BATTLE OF SIRTE

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The Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) and Syrian militant groups with a direct support from Turkey are preparing for a new attempt to capture the port city of Sirte from the Libyan National Army (LNA).

After the first failed attempt earlier this month, Turkish-backed factions have deployed additional reinforcements to the frontline west of the city. This included artillery pieces, battle tanks and a large number of pickups equipped with weapons. LNA warplanes conducted several strikes on GNA military columns moving from Misrata in the area of Abu Qurayn. However, the existing LNA air power appeared to be not enough to stop the military buildup of Turkish-led forces. The intensity of LNA airstrikes also decreased, especially in the countryside of Tripoli, due to the Turkish efforts to set up an air defense network in the GNA-held part of coastline.

Over the past year, the Turkish military has sent a number of KORKUT self-propelled anti-aircraft guns and MIM-23 Hawk medium-range air defense systems to Libya. These systems as well as electronic warfare capabilities of the deployed Turkish military contingent played an important role in breaking of the LNA siege of Tripoli and allowed Turkish combat drones operate relatively freely in its countryside. Now, Turkey is likely seeking to employ a similar approach to besiege and seize Sirte.

The city, with the estimated population of about 128,000, is an important logistical hub and Libya’s main oil export port. In the beginning of January, the LNA led by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar shut down export terminals and stopped operations of pipelines from El-Sharara and El-Feel oilfields cutting off the exports of the Tripoli-based National Oil Corporation by about 92%. Then, the LNA said that the GNA used the revenues obtained thanks to oil export to pay for Turkish weapons and Turkey-deployed mercenaries. This move demonstrated the determination of the LNA and the democratically-elected House of Representatives based in Torbuk to push forward their project of the united Libya regardless possible decrease of financial revenues from oil business.

Now, Ankara and its partners in Tripoli are eager to capture Sirte and restart a full-scale oil export under their direct control. If Turkish-led forces achieve this goal, Ankara will get an access to an additional source of revenue to compensate, at least partly, its expenditures for the Libyan intervention.

For the LNA leadership, the possible withdrawal from Sirte will mark the full collapse of its plan to unite Libya under a single administration. So, Haftar forces are also preparing for the battle.

EGYPT SENDS BATTLE TANKS TO LIBYAN BORDER AS HAFTAR FORCES RETREAT UNDER TURKISH STRIKES

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After capturing Tripoli International Airport last week, GNA forces and Syrian militant groups with a direct support from the Turkish Armed Forces forced the Libyan National Army (LNA) led by Khalifa Haftar to retreat from a number of villages and towns including Tarhuna and Dawun.

Retreating LNA fighters left behind dozens of weapons and pieces of military equipment, including T-55 and T-62 battle tanks and howitzers. Pro-GNA sources also showcased a destroyed Pantsir-S system, which the LNA had received from the UAE. The town of Tarhuna was looted and a large number of buildings there were destroyed by Turkish-backed forces. The residents of this town are known for their support to the LNA. A large number of civilians fled the town with the retreating LNA units.

On June 6, Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi announced a new diplomatic initiative for Libya proposing a ceasefire from June 6 and the resumption of the political process. Egypt alongside with the UAE are key backers of the LNA.

Apparently, Anakra and the GNA saw this move as a sign of the weakness. The GNA even announced an advance on the port city of Sirte controlled by the LNA. However, Turkish-led forces failed to reach the city on June 6 and June 7 suffering casualties. According to local sources, over 30 Turkish proxies were killed. A Turkish Bayraktar TB2 combat UAV was also shot down. In response, Turkey shot down a Wing Loong II combat UAV operated by the LNA and conducted a series of airstrikes on LNA positions near Sirte. On June 8, the GNA and its allies conducted another attempt to advance on Sirte. Clashes are ongoing.

Egypt reacted to these developments by sending reinforcements to the border with Libya. At least 2 large columns with Egyptian battle tanks were filmed moving towards the border. The geographic location of Egypt allows its leadership, if there is a political will and a strong decision, to freely employ its ground and air forces to support the LNA in the conflict against Turkish proxies. Cairo could opt to choose the strategy of direct actions if Turkish-led forces capture Sirte threatening the LNA heartland in northeastern Libya.

