Unsurprisingly, since Russia sent its special forces to the Eastern Libyan desert, the troops led by Khalifa Haftar and representing the interests of the House of Representatives (HoR) in Tobruk, which defies the mandate of the UN-backed government in Tripoli, announced the recapture yesterday 14th March, of the two key oil installations Ras Lanuf and Es Sidr, recently overrun by the Tripoli-backed Benghazi Defence Brigades (BDB).
In true capitalist fashion Russia is multiplying the numbers of private contractors being used across the Middle East. Giving backing to ex-CIA asset renegade general Khalifa Hiftar in Libya is just one of the many loose ends left by the Obama administration Putin looks to tie up. Also backing junta leader Sisi in Egypt, and PYD Kurdish leader Salih Muslim in Northeastern for instance allows these US creations the latitude to look gift horses in the mouth, making US foreign policy in the Middle East much harder and less predictable, while reinforcing the dominance Russia has gained from its bases in Syria.
The news coming in from Libya is that the Benghazi Defense Brigade (BDB) took over the oil ports of Ras Lanuf and Es Sidr with their refineries from Hiftar’s forces in a stealth attack this last weekend on 5th March. Apparently, they have handed the ports over to the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA). The balance of power in Libya will now shift in the GNA’s favour away from the House of Representatives (HoR) ensconced in Tobruk (which had hired Hiftar to do its heavy lifting), and this will strengthen the position of beleaguered UN-approved prime minister Fayez al-Sarraj. After these events, Russia now appears to see the need to back its contractors in Libya by sending in élite special forces.
Middle East Eye (MEE) published recordings of conversations between Emirati pilots on bombing missions around Benghazi, and the control tower at Benina airport, the headquarters of the renegade general Khalifa Haftar.
It’s clear, from previously released recordings, that the pilots are not bombing IS targets in Sirte. The coordinates point instead to a neighbourhood of Benghazi called Souq al-Hout, the Fish Market, which is controlled by the Shura Council of Benghazi Revolutionaries (SCBR), a coalition of forces which includes Ansar al-Sharia, labelled a terrorist organisation by the UN, US, UK and Turkey, but includes also groups which are loyal to the Libyan defence ministry in Tripoli, such as the February 17th Martyrs Brigade.
British, American, French and Jordanian military air traffic controllers are heard on the same tapes. They sit alongside the Emiratis in Haftar’s control room. This means that Britain and its allies are placing an each-way bet on the Libyan war.
As MEE revealed when it published a briefing Jordan’s King Abdullah gave to US congressional leaders this January, British special forces are deployed in Libya alongside Jordanians. We know from on the ground reports in Libya that British soldiers are helping Misratan militias, who are loyal to the government in Tripoli, push the Islamic State (IS) group out of Sirte.
His actions, like those of the IS, are aimed at telling Libyans that the UN-brokered and internationally recognised Presidential Council and its Government of National Accord (GNA) cannot control key state infrastructure. Two days after his so-called Libyan National Army (LNA) wrested control of four Oil Crescent ports in Ras Lanuf, Sidra, Zueitina and Brega, from militias controlled by Ibrahim Jadhran, commander of the Petroleum Defence Guards, Haftar had himself anointed field marshal.
A stand-off ensued. Haftar demanded the National Oil Corporation (NOC) lift force majeure and allow the ports to export oil, while the Presidential Council, the US, Britain, France and Italy, Spain and Germany reaffirmed their support for the GNA and their intent to enforce sanctions against illegal exports of oil. The export ban was lifted on Thursday after the NOC chairman Mustafa Sanalla “accepted a handover of the ports“ from Haftar’s men.
It is difficult to know what this means as Hafter’s takeover of the ports on Sunday was more a matter of negotiation between militias than actual combat. Sanalla also sowed seeds of doubt about GNA control when he said that the LNA’s seizure could “lead to a new phase of co-operation” between the Libyan factions.
Egypt and the Emiratis are dictatorships with a track record of suppressing political opposition. Each has been highly active abroad, particularly in Libya, in making sure that Islamist governments do not get into or stay in power. The GNA is not Islamist, but the fact that Islamist groups have deferred reluctantly to its authority is enough for the Emiratis to do everything they can to bring it down.
Source: David Hearst
The bloody collapse of Libya – which triggered a refugee crisis and aided the rise of Isis – is blamed today on David Cameron’s blunders when he intervened to overthrow Colonel Gaddafi.
A damning report by MPs condemns the 2011 military campaign for lacking both “accurate intelligence” and a coherent strategy for the aftermath of removing the dictator.
Read full article in the Independent here
Amira abu l-Fotouh writes:
There is no doubt that the Supreme Constitutional Court ruling to dissolve the Tobruk parliament cobbled together by Haftar and Sisi, and cancelling its associated government, as well as all agreements made during its term, is considered to be a blow to Al-Sisi’s coup regime. This is especially so because his government in Cairo insisted on spearheading the counter-revolution across the border in Libya led by Haftar and remnants of Gaddafi’s regime against the February 14 revolutionaries who overthrew the latter. Coup leader Al-Sisi and his regional supporters want to eliminate the Arab revolutions and eradicate anything associated with the Arab Spring. They fear that the revolutionary winds will reach their own countries, which are on the verge of exploding, and blow away their weak regimes. Hence, they are supporting all the counter revolutions in the region with money and weapons in order to return repressive tyrants to power, in a reflection of how they govern their own people.
This conspiratorial alliance, which Al-Sisi is spearheading in its battle with the Arab Spring, was dealt a harsh blow by Libya’s Constitutional Court, which proved that the judiciary is sound and untainted by politics, unlike its neighbour. In Egypt, the judiciary has slipped into a swamp of disgrace, making it a laughing stock around the world. I salute the Libyan judiciary and shower shame on the Egyptian judiciary that has become so corrupt.
Al-Sisi’s regime concluded several military and security agreements with the Tobruk government by which it will help and train the Libyan army. These agreements also give Egypt the right to intervene in Libya militarily to protect it from any danger, and consider the Dawn of Libya forces a threat that must be fought. The regime was not in need of such agreements because Egypt is already providing military and logistical aid by allowing the UAE air force to use its airfields from which they fly sorties to bomb the Libyan people in Tripoli, Benghazi and other areas controlled by the revolutionaries. The coup-controlled media refuses to refer to them as such, saying instead that they are “gunmen” and “terrorists”.
Al-Sisi’s regime has sided with the minority of Libyans who only control 10 per cent of their country’s territory. He has opted not to follow Algeria’s lead, which chose the political route in order to resolve the Libya crisis; indeed, Al-Sisi is trying to widen and expand the crisis by means of his blatant one-sided support. It is as if he is seeking actively to increase the division within Libya, just as he did in Egypt on the way to dividing the country. He wants to have a “loyal” country on Egypt’s western border even though his dream of Libya being completely overthrown and handed over to Haftar and his supporters has been crushed.
Originally on Middle East Monitor
But see also al-Jazeera’s programme on the subject, which highlights the declaration of support by the leadership of the Libyan army for the Constitutional Court’s decision to dissolve the Tobruk parliament, and the rejection of the decision by those elements affected, by opening link