By Fathi Salem Abuzakhar, a Libyan writer
Libya today is not in isolation from developments elsewhere globally. The US with British, and European support on the one hand, and Russia, with Chinese support, on the other, on the land of Ukraine.
The tripartite competition; the United States, Russia, and China, in addition to some European countries, over sites and resources on African soil, plays an important role in shaping a new international community with new rules, after Indicators for the decline of the unipolar power, led by the USA for decades, began to emerge.
This is due to internal erosion to which the US internal system is exposed after the former President, Mr. Donald Trump, was indicted and to go on trial, a precedent not witnessed before in US history. The relaxation of the US fist is in compliance with the cosmic law governing world empires: beginning small and weak, then youth and strength, and ending with erosion, aging, and collapse.
The US had contributed to the resurrection of a united Libya by not supporting the Bevin Sforza project, it rather supported Libya’s transformation from a federal system to a single unified state.
America’s conflict with Russia, its rivalry with China, and resistance to decline will affect Libya, as America still has the keys to its continuity, with the presence of the Chinese and Russian threats. Although the USA is the third largest oil producer, it is the most powerful country on earth economically. Politics so often has its contributions in shaping the economy, the economy today shapes many policies of the countries of the world, and this is what exactly the US is doing today, employing its economy, and using the dollar as a tool politically rather than financially, including waging wars, making policies and imposing status ques that serve its interests, so much so that it drives China and Russia to free themselves from the grip of the dollar.
Today's reality and formulation of the new international position:
The reality of the Ukrainian war today serves America as well as China. With Europe’s support to the war in Ukraine, Europe is risking losing due to the fact the war is waged on its soil. Russia, the largest country in the world in terms of area, and the second largest crude oil producer, is converging with China, which has the largest population in the world and is the second most powerful country economically, though they are competitors, especially over expansion in Africa, but they are united in the Ukrainian war against America.
It is not possible to separate world unfolding events from what is happening today in the US and the world. What is happening in terms of riots and demonstrations in France and Israel? All these developments work for new formulation of international interests. Among the most important disturbing facts to all of them are the rise of Turkey and its new renaissance, development, and Islamic modernist project! And the anticipation of the elections on May 14, 2023, which is worrisome to the West in general, although yesterday’s America - the Republicans used Turkey to create an equilibrium in Libya after Russian threats (Wagner) on the borders of the capital Tripoli, during the war of 2019.
The US of today - the Democrats are making use of the geography of the Libyan south, which it granted in its ten-year plan its share of stability and development, to shut the door on Russia’s intervention from the south after the expulsion of France, so the latter turned to China to open a window for it in Africa. Indeed, the recent visit of Mr. Macron was immediately followed by a military maneuver off the coast of Taiwan. France lost its position in African countries and may change the location of its relationship to the depth of Africa through China.
With US attempts today to employ the African Union, the writer believes that stability of the south and the expulsion of Wagner from east and south requires improving relations with Turkey, which with its drones, equipment, and training of Libyan fighters, according to the military agreement, contributed to the removal of the Wagner aggression from the capital and drove them to Sirte to the east and to Brak and Al-Jufra to the south.
However, the US mentality of monopolizing power could throw it into crisis with Turkey, especially after its ambassador Mr. Jeffry Flake, dared to visit elections rival of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Mr. Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu.
Certainly, the position of Wagner today is not the same in strength and number as before the Ukrainian war. Definitely, the need in the Ukrainian arena reinforces US strategies and plans, in Libya, and this is confirmed by its statements regarding getting rid of Wagner and all foreign forces, including the Turkish forces at al-Watiya base.
Democrats of today and Republicans of yesterday?
While emphasizing that US policies generally do not change with the change of governments, it is clear today that US policies or rather directions are drawn by the US administration. When the Republicans were recently in power during the government of Donald Trump, the Russian rapprochement was confirmed by Russian support to Trump in the elections and the agreement with the pro-Russian officer Khalifa Haftar during the offensive on Tripoli on April 4, 2019.
Today, we find as far as the Ukrainian war is concerned Russia having the help of China, its rival the US having the help of Europe. The war, in reality, the Democrats with their secular ideology reinforce the stance of Confucianist China, whereas the Protestant Republicans reapproach with the Christian Orthodox Russia. Obviously, this analysis means that US policies in Africa yesterday were to play Russia and Wagner as a protective shield for the policy of the Republicans against Chinese expansion, but today the American policy will be contrary and in the opposite direction so that the Russians and Wagner play as a protective shield for China against American expansion! However, this will not change the significant role that the Russians have begun to play in Libya, so the American call for the development and stability of the south will endure.
