OPINION | The Tobruk Affair
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OPINION | The Tobruk Affair

By Federica Fanuli
Editor-at-Large, IndraStra Global

OPINION | The Tobruk Affair

Image Attribute: Satellite Imagery - City of Tobruk, Libya / Google Maps

It has been over a month since the arrival of al-Sarraj, the Premier of the Libyan Government of National Accord, the man who has been selected by the international community, is still waiting for the official political support from the Libyan opposition, the militias,and the population in order to drag Libya out of the crisis. 

During the G5 Summit at Hanover, the five world powers have welcomed the appeal of the Tripoli government at the intervention of Western forces against the Islamic State, they have expressed unity on the Libyan issue, but the fate of this land is still unknown. 

The European Union and the Obama administration converge on the commitment of the government of President al-Sarraj to dismantle the Islamic State and restore peace in Libya, based on the planning of actions aimed at controlling migration, which, supposedly, are set to intensify after the EU-Turkey agreement, as the Mediterranean route likely to be strengthened. 

In this regard, sources are murmuring on a possible mission in the Mediterranean, under the auspices of NATO, but in the meantime, the complicated scenery does not rule out sending more troops, even for the protection of the rich oil wells - a hypothesis, that makes its way through the various denials. And speaking of oil assets, in addition to the jihadist threat, al-Sarraj must also deal with General Khalifa Haftar, who is likely to interfere with the neo-government of Tripoli in an effort to heal the Libyan crisis. 

Image Attribute: General Khalifa Haftar, / Source:Wikipedia , CC BY 2.0

Image Attribute: General Khalifa Haftar, / Source:WikipediaCC BY 2.0

A controversial character, Khalifa Haftar was made commander of the forces of the internationally recognized Tobruk government on 2 March 2015, who has conducted the Operation “Dignity” against DAESH about two years ago. 

Despite the arms embargo imposed by the United Nations from 2011, weapons have been recently delivered to the General Haftar - coming from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) - to fight the Islamic State. Unofficially, it is the clear economic and political support from UAE to Haftar, who also has the full support of Egypt, even to the obvious expansionist agenda of Cairo on Cyrenaica, a Libyan region of strategic interest. 

The decision of the Premier of Tobruk, Abdullah al-Thani, to subtract Ibrahim Jadhran, the commander of Petroleum Defense Guards, has increased the risk of upsetting the plans in favour of the General Assembly. Seemingly unrelated, the facts reveals that Jadhran could have been an important point of contact. Moreover, Jadhran has publicly pledged allegiance to the government of Tripoli enough to irritate Tobruk, because the militias that control oil may hinder the sale. It is not a coincidence the request of help from the government of Al Serraj, the UN and the European Union and so, will extend their support to the image of Haftar. 

As a matter of the fact, Tripoli fears that weapons intended for the General not only serve to fight DAESH, but also to equip the oil guards so that Tobruk can autonomously control the plant and manage the market through its own independent distribution system. This could rekindle the spirits of separatist supporters of Haftar and if the General could also gain ground in Sirte, it is likely to become a direct interlocutor with the West which still looking for a solution that can stabilize the situation in Libya. 

At the request of the Italian Minister of Defense Roberta Pinotti, to join the efforts of al-Sarraj Government, the Haftar followers have reacted by burning the Italian flag as a symbol of protest. It's quite crystal clear, that the General Haftar aims to carve out a well-defined space in this chaos, and if we consider that without the control of Sirte and it's airport, it might be difficult to start the mission of the United Nations, also on top of that the image of al-Sarraj - currently only interlocutor and representative of the Libyan government - could be seriously questioned.

About the Author:

Federica Fanuli (TR RID : M-9093-2015), Editor-at-Large, IndraStra Global. She was graduated with honors in Political Science and International Relations from the University of Salento and she has also obtained a Master's Degree in Political Science, European Studies and International Relations from the same university. As a Foreign Affairs analysts, she is an editorial board member of the Institute of Global Studies, a columnist at The Sunday Sentinel, and an editorial board member of Cosmopolismedia.it. She can be reached at her Linkedin Profile.

AIDN002042016007 / INDRASTRA / ISSN 2381-3652