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07/20/2020

A holistic strategy is needed to ensure Turkey’s success in Libya

A holistic strategy is needed to ensure Turkey’s success in Libya

Today, the conflicts and problems in our region, especially the ones that Turkey is involved in, are not independent of the overall polarization in the world. This polarization has not changed since the Ataturk’s definitions of “tyrant and tyrannized nations” and Lenin’s definitions of “oppressing and oppressed nations”.

There are a few nations that exploit the world’s resources, and there are the nations that are exposed to this imperialist exploitation on the other. Nonetheless, there are also countries that have chosen their own independent ways of development, among these oppressed developing nations.

We can also define this polarization as a clash between the East and West, the North and the South and between the Atlantic and Eurasia.

The Holistic Approach of the US’ Strategy

When we look at the current situation, we see the goal of the United States is actually to seize the energy resources and supply lines in Central Asia and maintain the dominance of the US dollar. It is especially important for the United States to maintain domination in these regions: the Middle East, the Eastern Mediterranean, Eastern Europe, the Black Sea and the Caucasus.

In short, all of these regions are critical to the overall US strategy.

The fate of this strategy is particularly dependent on prevailing over Russia and China, and imposing the partition of Turkey. These countries constitute well-established state traditions and pose strong military-economic potentials, and stand as the most serious obstacle for the US’  plans.

The Role of “Greater Kurdistan”

Washington has come up with different plans to clear these obstacles, and the “Greater Kurdistan” project is the one they are putting forward to counter Turkey.

However, let us add a side note here: the “Greater Kurdistan” project is not only directed against Turkey, it is also designed to partition Iran, Syria, and Iraq directly. Furthermore, since this puppet will act as an important base for the United States to reach Central Asia, this project poses a threat to all of Eurasia, especially to Russia and China.

For this reason, the “Greater Kurdistan” is not only a part of the US plans for the region, but also a strategy for its world domination. In short, it is a plan for a second Israel.

A similar situation is present for the threats against Russia and China by the United States. The United States is also surrounding Turkey and the entire Eurasian geography, while surrounding Russia and China.

The End of the Greater Middle East Project: The Case of Kurdistan

US plans for Libya are a part of a bigger project

What is happening in Libya today is not independent from the larger polarization in the world, from the grand strategy of the United States and from the “Greater Kurdistan” project.

The United States has one grand strategy; all its plans, its build-ups, and allies are shaped according to this strategy. This is also true when it comes to Libya. Of course, those targeted by this strategy also need their own holistic counter strategy, their own proper defenses and sets of alliances. And this is also true of Libya.

Was it not the US’ strategy which led to civil war and crisis in Libya in the first place? Gaddafi’s government in Libya was a huge obstacle for the United States, having great importance both with its high-quality oil reserves in the world and geopolitical position. This obstacle was removed by the United States’ Arab Spring.

This was what brought the country into a state of pure mayhem. Therefore, it is the United States and its allies like France who are responsible for the chaos we are witnessing today. Naturally, it is impossible for those who have caused the problem to solve it.

Who could solve the problem?

If the United States is the source of the problem and Washington’s actions in Libya will eventually be connected to the “Greater Kurdistan” project, who could help fix the situation?

It is more or less clear that Turkey and Russia share the same fate in the region. Is this also the case in the Eastern Mediterranean?

Common interests in the Eastern Mediterranean

Turkey is facing the US-Israel-Greece-Greek Cyprus bloc in the Eastern Mediterranean. In fact, this bloc is openly targeting Turkey with military drills and with the natural gas exploration crises. However, this bloc not only threatens Turkey, but also Russia. The United States is surrounding Russia, while surrounding Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Washington is provoking the Greek Cypriot government against Moscow as well by lifting the arms embargo against Greek Cyprus. This is driving Greek Cyprus to stand against Russia. It is also clear that the British air bases in the Greek territory are also threatening the Russian presence in the region.

In addition, the recently increasing racist attacks on Russian citizens in the Greek Cyprus have also been a painful topic for Moscow. Thus, the Russian state-media is not afraid to publish some news related to this issue. (See the example)

Cooperation against EastMed

The situation is no different when it comes to energy. The aforementioned EastMed pipeline project is a project against the Turkish-Russian TurkStream and the Turkish-Azerbaijani TANAP project, and to an extent, it is directed against the supplying of the Central Asian gas to Europe completely. The Russian media frequently emphasizes on the Turkish-Russian cooperation and on them being the fellow-sufferers on this issue. (See the examples: 1, 2, 3).

In this context, the Russian Energy Minister Aleksandr Novak’s offers to Turkey for cooperation on the Eastern Mediterranean energy deposits are not unrelated. (See: The Signal from Russia, for a cooperation with Turkey in Eastern Mediterranean).

