By Theodore Shoebat
The government of Turkey wants to put its troops and naval forces on the coast of Tripoli in Libya in order to support Turkish-backed Syrian rebels who will be fighting against the Libyan rebel Khalifa Haftar who is trying to overthrow the internationally recognized state in Libya. Turkey is going to be expanding the jihad of Syrian rebels into Libya.
According to a senior Turkish official, Turkish troops are planned to be training the Libyan troops of Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj. Ethnic Turkmen rebel fighters, who have been backing Turkish troops in northern Syria, are also expected to be proving support for the Libyan government, according to both a Turkish official and a Libyan official who want to remain anonymous. Initially the Libyan government did not want Turkey’s involvement in the conflict, but changed its mind after Haftar’s forces began advancing close to Tripoli. Erdogan has vowed not to allow the fall of al-Sarraj’s government and could even commence the sending of Turkish forces into Libya in early January of 2020 upon securing the green light of the parliament.
Libya right now is a center for foreign intervention by multiple powerhouses, such as France, Italy, the US and Turkey. The main goal is energy resources. Turkey, in fact, signed a major deal with the Libyan government that places Turkey in a dominant position and counters Greece who is in competition with Turkey over natural gas in Cyprus. By establishing a substantial energy deal with, and by placing Turkish ground and naval forces in, Libya, Turkey will be flexing her muscles to intimidate Greek Cyprus so as to leverage control over her natural gas. As we read in a report from World Oil:
Turkey and Libya officially approved a contentious maritime deal that may fuel an energy showdown in the gas-rich waters of the eastern Mediterranean, where both countries are at odds with Greece.
The Nov. 27 preliminary agreement demarcates an 18.6-nautical mile (35-kilometer) line that will form the maritime boundary separating what will be the two countries’ respective exclusive economic zones. Libya’s presidential council and Turkey’s parliament approved the memorandum of understanding, Anadolu Agency said Friday. It is now expected to be filed with the United Nations.
“This agreement also amounts to a political message that Turkey can’t be sidelined in the eastern Mediterranean and nothing can be really achieved in the region without Turkey’s participation,” Cagatay Erciyes, a senior foreign ministry official in charge of maritime and aviation boundary affairs, said on Thursday.
Greece, Cyprus and Egypt see the deal as a brazen Turkish bid for dominance in the contested waters. Libya is also in conflict with Greece over off-shore exploration licenses Athens issued for waters south of Crete, which is located between Turkey and Libya. Turkey, which has dispatched warships to accompany its drilling ships off the divided island of Cyprus, will issue more such permits for the Mediterranean following the deal with Libya, Energy Minister Fatih Donmez said on Wednesday.
“Erdogan’s strategy has been to intensify tensions to such an extent as to force serious concessions from Greek Cyprus during future negotiations on the status of the island and how its natural gas wealth will be distributed,” said Anthony Skinner, Middle East and North Africa director at risk analyst Verisk Maplecroft. “Standing up strongly for Turkish Cypriots constitutes part of Erdogan’s nationalist credentials but also forms a key part of Turkey’s political identity and will remain a priority national interest.”
Greece has been outraged by the agreement between Turkey and Libya, affirming that it violates the economic exclusive zones (EEZ) of Greek islands such as Crete. But Turkey contends this, of course. Recently the eastern Mediterranean has become a center for contention over the control of natural gas, especially for countries like Cyprus, Israel and Egypt, all of whom are weary of Turkey’s advancement in the maritime region. Turkey is against drilling by Greek Cyprus if it does not agree on sharing any of the profits with Turkish Cyprus. Egypt is also against the agreement since it fears Turkish domination over its EEZ in the Eastern Mediterranean. The Turkish drilling ships, the Fatih and Yavuz are presently operating in parts of Cypriot maritime territories that Turkey has declared its own. Erdogan has refused to change anything in the deal since it was done with the government of Libya, and as long as the Libyan state is maintained, the deal will be observed. “As long as the legitimate government in Libya stands firm on its feet, this new step will achieve its goal,” said Erdogan. It is not just the Islamist AK Party that is supporting Turkey’s policy in Libya, but the next biggest party in Turkey, the secular and nationalist CHP as well.
