Turkey’s Erdoğan could drag outside powers deeper into Libya war - analysis

Though the United States might prefer to postpone intervention to ease tension in the eastern Mediterranean until after Christmas, that may not be possible as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan appears to be gearing up for increased military intervention in Libya, wrote analyst Ethan Chorin in Forbes magazine on Monday.

Erdoğan could trigger an even larger conflict in Libya and drag outside powers even deeper into the conflict, in which the U.N.-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli is battling the Libyan National Army (LNA), led by General Khalifa Haftar, said Chorin, an expert on Middle East and North Africa. 

The Libyan conflict has also become a regional proxy war with Turkey and Qatar backing the Islamist GNA, and Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia supporting Haftar. 

Turkey and the GNA last month signed two accords, a maritime boundaries deal that ignores the territorial waters of NATO member Greece and challenges Cypriot, Egyptian and Israeli freedom of navigation, and a military agreement that allows Ankara to send military equipment and troops to Libya. 

The main purpose of such moves ”appears to be to create both a distraction and a pretext for what, again, appears from Turkey’s own statements and actions, to be a planned major Turkey’s military escalation in Libya – while probing the West’s reaction,” Chorin said. 

Russia backs Haftar, but Russian President Vladimir Putin "appears content to accede to Turkey’s actions in western Libya, as it serves higher priorities - not least of which, undermining NATO,” the analyst said. 

Meanwhile, U.S. President Donald Trump’s stance on Libya conflict is puzzling, as, on the one hand, he seems sympathetic to Haftar, while on the other his administration backs UN efforts to warn off Haftar and effect a ceasefire that would likely prolong the Libya conflict, Chorin said. 

“The United States and NATO might prefer to defer unpleasantness until after the festive season, but they may not have the luxury of time,” he said.