The Eastern Mediterranean-Black Sea: The Only security zone

It should also be remembered that the security of the Eastern Mediterranean is also the guarantee for the decisive solution in the Syrian crisis. The anti-Turkey bloc is also a problem for Russia in Syria.

Furthermore, the United States would have the opportunity to reach the Black Sea much easier if it manages to dominate the Eastern Mediterranean. At this point, Russian national security correlates with Turkish national security.

The same situation applies for the Black Sea as well. US efforts to reach the Black Sea not only play a role in the strategy of surrounding Russia, but also comes into play in the plan to surround Turkey. The polarization in the world is solidifying in this region.

The agreement signed between the United States and Ukraine against the TurkStream further clarifies the picture.

Could there be another polarization in Libya outside this picture? Naturally, it is worth thinking about the fact that Turkey and Russia are supporting two opposing sides. Summing up previous processes could be important to understand the future.

History of Russia’s Libya policy

Russia had stayed mainly passive against the Arab Spring during the Medvedev period, and the fault line that started from Libya has stretched all the way to Syria. Moscow, which by then has learned from these mistakes, has now taken the action to prevent the threat before it started. Russia has started to take a more active stance in Libya, while sending troops to Syria, with the requisition of Damascus.

Russia remained neutral at the beginning of the Libyan Civil War and it supported the dialogue process.Moscow’s favorite, a third party, the son of Gaddafi, did not have a chance of success. Haftar’s expansion over the 94% of the country’s land area and the image that had created that he could win this civil war has played an important role in Russian support on that side. Moscow wanted to stand by the winner, therefore it could increase its influence in the new Libya.

But of course, Russia was not the only force behind the Haftar’s side. In fact, it was on the same side as the forces it clashed with in the grand strategic plan. Moscow’s point of view again sparked from a similar mentality: to compensate for the influence of its strategic opponents, and not leave the winning side to them.

The Turkey-Libya agreement and the Blue Homeland

But Turkish involvement in the Libyan crisis has changed the balance of power. Even more importantly, the Memorandum of Understanding on the Delimitation of Maritime Jurisdictions signed between Ankara and the Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) on November 27, 2019 ended this unclear period. It was incredibly important in terms of clarification of the two fronts.

From the Blue Homeland, to the High Seas

Turkey’s Blue Homeland strategy and the Turkish-Libyan maritime agreement as part of this strategy were blocking the Atlantic front’s dominance in the Eastern Mediterranean and strengthening the cards of the regional powers. Therefore, this move not only strengthened the cards of the two countries on the same front, but also created a defensive fortification for the entire Eurasian front.

Now, everything started to settle in its place in Libya. The turmoil in this North African country was not unrelated to the overall global polarization. For some time, the global powers had analyzed the opposing sides on the field, tried to drag them on their side, and to increase their influence.

The plans for a Turkish-Russian conflict has fallen apart

Things have begun to become clearer. Still, the Atlantic forces have tried to blur matters again at the end of 2019. The same plan for a Turkish-Russian conflict in Syria, which had earlier fallen apart with the Sochi Agreement, were being pushed over differences in Libya.

However, the plans failed once again. The disadvantageous situation of supporting two opposing sides was turned into an advantage. On January 8, 2020, Erdogan and Putin met in Istanbul and reconciled. A ceasefire was to be ensured by Ankara using its influence on the GNA and by Moscow on Haftar’s side.

Moscow’s disappointment

However, the process did not proceed quite as Moscow expected. During the ceasefire negotiations mediated by Turkey and Russia in Moscow this January, Sarraj’s government immediately signed the agreement, while Haftar had left the country without signing the agreement terms. This shows that Haftar is not only under Russia’s influence. As a matter of fact, this was a large disappointment for Moscow.

Following this instance, in mid-February, intelligence from the Russian private security company Wagner stated that states it had withdrawn its mercenary forces from Libya before their contracts expired.

US and French support for Haftar

It was not possible for the agreement signed between the Sarraj government and Turkey to be tolerated amongst the Atlantic front following these events.

It had later turned out that Haftar forces were preparing for an attack on Tripoli with troops trained by the US military, with the US military and intelligence officials working closely with Haftar and with the US having the total control of the region’s airspace; France was not far behind in terms of its support. (For details of the US-Haftar and French-Haftar cooperation, see the articles: Are Haftar’s troops trained by the US?, The Libyan Françafrique).

The Libyan Françafrique

While the United States gave Haftar its full support, Haftar in turn positioned himself with the Atlantic forces. The United States and Haftar had the same goal destiny in the Eastern Mediterranean. The systematic cooperation even on the most sensitive and confidential areas revealed the true scales of this cooperation. But this action from the Atlantic front in Libya also paved the way for new cooperation and other initiatives.

