Turkey opens a second front in the Mediterranean Sea

Many experts and politicians are sure that the Turks began to play on the side of Saraj against Haftar much earlier than the bill was introduced, and even before the PNS formally asked Ankara for military support

Source: Delil Souleiman/AFP via Getty Images

The Turkish Parliament will consider the question of sending troops to Libya in a few days. The media has already reported the transfer to Tripoli of Ankara-controlled militants from Syria. At the same time, Italy is calling for the introduction of a no-fly zone over Libya. But there is no single point of view on this issue in NATO. But Turkey’s intentions are not in doubt: soon Ankara can become a participant in two conflicts in the Mediterranean Sea.


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The proposal to declare a no-fly zone over Libya, previously made by Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, is associated with NATO air strikes during the war against Muammar Gaddafi. This parallel was drawn on Monday by the head of Russian diplomacy Sergey Lavrov, speaking on the basis of a meeting with his Iranian counterpart Javad Zarif. “After all, NATO began to bomb Libya after the UN Security Council made exactly the same decision: declare a no-fly zone over Libya,” TASS quoted Lavrov as saying.

Italian Prime Minister Conte believes that the introduction of a no-fly zone in Libya could end the clashes between Libyan National Army (LNA) Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar and the militias who are fighting on the side of the internationally recognized “Government of National Accord” (PNS) Faiz Saraj. Last Thursday, Putin discussed the situation in Libya with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.

It should be noted that during the war with Gaddafi, Italy was not the initiator of the UN Security Council resolution on the no-fly zone, which opened the way to NATO air strikes. The Italians did not play the first violin in the NATO operation itself. But it seems that during the current conflict, the former metropolis decided to take a more active part in the fate of the ex-colony.

“On the other hand, Conte’s proposal is just a proposal, because Italians cannot create a no-fly zone on their own,” Professor Mikhail Roshchin, researcher at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, told the newspaper VZGLYAD.

“We must wait for the results of the discussion of this idea at the UN. Most likely, Rome made a purely preliminary statement,” said the expert. The purpose of the statement is to save Saraj’s regime through political means, before Turkey begins to actively help him by military means, the expert said.

On Monday, a bill was sent to the Turkish parliament on sending troops to Libya, MPs plan to consider it on January 2. Apparently, in Ankara they believe: the idea of ​​a no-fly zone proposed by Italy will not help Saraju and direct military assistance is needed, which Turkey will provide.

Many experts and politicians are sure that the Turks began to “play” on the side of Saraj against Haftar much earlier than the bill was introduced, and even before the PNS formally asked Ankara for military support.

In mid-December, there were reports that Turkey sent special forces to help Saraj. A few days later, the military loyal to Haftar detained a ship with a Turkish crew. At the same time, the LNA announced that they had tracked the Boeing transport that had flown in from Istanbul – it seemed to be with military equipment. Haftar’s supporters threatened to shoot down arms.

The other belligerent, the Haftar army, which in terms of the letter of the law can be considered rebellious, is supported by Egypt and, to a lesser extent, the UAE. On December 18, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi announced that Cairo would continue to support Haftar. And on the eve of this Libyan commander announced his intention to visit Cairo. The details of the trip were not disclosed, but a conclusion suggests itself – it may be a question of strengthening Egyptian support for the LNA, which for several months has ousted Sarajah’s supporters from the Libyan capital Tripoli. True, as TASS reported on Monday, a large suburb of the capital of Tajur is still under the control of the forces of Saraj.

Syrian Turkoman on the Libyan front

Last Saturday, information appeared that further complicates the Libyan “alignment” – if this message is, of course, true. Saudi television channel Al-Hadas, citing sources in the Syrian opposition, said: Last week, the Turks sent the first group of 120 Syrian militants to Libya.

It is alleged that four recruiting centers operate in the cities of Northern Syria controlled by the Turkish army and pro-Turkish groups: in Afrin, Er-Rai (Chobanbey) and Akhterin. Sources say that the so-called “Sultan Murad” brigade is conducting a “recruitment” of militants. This is an armed group that focuses on Ankara and mainly consists of Syriac Turkoman related to the Turks. It is alleged that Turkey intends to mobilize eight thousand militants from Syria for the transfer to Libya, TASS reported.

At the same time, we emphasize that officially Ankara does not participate in the Libyan conflict. The news that Turkey is moving its troops or Syrian opposition to Libya is just a rumor, Turkish political scientist Togrul Ismail told VZGLYAD. “This is generally funny. A democratic country does not interfere in internal affairs and does not violate international standards, ”the Turkish expert emphasized. The expert recalled the agreement recently concluded between Turkey and the “Government of National Accord” of Libya. “The official Libyan government is in an extremely difficult situation, because General Haftar occupies a large territory. But you need to understand who and how supports him, ”said the Turkish political scientist.

