Sirte and the air base of Jufra are now the most important areas that everyone seeks to win in Libya, the Accord Government along Turkish support seeks to control it at any cost, while the forces of Major General Khalifa Haftar insist on not neglecting them, with Russian, Egyptian and French support.
External intervention complicates the Libyan scene
Turkey, which intervened in Libya and signed an agreement with the Fayez al-Sarraj government on November 27, 2019, officially recognized on June 8 that its goal in Sirte and al-Jafra was to control oil fields. Erdogan emphasized that Russia was “upset” and that he would discuss the matter with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Tensions between Russia and Turkey escalated with regard to the distribution of forces in that region, as the Russian foreign and defense ministers postponed a visit to Turkey on June 14, at the last minute, with bilateral contacts continuing, and Moscow withdrew from the talks after Turkey rejected an Egyptian proposal to cease fire in line with with the Russian game plan.
The dispute between the parties over Sirte had already intensified in early June, when a delegation from the Government of National Accord, including Vice-President of the Presidential Council Ahmed Mutaiq, visited Moscow, confirming that "Sirte is red lines for Russia", and after returning to Tripoli, he called the Sirte - Al-Jafra operation commander, and urged him to stop the attack, while the Minister of Interior of the Accord Government pledged to control it. Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, upon his return from Ankara, ordered the attack to continue.
" Sirte is a red line for us," said Brigadier Abdul Hadi Dara, a spokesman for the joint operation room of Sirte-Jafra of the Libyan National Army, on June 15.
While Egypt did not remain silent on the changes that are taking place on the scene. Soon Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi announced that Al-Jafra and Sirte are a red line, and that Egypt would not allow them to fall into the hands of the Accord forces. he indicated that it might intervene militarily to prevent this. Egypt acquired several days before a mandate from the Libyan parliament, which called for Egypt's intervention to protect the national security of Egypt and Libya in the face of Turkey's ambitions.
Turkey, the decision maker, and the Accord Government are helpless
In this context, Hani Suleiman, the executive director of the Arab Center for Research and Studies in Cairo, says that the issue is very clear, and confirms that the decision-maker in the Libyan interior is not the Accord Government. The Syrian mercenaries support, as well as the blatant and clear Turkish intervention in Libya, has greatly held the balance of power, believing that Al-Sarraj is not a decision-maker, but Turkey is controlling the scene in favor of certain goals.
Sirte .. strategic importance
Sirte is a pivotal city in the Libyan conflict due to its strategic importance in determining the course of the coming confrontations between the Accord Government led by Fayez al-Sarraj and the National Army led by Field Marshal Khalifa Hifter, where Sirte is located in the middle of the Libyan coast between Tripoli and Benghazi 600 km from Benghazi and 450 km from the capital, Tripoli. Sirte is one of the most stretching Libyan cities the southern shore of the Mediterranean.
The importance of the strategic city increases due to its proximity to the oil fields located southeast and the main oil ports in Libya, as the city is the western gateway to the "Crescent Petroleum" in the country and the path that any party must control in order to be able to reach the ports of Zwaitina and Ras Lanuf and Sidra And Brega, where there are 11 oil lines and 3 gas channels.
Before the outbreak of the war in 2011 in Libya, 96% of Libyan income was from oil, as the country's reserves are 48.3 billion barrels of oil and 1.5 trillion cubic meters of gas.
The city also includes strategic facilities, Al-Qaradabiya International Airport, 16 kilometers south of Sirte, and the commercial port of Sirte, also has the Al-Jafra Air Force Base, the largest Libyan military base between fighting parties involved.
Al Jafra Base
The Al-Jafra base is an important strategic point. Major General Nasr Salem, the former head of the Reconnaissance Apparatus in the Egyptian army, says that the Sirte region is the true door to control the crescent oil-rich areas.
Al-Jafra Air Force base is one of the most important that stirred the conflict in Libya, as this base is located north of Sirte, it is separated from it only by an open road that does not exceed 300 km. The base is also the main operating room for Haftar's forces.
As for the Al-Jafra area, it is also important because it is located in the center of the country, about 650 km southeast of Tripoli, the link between the east, west and south. Controlling the base of Al-Jafra almost means controlling the entire Libyan center. Sirte, 300 kilometers north of Sirte, fell into the hands of his forces in June 2019.