Is Libya an arena of conflict or is it a gathering for the good?
Libya's geopolitical position connects it to southern Europe, with NATO's military bases, its industrial might that needs energy and African industrial raw material. Africa after it has been courted by allies from France, to Britain and America which built their military bases to secure their presence. Today Russia intervenes militarily through Wagner, and some military coups, to have access to gold mines and energy resources in Central Africa, Mali, Burkina Faso, and others, and to expel France from some of its bases, without commitments and agreements apart from military agreements. It further consolidated its relations with Egypt, Ethiopia, Uganda, and Congo Brazzaville.
Meanwhile, China sets foot with its development weight on vast areas of Africa, in addition to investing in Chinese language and culture, so much so that China began to purchase vast areas of land to cultivate and provide food for its people. Although, there are those who believe that China's investments in Africa led to soaring African debts through the money spent on development projects.
It is clear, according to America’s strategy today in Libya and Africa to besiege Wagner bases in Africa, through stability of Libya, the development of the south, and to counter the Chinese expansion from reaching the warm waters of the Mediterranean. It has no route to the north except through Libya, and it has the western line that extends from Morocco southward to Togo, Benin, and Mozambique from Farther east. This is well illustrated by the US strategy that says: “This plan supports an integrated, trans-regional approach to the US government’s prevention efforts across the Sahel, Morocco, and coastal West Africa by promoting a more stable, peaceful, and prosperous Libya.”
Certainly, the US needs stability and security that makes peace in the capital, Tripoli, and Turkey is holed up in Al-Watiya base, on the allied country in the northern Mediterranean, and the Russians share such presence, so that it can achieve its interests in the region. The question, however is whether US indifference to its relationship with Turkey, which will be a key supporter in expelling Wagner, either peacefully or militarily, serves US policies in Africa?
The writer does not know whether America will subdue in the future to accepting the participation of the Russians or will it go to war, and Libya is one of the countries that it is working to change its governments. This may depend on the following:
• The conviction of the rival Libyan parties, in conflict due to external interference, to give priority to Libya’s interest and to push for the state’s apology to the Libyan people as a first step towards reconciliation. Furthermore, to observe peaceful political competition, and to make use of US plan and vision of cooperation with the “African Union on national reconciliation” which is biased towards the September “Jamahiriya” movement, as a result of the money Gaddafi had spent to buy many of the heads of state forming the African Union.
• Politicians in Libya must pursue neutrality with the countries of the world, and be keen to create beneficial economic partnerships with all the conflicting parties in Libya: The US, Russia, Turkey, China, Britain and the European Union countries, and push towards stability that America is inaugurating, with the United Nations “regarding demobilization, disarmament, and reintegration,” and without failing to cooperate at all levels with neighbouring countries.
• Civil society should enhance its awareness of the rapid change in international relations, for example Saudi Arabia with Iran, France and China, and the political attractions taking place in Libya, and work to advance peaceful activities and trends that serve Libya.
• Turkey can play an important role in helping Libya and the US to expel the Wagner peacefully, in exchange for economic interests in Libya, so that the US will complete its plan to besiege them from the western coast and with the support of Mozambique from the east.
• With the presence of the US Incirlik Air Base in Turkey, perhaps Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, especially after his success in the elections, will be able to exert pressure on the US to accept Turkey as a helping player in stabilizing Libya and expelling the Russians.
Certainly, the matter will remain as it is until May 14, 2023, and the election results are declared in Turkey. Mr. Erdogan’s victory will sure enable him play an important role in the stability of Libya, due to his communication and interests with the conflicting parties. But the US administration’s preoccupation with the 2024 elections may affect the course of the US strategy in Libya and Africa, though the Turkish elections will have a clear impact even on the US strategy.
The important question remains how the national political players will take advantage of the coming period to uphold Libya’s interests and override their personal interests and continue to communicate with each other? Also, what role the weak civil society can play, of which the US has involved 35 organizations that “provided valuable and practical observations on the areas of sub-national partnership amid the ongoing transformation in Libya.” from a directive to persuade the state to apologize as a first and essential step for Libyan reconciliation.
The important factor for the stability of Libya remains Libya’s politicians' grasp of the US vision with its integrated approach to the three governmental sectors (3 D) Diplomatic, Development, and Defense.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect those of the Libya Observer