The decline of Gulf role in Libyan crisis
By Abdullah Al-Kabir, a Libyan writer
The Gulf reconciliation is the most prominent event at the regional level this month, after a boycott and blockade of Qatar by the Saudi Arabia, Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt since June 2017, relations between Riyadh and Doha and then the rest of the quadripartite blockading countries have returned, and thus the crisis ended, or at least it is on its way to an end.
The crisis has hit the most important regional Arab grouping, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which after this reconciliation will regain its role in activating at least the minimum level of Gulf solidarity and unity of positions towards various regional and international developments.
The crisis has cast a shadow over the developments of the situation in the crises of the Arab region, most notably Libya, which is what concerns us in the first place, due to the alignment of the two parties to the crisis behind the two main camps in the Libyan crisis, Qatar supported the camp of the Government of National Accord (GNA) and its allies, while the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt supported Haftar’s camp and the Tobruk Parliament. However, Bahrain has little influence, as it is under Saudi domination and does not have clear independent positions, and it did not follow the path of Kuwait and Oman by avoiding involvement in the crises of other countries.
About a month after announcing the blockade and the list of thirteen conditions, Haftar abruptly announced "the complete and undiminished iberation of Benghazi from terrorism”. And his choice of timing was like giving back to his allies in the quadripartite blockading countries, confirming that the alleged liberation is the first fruit of the blockade of Qatar as a "supporter of terrorism" in the media discourse directed by the blockading countries and by Haftar's camp, which has not stopped accusing Doha. While the truth is the exact opposite, Qatar strongly supported the Skhirat Agreement and its ambassador to Libya played a major role in persuading the National Congress camp to accept the agreement, while the UAE did not stop its attempts to topple it by granting Haftar all forms of support to bring down the GNA and enable him to control Libya, which is a goal that was about to be achieved after it succeeded in dragging Riyadh with it and encouraging Haftar to attack Tripoli, before he suffered defeat after Turkey's intervention and its security and military support for the GNA.
Is all this in the past? What is the extent of the impact of the Gulf reconciliation on the conflict in Libya? This is what is important now, as most observers believe that reconciliation will have a positive effect in resolving the crisis, and this is true of course, but it will have a limited effect in view of the decline in the Gulf roles in the crisis after Russia and Turkey entered directly into an active presence on the ground, which required greater US and European interest and involvement. In the crisis that has become an elders’ game, just like the Syrian crisis, this does not mean the end of the Gulf influence, but rather its retreat to its backward levels.
The UAE was and still is the most prominent ally of Haftar, and its continued shipment of weapons and military equipment means its reliance on the continuation of the armed conflict, and this has become impossible because the decision of war and peace is no longer in their hands nor in Haftar's hand, because with Russia and Turkey on both sides, they are closer to the alliance and understanding about their interests than hostility and fighting. It removes the specter of war, and guarantees the continuation of the truce. Also, the prominent shift in the Egyptian position of openness to the GNA confirms the Egyptian conviction that hope for Haftar's ability to achieve a military settlement has completely vanished, and security interests require discussing the available political options, and thus the UAE lost a neighboring country to Libya that facilitated the logistical methods for providing support to Haftar.
There is no doubt that the main factor in ending the Gulf crisis is Trump's loss in the elections, and preparing for the mandate of Democrat Biden requires the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia to take this step, to alleviate as much as possible the weight of the heavy files that the Biden administration will open when it begins to dismantle Trump's legacy, and if Trump's folly and recklessness and his tendency for the quadripartite alliance has contributed to complicating the Libyan crisis and other crises, it is certain that the Biden administration’s approach will be different in dealing with the Russian and Turkish incursions into Libya, and his approach to the human rights file will be different from that of his predecessor. As there will be no adviser like Bolton urging Haftar to storm Tripoli quickly as long as he is determined to do so, and then the UAE will not be able to ignite another war, and its betting on one side without any leads of communication with the other parties will lose its political influence, which will accelerate the decline of its role in Libya.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect those of the Libya Observer