Haftar’s last day? Al-Sisi’s close ally in Libya is in a dilemma

In the famous Egyptian movie, Salah al-Din, England’s King Richard I (the Lionheart) stands at the end of the movie, complaining about the betrayal of his friends and allies from the kings of Europe at the time of the Crusade in Jerusalem. Then Richard said, “All of them sold (betrayed) you, Richard.” 

The situation is not very different for the Libyan General Khalifa Haftar, who announced less than two months ago that he accepted the popular mandate to lead and manage the affairs of the country, making himself a crowning king of Libya, which he would rule without a parliament, government or elections, but now he suffers from the denial of all his regional and international allies, and faces what it is like to suffer forced house arrest imposed in Cairo. For many years, Egyptian General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi stuck to General Haftar, and he rejected all his allies’ efforts to replace him with another civilian leader, but it finally seems that the Egyptian regime had also abandoned the defeated general. 

Former US envoy to Libya, Jonathan Winer, said that Haftar will remain under close observation in Cairo and will not return to Libya in the current period. Winer added in a tweet that Haftar is expected to remain for at least a few weeks in the Egyptian capital before he will need to find a place to retire, quoting senior Egyptian officials.

An Egyptian official admitted that Libyan General Haftar had not gone back to Libya recently after meeting Egyptian General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, although his political ally, Speaker of the Eastern Libya Parliament Aqila Saleh had returned to Libya. But the source said that Haftar is not subject to house arrest, but rather is currently residing in Cairo as part of international arrangements to rearrange the situation in Libya. The source added that Haftar’s appearance may currently complicate the situation in Libya, and will not solve the crisis, because the other parties in western Libya refuse any cooperation with Haftar and consider him a war criminal who attacked civilian neighbourhoods in the capital Tripoli for months.

Despite the source’s insistence that Haftar is not subject to any house arrest, he avoided answering a question about whether Haftar himself accepts these new international arrangements, and he merely said that these arrangements are in the interest of Libya, and for the benefit of all.

The leaks about getting Haftar out of the equation in Libya come one day after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s phone conversation with US President Donald Trump. In televised comments after that phone call, Erdogan, who supports the internationally recognised national reconciliation government, said, “Haftar will be out of the equation in Libya at any moment according to the current developments.”

In an attempt to deny any suspicion of imposing house arrest on Haftar, the Egyptian source said that the Libyan general will conduct an external tour, including the UAE, the prominent regional ally of his forces, and that he may reside there or in another country. Later, a statement issued by the embassy run by the Venezuelan opposition in Washington on Monday, said that the leader of the Venezuelan opposition, Juan Guaido, had “warned the international community” that Haftar was in Venezuela “under the protection of the Maduro regime.”

According to the Egyptian source, regional and international parties (supporting Haftar) considered that his continued existence became a problem, not a solution. In an implicit critique of Haftar’s policies recently, the source said that Haftar surprised his supporters with a number of decisions and policies that he had not previously agreed upon, referring to Haftar’s announcement that he accepted the popular mandate to manage the country’s affairs.

Observers considered that Haftar’s announcement then meant the removal of the House of Representatives, which supports his forces, in eastern Libya, which means that it has become a clear military ruling, and that this declaration has caused major political differences in eastern Libya.

The official source accused Haftar that his recent announcement had increased the differences in the eastern Libya camp, and that the national reconciliation government, backed by Turkey, took advantage of these differences to achieve major successive victories. The Egyptian source attempted to confirm that none of Haftar’s allies did not support the move announced by Haftar, although other sources confirmed that the move was carried out with Egyptian approval.

In the aftermath of Haftar’s announcement of inauguration himself to manage the affairs of the country, the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement, saying that Egypt “appreciates the relative stability achieved by the Libyan National Army (the militia of the retired Major General Khalifa Haftar) in the Libyan territories,” in what is considered tacit support for the declaration of Haftar.

The spokesperson for the Egyptian Foreign Ministry, Ahmed Hafez, claimed that what “the Libyan army has achieved has led to a decline in terrorist operations in this country. This means, of course, that the terrorist threat emanating from Libya will diminish to threaten its near and far neighbouring countries.” But Egypt later said that this step, which had angered France (primarily) and the rest of the regional allies, had nothing to do with it.