The modern military political leadership of Turkey, in particular President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his inner circle, has views on the needed structure of the Islamic world, which are to a great extent similar to those of the Muslim Brotherhood. For example, the Muslim Brotherhood thinks that the leading Islamic states should be headed by leaders with a rather strong religious agenda.

Egypt traditionally has a complex and balanced cooperation of the religious and secular parts of their society. In the view of the Muslim Brotherhood, the religious factor should be developed further, even at the cost of the interests of the secular part of the society. This goes contrary to the current reality in Egypt, which is ruled by relatively secular leaders. Furthermore, the Muslim Brotherhood and armed groups affiliated with it are considered terrorist organizations in Egypt. Therefore, Cairo sees the expansion of forces ideologically close to the organization as a direct threat to its national security.

Battle For Tripoli Airport 2.0

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02.06.2020 

A new round of intense fighting has broken out between the Libyan National Army (LNA) and Turkish-backed forces near Tripoli.

During the past few days, fighters from the Government of National Accord (GNA) and Syrian militants supported by the Turkish military carried out several attacks on Tripoli’s Airport attempting to capture it from the LNA. At one point, Turkish-led forces even entered the territory of the airport but failed to secure their gains and were forced to retreat. The key facility south of Tripoli remained in the hands of LNA troops. As a result of the clashes, the GNA captured a T-72 battle tank, destroyed at least 2 LNA vehicles and lost about a dozen fighters.

Seeking to compensate this military setback, pro-Turkish sources published photos of what they described as a list of Russian mercenaries written in Russian captured south of Tripoli. However, the list appeared to be only Arab names roughly translated into Russian.

Pro-LNA sources say that the GNA and its backers are pushing the propaganda about the supposedly major involvement of Russian military contractors in the conflict to draw the audience’s attention from the fact that Turkey deployed about 10,000 Syrian militants to support the GNA. Recently, Turkey even started supplying its Syrian proxies and GNA fighters with M60 battle tanks.

In response to these attacks, the LNA Air Force intensified airstrikes on positions of Turkish-backed forces near Gharyan, Al-Aziziyah, Ayn Zarah and Misrata. Pro-LNA sources also claimed that at least 3 Turkish-supplied unmanned aerial vehicles were shot down over Bani Waled and another near Tripoli Airport.

At the same time, LNA units captured from Turkish-backed forces the village of Al-Asaba south of Gharyan. According to reports, the LNA is planning to develop the advance in the direction of Kikla in order to secure a link with its forces deployed southwest of Tripoli. Another priority target is Gharyan itself. If the LNA is able to retake it from the GNA, it will be able to stabilize the frontline after the recent setbacks in the battle against Turkish-backed forces and relaunch the advance on Tripoli. On the other hand, if the GNA keeps Gharyan in its hands, it will be able to continue pressuring LNA units at the Tripoli Airport and expand a buffer zone around the city of Tripoli.

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RUSSIAN WARPLANES IN LIBYA

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27.05.2020 

The US has finally discovered whom to blame for the ongoing escalation of the conflict in Libya.

On May 26, the US African Command (AFRICOM) claimed that Russia had deployed warplanes to Libya to support the Libyan National Army of Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar. It said that Russia is expanding its “military footprint in Africa using government-supported mercenary groups like Wagner”. According to the US military, “If Russia seizes basing on Libya’s coast, the next logical step is they deploy permanent long-range anti-access area denial (A2AD) capabilities.” This, AFRICOM warned, “will create very real security concerns on Europe’s southern flank”. On top of this, it declared, as might be expected, that it is the Russians who are destabilizing the situation in the country; like there was no 2011 NATO invasion that destroyed Libyan statehood and threw the country into a state of permanent chaos.

To make the fearmongering more successful, the Pentagon released shady undated photos of Russian MiG-29, Su-24, Su-34, and Su-35s flying at undisclosed locations and an image of the Al-Jufra air field in Libya with a single MiG-29.

