There is the irony of history repeating itself, as Karl Marx noted: "History repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce". The government in Tripoli appealed to Erdogan, president of the Turkish republic of Ottoman and Ataturk heritage (filled with nostalgia for the Ottoman sultans of bygone glory). Lo and behold, Erdogan hurriedly despatched military advisers and well-equipped mercenaries who are ethnically Turkmen i.e. of Turkish origin, from the ranks of the Syrian opposition.

It is evident from Erdogan's repeated statements that his objective, behind the direct Turkish military presence in the heart of Tripoli, is not merely to support and protect the Islamist government on the pretext that it commands international legitimacy. And for sure, it is not in order to resolve the crisis peacefully, since the crisis has become, thanks to his intervention, more complex politically and militarily.

Erdogan has flirted with the masses of his party – which is allied with the fascist Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) – in the language of populism over the growing regional power of Turkey after the signing of an agreement to set the maritime borders with the authorities in Tripoli. Turkey, as Erdogan sees it, has become the vanguard in the Mediterranean to confront the axis of Israel, Egypt, Greece and Cyprus, members of the Eastern Mediterranean gas forum.

Syrian catastrophe in miniature

Recep Tayyip Erdogan is flaunting the benefits of Turkish intervention as satisfying the aspirations of Turkish contractors who controlled projects in Libya worth U.S.$ 28.9 billion in the years leading up to the 17 February 2011 revolution.
He went so far as to use old-fashioned colonial justifications while speaking at the inauguration ceremony for the first Turkish-made submarine: ʺOur great leader Kamal Ataturk was a combat officer in the Ottoman army during the Italian invasion of Libya. Hence it’s our duty to be there and to fight. We have a million people of Turkish origin living in Libya.ʺ
While Turkish and Russian intervention will only aggravate the situation, General Haftar has been rallying his frontline forces in the outskirts of the capital in their confrontation with the Islamist militias and their Turkish allies. His forces are directly supported by Egypt and the UAE, and covertly supported by France and Russia, with the goal of storming the capital and toppling the Islamist regime.
Haftar will only accept total control of Tripoli, or retreat from it in the face of superior military power, and that will not happen except through the intervention of a huge well-equipped Turkish army. As for General Haftar's approach to the truce, the ceasefire and the projects to resolve the political issues, his manoeuvring is purely tactical and designed to avoid being held to account internationally.
In sum, no political solution is expected to bring an end to the war raging in the suburbs of southern Tripoli. It is not a war brought about by political differences which can be resolved by sharing power on the basis of "no-one wins and no-one loses". It is war for war’s sake.
Faraj Alasha
© 2020
Translated from the Arabic by Chris Somes-Charlton


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