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07/07/2020

Al-Watiya airstrikes: is the UAE adding oil to the Libyan fire?

Al-Watiya airstrikes: is the UAE adding oil to the Libyan fire?

A new wave of escalation has flared up in Libya due to the latest airstrikes on the Al-Watiya airbase. The attack was leveled against a military facility located 140 km south of Tripoli, and damaged Turkish air defence systems housed there. Ankara officials warn that the incident is likely to escalate the ongoing conflict in the wartorn North African country.

Although Turkey has not openly blamed any party for the al-Watiya air strike as of yet, transparent hints are being made via Turkey’s allies in Libya, primarily by the Government of National Accord (GNA), who have indicated that the strike was likely the work of a foreign air force (most likely that of the United Arab Emirates ).

On July 5, Libyan Deputy Defence Minister Salah Namrush made it clear that Tripoli would respond to the air strikes against the strategic air base. The airstrikes by “foreign fighter jets in support of war criminal Khalifa Haftar” were “an unsuccessful attempt to distract the Libyan army from its recent victories,” he added.

Traces of the UAE

Abdul-Malik Al-Madani, spokesman for the Burkan Al-Ghadab (Volcano of Rage) Operation declared that the strike was carried out by the UAE, and that the vessels departed from the Sidi al-Barani base near the Libyan border in Egypt.  The airstrikes were probably carried out by Dassault Mirage fighters (Mirage 2000-9), Al Araby reported. The Mirage bombers are single-engine fourth-generation fighter planes that were manufactured by Dassault Aviation in the 1970s.

Al-Madani claimed that the French-made aircraft took off from the Egyptian base of Sidi Barani before striking the al-Watiya base.

A military source gave journalists some additional information “revealing that the Emirati plane took off from Sidi Barani base before refueling in the sky of Al-Jufra base, in the center of the country”.

An advisor to the Emirati Royal family, Abdulkhaleq Abdullah, admitted that the UAE  had indeed conducted the airstrike as a warning to the Turks. “On behalf of all Arabs, the UAE has taught the Turks a lesson,” he tweeted.

The Tweet was later deleted.

As Italian military expert Emanuele Rossi informs us, deleted admission aside, the Emirates are most likely to have been responsible for the airstrike.

Mirage 2000-9 in Libya

Today, the UAE has the largest and most combat-ready Air Force in the Middle East. The country’s Air Force has 62 of the responsible Mirage-2000-9 fighter jets, even housing three different variations: EAD (single-seat), DAD (double-seat) and RAD (reconnaissance). Perhaps relevantly, in November 2019, the Ministry of Defense of the United Arab Emirates finally signed an agreement on the modernization of the French-made fighters.

The UAE already has already used these jets in the course of the Libyan war. On July 2, 2019, the Tajoura Detention Center outside Tripoli was hit by an airstrike that killed 53 people and wounded 130.

The Government of National Accord initially blamed Libyan National Army of Khalifa Haftar, but later said that it had been UAE aircraft.

Since 2016 military experts have said that the UAE is inclined to use the Mirage jets in Libya to “help tip the Libyan civil war”. Unlike Egypt, UAE pilots have significant experience using these aircraft in combat: the jets have been used to strike targets in Yemen from Eritrean bases since 2016.

In May 2020, at least 6 Emirati Mirage bombers were housed at the Sidi Barrani Air Base in western Egypt. The planes have been seen clearly on satellite photos, which have since been disseminated across various social network platforms.

Abu Dhabi supplied Haftar with advanced weaponry systems in violation of the UN arms embargo, including the fighter jets in question and Chinese-made Wing Loong II drones. At the end of 2019, the UN issued a report which revealed that the UAE provided Haftar with the advanced air defence system that was installed at the al-Jufra base and near the city of Gharyan. It also provided him with a warship that was modified with guns and other offensive equipment.

“Imperialism’s closest allies in the region, Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia, have continued to increase their activities against Turkey on various fronts, including around the dispute in Libya. Turkey’s active foreign policy in the Middle East and Africa is a major source of conflict,” notes UWI expert Onur Sinan Güzaltan in a column for Aydinlik.

