Russian eyes Libya as a new ground to promote its influence

When the world witnesses the expansion of Russian influence in various areas, the Russian government is looking for a support point in Libya, which has led it to support Haftar’s forces and to sponsor a new round of Libyan negotiations. The Security Council delayed the adoption of a British resolution condemning the attack on Tripoli on 8 April. The British media talked about a meeting between Haftar, the Russian defense minister and the president of the Russian security company Faghanar, during the past year, after which it was decided to deliver military supplies to the general. Other sources found out about French military support to Al Karameh, GA’s interior minister, urging France to comply with previously concluded security agreements. France’s role in the conflict has also intensified after some French diplomats arrived at the border with Tunisia or after landing a French-flagged warship in the port of Ras Lanuf on 25 April , with a transport of attack weapons and three military pieces for Haftar’s forces. This, in addition to the known support from Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the UAE. At the same time, some consider the phone call between Haftar and Donald Trumpf as of April 15 to give “green light” to continue the attack. On the other hand, Italy has supported GA’s positions, alongside Turkey, which is currently trying to put pressure on the Russian side to change its position on the crisis.

Haftar also counts on the social side of Tripoli, trying to gain public confidence, which, suffering from economic problems and lack of financial liquidity, could give more support to his army before the battle. Haftar considers that the best tool for expanding his influence is the fact that in his army the weight belongs to the fighters from the tribes from the east and south of the country (Al Awaquir, Al Obedidat, Awlad Sleiman, etc.) and, on this basis, on 26 April, intended to hold a formal conference of the tribes in the West region of Tarhouna to give some kind of social legitimacy to its recent military action. However, hitting many civilians during missile bombings and the ambiguity of the political alternative offered by this attack have contributed significantly to the decline in Haftar’s popularity in the Western region lately.

On the ground, the fighting has spread many axes since April 4, the most violent being the southwest axis between Ghariyan and Aziziya, the southern axis at Qasr Ben Ghashir and the international airport, and the south-east axis , in the Wadi Rabia area. Also, there have been fierce battles on the Al Zahra axes, west of Tripoli, and Al Sawani, who witnessed, in the first week, the unstoppable advance of Haftar troops in the area of the airport and Aziziya, Ain Zara and Qasr Ben Ghashir, near the southern outskirts of the capital, before being recovered by GA loyal forces who resorted to tactical maneuvers to disable a series of attacks on some axes and destroy part of the military convoys of Operation Al forces Karameh. On the other hand, the second week of battles witnessed the actual arrival of air forces on both sides of the conflict, GA forces appealing to warplanes in the city of Misrata, in particular to hurt Haftar’s supply lines from Benghazi , and at the Jufrah and Tamnahant air bases, while Haftar has fired several unmanned airplanes to battle vital areas in Tripoli and the surrounding area.

Does the economy play its role?

Another aspect of the conflict and waiting to play its crucial role in the current equation is the economic war. On April 25, 2019, Reuters published an analysis report on the economic consequences of the Tripoli battles, arguing that Libya’s Central Bank of Libya would limit the operations of banks in eastern Libyan regions that would handle over 25.8 billions of dollars by interrupting connections inside the Libyan electronic banking system. This will be triggered if Haftar goes into the illegal sale of oil products in the areas under its control without going through the National Oil Company controlled by the GA. Thus, another conflicting front might open up. In all cases, the subordination of the official institutions of the Libyan economy to the GA remains a major force and a serious legitimacy tool that gives a clear preference to the Presidential Council.

Conflict Perspectives and National Security Issues for Tunisia
It is too early to talk about the victory of one of the parties in the battle for the Tripoli because the uncertainty continues to prevail over the strategic and military options to be adopted in the coming days. Haftar has the opportunity to open new breaches near coastal areas adjacent to the capital (east, near Tajoura or west to Zawiya, while GA forces have the potential to attract Haftar troops to the city’s neighborhoods and to subdue them to street battles, neutralizing heavy weapons currently used by Haftar in confrontations, and GA forces can also try counter-attacks in the cities of Ghariyan or Tarhouna to break out of the current crisis, but in all cases , GA can not be sure of an efficient and realistic control in Tripoli without a coastal control extending to the border area with Tunisia. The crossing points of Ras Al Jadir and Wazan are under the control of militias amazigh from the city of Zwara In this area is also the Al Watiya air base, occupied by Haftar forces, 35 km from the border with Tunisia, one of the largest military bases in northern Africa, with a staff of over 7,000 soldiers. If GA forces are not able to neutralize this base, where many of the air strikes leave the capital, a new conflict may be expected at any time, which would have serious consequences for Tunisia’s national security. This has made Tunisia intensify its military presence in the area and increase its troop preparedness to deal with any emergency situation that may affect its territorial integrity and stability. On this line, with US and German support, Tunisia concluded its satellite border surveillance program, as confirmed by the Tunisian national defense minister, who confirmed the availability of various Tunisian military and security units to defend territorial integrity and unity Tunisia.

(From A.A., our correspondent in Tunisia)