mead berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn bayles
Libyan Afterparty
Russia Plays Power Broker in Libya

As Russia continues to set the agenda in Syria, the Wall Street Journal reports that Moscow is also playing the power broker in Libya, courting the U.S. to support the general who is fighting the UN-backed government:

The Kremlin’s growing embrace of Gen. Khalifa Haftar, a rival of the United Nations-backed coalition government in Tripoli, signals Moscow’s desire to extend its influence in the Middle East and North Africa after intervening in Syria’s war. Now the Russian government is courting the Trump administration to get its support for the controversial general, people familiar with the Kremlin’s thinking said.

Russia sees its role in the fight against Islamist terrorism as a selling point, and President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin have touted the idea of Washington and Moscow cooperating to fight Islamic State. […]

A person close to the Kremlin said Russian officials had spoken to officials at the U.S. National Security Council about Gen. Haftar, as well as efforts to combat Islamic State in Libya and Moscow’s desire to make oil deals in the crude-rich country.

Officially, Russia denies that it is picking favorites in Libya, but appearances suggest otherwise. Russia has reportedly sent military officers to train Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA), is in talks to arm his forces, and recently hosted him aboard Russia’s sole aircraft carrier in a symbolic show of support. Meanwhile, other prominent Libyan leaders are scrambling to make inroads with the Russians. Fayez Seraj, the Prime Minister of Libya’s Government of National Accords, said he is planning his own trip to Moscow in the hopes that Russia can serve as an intermediary between him and Haftar. When it comes to resolving the Libyan crisis, it would seem, all roads lead to Moscow.

As always, Russia’s trump card is the incoherence of Western policy. Ever since the ill-advised Libyan intervention and the failure of President Obama, Prime Minister Cameron and President Sarkozy to restore order after Qaddafi’s ouster, the unhappy North African country has been one of the principal sources of instability in the Mediterranean world. Moscow, which had excellent commercial relations with Qaddafi and is still reeling from his removal, now sees an opening to re-establish itself in Libya and demonstrate that the West cannot solve its problems without Moscow’s assistance.

It is not clear how Trump will react to Putin’s kingmaker role in Libya and his overtures to back Haftar. Moscow may still believe that it can sell Trump on a joint effort to fight Islamic terrorism, but that calculation has yet to pay off, and Russian officials are frustrated that Trump’s early weeks have produced no new cooperation in Syria. In any case, Russia’s growing clout in Syria, Afghanistan, and now Libya is a dangerous consequence of the past administration’s failures, which Trump will need to reckon with in one way or another.

Features Icon
Features
show comments
  • Fat_Man

    Just thinking out loud here, but what difference does it make to the US if Russia winds up as Libya’s patron? Other than oil, being a base for ISIS, and highway for African migrants, what does Libya hold for the rest of the world? If the Russians want to arbitrate the tribal fueds of Libya, why not let them?

    • Kevin

      The Europeans should care! With Russia controlling the immigration spigot in Syria and Libya they could make the Europeans’s lives hell whenever they want to.

      • f1b0nacc1

        They do this already, Libya would simply be one more venue for it.

        But if the EUnicks really want to do something about it, let them do so….WITHOUT OUR HELP

      • CapitalHawk

        Yes, the Europeans should care. And if history is any indication, Italy, at minimum, cares. But that doesn’t mean the US should care or spend any blood or treasure there. Just as we should have left the Europeans to the initial Libyan bombing campaign (which would have been quite amusing when they ran out of smart bombs a few days in), we should leave the aftermath to them.

      • Fat_Man

        You realize that the laws of physics do not prevent the Euros from solving this problem.

  • Disappeared4x

    Restoring economic stability in Egypt is an important priority, which requires, among other points, stability in eastern Libya’s oil fields. In this case, Russia IS a more ‘honest broker’ than the NATO-led coalition that ‘broke’ Libya, the most artificial colony of the 20th century.

    Might even explain the thinking behind the new Libya in this “Redrawing the Map of the Middle East'” from Geopolitical Futures, posted January, 2017:

    “…It has become cliché to point out that the Middle East’s current political borders were drawn after World War I by colonial powers like
    the United Kingdom and France, and that the region’s wars and insurrections in recent years are making these artificial boundaries obsolete. What isn’t cliché is doubling down on that analysis. We’ve drawn a new map of the Middle East based on who controls what territory, as opposed to the official boundaries recognized by international organizations like the United Nations.

    The map above reveals what the Middle East really looks like right now. Many will object to some of the boundaries for political purposes,
    but this map is explicitly not trying to make a political statement. Rather, it is an attempt to show who holds power over what geography in the Middle East. …”

    https://geopoliticalfutures.com/the-geopolitics-of-2017-in-4-maps/

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/870c7e9f473b516a4c837d1f103f69c9f0338d23abec991e66edc9d1c503e451.jpg

  • Andrew Allison

    What is clear is that the overthrow of Gaddafi was a huge mistake!

    • Disappeared4x

      Yes, NO do-overs on bad regime change, which bodes well for Assad.

    • Kevin

      Agreed. Bush defanged him. Overthrowing people who cut a deal with the US is supremely foolish. We want to be able to reassure miscreants that if they cut a deal with us, we won’t then take advantage of their weakened state to seek their death. This was supremely foolish.

      • f1b0nacc1

        But it made Obama and company feel so VERY good about themselves….surely you cannot begrudge them that….

        • CapitalHawk

          True, true. Everything these days is about the feel-goods. And nothing else matters.

        • LarryD

          Even though it was an illegal war, by any standard. Initiated without even asking Congress, violating the UN Security Council Resolution (only to establish a no-fly zone), not in response to an attack nor an immanent threat.

          Very much an Imperialist, Colonialist war. In violation of every principal of international law, and several principals Progressive have asserted for generations.

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2017 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service