The chaos in Libya, which is a result of the US led NATO operation of removing Gaddafi, has led to the country being vulnerable to exploitation by more powerful countries. Supposedly Turkey did not want Gaddafi to be removed since it had strong economic dealings with Libya at the time. But, Turkey nonetheless backed Libyan rebels against Gaddafi (although they say that Turkey was reluctant to do this and was simply fulfilling NATO demands). After the diminishment of Gaddafi’s government in 2011, Turkey began eyeing billion dollar deals for ‘rebuilding’ Libya. As we read from a 2011 article from Reuters:
Hesitant at first to dump one-time friend Muammar Gaddafi and
to back NATO operations, Turkey is taking a lead role in efforts to
rebuild Libya now the Libyan leader is on the run, eyeing billion dollar
deals and hoping to extend its influence in north Africa.
Muslim Turkey, a rising diplomatic and political power in the Middle East
and in North Africa, had close political ties with Gaddafi and Turkish
companies had projects worth more than $15 billion in the oil producing
nation last year.
Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, who in February said NATO intervention in
Libya was “out of the question,” once received the Gaddafi International
peace prize from Gaddafi himself.
But as the revolt spread, forcing the evacuation of thousands of Turks and
leaving unfinished projects behind, and as Gaddafi grew more isolated
internationally, Ankara shifted its position.
It reluctantly backed NATO operations, called on Gaddafi to step down and
recognized the rebels as Libya’s legitimate government. Ankara has
provided the rebel National Transitional Council, the new masters of much
of Libya, with $300 million in cash, loans and other aid.
Speaking at a Libya Contact Group meeting of senior diplomats in Istanbul
Thursday, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu urged the United
Nations to unfreeze Libyan assets and pledged full international support
for a stable, prosperous and democratic Libya.
Analysts say Turkey’s approach has highlighted the challenges Ankara faces
as it throws itself to the forefront of diplomacy in the Middle East and
Africa and beyond while trying to look after its interests in the wake of
Arab Spring revolts.
“Turkey is taking the lead in post-Gaddafi Libya to secure its extensive
commercial interests and it wants to demonstrate it is an indispensable
player in the Middle East and in Africa,” said Fadi Hakura, a Turkey
expert from the London-based Chatham House think- tank.
“Libya will become a theater for competing economic interests. The U.S.,
France, Italy and Britain have the leg up in securing their interests for
taking the lead in assisting in the removal of Gaddafi. But commercial
opportunities are big enough to accommodate many countries, including
So, Turkey’s plans for Libya to establish itself as a powerhouse in North Africa go back to the Libyan chaos that began in 2011. There are other major players involved in Libya such as France and Italy. The French are backing the rebel forces of Haftar while Italy is supporting the recognized government.
In February of 2019, Haftar’s forces took control of Libya’s biggest oil field in the southwestern Sharara field. LNA spokesman Ahmed al-Mismari said in a telephone interview: “Sharara is completely secure and ready to resume pumping … The guards at the field handed over the field to our forces peacefully.” Corporate interests have definitely been involved in this, with the LNA agreeing to hand over the giant oil field to the National Oil Corp, which is the dominant oil company in Libya.
The National Oil Corp’s subsidiaries are the Arabian Gulf Oil Company (Agoco), Zueitina Oil Company (ZOC), Sirte Oil Company and the Waha Oil Company (WOC). The Waha Oil Company’s ownership was under a joint venture with ConocoPhillips, Hess Corp. and Marathon. But, in March of 2018, the French oil company Elf Aquitaine SAS (a subsidiary of France’s major oil company, Total S.A.) bought Marathon’s Libyan subsidiary, Marathon Oil Libya Limited, for $450 million.
Italy also has oil interest in Libya, with Italy’s major oil company, Eni, operating in that country. In fact, in October of 2018 Eni agreed to buy half of the British oil company BP’s 85% stake in a Libyan oil and gas license. According to Reuters, part of the agreement was that Eni will get 42.5% stake and “become the operator of the exploration and production sharing agreement (EPSA) in Libya, in which the Libyan Investment Authority holds the remaining 15 percent, the companies said in a statement.” Ultimately, this rivalry between European countries is about reviving their former glories of empire. In the words of Cafiero, “France is seeking to assert itself as a rising power on the global stage.”
While European powers compete for resources in North Africa, Turkey is contriving for her own power over Middle East, metamorphosing into the next Ottoman Empire. “Cush and Put, Lydia and all Arabia, Libya and the people of the covenant land will fall by the sword along with Egypt” (Ezekiel 30:5). Put” or “Phut” is a reference to North Africa, and that includes Libya.