Now, Russia had to revise its position on the Libyan crisis. Haftar’s stance against the Turkey-Libya agreement played an important role in the determination of his allies, leading to his positioning himself firmly within the Atlantic camp. Surely this showed that Moscow’s influence had been broken, while the United States’ had become predominant.

The end of a dangerous game

Turkish intervention had also begun to push back the Haftar forces. It had begun to bring an end to the long and dangerous game. The need for Russia to establish a new direction has emerged, both pragmatically and geopolitically.

At the same time, the Moscow-Tripoli-Ankara bloc was also quite busy. (See: The secret of the flight from Libya to Istanbul).

The secret of the flight from Libya to Istanbul

On top of that, it was announced that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu would fly to Istanbul. However, this visit was also postponed to a future date at the last minute. The statements from both sides after the visit clearly showed that there had been no disruption in relations. According to the statements from both sides, a joint negotiation process had commenced.

Naturally, the GNA and Turkey did not want to stop after their successes on the field. It was the most logical thing to sit at the negotiation table after taking advantage of this success. It was not possible for Ankara and Tripoli to comply with the Cairo Declaration, and Russia knew that as well.

The US pushes the “puppet state” button

The Atlantic front took on a new action in parallel with its own holistic strategy, while the Turkish-Russian relations on Libya, despite objective common interests, continued with its own ups and downs.

The United States, while suffering great losses in Syria with the Sochi Agreement and its “Greater Kurdistan” project, responded by pushing the button to form a new puppet state, pushing the project more and more over the last few months. Deployments to Northeastern Syria have increased and some secret talks with the PKK/PYD were held. The United States has launched a new set of processes militarily, administratively and economically, in an effort to carve up this “corridor”: the military phase of the plan will provide the security for the PKK/PYD, the administrative phase will include the declaration of the hypothetical capital of this puppet state, with establishing all of its governmental seats and institutions, and the economic phase will include the oil revenues as the lifeblood of this American corridor.

(For details, see: Washington revamps efforts toward Kurdish puppet state)

Washington revamps efforts toward Kurdish puppet state

In June, a union among Syria’s separatist forces was concluded, in the aftermath of the process, with the “sponsorship of the United States” with their own words.

The US has returned to Libya

The United States has taken action on Libya in line with his plans in Syria. In order for its plan in Syria to work, it had to dominate Libya as well. AFRICOM has started to show signs of returning to Libya, after it had withdrawn in 2019. The American petroleum companies do not seem to hold almost anything in Libya. Exxon Mobil had withdrawn from the country in 2014: they did not want to stay behind in the Libyan market.

Fear of another Astana in Libya

As a result, in their recent statements, Washington and Paris have shown they are deeply disturbed by the involvement of Turkey and Russia in the conflict in Libya.

Former US Ambassador to Ankara Eric Edelman and the former Deputy Commander for the US European Command Charles Walt made it clear that the United States should act against Turkey and Russia in Libya. Ankara’s and Moscow’s influences in that country must come to an end. (America Must Act In Libya Against Turkey, Russia, Turkey’s Escalation in Libya: Implications and US Policy Options)

Josep Borrell, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, had rephrased the same ideas in the beginning of this year by saying that “Turkey and Russia have changed the balances in the Eastern Mediterranean by imposing a military solution in Syria. We cannot accept the same situation happening in Libya.” According to Borrell, no one would be happy with the Russian and Turkish military bases along the Libyan coastline. A new Astana process must not be allowed in Libya. (EU: We stand against for the Repetition of the Syria Scenario by Russia and Turkey in Libya)

Bernard-Henri Lévy, one of the ideologues of Atlanticism in France, also keeps mentioning the partition of Libya between Turkey and Russia, and has vigorously insisted Turkey and Russia be stopped. (BHL face à Zemmour).

The possibility of another Astana process for Libya has created some serious fear within the Atlantic camp. In fact, this attitude of the West should also be a lesson for Ankara and Moscow. Both countries have become targets along a line that stretches from Syria to Libya. There is nothing more natural than these two countries having common interests.

These common interests are also noticed by Christopher Nixon Cox, the grandson of former US President Nixon and the director of the Richard Nixon Foundation. According to Nixon’s grandson, Erdogan’s and Putin’s interests overlap in Libya. They both want to drive the French out of Libya and weaken the UAE’s influence there. (Libye: Comment le deal turco-russe s’est fait sur le dos de la France et du maréchal Haftar).

