Tripoli

The New Battlefield

Turkey and Egypt have raised their stakes in Libya.
Their ties have been hampered by Turkey’s political
affiliation with the Muslim Brotherhood and the dispute
over gas resources in the Mediterranean.

By Shaarif Sameer | September 2020

Recent political developments in Libya have sent waves of concern around the world. It seems that the fight on the “red line” is about to begin, a term used by the Egyptian military dictator Abdel Fattah al-Sisi for the city of ‘Sirte’, the new flashpoint in the civil war of Libya. Libya is currently controlled by two parallel governments, one of Fayez al-Sarraj based in Tripoli and supported by Turkey and its allies, and the other of General Khalifa Haftar, based in Tobruk, supported by Egypt, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Russia. The proxy war in Libya, which has embroiled the country since the death of former dictator Muammar al-Gaddafi, has once again exposed the dividing lines in the Muslim world.

After a very long time, new players like Turkey and Egypt are emerging in the notorious realm of proxy wars. Though Turkey has conducted operations against PKK outside its borders, it has been a long time since Egypt ventured beyond its territorial lines. It is too far-fetched to claim that the Libyan conflict may lead to a military conflict between Turkey and Egypt, but the announcement of military action by both Turkey and Egypt has certainly raised the eyebrows of many political analysts. Since war is equally harmful to both sides, it’s unlikely that any of them will go to the extent of physical combat with each other. However, a few of the factors have elevated the chances of active military conflict.

Both of these countries are ruled, in one form or another, by a powerful and popular leader. Where one is an active military dictatorship, the other is labeled a civilian dictatorship because of the strongman policies of Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan. Despite having the same leadership styles, their goals do not align in the political arena of Mediterranean politics. On the one hand, Erdoğan has taken several popular steps to appease his constituents, some of which are, reconversion of the Hagia Sophia as a mosque, successful military campaign against PKK inside and outside Turkey’s borders, and an aggressive diplomatic stance against Russia over the Black Sea. On the other hand, Fattah Al-Sisi did his share of popular politics by banning the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, launching a military campaign against local members of ISIL in the Sinai Peninsula and taking a forceful stance against Ethiopia over the Nile Dam.

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The writer is a graduate of NUST Business School. He covers international relations, current affairs and Pakistan affairs. He can be reached at shaarifsameer@gmail.com

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