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Lukewarm foreign support turns ‘Benghazi Championship’ into a deadly stalemate

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Commentary. Haftar’s main error was to believe that Tripoli would be delivered into his hands on a silver platter. His allies are playing both sides of the stalemate.

written by Alberto Negri

Topic Middle East and North Africa

Also filed under commentary

April 23, 2019

In Libya, the “Benghazi Championship” is again in full swing. The British—with bitter irony—gave that nickname to the exhausting back-and-forth battle for North Africa in the 1940s, an endless series of unexpected advances and sudden retreats. Inside and outside the borders of the former Italian colony, a realignment of Libyan interests is taking shape, which will ultimately decide into which zones of influence the fractured country will be divided. However, this will take time: none of the sparring factions has come out on top in this North African spring.

One thing is certain: the US and Russia are both unwilling to agree to some awkward ceasefire at the UN, which could deal a fatal blow to General Khalifa Haftar’s campaign and give a leg up to the Islamists in Tripoli and Misurata.

The general, with whom Trump recently spoke on the phone, praising him as a champion of the “fight against terrorism,” and who is also a plausible candidate to join an “Arab NATO” with el-Sisi, will have to be particularly careful to defend his rear in Cyrenaica, as well as the oil-rich areas that he has conquered in Fezzan. Furthermore, he cannot export this oil—except........

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