Earlier in May, sources loyal to the Turkish-backed Government of National Accord reported that the Libyan National Army received 8 fighter jets restored thanks to Russian assistance: six MiG-29s and two Sukhoi 24s. Then, pro-Turkish sources also shared an image of the Al-Jufra air field with a single MiG-29 fighter jet to confirm their claims. Where the rest of the air fleet supposedly supplied by Moscow to Haftar forces might be remains unclear. Another interesting question is where are those hordes of Russian private military contractors that US and Turkish officials like to mention in their reports. While the presence of some Russian PMCs in the country is an open secret, photo and video evidence on the ground demonstrate that the scale of their presence is highly overestimated by mainstream media and Western diplomats. Additionally, Moscow’s actions demonstrate that it prefers to avoid a direct involvement in the conflict.

However, if Turkey and NATO member states continue sending their own military specialists, weapons and military equipment to radical, al-Qaeda-like militant groups operating under the brand of the Government of National Accord, Russia really could consider joining more directly the efforts of the UAE and Egypt, who back the Libyan National Army. Until now, Moscow has been mostly focused on providing a distant diplomatic support to them.

Meanwhile, the number of militants deployed by Turkey from Syria’s northwest to Libya to fight on the side of the Government of National Accord reportedly reached 8,000. A large part of them either sympathizes with al-Qaeda ideology or has been directly involved in cooperation with the former official branch of al-Qaeda in Syria, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham. Over the past years, the Libyan National Army has broken the backs of al-Qaeda-linked groups and cleared them from most of the country. The local branch of ISIS also lost its positions in northern Libya due to its inability to come to an understanding with pro-GNA forces and their foreign backers. But now, the growing terrorist threat is once again becoming an important factor of the conflict.

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Turkey Dives Into Libyan Conflict

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The Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) and Syrian militants supported by the Turkish military have achieved more gains in their battle against the Libyan National Army (LNA) led by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar.

GNA forces have captured the areas of Asabiah and Mazdah from the LNA and besieged the town of Tarhuna. On May 23, pro-Turkish sources even claimed that alleged Russian private military contractors operating on the side of the LNA were withdrawn from Tarhuna to Bani Walid and then were evacuated from the country. arlier, the GNA claimed that a Russian military contractor was killed in the area of Salah ad-Din. On top of this, the LNA lost two Chinese-made Wing Loong II combat drones supplied by the UAE which crashed near Bani Walid and Qaryat. The total number of LNA fighters killed or injured in recent clashes in Libya’s northwest, according to pro-GNA sources, is over 100.

However, clashes that erupted north of Tarhuna early on May 24 demonstrated that LNA forces are not going to surrender the town without a battle. Meanwhile, the number of Turkish-backed Syrian militants killed in Libya reportedly reached 311. Additionally, the LNA claimed that its forces had shot down 13 Turkish unmanned combat aerial vehicles during the last 3 days. According to the LNA spokesperson, Maj. Gen. Ahmed al-Mesmari, the army is now relocating its troops and preparing for a push to once again take an upper hand in the battle against Turkish-backed forces.

The LNA also shared a video documenting Turkish actions to supply military equipment and deploy members of Syrian militant groups in Tripoli. The scale of the Turkish military involvement in the conflict grows on a daily basis. Just recently, Ankara reportedly deployed a MIM-23 Hawk medium-range air defense system and military specialists in the city of Misrata.

Turkish military actions are a cornerstone of the recent GNA successes on the ground. At the same time, the very same approach is instigating instability in the region. Egypt and the UAE, which support the LNA, see the Turkish expansion and the strengthening of the GNA as a direct threat to its vital interests. Cairo is also concerned that, if radical militant groups operating under the brand of the GNA reach the Egyptian-Libyan border, they will become a constant source of the terrorist threat in Egypt itself.

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The ominous Jihadis war; From Tripoli to Tripoli:

The ominous Jihadis war; From Tripoli to Tripoli:

May 23, 2020

By Ghassan Kadi for the Saker Blog

The ‘War on Syria’ is far from being over, and it will continue until all foreign forces illegally present on Syrian soil retreat; either willingly, or defeated.

And even though the American presence in Syria has no clear and realistic political purpose other than wreaking havoc. https://transnational.live/2020/05/19/america-exists-today-to-make-war-how-else-do-we-interpret/ and making it hard for Russia to help reach a decisive victory, in a twist of fate, the focus of the Russo-American conflict in the region may soon move away from Syria.

In reality, the outcome of the ‘War on Syria’ was never expected by the initial assembly of adversaries when they launched the attack. Furthermore, they had many deep differences and nothing in common other than a shared hatred for Syria, but the unexpected turn of events has intensified their internal conflict and seemingly catapulted the strife between those former allies much further afield to a new hub in Libya.

