Haftar’s Sweep of Southern Libya Might Finally Reunify the Country
General Khalifa Haftar of the unrecognized East Libyan government in Tobruk announced the beginning of his forces’ operations against terrorist groups, foreign rebels, mercenaries, and other non-state actors in southern Libya last month, sweeping across this broad expanse of sparsely populated territory in the time since to finally capture the country’s biggest oilfield of El Sharara without a shot earlier this week. There were fears that another conventional phase of the country’s long-running civil war would break out as the Libyan National Army (LNA) approached areas under the nominal control of militia forces loyal to the internationally recognized and Tripoli-based “Government of National Accord” (GNA), but Haftar’s army apparently cut a deal with the defenders of the El Sharara oilfield to prevent this scenario from transpiring.
The renegade general is now the most powerful military force in the country with the greatest control over Libya’s economic lifeblood, though he hasn’t abused this position because he vowed to return control of its energy infrastructure to the National Oil Company (NOC), a pragmatic move if there ever was one since international sanctions prohibit him from selling its resources on the global market anyhow. Nevertheless, he’s able to present himself as the nation’s liberator and only unifying force in the post-Gaddafi chaos that followed NATO’s 2011 regime change against the Jamahiriya, thus improving his chances to clinch the presidency if he decides to run in his country’s elections later this year. While Saif Gaddafi might give him a run for his money, people would be voting for Muammar’s scion due to nostalgia, while Haftar actually has real accomplishments under his belt.
Having previously been kept out of power due to the international lobbying efforts of the Tripoli-based GNA, Haftar might finally be able to cut a deal with it and the rest of the global community to be recognized as a legitimate political force following his military’s astounding success in the south and the peaceful return of the El Sharara oilfield to the NOC. At the same time, however, the GNA might hold out in the mistaken belief that the rest of the world will unite against Haftar, though that probably won’t happen since he has differing degrees of tacit backing from Egypt, the UAE, and some even say France and Russia as well. Furthermore, the GNA’s motley crew of competing militias can’t even properly control Tripoli, so any international support for them is superficial as it is.
It appeared for a while that Libya was destined for “Balkanization”, but Haftar’s sudden rise to power and especially his latest successes in the south have shown that even the most broken of African countries has a chance at reuniting in some way or another, preferably through peaceful means brought about as a result of political “compromise”. Civil war-torn Libya has never been closer to reunification, but it’ll now be up to Tripoli’s international backers to pressure the GNA into cutting a deal with Haftar for the sake of the entire nation, though one that might nevertheless still be difficult to reach for reasons of ego and geopolitics. Failing that, Haftar might slowly but surely tighten the noose that he’s strung around Tripoli’s neck until the authorities there surrender, though he seems to be doing everything that he can to reach an acceptable accommodation before that happens.
By Andrew Korybko
Source: Oriental Review