If we assume that the Syrian fighters are still being transferred to Libya, then most likely this is done “on various routes: either through Tunisia or directly to the Libyan port of Misurata,” the head of the Islamic Studies Center of the Institute for Innovation said in a commentary on the newspaper VZGLYAD. development Kirill Semenov.

Misurata is the third largest city in Libya after the capital Tripoli and Benghazi. Unlike Benghazi, which is located in the deep rear of Haftar’s troops, and Tripoli, for which Haftar is fighting, Misurata is tightly controlled by groups of PNS supporters. By the way, historically, the largest Turkish community in Libya lives here (up to half the population of the port city has Turkish roots).

Orientalist Mikhail Roshchin also believes that the most reliable way to transport from Turkey to Libya is by sea. “But it will take time, despite the fact that the Mediterranean Sea is not so wide,” said the expert. Roshchin believes:

“The airborne landing will require very serious efforts. In addition, there is a threat that Turkish military aircraft will simply be shot down. ”

And in general, according to the orientalist, it is too early to talk about the large-scale Turkish operation in Libya. “Plans for military intervention in Libya look like an adventure, like a rash step. It’s not yet clear what forces Erdogan wants to transfer to Libya, ”the expert said.

But by and large, Turkey no longer hides the transfer of Syrian armed opposition to Libya, for its part, Kirill Semenov notes. “The PNS has so far refused this, and for Turkey such a transfer is not a problem, because, as you know, representatives of Sudan and Chad are also fighting on the side of Haftar,” Semenov pointed out. In his opinion, “there is also a lot of evidence of the presence of Russian forces there.”

Will the Wagnerites Meet the Fighters of the Sultan Murad Brigade

Recall, the other day, Erdogan said that there are allegedly two thousand mercenaries from the so-called Russian private military company Wagner in Libya. As the newspaper VZGLYAD noted, the existence of such PMCs has never been officially confirmed, and the name “Wagner” itself has become a symbol for Russian volunteers who perform military missions abroad on private orders. Most likely, the Turkish president had in mind something similar. Earlier, the newspaper VZGLYAD analyzed in detail the likelihood of a ground-based military clash between the Turks and the Russians, if both of them are really present in Libya. Now the Syrian factor is interfering.

“Clashes with Syrian militants may occur,” Semenov suggests. – But I do not think that the Russians are actively participating in clashes on earth. They most likely perform other functions.

Namely: they provide advisory assistance, guard the headquarters of senior Libyan leaders. Although, of course, some separate special operations are possible. But this is not such an army that sits in the trenches. “

In general, clashes are possible, but they again will not change the situation even in relations between Russia and Turkey, Semenov believes. “No matter how strange it may be, this can contribute to the fact that Russia and Turkey will enter into a dialogue on Libya and be able to seat the parties at the negotiating table,” the expert said.

Unlike the war with Gaddafi, a no-fly zone will benefit

According to Semenov, the current situation around Libya is fundamentally different from what happened in 2011, when the opposition and NATO jointly acted against Gaddafi. “NATO air strikes are absolutely excluded, because it is not clear who to hit. Haftar has partners in the North Atlantic Alliance, the political scientist believes. – But if we assume that this will be some kind of “peace enforcement” and some kind of airstrikes are required, then they can be applied equally to those who violate this agreement regardless of likes or dislikes. NATO countries have a different position on the conflict in Libya, that is, there is no one common view in the alliance, as in the USA. ”

The fact that the no-fly zone over Libya is again mentioned may cause a sensitive reaction in Russia, Semenov believes. But, as already mentioned, we are talking only about the proposal of Italy.

Secondly, “the idea in itself is correct,” the orientalist believes. “If a no-fly zone is introduced, this can lead to at least some stabilization of the situation in Syria, because recently the same Haftar conducts attacks exclusively with the help of drones that were provided to him by the UAE,” the expert said. Failure to use aviation in the conflict in Libya itself is a reasonable solution that will at least reduce the number of civilians who have died, and most importantly, it could be the first step towards the start of some kind of peace process, Semenov said. Perhaps this will be a peace process similar to what we observed, for example, in the case of inter-Syrian negotiations in Astana.

“At the same time, the introduction of a no-fly zone will not prevent Haftar from taking Tripoli under control,” the expert said. Another thing is that the field marshal has been trying to take the capital since April, and all his attempts did not end in anything, except for small advancements, which the army loyal to Saraju then returns anyway. Recall that on December 12, Haftar promised that his Libyan national army will begin a “decisive battle” for the capital, but, as TASS reports, “tension is present only in the south, in particular in the area of ​​Salah al-Din, where the detachments previously advanced LNA “. “He can’t radically change anything, but peaceful people are already dying, so the more the conflict drags on, the more victims,” said Kirill Semenov.

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