The civil war in Libya, although it seems like an ordinary conflict of this kind, is in fact strongly out of the general row. No, outwardly everything is similar - the two main warring parties, periodically replacing each other in the “king of the hill” position, foreign mercenaries, the supply of arms and finances from foreign “interested parties” and many other signs, let's say, of a normal conflict.
If you look only at what is happening directly in Libya itself, there will be nothing to be surprised at all. Nevertheless, this conflict is surprising. Probably, the fighting in the west of Libya can be called the first visible evidence of some new geopolitical reality, which is gradually replacing the existing one. Almost everything is unusual here! But one can notice this unusualness only if one looks at events more broadly, taking into account the entire existing political and geographical context.
Probably the most obvious thing that can catch the eye is a certain split in the camp of European countries, NATO members. Now he is already visible with the naked eye, and there is even some chance that one day it may come to the use of weapons by one member of the North Atlantic bloc against another member of this organization. It is primarily about Turkey and Greece. Yes, the relationship between them was never good, and fighters of the two countries sometimes defiantly violate each other’s existing borders over some island in the Aegean Sea, but usually these states figured out relations between themselves only on a section of a common border. Now everything goes to the point that Turkey’s geopolitical ambitions can lead to a conflict between these countries on the other side of the Mediterranean Sea, which is almost guaranteed to lead to serious complications (and possibly an open conflict) between states.
Let's try to specify the list of "sympathizers" of each of the warring parties. This will help us understand a little better what is happening, and already starting from it, we will be able to analyze some of the nuances and features of the current situation.
So, there are two sides to the conflict - the PNS, the ruling coalition of several parties in Tripoli (Government of National Accord), and the LNA, or the Libyan National Army, under whose control most of Libya, supported by the Parliament of this country.
The PNS is considered a legitimate force recognized by many governments. True, a significant part of this “government” is made up of terry Islamists; the international community is ready to turn a blind eye to this. And the LNA, although it controls most of the country, is considered to be a rebellious, illegitimate force. And although most interested countries do not care much for this, it leaves a certain imprint on the actions and rhetoric of the parties. It should also be noted that the LNA is distancing itself from Islamic rhetoric, trying to maintain a secular structure both in the army itself and in the territories it controls. No, both the leader of the LNA, Marshal Khalifa Haftar, and her rank-and-file members are Muslims and should not be regarded as an anti-Muslim force. But first of all, it is still a regular European-style army, a military victory of which is unlikely to lead to the construction of another Islamist autocracy.
Strange as it may seem, the PNS does not have many obvious supporters. Only two can be definitely noted - Turkey and Qatar. With some reservations, we can say that Washington is on this side, but this is a special case, and more on that below.
LNA has a wider list of allies. And first of all, this is not Russia, as one might think, but Egypt. This state is a neighbor of Libya, has a very long and poorly fortified common border with it, and therefore it is vitally interested in the fact that various types of Islamic terrorist organizations have not found refuge in Libyan territory. Egypt made a clear bet on Haftar and the LNA, and given the fact that Cairo has the strongest army in the entire Arab world, this is very, very serious.
Also among the supporters of LNA can be attributed to the EU. Yes, oddly enough, Brussels is taking some steps, causing a sharp condemnation in Tripoli. In particular, on April 1, in the Mediterranean Sea, off the coast of Libya, the European military mission IRINI has been operating, aimed at preventing the illegal supply of arms and ammunition to Libya. According to the mission’s mandate, warships of participating countries can inspect ships bound for Libyan ports and seize military and dual-use cargoes there. This mission of the Europeans caused a sharp rejection of the PNS, which felt in it a threat to their interests.
The IRINI mission replaced the previous Sofia mission, whose goal was to control the sea space to prevent massive illegal migration from Libya (and all of North Africa) to Europe. Incidentally, this is another strong irritant in the relations between the current official Tripoli and the EU - the groups that are now members of the Government of National Accord, previously often “roofed” the illegal migration business, and therefore were not in a hurry to put things in order in this matter. This, of course, is remembered in Italy, the most affected by the influx of migrants, and in some other European countries.
Italy, by the way, looks like a very interested player in this scenario. For her, the dominant factor is the security of energy supplies from North Africa, and not only from Libya. Rome is well aware that Islamist forces, if they succeed in gaining the upper hand in Libya, are capable of destabilizing neighboring Algeria. And this is already critical - Italy is heavily dependent on Algerian gas produced through an offshore gas pipeline. Moreover, another trans-Mediterranean gas pipeline, the Maghreb-Europe, goes through Algeria, through which the main gas supplies to Spain and Portugal are made. And this is already very critical for the entire EU, which certainly affects Brussels’s position - few people believe that a half-extremist Government of National Accord will be able to ensure stability in Libya and extremist activity will not spread from there to neighboring states. But there is hope for Haftar - until now, his rhetoric has not gone beyond congratulations on Muslim holidays.