Controlling Sirte and Al-Jafra is not easy
Hani Suleiman stresses that Turkey would like, through the control of Sirte and Al-Jafra, to support its militias in Libya and open wide fronts. Perhaps large fronts will be opened that Turkey will not be able to run or even be ready for. "
Suleiman pointed out that the idea of entering Sirte and Al-Jafra is a complicated calculation process. He added, "There is a refusal to escalate and Turkish practices in Libya by France and the UAE and Saudi Arabia. So Turkey must enter into political negotiations under international sponsorship, but I do not think that Turkey wants this solution but rather It is trying to control resources and revitalize its economy at the expense of the Libyans. "
Conflict parties over Sirte and Al-Jafra
Cairo considers that Sirte and Al-Jafra are a red line, because if they fall in the hands of the Accord Government, it will control Libyan oil, giving it superiority over Haftar's forces, and this will help it control the rest of the cities until it reaches the Egyptian border.
Academics in Egyptian affairs believe that whoever controls the two sites will have the following goal to "seize" the Libyan east, and threaten Egyptian security and depth in its western borders, which extend for nearly 1,200 kilometers, as Al-Jafre is the closest area in the Libyan south to Egypt. So the presence of mercenaries Turkish soldiers will pose a real threat to Egypt's security.
Hani Suleiman, Executive Director of the Arab Center for Research and Studies, believes that Turkey wants to control Sirte and Al-Jafra in order to control the oil crescent, stressing that it will constitute a major and direct threat to the Egyptian national security, as it is close to the Egyptian borders, pointing to concerns from Turkey’s introduction of terrorists to Egyptian territory in the event that it controls Sirte and Al-Jafra. This is what Egypt will not accept.
As for the Libyan writer and journalist Abdel-Hakim Ma'atouk, he does not think that the Egyptians will be dragged into a battle in the desert. He adds: "Egypt can provide logistical support and planes. So the Sirte battle will be very difficult for the rest of the army in its national battle and support powers and tribes. "
Turkey, which directly supports the Accord Government militarily, seeks a permanent military presence in Libya. After Al-Wattia base, it look forward to a naval base in Misurata and to Al-Qardabiya air base near Sirte.
Turkey covets a great deal in Libyan oil, that prompted it to send thousands of Syrian mercenaries to these areas in addition to Turkish soldiers and military experts and the use of drones in the battles.
Turkey's Erdogan revealed his policy in that region and pointed out that the process of controlling of the oil-and-gas-rich Sirte and its surroundings.
Russia and France
As for Russia, it is seeking to control Sirte to gain a foothold in the southern Mediterranean, after obtaining bases in Tartus and Lattakia, Syria, where Russia is accused of deploying special forces in Libya and fighters from the Russian Wagner Company. It is also providing warplanes, heavy weapons, logistical and moral support to Haftar forces.
While France sees Sirte as important as Russia, it also wants the port and the military base.
American silence .
Tensions escalated between France and Turkey, after the it accused the latter of increasing its "aggression" in Libya, violating the United Nations arms embargo. It requested a meeting of NATO on this issue, and French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said that Turkey's position "poses a danger". We have an unacceptable strategic risk, because it is 200 kilometers (124 miles) from the Italian coast. "
France is trying to obtain direct US support to curb Turkey in Libya, but Washington seeks to block Russia, so it does not stop Ankara, but Washington could change its position if Ankara held an agreement with Moscow in Libya.
The last strongholds of the national project Libyan
Journalist Maatouq confirms that Sirte and Al-Jafra are the last remaining strongholds of the national project. Their fall means that Libya has completely fallen into the quagmire of the Turkish occupation. He said, "It seems that there are Turkish-Russian understandings and coordination over the handing over of Sirte and Al-Jafra, and this we consider to be treason and a major catastrophe."
Resistance is the only way ...
Maatouq stated in his statement to our agency that there are only one option left for the Libyans, which is resistance in the Sirte battle, pointing out that surrender means falling including the Egyptian side, will not benefit.
Maatouk indicated that the war has become a bone-breaking battle, and the Libyans must resist to keep Sirte and Al-Jafra "incubators of the national project. Otherwise, Libya as a whole will fall into the clutches of the caliphate project, which is the most important pillar in the international organization of the Muslim Brotherhood."
As for the executive director of the Arab Center for Research and Studies in Cairo, Hani Suleiman says that the unidentified aircraft or some operations that will be from unknown elements, will try to stand up and counter Erdogan's ambitions, and try to stop the expansion of the Accord and Al-Sirraj within the Libyan interior because it is not acceptable.
In conclusion, he said, "Even if Turkish forces enter Sirte and Al-Jafra, they will not be safe. Rather, it will be a new stage of crisis and conflict in a great way, and this will not be in the interest of the Libyan state and the Libyan people. Egypt is sufficiently wise and strong and can counter Turkish ambitions."
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