Monday (May 25th): The Battle for Libya: Erdogan 1, Haftar 0

Name? Khalifa Haftar

Westphalian identity? Libyan 

Age? 76

Why is he in the news? Two weeks ago, one of our writers wrote about Al-Sarraj’s “Hot Comeback” in the Hot or Not Map. Meanwhile, Russian mercenaries supporting Haftar’s LNA have left Libya. The effect of their absence has been best summarised by Emad Badi; a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council with a research focus on Libya: 

“As soon as they pulled out in roughly, I would say, eight hours, Haftar lost the territory that he’s gained in eight months – that’s how much of a strategic military advantage these Russian groups provided.

Why do we care? This changes the power balance in Libya completely. In previous months, Haftar’s LNA advanced towards Libya’s capital Tripolis, making it seem as though his troops would prevail through Russian involvement until Erdogan turned the tables. We are talking about “Game of Thrones” level of excitement. 

Why should you care? Because this armed conflict represents how confusing IR can get. While Putin (who claims he has no business in Libya) and Erdogan are allies in theory, they follow different goals on this battlefield. That said, like it or not, Turkish involvement is perfectly legitimate as the forces recognised by the UN invited Erdogan to help. Russian mercenaries, on the other hand, did not receive such an invitation. 

Who else cares? Erdogan, as his involvement is the decisive one here and gives him that triumph he has been needing on the foreign policy stage for months; helping his buddies from the Muslim Brotherhood and establishing Turkey as a regional power. Not only is his involvement perfectly legal, but he is also helping “the good guys” (only applies if you have any faith in the UN). For some reason the world is not applauding him on this but rather ignoring him and what happens in Libya. Must be something else going around…

Any further comments? Do you remember the weapons embargo we (rightfully) made fun of and the decline of the UN? Also, the EU is pretty out of the picture, nobody from the moral high grounds is effectively involved in this. All you will hear from the EU or UN is …. “fighting is bad?”

Joshua Dario Hasenstab

General Coordinator