle is of utmost importance to them, said Hamed Al-Bakoush, a Tunisian journalist. The Tunisian “presidency didn't object to supporting the Tripoli government logistically”, he added.
Tunisia's domestic front is not faring well. Saied and the parliamentary speaker, leader of the Muslim Brotherhood Ennahda Party, have strong disagreements over the government and these may extend to other issues as well.
A Tunisian Foreign Ministry statement said the country refused to be “a route” for sending supplies to the GNA. “This is a vague position that borders on the Turkish side,” commented Al-Bakoush, who is loyal to Nidaa Tunis, the party of late president Beji Caid Essebsi.
“Countries supporting Turkey hid behind the Arab League announcement that rejected interference in Libya's affairs in general statements,” he added.
The Arab League Council announced, during an emergency meeting held 24 December at the level of permanent delegates to discuss Libyan developments, at the invitation of Egypt, “rejecting foreign interventions that contribute to facilitating the movement of foreign terrorist extremist fighters to Libya, and working to prevent them”.
The council expressed its “utter rejection of the violation of international resolutions on the arms embargo, which threatens the security of Libya's neighbours and the region”.
As vague as the Tunisian stance was the Moroccan position, which didn't support the Libyan National Army (LNA).
“It was Morocco that hosted the talks that led to the Skhirat Agreement on which basis the government of Fayez Al-Sarraj was formed in Tripoli,” added Al-Bakoush.
The 2015 Skhirat Agreement was signed with the sponsorship of the UN, after which many countries acknowledged Al-Sarraj's government in Tripoli.
The Skhirat Agreement, however, didn't resolve deeper divisions between an internationally recognised parliament fighting alongside an army founded by the Tobruk-based government against the internationally acknowledged government in Tripoli.
It seems that Morocco, which received the GNA's appreciation — alongside Qatar, Sudan and Arab Maghreb countries — for their “stances in support of Libya” during the Arab League meeting in Cairo, doesn't stand by the LNA.
“The Moroccan stance is nothing but in line with the fact that the country hosted the talks and signing of the agreement according to which the Tripoli government was formed,” said Al-Bakoush.
“In addition, the Moroccan government is part of the Islamist Justice and Development Party. It is only natural it will not side with the Tobruk government and the LNA,” he added.
The Justice and Development Party is the political cover of Morocco's Muslim Brotherhood, or at least their closest political party in Morocco.
The militias fighting under the GNA are affiliated to the Muslim Brotherhood's Fajr Libya and other “political Islam” groups.
Al-Bakoush explained that GNA fighters are either Muslim Brotherhood and Salafi militias, or tribal militias, such as those of Abu Selim residing in east Tripoli, Misrata militias that announced they stood against the LNA and militias from Al-Zentan city, southwest of Tripoli.
The situation is far more complicated in Algeria. The country endured what was like a civil war between the government and Islamists between 1992 and 2002. The fights rendered more than 200,000 dead. Algeria doesn't want to repeat the same scenario.
“The war ended after thousands of Islamists merged into Algeria's social life, forming a social power that prevented the government from adopting extreme stances they didn't welcome,” said Al-Bakoush.
Former president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who ruled Algeria from 1999 to 2019, executed the “civil peace” project by issuing a 2002 law that exonerated Algerians who carried weapons but didn't kill.
With this presidential pardon, the Islamists were incorporated in the social, economic and political life of the country of the million martyrs.
“Algeria fears an Islamist defeat, which will result in thousands of foreign Islamist fighters fleeing to its lands, creating further conflicts in troubled Algeria,” Al-Bakoush pointed out. It is the same case in Sudan, according to Fayez Al-Salik, a Sudanese journalist close to the Alliance of Freedom and Change that spearheaded the revolution against ousted president Omar Al-Bashir.
“Sudan fears the disassembling of GNA militias and their alliance with toppled Islamists in many regional countries. This will create more turbulence the government in Khartoum will not be able to counter,” said Al-Salik.
“Thousands of Islamist employees were fired, their National Congress Party was dissolved and many of their leaders are being investigated,” he pointed out.
“Sudan is already involved in a foreign conflict in Yemen. It can't handle another one with neighbouring Libya,” Al-Salik added.
Abdallah Hamdok, the Sudanese prime minister, declared reducing Sudanese troops in Yemen from 15,000 to 5,000.
To the east, Jordan and Gulf countries, save for Qatar and the internationally recognised Yemeni government, are siding with the LNA against the GNA.
Lebanese President Michel Aoun and his allies, particularly Hizbullah, support Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad. Consequently, Lebanon stands against Turkey and its moves in Libya.
In line with the Lebanese stance is Iraq, which fought alongside Syria a war against the Islamic State. On many occasions, Iraqi officials accused Turkey of funding and supporting the terrorist organisation.
In addition, Iraq and Syria are suffering from hydro installations Turkey built on the Tigris and Euphrates. Both countries' water shares have been reduced to less than half, according to Mohamed Kheir Najmuddin, a Syrian journalist.
“Furthermore, Iraq is in a critical position due to the popular uprising in Baghdad and the south, and Iranian and Iraqi military leaders were assassinated, which could lead to a flare up of war in the region,” said Najmuddin.
“As far as Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain are concerned, they support the stance of Egypt, their partner in the Arab Quartet against Qatar,” he added.
“Saudi Arabia stands against Turkey also because of their competition on leading the Sunni Muslim world,” Najmuddin pointed out. These countries also rejected the advent of Turkish troops into Syrian lands to fight the Kurds and, consequently, can't accept its current moves in Libya.
Internationally, Greece and France reject the Turkish agreement with the GNA. The two countries, with Cyprus, took part in the Cairo talks concerning Ankara's moves in Libya and the Mediterranean Sea.
The majority of positions supporting the GNA came from the side of the Arab Maghreb due to security fears, and not because of their support of Islamists.
Added to this, the Arab Maghreb can't dispense with its strong ties with France or stand against Paris when it comes to such a thorny issue as deploying foreign troops in Libya.
The Arab stance, in its totality, teeters to the side the Arab League spoke of, but more likely it will not come into effect.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 9 January, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.


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