Whilst the world and its media are busy with COVID-19, a new huge struggle is brewing, and this time, it is drawing new lines and objectives that are in reality going to be fueled, financed and executed by the former once-united enemies of Syria; but this time, it will be against each other.

An array of regional and international issues lies behind the impending conflict; and to call it impending is an under-statement. It is already underway, but hasn’t reached its peak yet, let alone making any significant news coverage.

It is a real mess in Libya now, and the short version of a long story goes like this:

Soon after NATO hijacked the UNSC mandate to enforce a no-fly-zone decision over Libya and manipulated it in a manner that ‘legalised’ bombing Libya culminating in toppling and killing Gadhafi, the Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA), based in the formal capital Tripoli on the Western side of the coast, was created.

But the ‘revolution’ against Gadhafi was launched in the eastern coastal city of Benghazi. After Gadhafi’s demise, another interim government was formed in Libya’s east under the name of National Transitional Council (NTC).

The NTC, whose flag is the flag of the ‘revolution’, did not recognize the GNA and regarded it as a Western lackey.

After a few years of squabbling, NTC strongman General Haftar decided to militarily disable the GNA.

With little concrete protection on the ground from the West, and under the guise of upholding UNSC mandates, Erdogan jumped into the existing void and the opportunity to grab Libya’s oil, and decided to send troops to support the GNA.  https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-51003034

In return, Haftar is getting support from other regional players. Recently, representatives from Egypt, the UAE, Greece, Cyprus and France had a meeting and denounced Turkey’s involvement in Libya. https://greekcitytimes.com/2020/05/12/greece-egypt-cyprus-france-uae-denounce-turkey-in-joint-statement/. Erdogan perhaps borrowed a term from his American part-ally-part-adversary and referred to the meeting and its decree as an ‘alliance of evil’. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/turkey-accuses-five-nations-of-forming-alliance-of-evil/2020/05/12/a3c5c63a-9438-11ea-87a3-22d324235636_story.html Fancy this, a NATO member accusing other NATO members of being in an alliance of evil.

It must be noted that even though Saudi Arabia did not attend the meeting, it was there in spirit, and represented by its proxy-partner the UAE.

The USA took a step further and accused Russia and Syria of working behind the scenes and planning to send fighters to Libya to support Haftar. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-libya-security-usa-syria-idUSKBN22J301

But this article is not about the geopolitical hoo-ha. It is about shedding a light on what score-settling is expected to eventuate in Libya, and who is likely to end up doing the fighting against who.

Even though the Afghani Mujahedeen were purportedly the first Jihadi fighters to engage in battle in the 20th Century, their fight was against foreign USSR troops. In terms of an internal force that aimed for fundamentalist Muslim rule, there is little doubt that the first event of such insurgency in the Middle East was the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) revolt that took place in Syria in the early 1980’s and which was quashed by the then President, Hafez Assad. After their smashing defeat, the fundamentalists kept their heads low until they lit the flame again in the Palestinian refugee Naher Al-Bared Camp at the northern outskirts of Tripoli Lebanon in 2007.

There are, for those who are unaware, two cities bearing the name Tripoli on the Mediterranean coast; one is in Northern Lebanon, and it is Lebanon’s second largest city, and the other Tripoli is located on the Western side of the Libyan Coast. They are sometimes called Tripoli of the East and Tripoli of the West, respectively.

Shaker Al-Absi, leader of Fateh Al Islam, a Salafist terror organization, declared jihad and engaged in a bitter fight against the Lebanese Army. He was defeated, remained at large, but any look at Lebanon’s Tripoli after his demise displayed a clear evidence of a huge build-up of Salafist presence in the city.

When the ‘War on Syria’ started only four years later, Tripoli became a major hub for the transport of fighters and munitions from Lebanon into Syria. Nearly a decade later, and with a few Jihadi pockets left in the Idlib province now, their defeat in Syria is imminent.

But who exactly are those murderous head-chopping radical elements that we talking about; past and present?

