The establishment of a new Libyan government that is not subject to either party to the conflict may be an urgent matter if the estrangement between the two parties continues to prevail, and developments after the failure of the military operation may push Dabaiba to change his position, and he will then face pressure from within and outside that he may not be able to avoid.
The armed confrontations that took place on Saturday 27 August last in the capital, Tripoli, are due to the conflict between the Government of National Unity headed by Abdel Hamid Dabaiba, and the Libyan government designated by the House of Representatives, headed by Fathi Bashagha. Fathi Bashagha, who sees himself and his government as representatives of legitimacy, given that their mandate is issued by the highest elected authority in the state, while Dabaiba considers that the withholding of confidence from his government is invalid and has not been done legally, and that the mandate for his government continues until elections are held, as stipulated in the Tunis-Geneva agreement.
Each government party supports political and military components. The first has the support of the forces that reject the continuation of Khalifa Haftar in the scene, especially after his attack on the capital, in April 2019, while the second supports the Tobruk-Al-Rajma Front represented by the House of Representatives and its General Command, which is headed by Khalifa. Haftar, in addition to political, social and military components in the Libyan West.
Contexts to isolate Dabaiba and assign Bashagha
The Tunis-Geneva agreement, approved in January 2021, which created the new executive authority consisting of a three-member presidential council and an independent government, came after the failure to control the capital by force of arms by the Tobruk-Rajma Front, which is supported by some regional and international parties. . Turkey’s entry into the conflict line, in November 2019, led to the defeat of the attackers and their return about 450 km to the east (1) , which created the conditions for political dialogue and the success of the initiative of the then head of the UN mission, Stephanie Williams.
One of the most prominent developments in the period of competition to fill the four positions in the executive authority, as stipulated by the road map proposed by Stephanie Williams, the acting head of the United Nations mission to Libya, is the formation of a four-way list that brought together Aqila Saleh and Fathi Bashagha, the first as head of the Presidential Council, and the second as head of government. A few weeks before the launch of the Tunis-Geneva dialogue, they were opposing sides within two camps, between which a fierce war was raging.
The political scramble and counter-alliances led to the victory of the list of Muhammad al-Minfi and Abdul Hamid al-Dabaiba as the presidency of the Presidential Council and the government, and the Aqeela/Bashagha alliance fell, temporarily, but this alliance returned to the fore only seven months after granting confidence to the Dabaiba government by the House of Representatives. The Council withdrew confidence from the national unity government, dismissed Dabaiba, and chose Bashagha as a replacement (2) .
The forces opposing the parliament’s decision considered that what happened to circumvent the outcomes of Tunis-Geneva and the resumption of the Aqila Pashaga alliance to seize power through a different path and using a flimsy pretext, according to them, is the corruption in which the Dabaiba government is located, which, as previously mentioned, did not exceed She is seven months old since the trust was granted.
The front that rejected the decision of the House of Representatives was the approach of Bashagha to Khalifa Haftar and the latter’s recognition, on the day the Bashagha government was given confidence, in this government. It is unforgivable, and that Bashagha, who was at the forefront of the ranks in repelling Haftar’s attack, and who has repeatedly stated that Haftar cannot be a political partner, and that Libya’s stability and Haftar’s survival on the scene do not meet, became his ally and gave him the most important sovereign ministries in his government by assigning loyalists Khalifa Haftar.
Efforts to seize power and internal and external pressures
Bashagha has spared no effort to enter the capital since the first days that followed his government’s granting of confidence, and his last military operation was preceded by two attempts, but they were unsuccessful. And he will not enter the capital except peacefully. The failure of the second attempt was followed by his decision to run the government from the city of Sirte, in the center of the country; This gave the impression that armed conflict is unlikely, and that the closest scenario is the return of the governmental division with the presence of two governments, one in the west and the other in the center of the country.
It seems that the political and military forces that supported Bashagha did not accept a peaceful solution and move away from the capital and the administration of the government from Sirte. The capital has political influence and the authority of money, which is what Bashagha lacks. This makes his government on the sidelines and outside the arena of influence.
The Tobruk-Al-Rajma Front, which stood behind Bashagha, could abandon him if the government’s order became more weak. The international community did not recognize Bashagha as prime minister, and it continued to deal with the Dabaiba government as a de-facto authority, and thus the matter of Bashagha will turn out to be what Abdullah al-Thani has become. And the interim government assigned by the House of Representatives during the political division in 2014. The rapprochement that occurred between Haftar and Dabaiba, through what was known as the “National Oil Corporation deal” was a strong indication of the possibility of bypassing Bashagha and his government and searching for an alternative (3) .
