A few days ago, Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, the leader of the Libyan National Army, announced the start of a military campaign against the capital of his country. Now Tripoli is controlled by the people of the Government of national consent. This decision was a surprise to most analysts. The fact is that in February of this year Haftar himself met with the leader of the government of national consensus Faiz Saraj. The outcome of their negotiations was an agreement on rapprochement – the parties were going to proceed to the merger of the separate bodies of power created by them. In addition, they were going to organize elections so that the civil conflict finally finally ended.
Explain what’s it. The aforementioned Government of National Accord is legally recognized by the UN. Although in fact this structure controls little in Libya, and does not have real power. Looking truth, it’s impossible to name them now as puppets of the West, let it sound like a standard propaganda device of particularly reactionary Russian political scientists. But Khaftar with his army seems to be considered as a real force, but no one recognizes him legally as the head of Syria. They negotiate with him, but only as a leader of the rebels. Although in fact the Libyan National Army is the successor of the armed forces of the Libya, which was created by Gaddafi. It is Haftar, despite his not the purest past, today is the leader of the struggle for Libyan independence. Although it may seem strange if you remember that he worked for CIA for decades and lived in the US for a quarter of his life.
To date, time, the troops of Haftar have already managed to capture some of the cities located near Tripoli and other settlements. Already, the battle for a non-functioning airport, which seemed to be taken by the people of Haftar, was already held, but then they were knocked out of there. It is not entirely clear how the events are developing, given that the main sources of information are the propaganda media of the warring parties. There was even a rumor about the participation of Americans in the fight against the Libyan national army – it was reported about the US planes allegedly bombing the rebels. At least the information about the dead people comes.
So far, the role of Russia and the United States in this conflict is not fully understood. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that Russia opposed the appointment of those responsible for the crisis in Libya, urging the country’s citizens to start the dialogue themselves without imposing it from outside.
And Dmitry Peskov reports that the Russian Federation does not provide any support to the warring parties in Libya. Why exactly would Russia support Haftar? Here the thing is that recently the Libyan Field Marshal was very close to the Russian leadership. Last year, he visited Russia several times and met with representatives of the highest authorities. The last time Haftar was here in early November 2018. He held talks with Shoygu. He did not manage to talk to Putin. Still, Haftar is a military man, all his life he was, moreover, he now lives in a belligerent country and is a direct participant in civil conflict, so it is probably easier for him to communicate and speak with the Minister of Defense rather than with the President. In general, last year everything indicated that the Kremlin supports him.
In addition, there was a lot of rumor on the fact that Russian mercenaries could operate quite well in Libya. Moreover, some foreign media wrote about the supply of military equipment and even the presence of a Russian military base in an African country. Russia and representatives of the Libyan National Army all rejected, but there are many possible options. Perhaps, in a difficult political situation, it is better not to advertise this kind of cooperation?
One of the main reasons that Haftar last year so often visited Moscow is his desire to create aviation troops. He himself now simply has no aircraft. This question was considered by our management and even pre-approval was given for the supply of individual components. At some point, it was even about helicopters. But then everything died down. The problem is that our country has to coordinate such issues with the parties directly or indirectly participating in the Libyan conflict.
The Russian leadership has some complaints against the Libyan, and so far he has not resolved them. For example, he received information that he would first of all follow the path of peaceful dialogue. He did this, and he did not create any problems for himself and potentially supporting him. Now everything has changed, and this is not sucking what Moscow was counting on.
Russian military expert Alexei Leonkov believes that Khalifa Haftar has great chances of achieving success, and the expert considers the field marshal to be a figure capable of stabilizing Libya.
- Now Haftar controls most of the territory and most of the oil fields. And this makes him a rather strong and self-sufficient leader with a claim to power throughout the country. If the Americans, for example, want to get rid of him, then they are late – it was necessary to do it earlier, when he was not so strong. Now he does not control only two small territories. I also recall that Haftar came to Russia, met with the military leadership. And after these meetings, rumors spread that almost in the very near future Russia would go to Libya and help the Libyan field marshal throw enemies into the sea. This, of course, is all rumors, but under certain conditions Russia can help him.
– What conditions?
- Nothing will be done free of charge. We have to get something. First, we need a stable country with a loyal leader. Let me remind you that Libya is rich in hydrocarbons. Of course, with its deposits in peacetime, it could somehow influence the market. And we need this to be done reasonably and with benefit not only for Libyans, but also for Russia. For example, Americans through conflicts in Iraq and other countries can have a certain impact on the oil market. In Libya, they probably would like to achieve the same, but it does not come out, and this is only to our advantage.
– Where can the Libyan army take weapons, if not from the Russian Federation?
- Haftar now has money that he receives from the same oil. To buy weapons in this region is actually not difficult. For example, Turkey will gladly sell him what he needs.
– What about Russia? It seems the Kremlin has long made a bet on Haftar.
– This is a matter of healthy politics. We need an independent leader with whom we can have a dialogue. The government of national consensus is an inappropriate structure because it is fully controlled by the West, the United States. And for the time being, we cannot find another interlocutor.
– Can you comment on the information about the work of Russian mercenaries in Libya?
- Here the situation is complicated. It is difficult to say who and where. A lot of rumors and outright lies, so it’s better not to comment on anything.
– Good. Let us then assume that Haftar succeeded, and he finally took power in the whole country into his own hands. Can he repeat the fate of Gaddafi? After all, it is possible that the United States will come here with a weapon and arrange another 2011.
- There are many factors against it. First, then the United States did everything together with the European allies. Now we are witnessing the desire of all these countries to segregate – at least, militarily, they do not interact much, unless the exercises are held. Secondly, in recent years China has been very active in Africa, Libya is interested in him as well, therefore it can become one of the factors deterring aggression. Thirdly, in 2011 Russia was not what it is now. At that time we could not even support Syria, what can be said about Libya? By now everything has changed.