When the coalition that started the attack on Syria took form, it was comprised virtually of all of Syria’s enemies. Most of them were religious fundamentalists. In an early article, I called them ‘The Anti-Syrian Cocktail’.  https://intibahwakeup.blogspot.com/2013/09/the-anti-syrian-cocktail-by-ghassan-kadi.html

Back then, ISIS, did not exist in the form that it became known as. Furthermore, I have always advocated that there was no difference at all between Al-Nusra and ISIS and/or any other Takfiri organizations. They are all terror-based and founded on violent readings of Islam.

In time however, and this didn’t take long, it became apparent that even though the ideologies were identical, there were two major financiers and facilitators to those many different terror organizations. One was primarily funded by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and the other by Qatar and facilitated by Turkey.

The former group is affiliated with what is known as Saudi Wahhabi Islam. They are also known as the Salafists. The latter group are the MB’s.

As the war was shifting in favour of Syria, their agendas diverged, the schism grew deeper and strong rivalries emerged; especially as the Wahhabis and their sponsors were sent home defeated. Part of this fallout was the ongoing Saudi-Qatari conflict.

But the rivalry that is least spoken about is personal. It is the one between Erdogan and Al-Saud.

They are both fighting over the leadership of fundamentalist Sunni Islam. But Erdogan also has his nationalist anti-Kurdish agenda, and of course, he is desperate to put his hands on oil supplies that he can call his own. He cannot find oil on Turkish soil or in Turkish waters, but he is prepared to act as a regional pirate and a thug and steal another nation’s oil. If no one is to stop him, he feels that he can and will.

Upon realizing that Turkey could not get in Syria either victory or oil, Erdogan is now turning his face west towards Libya. He finds in Libya a few scores that he hopes to settle after his failure in Syria. He wants a face-saving military victory, he wants to assert his position as THE Sunni leader who can reclaim glory, and he wants free oil. Last but not least, In Libya, he will find himself close to Egypt’s Sisi; the political/religious enemy who toppled his MB friend and ally, President Mursi.

On the other side, defeated but not totally out, Saudi Arabia wants blood; Erdogan’s blood.

The Saudis blame Erdogan (and Qatar) for their loss in Syria because he was more focused on his own agenda and spoils rather than the combined ones of the former alliance they had with him. They blame him for abandoning them and making deals with Russia. They hold him responsible for the breakup of the unity of Muslim fundamentalism. They fear his aspirations for gaining the hearts and minds of Muslims who regard him as a de-facto Caliph. As a matter of fact, it was Saudi Crown Prince MBS who used the borrowed word ‘evil’ first when he stated more than two years ago that Erdogan was a part of a ‘Triangle of Evil’. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-saudi-turkey-idUSKCN1GJ1WW. And how can we forget the Khashoggi debacle and the ensuing standoff between Turkey and Saudi Arabia?

We must stop and remember once again that not long ago at all, Turkey and Saudi Arabia were allies, who together, plotted how to invade Syria and bring her down to her knees. These are the heads of the two major countries that facilitated the war machine with Saudi money injecting fighters and munitions into Syria from the south, and open Turkish borders and Qatari money injecting them from the north.

Back to Libyan General Haftar. In his westerly advance along Libya’s terrain, he cleaned up the ISIS elements who stood in his way and hindered his progress.  https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/feb/02/libya-foreign-powers-khalifa-haftar-emirates-russia-us But ironically, he is now fighting their religious rival; the Turks, the protectors of the MB’s.

The USA may accuse Syria of sending troops into Libya, but where is the proof and why should Syria do this after all? And even though the Saudis and the Emiratis are warming up relationships with Syria, the Syrian Army is still engaged in battle and is not prepared to go and fight in Libya. There is nothing for it to gain. Once the war is over, Syria will be concerned with rebuilding a war-torn nation. Syria has no interests in Libya; none what-so-ever.

The role of Russia is not very clear on the ground even though there are clear indications that Russia supports Haftar ideologically. The support began when Haftar demonstrated to the Russians that he was adamant about fighting ISIS and exterminating its presence in Libya. He lived up to this promise thus far and gained Russian respect.

How will the situation in Libya eventually pan out is anyone’s guess. That said, apart from sending regular Turkish Army units, Erdogan is not short on rounding up fighters; and he has attained much experience in this infamous field of expertise from his vicious attack on Syria. With Qatari money in his pocket, he can recruit as many fighters as Qatar can afford.