There are military figures who supported Bashagha and tended to mobilize their supporters who carried arms to enable him to enter the capital. They, too, put pressure on Bashagha, and were among the reasons for the decision to attack the capital on the morning of August 27 last.
Bashagha joined several battalions from the city of Misurata, the most powerful militarily, at the forefront of which is the 217th Brigade under the command of Colonel Salem Juha. The city of Zawiya, known for its military weight, was divided between supporters and opponents of Bashagha. In mobilizing fighters from his city of Zintan, Muammar al-Dhawi, one of the influential in the Warshafana region and commander of the 55th Infantry Brigade, joined the alliance. Some of the remnants of the 9th Brigade, which had a strong presence in the attack on Tripoli in 2019, also joined them, in addition to fighters from some areas affiliated with The former regime and later Operation Dignity. This is in contrast to a military alliance supporting Dabaiba, which also included battalions from Misrata, Zawiya, Gharyan, Tripoli and other cities, and it had the numerical superiority in equipment.
Reasons for the failure of the third attempt to enter the capital
The context of the events that took place on Saturday 27 August last indicates that the military operation to enter the capital and empower Bashagha to power was based on the movement of his loyalists from inside the city to confuse the defending forces, followed by an attack from several axes from outside.
Indeed, the confrontations were sparked by the movement of elements of the 777 Brigade under the command of Haitham Al-Tajouri, one of the most prominent armed elements in force in Tripoli, and was supported by one of the two wings of the Al-Nawasi Brigade, but their move was met with a violent reaction from the Stabilization Support Organization headed by Abdul Ghani Al-Kikli, who is also from Influential people in the capital, with the support of a force that follows Imad Trabelsi, one of the military leaders from the city of Zintan, who was the deputy head of the intelligence service.
Within twenty-four hours, the forces supporting the Dabaiba government were controlling the situation in the neighborhoods in which the confrontations took place, and the operation ended with the expulsion of Haitham Al-Tajouri and his fighters from their military headquarters in Tripoli and to become attached to and without refuge there, and the entry of the Special Deterrence Force on the line of confrontation was decisive in neutralizing Al-Nawasi Brigade, and this led to preventing the circle of clashes from expanding in Tripoli, and thus the situation erupted out of control.
Later, and perhaps belatedly, military convoys moved from the city of Misurata to the east of Tripoli, from Al-Zawiya to the west, and from Al-Aziziyah to the southwest, but they did not change the balance and conflict equation. It was unable to enter the capital, and its progress was halted after a few hours of its movement. The reasons are due to the readiness of the forces defending the capital and their superiority through their defensive position, strength in number and equipment, and blocking all the ports leading to the capital, through which the attackers were expected to enter.
The most decisive factor is the drone, which was used to a limited extent to signal readiness to crush the attackers, and it was strongly present in the minds of the attacking forces, the impact left by the drone during the attack on Tripoli by Haftar’s forces in 2019, the march confronted the most experienced Wagner forces. And the efficiency and training of those equipped with advanced and mobile Russian air defense platforms, and pushed them to retreat hundreds of kilometers to Sirte.
The direction of the government conflict after the failure to enter the capital
It is clear that the operation planned by Bashagha and his military allies was not sufficiently studied, and the internal and external pressures have already been referred to and their impact on accelerating the unsuccessful military move, and perhaps Bashagha and his allies realized that entering and controlling the capital is not an easy matter, and it is not excluded that Bashagha was aware Therefore, in advance, and his goal in the operation was to detonate the situation to push the forces inside and outside to contain the situation by launching a political path that presents the governmental conflict in dialogue after it was delayed in favor of consensus on the constitutional and legal basis for the elections.
The failure of what Pashaga and his allies planned could have a very negative impact on him. On the one hand, he will lose some of his allies within the Tobruk-Al-Rajma front. It can be read the statement of the spokesman for the Army General Command of the House of Representatives, headed by Khalifa Haftar, that the army command did not participate in the operation. The military was not a party to it, in the context of the negative impact of the operation on Bashagha and his government. The position of a number of members of the House of Representatives was explicit in stating that Bashagha, as prime minister, had failed and his role had ended, as stated by the representative, Ali al-Takbali, and that the parliament might reconsider him and the government, as stated by Representative Abdel Moneim al-Urfi (4) .
Dabaiba breathed a sigh of relief after his victory in the fourth round, and this would gain him more strength within the political, social, societal and military organization in the western region. Libya is with the outside, and the challenge before it is to extend its influence over the entire Libyan soil as a condition for supervising the elections, which cannot be certain, but it remains a possible scenario if Al-Rajma’s position on it changes.