The UAE vs Turkey

The escalation between the UAE and Turkey began in 2017 after the Gulf countries and Egypt placed an embargo against Qatar.

In May 2020, Mevlut Cavusoglu said that the UAE “unsettled Libya and destroyed Yemen”. He characterized the UAE as bringing “chaos to the region.” Earlier, the UAE issued a joint statement along with Egypt, Greece, Cyprus and France, condemning “Turkey’s military interference in Libya”.

Conflict with the UAE is also an important topic in regard to the conflict in Somalia. Cavusoglu accused the UAE of supporting al-Shabab militants in the country. This essentially suggests proxy warfare against Turkey which has a military base in the country and is training Somali troops.

The Emarati-Saudi-France axis coordinates heavily with the US. Recently, the Ambassador of the United Arab Emirates in Washington, D.C., Yousef Al Otaiba, in a letter to US officials described Turkey as the most serious threat to the stability of Libya. Otaiba’s message was delivered by Hagir Elawad, a former legislative affairs director of the UAE’s embassy in Washington DC, and by lobbying firm consultant Akin Gump in an email sent on June 22:

“Turkey has continued to push and provoke near Sirte and has deployed Navy vessels off the coast. Our analysis is that this is being done very deliberately to bait Egypt into entering and right now, Egypt is seriously considering it”.

The UWI expert Mehmet Perinçek notes that “in the eastern Mediterranean, Israel, the US, Southern Cyprus and Greece have formed an alliance to act as a front against Turkey. These governments are working to weaken Turkey’s security. Turkey has vital interests in both Cyprus and Libya, as well as in the Eastern Mediterranean, where the Abu-Dhabi government has a completely anti-Turkish policy. This hostile behavior is reflected not only in the Government’s statements, but also in the implementation of this UAE’s policy. The disagreements over Syria and Libya have damaged relations between the two countries’.

Possible motivations for the attack

The bombing of the Al-Watiya base was likely motivated by the expanding proxy war between Turkey and the UAE in Libya, and was potentially a response to Turkey’s alleged attempts to deploy soldiers to the base.

In addition, as noted by Libyan political analyst Saeed Al-Jawashi, the Emirates may be trying to provoke GNA forces to storm Sirte as a retaliatory measure. In this way, the GNA army will cross the “red line” previously established by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, which could lead to a dramatic escalation of the conflict or even war.

The fact that the plane took off from an Egyptian base is also evidence that Abu Dhabi is setting Cairo up in an attempt to assure that Turkey and Egypt maintain their position in Libya. In addition, the air strike on Al-Watiya could have been aimed at striking Turkish-aligned forces and placing the blame on Russian formations in Libya, thus damaging or destroying the evolving relationship of the Ankara-Cairo-Moscow axis.

Forecasts

Tensions between the UAE and Turkey are rising. The UAE’s efforts are actively backed by France, which is becoming more involved in the region in an effort to revive support for Haftar after the memorandum on military cooperation between the GNA and Turkey.

It is possible that French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian (a strong proponent of France’s pro-Haftar course) will initiate the implementation of sanctions against Turkey during the meeting of EU foreign ministers on July 13. “The European Union has already imposed sanctions against Turkey in connection with its drilling in the Cypriot economic zone. There may be other sanctions,” Le Drian declared.

Recently, globalist forces have gone all out in Libya in order to sow discord between Turkey and Russia, playing on the two countries’ ostensibly opposing visions for the region. However, according to Christopher Nixon Cox, grandson of President Nixon and administrator of the Richard Nixon Foundation, Erdogan and Putin’s interests actually converge in Libya, despite their supporting different sides in the country’s conflict. It is now necessary for the two leaders to “expel” the French from Libya and weaken the Emirates’ influence at any cost.

 
United World International

Independent analytical center where political scientists and experts in international relations from various countries exchange their opinions and views.

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