Erdogan realizes that the West is not interested in backing him up militarily in Libya. The best deal he can get from America is a tacit support. And with France, a NATO member taking part in the above-mentioned five-nation conference, he will definitely have to stand alone so-to-speak.

He has Qatar behind him, but how powerful is Qatar? A ‘nation’ of 200,000 citizens? How can such a small state play such a big role and why?

Qatar is not really a nation or even a state in the true sense. Qatar is an entity, a ‘corporation’ owned by a ruling dynasty that serves the interests of the USA and Israel. https://thesaker.is/qatar-unplugged/. This family will outlay any sum of money to guarantee its own protection and continuity.

And Erdogan, the friend-and-foe of both of America and Israel, knows the vulnerabilities and strengths of Qatar, and he is using his deceptive talents to provide the Qatari ruling family with the securities that the shortfalls that America and Israel do not provide. For example, it was he who sent troops to Qatar after the Saudi threats. And even though Erdogan will never take any serious actions against his NATO masters except in rhetoric, the weak and fearful Qataris will dance to the tune of any protector and will sell their souls to the devil should they need to.

On the other hand in Libya, if Haftar finds himself facing a huge Turkish army, he will need assistance on the ground. Where will he seek it from?  His next-door neighbour Egypt? If so, will it be in the form of regular army units or hired guns?

Sisi is neither a religious nor a fundamentalist zealot, but this is not meant to be a complementary statement. He has not taken any serious black-and-white steps in regional politics. This does not mean he is a man of principles. He is probably waiting for dollar signs, and if he sees financial benefits in supporting Saudi Arabia in a proxy war against Turkey in Libya, he may opt to agree; if the price it right.

Whether or not Saudi Arabia can afford a new war, especially with current crude prices, is another story, but as the war on Yemen winds down, the gung-ho MBS is irrational enough to be persuaded. His regional enemy is no longer Assad. His current enemy is Erdogan.

To be fair to MBS, despite his vile, criminal and megalomaniac attributes, he never claims to be a religious leader, but Erdogan does, and many Sunni Muslims see in Erdogan THE leader they have been waiting for. This alone constitutes a huge challenge for MBS because neither he, nor anyone else in the whole of Saudi Arabia for that matter, is regarded anywhere in the Muslim World as a potential leader of the Sunni Muslims.

In reality, as far as Muslim leadership is concerned, the Saudis can only bank on the location of Mecca in Saudi Arabia. Apart from this, they only have wealth that enables them to buy supporters, but their oil wealth is becoming increasingly vulnerable.

In the uphill fight against Erdogan within the Muslim World, both of the Saudis and the Turks realize that the fight between them in Syria is over. Actually, the Saudis have no loyal ‘troops’ on Syrian soil left to fight anyone with. This begs the question of whether or not the Turks and Saudis are moving the battle ground and the score settling from Syria to Libya.

This time around, such a potential battle between the two lines of Jihadis may have to morph from a fight between terror organizations to a war between regular armies; the Turkish Army against the Egyptian Army. Such a battle will rage over Libyan soil, with the Turks financed by Qatar and Egypt by Saudi Arabia.

Such a war will not necessarily bring in Iran into the fight. If it eventuates, it will be a fundamentalist Sunni-Sunni war, sponsored by fundamentalist Sunni states, each fighting for and against different versions of radical Muslim fundamentalism, under the watchful eyes of the USA and to the glee of Israel.

The jihadi war that was first ignited in Tripoli Lebanon between a rogue terror organization and the Lebanese Army did not end. It kept moving theatres and objectives and changing players. Is the final score going to be settled in Tripoli Libya?

TURKISH ‘NEO-OTTOMAN’ PROJECT SHIFTS FOCUS FROM SYRIA TO LIBYA

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This week, massive Turkish military support has finally allowed the Government of National Accord to achieve some breakthrough in the battle against the Libyan National Army (LNA).

On May 18, GNA forces and members of Turkish-backed militant groups from Syria supported by Turkish special forces and unmanned combat aerial vehicles captured the Watiya Air Base in the northwestern part of the country. LNA troops urgently retreated from it after several days of clashes in the nearby area. They left behind a UAE-supplied Pantsir-S1, an Mi-35 military helicopter and a notable amount of ammunition. The LNA defense at the air base was undermined by a week-long bombardment campaign by artillery and combat drones of Turkish-backed forces.

