Trump becomes ‘agent of chaos’ in Libya, columnist says

The indifference of U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration towards the Libyan conflict is creating a vacuum in which rival outside powers such as Turkey, Russia, and Egypt can compete and cause chaos, columnist Ahmed Aboudouh said on Tuesday in the Independent.

Aboudouh said that Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi‘s threat over the weekend to take military action if the city of Sirte or the strategic Jufra airbase fall to Turkish-backed forces “adds another dangerous layer to a conflict already beset with outside powers seeking influence”.

Recent gains by the Turkish-backed United Nations-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) against forces allied to the rebel General Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army, supported by Russia and Egypt among others, have posed an imminent threat to Egypt’s interests in the region, Aboudouh said.  

“This threat is primarily driven by talks between Russia and Turkey to be the nations that help broker the end of the conflict (and divide the spoils that will no doubt come with that) and the huge vacuum created by the indifference from the White House and Donald Trump’s administration,” he wrote. 

The Egyptians seem to have become desperate after mistakenly relying on U.S. leadership that is absent, even though some American diplomats are now nervous that Egyptian intervention could trigger a long-term proxy war in Libya, Aboudouh said. 

Earlier this month, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan claimed in an interview that “some agreements” have been reached with Trump that could herald a “new era” in the conflict in Libya, although he did not provide details. Twenty-four hours later, el-Sisi said that Trump supported an Egyptian peace initiative opposed by Turkey.

“He is a transactional negotiator who will keep telling el-Sisi and Erdoğan whatever they like as long as it won’t cost him anything. He is an agent of chaos without realising what he is doing”, Jonathan Winer, the former U.S. Envoy to Libya, told Aboudouh. 

“The U.S. won’t have a coherent solid policy in Libya unless [Joe] Biden gets elected in November,” he added.

Now, France, which supports Haftar, seems fed up with the United States. French President Emmanuel Macron said on Monday that Paris will not tolerate Turkey’s military intervention in Libya, and accused Ankara of playing “a dangerous game”.

Aboudouh said that “U.S. inaction inaction is sowing anarchy in Libya. It is not only encouraging all players’ quests to maximise their gains, but there is no clear diplomatic path that could satisfy all parties.”

“The circling around Libya from a number of nations is becoming a case study in what can happen when the U.S. isolates itself and retreats from global diplomacy,” he added.