The current Turkish military intervention in Libya started in December 2019, when its President Erdogan announced that he is ready to deploy troops in Libya, if the Government of National Accord asks for this.
In fact, Erdogan was not waiting for the approval of the Accord Government, as the approval had been gained behind the scene, and waiting to be announced to the media, and the media’s biggest concern then was: What is behind Erdogan intervention in Libya?
Apparently, Turkey considers Libya as a stage on which it competes with its old foes (Greece) and new foes (Egypt and the UAE) through its proxies. At the same time, the Accord Government has become increasingly dependent on Ankara for military reasons; as the Accord Government has no other allies willing to provide weapons for challenging the Libyan National Army.
Ankara’s policy in Libya is caused by its isolation in the east of the Mediterranean, an isolation increased since the collapse of the Turkish-Israeli relations in 2010, and then the bad estimation in Erdogan‘s regional policy during the Arabic Spring uprisings. Additionally, his support for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt between 2011 and 2012 costed him too much, as the MB supported government was overthrown by popular protests that brought to power a military administration. When Erdogan refused to recognize the government of General Abdul Fattah al-Sisi in Egypt, he provoked the powerful members in the GCC, particularly KSA and UAE, who supported Sisi and were afraid of the MB and other radical Islam movements having relations with the international terrorism.
According to a report published by Soner Cagaptay on the website of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Turkey’s support for the Syrian rebels has put Turkey in confrontation with Damascus and Iran, in addition to Iran’s regional allies in Lebanon and Iraq. In short, when the civil war erupted in Libya in 2014, Turkey had completely lost its regional partners, therefore its ambitions where turned towards Libya.
Back then, Erdogan supported the alliance of “Fajr Libya” in Tripoli, which was against the alliance of “Karamat Libya”, belonging to Haftar.
Egypt and UAE were afraid of the growth of political Islam in Libya, and eager to weaken Erdogan, which promoted them to support Haftar and his anti-Islamists and anti-terrorism agenda.
Egypt and the UAE have provided other types of help for Haftar’s army against the National Accord government, including airstrikes that followed the Turkish intervention.
Recently, the regional and international concerns were increased regarding the situation in Libya, as experts expect Libya to become a tension spot, and a point from which immigrants might travel to EU, and to which militants might come from all over the world.
There is no doubt that such factors will raise concerns, especially in Europe, where EU fear the geopolitical implications of the Libyan crisis on them.
Several official and media reports issued by EU states indicate the Erdogan policy is deepening the Libyan crisis, not to mention his threat against EU, if the Accord Government will fall. Erdogan has warned of a new influx of illegal migrants to EU. In an article for the US Politico newspaper, Erdogan said that the fall of the Accord Government means that EU will face a new set of security threats, calling on the EU to follow his footsteps and support the Tripoli government.
Erdogan a Real Danger for EU
The German Der Spiegel magazine warned, Saturday, May 24, that Turkish intervention in Libya would be a direct threat for the security of the EU.
According to the news magazine, the Turkish expansion does not only violate Libyan sovereignty, but also threatens Europe significantly. Der Spiegel warned of turning Libya into a starting point for African refugees towards Europe and that Erdogan might exploit this paper to blackmail the EU countries with the refugee file.
“A few months ago, Erdogan opened the doors for refugees to cross into Europe from Turkey, and such a similar scenario in Libya is likely to happen, which is a major threat to EU security,” the newspaper wrote.
Libya, a Turkish-EU Battlefield
Jamal al-Shatshat, a professor of political science at the University of Benghazi, said to Arabic Independent that some reports raise real fears of turning Libya into a European-Turkish clash arena: “Major European countries such as France, Germany and Italy have interests in Libya, which are now greatly threatened after Turkey’s political expansion in Libya politically and militarily, pretending a clash between Turkey and the EU, motivated by the desire to defend the interests of each party.
In a joint statement following a meeting at the level of foreign ministers last week, the EU warned of the dangers of Turkish military intervention in Libya, and that the interests and security of the continent as a whole are in danger. This comes after Ankara’s explicit announcement of increasing its military presence in the fighting taking place in the west of the country, which helped the Accord Government to take control over a number of important cities and the al-Watya Air Base that has a great strategic importance.
Commenting on the situation, Erdogan has refused the EU announcements and threats, saying: “No one has the right to criticize Turkey’s policies in Libya; Turkey is defending its interests, which are threatened by the Libyan National Army, supported by foreign forces against to Turkey.”
In a televised speech on an official Turkish channel, Erdogan said that his „country’s policy in Libya is clear, and no one can criticize it.” He also stressed on his country’s continued policies in Libya and the region, as he added, “We will defeat all these forces, and victory will be ours and defeat will be for those, who plan conspiracies against Turkey.”