Additionally, pro-Turkish sources claimed that drone strikes destroyed another Pantsir-S1 air defense system near Sirte and even a Russian-made Krasukha mobile electronic warfare system. According to Turkish reports, all this equipment is being supplied to the Libyan Army by the UAE. Turkish sources regularly report about successful drone strikes on Libyan convoys with dozens of battle tanks. Some of these ‘military convoys’ later appeared to be trucks filled with water-melons.

In any case, the months of Turkish military efforts, thousands of deployed Syrian militants and hundreds of armoured vehicles supplied to the GNA finally payed off. The Watiya Air Base was an operational base of the LNA used for the advance on the GNA-controlled city of Tripoli. If the LNA does not take back the airbase in the near future, its entire flank southwest of Tripoli may collapse. It will also loose all chances to encircle the city. According to pro-Turkish sources, the next target of the Turkish-led advance on LNA positions will be Tarhuna. Earlier this year, Turkish-backed forces already failed to capture the town. Therefore, they seek to take a revanche.

This will lead to a further escalation of the situation in northern Libya and force the UAE and Egypt, the main backers of the LNA, to increase their support to the army. The UAE-Egypt bloc could bank on at least limited diplomatic support from Russia. Until now, Moscow has preferred to avoid direct involvement in the conflict because it may damage the delicate balance of Russian and Turkish interests. Russian private military contractors that operate in Libya represent the economic interests of some Russian elite groups rather than the foreign policy interests of the Russian state.

Additionally, Turkey, which is supported by Qatar and some NATO member states, has already announced its plans to begin oil and gas exploration off Libya’s coast. Ankara has ceased to hide the true intentions and goals of its military operation in Libya. Thus, the internal political conflict turned into an open confrontation of external actors for the natural resources of Libya.

The interesting fact is that the increasing military activity of Turkey in Libya goes amid the decrease of such actions in Syria. Thousands of Turkish proxies have been sent from Syria to Libya. This limits Ankara’s freedom of operations in the main Syrian hot point – Greater Idlib. In these conditions, Turkish statements about some mysterious battle against terrorism in Idlib look especially questionable. Indeed, in the current conditions, Ankara will be forced to cooperate with Idlib terrorists, first of all al-Qaeda-linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham even closer to maintain its influence in this part of Syria. The Hayat Tahrir al-Sham plan to create a local quasi-state in the controlled territory and expand its own financial base by tightening the grip on the economic and social life in the region will gain additional momentum.

As to the Turkish government, it seems that in the current difficult economic conditions President Recep Tayyip Erdogan decided to exchange his “Neo-Ottoman” foreign policy project for expanding in some not so rich regions of Syria for quite tangible additional income from the energy business in Libya.

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HUNDREDS OF MILITANTS DEFECT FROM INFLUENTIAL TURKISH PROXY GROUP IN SYRIA

Hundreds Of Militants Defect From Influential Turkish Proxy Group In Syria

06.05.2020 

Around 700 militants have defected from the Turkish-backed Sultan Murad Division as result of disagreements related to the group’s involvement in the Libyan war, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported on April 6.

According to the London-based monitoring group, the defectors left the group in protest to the deployment of Syrians in Libya.

“The defection of the commanders and fighters from the faction came in protest against the faction’s policy of sending fighters to Libya to fight alongside the al-Sarraj government [the Government of National Accord (GNA)] … In addition to disputes as a result of the faction’s leadership policy on Syria,” the SOHR’s report reads.

After defecting, the militants abandoned several positions on the frontlines with Kurdish forces and the Syrian military around the town of Ras al-Ain in northern al-Hasakah.

Activists revealed that the defectors included six military commanders of the Murad Division. The commanders were identified as Abu Walid Al-Ezzi, Araba Idris, Abu Bilal Hanish, Abu Muhannad al-Hur and Fadi al-Diri.

Turkey began deploying Syrian militants in Libya to support GNA forces, last year. The step provoked many hardliners, who argued that their battle is only against the regime in Syria.

Last month, Turkey cut support for Faylaq al-Rahman, one of its proxy groups, for refusing to send any militants to fight in Libya.

