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Turkey’s Erdogan - From Haga Sophia to the Shores of Tripoli and Beyond

23 4 2
01.08.2020

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has clearly decided to launch an offensive on multiple fronts, taking advantage of what he clearly perceives as a geopolitical vacuum. From his recent call to Islamic prayer at the Haga Sophia in Istanbul, to his breaking of the arms embargo to back the Tripoli regime against the advance of General Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army in the East, from continuing military presence inside Syria to refusal to stop drilling for oil and gas in waters off Cyprus, as well as actions in Africa, Erdogan is clearly in an aggressive mode. Is there a larger strategy behind all this, far more than as a diversion from domestic Turkish economic problems?

In recent weeks the Erdogan government has made aggressive moves on multiple fronts that have led many to question their overall aims. In Libya Turkey’s Erdogan has boldly made moves to give arms, soldiers and other support to the embattled Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli of Fayez Mustafa al-Sarraj.

In December 2019, Erdogan signed a military cooperation pact with the UN-recognized and highly unstable Tripoli government to counter the offensive mounted by Gen. Haftar’s Libyan National Army, based in the oil-rich east of Libya.

On June 7 the Cirkin, a Tanzanian-flagged cargo ship, sailed from Turkey to the Libyan port of Misrata. It was joined by three Turkish warships, leading France and others to believe it was smuggling arms to Tripoli to fight Haftar, a violation of the UN arms embargo. When a Greek (NATO) helicopter sought to board Cirkin to check if arms were being smuggled, the Turkish warships refused, leading a French (NATO) frigate, Courbet, part of a NATO maritime security operation, to approach the Cirkin. Turkish warship radar immediately light up the Courbet with its targeting radar forcing the Courbet to withdraw and the Cirkin landed in Libya. France has filed an official complaint with NATO about the Turkish (NATO) hostile actions. The details remain murky and chances are NATO will try to keep things quiet rather than force a rupture within the alliance.

Significant to note is that Haftar’s military move on Tripoli to end the division of the country is backed by Russia, UAE and Jordan. Since the US-initiated Arab Spring series of destabilizations from Egypt to Tunisia to Libya and, so-far unsuccessfully, in Syria, Libya has since been ravaged by tribal wars following the assassination of Muammar al-Qaddafi in October, 2011.

The most recent Turkish move in May enabled the GNA and Turkish-backed troops to destroy the LNA’s air defenses in Watiya air base, including a Russian Pantsir-1 battery ad with support of Turkish troops, to take control of the key base. When Russia reportedly........

© New Eastern Outlook