Expanding the Libyan war into all-out war looms on the horizon as
General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s regime uses actors, singers, and the media
to mobilise the Egyptian people in support of any anticipated military
action by the Egyptian army.
After nine years of civil war between rival militias, major regional
powers seem to be about to interfere directly in Libya, instead of
through a proxy war.
As the Turkish parliament voted to authorise a military intervention to
back the Libyan internationally recognised Government of National
Accord (GNA) in Tripoli led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, key
backers of the Libyan National Army (LNA) in Benghazi headed by
Khalifa Haftar denounced the vote as illegal and threatened to
After a call with French President Emmanuel Macron on December
30, al-Sisi issued a statement denouncing the Turkey-GNA accords as
“illegal foreign intervention” in Libya.
Al-Sisi said Libya, whose border with Egypt is 1,115 kilometres (693
miles) long, is a “matter of national security” for Egypt.
The Egyptian foreign ministry published a statement condemning the
Turkish vote “in the strongest terms.”
French authorities, commenting on the phone call between Macron and
al-Sisi, warned of “the danger of military escalation” and called “all
international and Libyan actors to exercise the greatest caution.”
Both Paris and Cairo hypocritically expressed hopes that a conference
on Libya in Berlin next month would lead to a peaceful negotiated
settlement of the Libyan war.
On the ground, the GNA and the LNA, and the sprawling array of
international backers behind each faction, are arming for war.
At stake is not only the domination of oil-rich Libya but undersea oil
and gas resources in the eastern Mediterranean that could provide 10
per cent or more of Europe’s energy supply.
Erdogan threatened to send Turkish troops to Libya “by land, air and
sea” and denounced Egypt and the United Arab Emirates for backing
Haftar, asking: “What business do they have in Libya?”
NATO-linked sources including the Syrian Observatory for Human
Rights claimed that Ankara is already sending Islamist militiamen to
Libya from Idlib province in Syria, and 500 Syrian fighters are already
On the other hand, the backers of Haftar’s LNA are all rapidly arming it
and advancing their strategic and financial interests. Hundreds of
Russian-backed mercenaries allegedly linked to the Wagner Group
company are fighting in Libya, raising the prospect of a Russian-Turkish
conflict over Libya as well as Syria.
Middle East Monitor reported that three cargo planes, one from the
UAE with troops and two from Egypt with arms, recently arrived at
Haftar’s bases in eastern Libya.
Haftar, whose troops have been attacking Tripoli since last spring, said
yesterday that he could take Tripoli “in hours” if Egypt sent troops to
help him crush al-Sarraj.
On the ground, Haftar militias are now under sustained attack by GNA
forces. Haftar threatened al-Sisi that if Egypt did not intervene militarily
when Turkey did, al-Sisi would soon “find Erdogan’s soldiers on (his)
While Ankara shows a clear intention to send soldiers openly to Libya,
Cairo is waiving it informally.
Observers say that Egyptian officers are already in Libya taking part in
support of Khalifa Haftar militias and that there are Turkish officers on
the side of the GNA.
The military presence of the two countries has not turned into an all-out
war yet, and in the event of public intervention, the war in Libya will
shift from a militia war to an all-out war.
Military experts say that the region is not ready for an all-out war, and
that European countries such as France or Italy are not ready for an
open war, even if there are large quantities of gas and oil, and that they
would prefer to continue a proxy war.
At the same time, Cairo has avoided engaging in war with Ethiopia over
the Nile waters, which is a lifeline for Cairo.
Egyptian support for Haftar was fully paid for by the UAE and Saudi
Arabia. But the UAE and Saudi Arabia, in light of developments in the
situation in Iraq and the Gulf, will be busier, and perhaps spending will
not continue at the same level, as well as the possibility of escalation to
the level of all-out war.