In spite of these setbacks, more Syrian militants are preparing to depart to Libya. A recent report by the SOHR revealed that more than 7,000 Syrian militants are currently fighting for the GNA.

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POV VIDEO DOCUMENTS LAST MOMENTS OF SYRIAN MERCENARY GROUP IN LIBYA

On May 2, the Libyan National Army (LNA) released a video documenting the very last minutes of a group of Syrian mercenaries fighting on the side of the Turkish-backed Government of National Accord (GNA).

The group was neutralized by LNA units during clashes in the district of Saladin, right to the south of the Libyan capital, Tripoli.

The video shows the mercenaries heading aboard a Turkish ACV-15 armored personnel carrier (APV) to storm a villa in the district. Minutes after arriving in the villa, the group got hit with an ordnance.

Most of the group’s militants were killed or injured in the strike. The group’s leader, nicknamed al-Hayani [likely because he is from the town of Hayan in northern Aleppo], immediately panics and start shouting on the radio asking for help as troops from the LNA approach the villa.

“Guys, they are storming us, they are storming us … They are shooting at us, they reached us,” al-Hayani shouts on the radio in a clear Aleppo dialect.

Frustrated as his commanders continue to ignore his repeated calls for help, al-Hayani began to shout even louder and louder on the radio

As an ACV-15 passes by their village without stopping, he shouts “stop, stop, stop for God’s sake stop, tell him to come back, to come back.”

The video ends with al-Hayani saying “Guys, please send us an ACV … Guys, we are dying … Guys, everyone with me are injured only I’m alive.”

The video demonstrates the poor training of Turkish-backed Syrian militants as well as the lack of serious coordination between them and GNA forces.

According to a recent report by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), 233 Syrian militants have been killed in Libya, thus far. A total of 7,400 Syrian militants were deployed by Turkey in Libya to support the GNA.

The deployment of Syrian militants allowed GNA forces to hold onto their remaining positions around Tripoli. However, this came at a high cost.

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A CLOSER LOOK AT QATARI-FUNDED PROPAGANDA OVER WAR IN LIBYA

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A Closer Look At Qatari-Funded Propaganda Over War In Libya

A Libya-related scandal is brewing in Qatar.

A secret letter from the Qatari Foreign Minister to the Qatari Ambassador in Canada was somehow leaked online.

In the letter, the former orders the latter to express support of the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) on social media.

The document explicitly states the allocation of funds for propaganda materials against Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar.

A Closer Look At Qatari-Funded Propaganda Over War In Libya

It also mandates the dissemination of information about the control of territories by the GNA’s Turkish-backed forces.

The Twitter user made a joke out of it, that $6,000 wasn’t a little money and an armored “Tiger” vehicle was also included in the price.

Turkey, and then Qatar are the GNA’s most vehement supporters, with assisting it not only with propaganda in the media, but also with very actual equipment and weapon deliveries. On the part of Ankara, there’s also thousands of fighters being deployed from Syria to fight on behalf of the UN-backed government.

Qatar rejected the declaration by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar that he obtained a “popular mandate” allowing the military to govern Libya, considering this a new affirmation of his persistent attempt to stage a coup against international legitimacy and the Libyan national consensus as well as a clear disdain for the international community which have been watching for a long time without taking any action regarding the crimes committed against the brotherly Libyan people, especially since the beginning of the attack on Tripoli last year.

In a statement, the Qatari Ministry of Foreign Affairs affirmed that Khalifa Haftar gave a false pretext in his declaration reflecting his disregard for the sanctity of Libyan blood and the minds of those who listen to him.

“At a time when the world’s efforts are directed to stop the bloodshed in Libya and fight the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, we see the continuation of the militarization of the scene and attacks on civilians and on the political track, without any regard for the tragedy of the children, women, elderly, and displaced persons of the Libyan people,” it added.

The statement called on the international community and actors in the Libyan scene to shoulder their humanitarian and historical responsibility and to prevent Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar and his militias from killing more innocents and tearing the Libyan nation apart.

Essentially, it just repeated the same accusations that the GNA-affiliated media, and the Turkish propaganda network has been attempting to propagate for a while.

The Libyan National Army, in response, has repeatedly accused the Emir of Qatar of bankrolling the GNA’s militias.

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