And what about Egypt?

In all of this, Egypt still is not thinking in terms of its own national security, with Libya as an extension of its western flank. It continues to pursue a foreign policy that is mortgaged to the policy of the UAE, without proper regard for Egypt’s own security and status.

Egypt still does not have a coherent vision or a clearly defined position vis a vis Libya. Meanwhile the Sisi regime's media continues to promote demagoguery, without any proper understanding of the meaning and significance of national security or of Egypt’s geo-strategic interest. It simply can’t see the importance in setting its own foreign policy agenda and its own priorities. Moreover, it promotes the word of institutions in Libya where the concept is unknown.

The most serious point, to which Egyptian decision-makers and policymakers are oblivious, is that the conflict in Libya is more akin to the situation which existed in Somalia, than that which exists in Syria today. This is because the parties that were united in agreement in respect of Syria, are the very ones which are in conflict and disagreement in Libya.

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas at General Haftar's headquarters in Benghazi, 15 January 2020 (photo: Imago Images/photothek/K. Heinl)
General Haftar gives his word: Merkel's foreign minister, Heiko Maas, visited Libya's eastern city of Benghazi on Thursday to press Haftar to attend the conference in the German capital on Sunday. After their meeting, Maas tweeted that Haftar had agreed in principle to accept the invitation and “contribute to making it a success"

Hence it is more likely that Libya will become a new Somalia, and the scene is closer to the situation in 1994 when Mohammed Farah Aidid entered the Somali capital, Mogadishu: it resulted in the fragmentation of society and the disintegration of the state.

Egypt doesn't need a second Somalia on its doorstep

Given the internal and external crises that Egypt is facing, there is no way it could bear the cost of a new Somalia (that is to say, a failed state) on its western border. It would be catastrophic were Libya to become a base for extremist groups and political opponents. Turkey, for one, would use the situation very obviously to put Egypt under pressure and threaten its security.

Egypt could, in co-ordination with the Europeans, find common ground and a settlement in Libya, at a time when the Turkish president's relationship with the Europeans is deteriorating. Europe particularly feels let down over the issue of immigration and the opening of borders, especially as President Erdogan has repeatedly threatened Europe with the opening of Turkey’s borders, which would doubtless trigger a new flood of refugees.

In other words, Erdogan’s move into Libya means that he will hold another important card relating to illegal immigration from the Libyan coast, and he may well use it to apply political pressure on the Europeans. Egypt would therefore be well-advised to show solidarity with the Europeans over this and push for a settlement, starting from the principle that, in politics, there are no enemies and no friends. In this way, Egypt could initiate a dialogue with Turkey over the situation in Libya, with the aim of playing a key role in the quest to resolve the conflict.

None of this will happen, however, unless Egypt can disengage its foreign policy from that of the UAE and Saudi Arabia. If Libya does indeed become a new Somalia on Egypt’s western border, neither the UAE nor Saudi Arabia will be affected; the main victim will be Egypt and its national security.

Taqadum al-Khatib

© Qantara 2020

Translated from the Arabic by Chris Somes-Charlton

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