The years following 2011 have grappled Libya in a constant state of conflict. Trampled in a war between two factions, Libya is at the forefront of a second civil war. The oil-rich nation, one of the largest in the world, is now surviving on a battered economy, with a fractured socio-political system and its institution on the verge of collapse, the law and order situation in the hands of rival militias, forces of injustice have swarmed the people of Libya. What adds fuel to the already raging fire are the foreign interventions that have made Libya the battleground for their ongoing proxy wars.
The power dynamic that has gripped Libya has divided it into parallel administrations, each backed by a different array of international bodies. On one spectrum is the United Nations endorsed Government of National Accord (GNA) controlling the western part of the county under Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj. On the opposing end, holding eastern and much of the southern land is the shadow government led by the former general Khalifa Haftar and his league of militant groups widely forming the Libyan National Army (LNA).
With the rival groups leading the country into a political dissonance, it paved the way for foreign forces to intervene and violate the Libyan grounds for their gains. The international players have aligned themselves on both sides of the conflict. The major player backing GNA is Turkey, whose interest lies in gaining more regional power and influence over its oil reserves. In January 2020, it reportedly sent over a hundred officers and two thousand militants openly supporting GNA and providing it with the ability to arm its defenses. With the promise of similar gains, Russia supports LNA by stationing military contractors near important oil ports. Another reason for Turkey and Russia’s interest in Libya lies in the opportunity to leverage each other as the primary competitor in Syria.
Moreover, Turkey, alongside Qatar, also backs GNA on the ideological grounds of Muslim brotherhood. While in contrast, the UAE, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, as well as France, are eagerly supporting LNA as Haftar openly advocates secular politics and has promised to trample down Islamist and Muslim brotherhood. Their rhetoric goes in line with the position taken by these countries regarding the political affinity of such organizations seeing it as a hotbed of Islamism, which goes against their own political beliefs. With UAE being the major foreign player, it supplied weapons and troops to aid Haftar’s cause. In contrast, Egypt continues to extend logistic and diplomatic support, further strengthening Haftar’s political leadership.
Whereas Russia, apart from its scuffle with Turkey, sees Libya as the tool to undermine NATO as any collaboration with Russia would weaken its hold of the Mediterranean. As reported by Al-Monitor, “the commander of US air forces in Europe and Africa said that if Russia obtains permanent coastal bases in Libya, the US’s ‘next logical step’ will be to introduce long-range air defense systems, which… (could pose) a threat to NATO’s access to Russia’s southern flank.” This claim held when in May 2020, Russia deployed fighter jets to private military groups operating for the LNA. Almost a decade earlier, it was the United Nations that brought a multi-state NATO-led coalition to overthrow Qaddafi. Presently it has a negligible presence in Libya. Even though it officially supports the GNA but hasn’t backed it with any military support. With allies on both sides, it has distanced itself from the current conflict.
What started as a civil war and a conflict between two rivals has become a competing arena for international intervention. With foreign interest taking precedence, the continued unrest and violence in Libya have made it ‘The New Syria.’ Instead of settling the crisis for the people of Libya, foreign countries have made it the breeding ground for their proxy wars. Its political leaders have forgotten their real responsibility and have divided themselves into factions fixating on their interests. On top of it, all like the rest of the world, Libya is waging another battle with the pandemic. The economic impact of the conflict has severely dismantled the healthcare system, further deepening the humanitarian crisis. Lost in the narrative are the Libyan people who have become the victim of two civil wars. Now, with foreign intervention reaching unprecedented heights, they may become causality in a war that may be cultivated in their name but has no regard for their prosperity.
Dua Sohail is a student of Social Sciences at IoBM. Her interests are Social Change, Modern Philosophy and Politics.