By the way, the complication of the EU’s relations with Turkey has one more reason - Ankara does not want to observe the delimitation of offshore zones in the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas, having begun gas exploration in the offshore areas assigned to Greece. And here, despite the general membership in NATO, the EU recalls that Greece is a member of this organization, but Turkey is not. Therefore, probably, the Greek admiral Theodoros Mikropoulos was assigned the command of the IRINI mission. Perhaps this is just a coincidence, but still more like a hint - rough, transparent, not allowing for double interpretations ...
Oddly enough, the role in the events of Russia is not so obvious. More precisely, it’s better to say so - its motives are not so obvious. Geopolitical influence? Yes, this is important and interesting. But to the detriment of further rapprochement with Turkey, which, from the point of view of geopolitics, could become the largest geopolitical breakthrough of Moscow in recent centuries? Very controversial ...
On the other hand, Moscow has been talking about Moscow’s interest in Central Africa for a long time. Fighters of PMC Wagner, now fighting in Libya, previously managed to visit the Central African Republic and some other places on the African continent. Yes, I must admit - as a springboard for a breakthrough to Central Africa, Libya looks very good. But our interests in Central Asia are still doubtful - yes, there are a lot of minerals, but how much? What price is Moscow ready to pay for them?
Libyan hydrocarbons, of course, do not need to be discounted either. Perhaps, in sum, all this is worth the cost. And the military significance of bases in Libya should not be discounted. However, success in this area is not at all obvious, but a possible disaster in relations with Turkey is predicted quite confidently.
And only now can we try to understand the motives that drive Washington. Alas, they are commonplace - containment of Moscow. Most likely, Trump’s recent statement that the US will no longer interfere in other people's wars is partly due to the situation in Libya. Nevertheless, many observers and experts note that US sympathies are increasingly drifting toward the PNS. Exactly as much as the activity of Russia is growing in the region.
If the president of the United States were a more typical representative of the American elites, we would certainly see the United States crushing Europe under its own power and building its position in accordance with its preferences. But now at the White House, Trump is trying to distance himself from such an international agenda in favor of solving internal problems. Therefore, the American position can be called indecisive, which introduces many additional nuances into the situation and makes it less predictable.
Probably, of the significant players, we only need to pay attention to Saudi Arabia and its traditional “support group” in the form of small rich monarchies of the Persian Gulf. I would venture to assert that their position is largely dictated by the position of Egypt. It may seem strange, and yet ...
The fact is that in the light of a slight decrease in American activity in the region, the Arab monarchies are afraid at one not the best moment for them to be left alone with Iran. Riyadh is well aware that in this case, massive purchases of weapons will not help them much - the Arab armies are not very motivated, and this can be clearly seen even in the conflict with backward, dilapidated Yemen. Alas, the Arab coalition’s units rarely withstand direct clashes with the Hussites, and equipment procured all over the world succumb to Iran’s missiles - at least ballistic, even anti-ship.
That is why the Arab monarchies are extremely interested in Egypt, as the only, possibly, force ready to send troops against the Iranian invasion army (if that happens). Moreover, Egypt is also an Arab state, which is an additional guarantee for the Saudis. So, Riyadh is unlikely to go against Cairo in such a non-fundamental issue for him as the power in Libya. And choosing between Egypt and Turkey, he will almost automatically take the side of the former, so that he, in which case, just as decisively takes the side of the CA and its satellites.
Returning to the beginning of the article, I want to emphasize once again that the situation in Libya is very atypical. For the first time in decades, a military conflict is expanding in the world, which does not have a clearly defined bloc of “guardianship,” and therefore is unpredictable in its development. The multidimensional aspirations of the main “interested parties” are fraught, among other things, with the beginning of two or three parallel conflicts, which in very bad circumstances can lead to a global conflict.
But if we get away from the most terrible options, we will inevitably state that the development of the situation in Libya indicates the beginning of a new stage in world geopolitics. While this is multi-vector in the "light" version. A little later, when China begins to more confidently engage in such a showdown, everything can become really unpredictable and very dangerous.
The world is changing. Again. And again, these changes will not be painless for everyone...