Don't get fooled by what Erdogan says, Turkey is in Libya for oil

The survival of the Fayez Al Sarraj government is also crucial for Turkey at all levels.

By Christiane Waked

Published: Sat 28 Dec 2019, 8:19 PM

Last updated: Sat 28 Dec 2019, 10:20 PM

Turkey wants to set foot in Libya and the announcement last week by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that Turkish military troops will soon be dispatched at Tripoli's request to protect the country against offensive by rival forces is a statement that purely serves the interests of Ankara, not Libya.

Turkey is playing smart and has economic and strategic reasons behind this move. President Erdogan is eager to provide military support to Libya and is looking at submitting a bill in Turkey's Parliament as soon as it reconvenes from a recess on January 8 or 9. Considering Erdogan's ruling party holds a majority in the parliament, the bill could be passed easily.

If you are wondering what interests Turkey, it's worth reflecting on the statement made by Noam Chomsky, American linguist and philosopher, in an interview in 2011. He had said, "What's important in Libya is, first of all, it has a good deal of oil. A lot of the country is unexplored; there may be a lot more. And it's very high-quality oil, so very valuable."

Libya is a rich nation and its oil and gas reserves were the main reasons why countries like Italy and France tried to influence the country for many years.

Now Erdogan wants to have a stranglehold on Libya but he thinks it will look more subtle if the invitation comes from the Libyan government of national unity (GNA) asking Turkey to intervene military. But clearly, it is a strategic mistake and one that could cost the Libyan population dearly.

The survival of the Fayez Al Sarraj government is also crucial for Turkey at all levels.

Sarraj despite having an official status is backed by many militias who are nurtured by the Muslim Brotherhood ideology and thus have the full support of Erdogan's government.

On the other side, Turkey was also able to benefit from the legitimate status of Sarraj's government to sign an agreement which allows it to assert rights over large areas in the eastern Mediterranean, which is rich in hydrocarbons. This agreement worries Greece, Cyprus, and Egypt who are aware of the Turkish ambitions and know it could threaten their own security.

Two days after a meeting between Erdogan and Sarraj, on Tuesday, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi, therefore, was quick to denounce any move to control neighbouring Libya. For Turkey, losing Sarraj is like losing a main ally, without whom they will be isolated in the Mediterranean.

Europe on the other hand must monitor the Turkish movements in Libya. Peace cannot prevail in Libya if the Muslim Brotherhood allies continue to meddle directly or indirectly in the country.

The ongoing civil war in Libya has turned the country into a powder keg, further interventions by foreign powers, especially Turkey, could spell more trouble.

The West should learn from the Syrian experience that has claimed the lives of half a million Syrians and forced millions more to emigrate. Dire economic and social conditions led to the rise of Daesh. And now, instability in Libya could open flood gates for terrorists who might extend their operations from Libya to North Africa, Europe, and beyond.

Political leaders in Tunisia are particularly worried about the recent meeting between Erdogan and his Tunisian counterpart Kais Saied. They don't want the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood to extend to their country as they know pretty well how dangerous this ideology is that threatens any kind of democracy.

Many Tunisians fear that Tunisia, known to usually stay neutral, could cross the line in the Libyan crisis by taking a stand for one of the belligerents. The multiplying declarations have forced the Tunisian presidency to make clarifications.

Christiane Waked is a political analyst based in Beirut

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