Atlantic Council experts also worry that Turkey and Russia may find a common ground in Libya, both politically and militarily. They even predict that Syria could be involved in this hypothetical agreement. (Russie et Turquie, entre jeux de pouvoir et recherche d’accord en Libye).

Continuing with the provocations

Under these circumstances, it is obligatory for the United States to return to Libya and implement its plans over Syria to prevent any possible cooperations between Ankara and Moscow and for France to return to the old days of colonialism in North Africa by setting these two countries against each other. When the strategy fails, they simply begin again.

The recent reciprocal provocations are a part of this general situation. First, a rumor is spread that the Al-Watiya base was hit by the Russians, then the GNA and Turkey are reported to have hit the Russians back. However, all signs suggest that the UAE was responsible for the strike on al-Watiya , while the GNA has officially denied that the Russians had been hit in retaliation.

Russia is winning

Turkish and Russian authorities need to learn from all of these situations. The rivalries and clashes must be put aside, and common ground must be established as a part of a holistic strategy aimed at advancing both countries’ mutual interests, as was the case in Syria.

For Turkey and the GNA, it is obligatory to eliminate and even drag the opposing forces onto their sides, for a final victory. Most importantly, Ankara and Tripoli have the opportunity to turn this process in their favor with the right strategies. Russia can act as a neutral power at first, and can later even be dragged to support the Sarraj government with the correct policies. This would change the balance in Libya completely in favor of Tripoli; it would reduce the burdens of the war in every sense.

The basis for this cooperation is not just that Haftar was now supported by the United States and it has been losing the war: Moscow has also begun to grasp the anti-Atlantic ideals of the Blue Homeland strategy. This played an important role for Putin to find a common ground with Erdogan in Libya on January 8.

Beware radical and pro-American elements

However, the radical elements fighting beside Sarraj are another concern for Russia. The Sarraj government is known for not having a unified structure. It is also necessary to pay attention to possible provocations from different autonomous forces and radical elements. This will be important to eliminate the non-cooperative propaganda carried out within the Russian media.

On the other hand, Sarraj can also be targeted by the Atlanticist forces within its own front for signing the Turkish-Libyan maritime agreement. There are some signs suggesting this. Michel Scarbonchi is a Middle East expert and one of the leading figures in French foreign policy who is among the architects of Paris’s support for Haftar, and does not recommend Fathi Bashagha instead of Sarraj for no reason. (Libye: la France et l’Europe doivent intervenir. La chronique de Michel Scarbonchi).

It should be noted that the Atlantic front has not completely ended its support for the GNA. The fact that it is the officially UN-recognized government and that Haftar has been on the losing side, along with its old ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, prevent Washington and its allies from stepping back from the GNA. Thus, from the point of view across the Atlantic, it is necessary to do by every means to weaken Tripoli’s relations with Turkey and take control. Sarraj, who is seen as a guarantor for the relations with Turkey, is seen as an obstacle in this plan, and Bashagha, who is known for its pro-American statements is sometimes considered as an alternative.

It would be important for a Turkey with a holistic strategy to pay attention to this side of the issue as well. The United States will bet on both sides in Libya. The GNA should not be allowed to be a part of the US plan to ultimately establish “Greater Kurdistan”.

This would also tear Turkey apart from its natural allies and cause it to be isolated in the other zones of conflicts with its problems with the United States.

Believing that we can act together with the United States in Libya while fighting against them in Syria could mislead us and disrupt the fight against the puppet state.

The key to victory

Creating a holistic strategy and a chain of alliances against Atlantic plans is to prevent the US, France and their allies attempting to kick Turkey out from the Eastern Mediterranean is necessary to prevent the exploitation of the energy reserves and to prevent a new “corridor” in Syria. Washington’s strategy in Syria is not independent of the strategies in the Eastern Mediterranean, the Black Sea, Caucasus, Central Asia, etc. Therefore, Ankara should have a grand strategy to put an end to the Atlantic plans in Syria, Libya, and the Black Sea, and it should establish new alliances accordingly.

Cooperation not only with Russia, but also with Syria and Egypt should be one of Turkey’s priorities in this context. The American threat can only be eliminated by such a holistic strategy. Damascus and Cairo also need to grasp this holistic strategy. While fighting the United States and France in their home country, standing by their side in Libya is also an important issue for Damascus.

All countries that are targeted by the imperialist forces must act according to their mutual interests, and not according to any historic rivalry or conflicts. Turkey and Russia have to take the first steps in this direction at once.

The United States and France have already placed Ankara and Moscow on the same front, whether they like it or not.

Therefore, to keep pushing the Blue Homeland strategy and to improve alliances in the region, starting with Russia, is the key to victory in the Eastern Mediterranean and Libya.

Mehmet Perinçek
Historian and political scientist (Turkey)

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