It’s been reported that 21 people, including a Red Crescent doctor, were killed, and 27 were injured in fighting near Tripoli over the weekend as Haftar, who already presides over the majority of Libyan territory, aims to take full control of the country. Leader of the UN-backed government Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj accused Haftar of mounting a coup and says that rebels will be met with force.
Sputnik spoke to Jalel Harchaoui, a research fellow at the Clingendael Institute for International Relations in The Hague, to get his take on how the situation may develop.
Sputnik: Will the UN-backed government indeed be able to retain Tripoli and the surrounding area to the north-west of the country, without additional support? And would the West be willing to provide this support, given the rather disastrous consequences of its last intervention in Libya?
And it's not really important if the western states cannot intervene themselves; the more likely possibility is that the UAE or Egypt intervene militarily because legally they have shown a propensity to violate international laws without really getting into trouble — so that is really a distinct possibility.
Sputnik: How ironic is it that the US is calling for a diplomatic resolution to a crisis, which some argue has been caused by western military intervention back in 2011?
Jalel Harchaoui: Well, I don't view the current disorder as a direct, inevitable consequence of 2011. 2011 had its faults, obviously, but a lot of opportunities have been missed over the past 8 years and I think the current situation is the result of many actions by many states.
Of course, the western states do not have a good record but the Libya crisis is not a western-made crisis at this late stage. We're in 2019, people must recognise the great impact the Gulf states have had in Libya. Funnily enough, the western states matter, obviously, but they are not the most consequential in this political theatre. And again this is a new kind of dynamic, but it's very important to recognise that the UAE matters more than France, for instance. And so, it's an Arab crisis, that's what I'm saying.
Sputnik: How successful are these talks likely to be, is Haftar going to be dissuaded from his military plans as a result? How do you see the situation developing?
Jalel Harchaoui: Let me first say that I see a probability of zero percent for that conference to happen. I'm sure Haftar will insist on sending representatives, because he will want to show that he has things under control but what's interesting here, is that his adversaries, the most meaningful ones, are not going to show up, because there is too much destruction, too much violence. So if you only have one side of the event, it's an absurd exercise. So diplomatically speaking, personally I think there's zero chance of it happening.
There are three scenarios that people should keep in mind. First of all, Marshall Haftar can still win. Things could still turn into his favour because what has been slowing him down so far are the militias of Tripoli. And those militias are not pro-Islamist, they're not the most revolutionary ones you could find in the region. But he kind of spooked them into becoming more cohesive and more effective in protecting the capital and they have protected the capital. But this, of course, lasts, because you had deaths every day on both sides, so that, of course, causes every camp to become more attached to saving face.
But also there is still the possibility that this Tripoli resistance, that nobody kind of predicted, could collapse very suddenly, in which case you would see Haftar take the capital and then the only issue would become the more revolutionary city called Misrata — a city of 400,000 people. There is another scenario that he could lose everything. It's very possible that Haftar not only undergoes profound remediation — which would destroy him politically in the West — and then for tactical reasons he could also end up losing the East. Which means basically he would lose every result of the last few years of work. And he has been conducting this military campaign for half a decade and he could lose everything in a few weeks. The other possibility is he could end up with a quagmire with no clear outcome, and two, three years from now we could be having the same conversation.
The views and opinions expressed by the speaker in this article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.