The rapprochement that was expressed through the NOC deal, which led to the appointment of Farhat bin Qadara, who is close to Haftar, as head of the National Oil Corporation, in exchange for the opening of oil fields and ports during July 2022, could be strengthened after Bashagha failed in his attempt. The fourth is to enter the capital, and if the rapprochement between Dabaiba and Haftar is strengthened, the actors in the House of Representatives, especially those loyal to Haftar, can push towards a new approach that contributes to the disintegration of the conflict over the government in favor of Dabaiba and not Bashagha (5) .
The political process after the failed attempt to enter the capital
It is known that the dispute over the government between the House of Representatives and the Supreme Council of State, the two official authorities that represent the conflicting groups in the west and east of Libya, was one of the reasons for the failure of the political track and dialogue that was supervised by the Adviser to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Stephanie Williams, in Cairo, in June 2022. Informed sources close to the presidency of the Supreme Council of State quoted Aqila Saleh as asking the Supreme Head of State, Khaled Al-Mashri, to pass the Bashagha government in exchange for a concession by the parliament delegation regarding the constitutional and legal basis for the elections, which is the focus of dialogue and negotiation Between the two councils, Aqeela’s request was rejected by Al-Mashri and the latter’s request to postpone the decision on the government dispute until after agreement on the election file.
Abd al-Salam al-Huwaili, a member of the delegation of the Supreme Council of State in the Cairo Dialogue, confirmed that he directed a request from the delegation, or some of its members, to support the Supreme State Council for the Bashagha government in return for considering the demands of the Supreme Council regarding the entire political settlement.
Noting that the Supreme Head of State and most members of the Council are not against appointing Bashagha as prime minister, and Al-Mishri explicitly expressed this on several occasions, and it seems that they are afraid that the Tobruk-Al-Rajma Front will meet with the authority of Parliament, the government and the army, so they will be more independent by their decision and this is at the expense of consensus And go to the elections. The Presidency of Parliament and the Army Command in Al-Rajma remained silent about the military preparations and mobilization that were supervised by the President of the Joint Chamber of the Western Region, Major General Osama Al-Juwaili, who is loyal to Bashagha, and it is understood from their silence that they waited for satisfactory results and repudiated what happened in the event of the failure of the operation, and this is what happened, at least by Haftar.
And because the military operation ended in failure, and because the political process usually moves and activates after the dust of the battles fades and the bullets stop, it is expected that initiatives will be launched from within, sponsored by external parties, to witness a new round of dialogue, one of the axes of which may be the government conflict, with a focus on moving the wheel Election settlement.
The impact of the military operation on the security situation in and around Tripoli
The security and military influence in the capital, Tripoli, since the early years of the February revolution has divided between a group of armed battalions that colored the security and military spectrum of the front that resisted Gaddafi’s forces and won its war against him. Its weight and weight, which took place remarkably after the Skhirat agreement and the departure of the battalions calculated on the cities east and west of the capital.
The operation launched by the UN mission with the support of international parties and appointed to supervise its design and implementation by Italian General Paolo Serra after the Skhirat Agreement in 2016, resulted in reducing the security influence in the capital to a number that does not exceed the fingers of one hand. The deterrence force, the support force, and the back-up force, which later turned into the Stabilization Support Organization, the Tripoli Revolutionaries Brigade, and the al-Nawasi battalion became the strongest and most prominent, and they share influence in Tripoli, each with its own geographical area that it controls, many of its headquarters, and large elements and equipment.
The Tripoli War of 2019, led to the division of the Tripoli Revolutionaries Brigade and the defection of Haitham al-Tajouri to form the 777 Brigade. In a preemptive strike, the Special Deterrence Force stripped the Tripoli Revolutionaries Brigade of its influence and presence in the heart of Tripoli, and the events of the past week ended with the dismantling of the 777 Brigade and the expulsion of Haitham Tagouri from the capital, as was the fate of the Nawasi Brigade.
Accordingly, the security influence in Tripoli was limited to the deterrence force and the stability support apparatus, in addition to military battalions and brigades, such as the 444th Brigade, which are affiliated with the Chief of Staff.
Looking at the course of events, it appears that the most disciplined battalions are the ones that outweigh the other, less disciplined ones, whose conduct is associated with exploiting their influence and power to obtain special gains and interests. Observers believe that Ankara is not far from managing the security file in Tripoli. The battalions that are categorized as more disciplined receive Turkish training and are the ones who supervise the drone flight.
With regard to the security and military influence in the vicinity of the capital, information indicates that the battalions that supported Dabaiba and prevented Bashagha from entering the capital intend to break up or dismantle two forces that allied with Bashagha, the 55th Brigade under the command of Muammar al-Dhawi in Aziziyah, 30 km southwest of Tripoli, and the force that he heads on Bouzreba. The Minister of Interior in the government of Bashagha, from the city of Zawiya, about 40 west of Tripoli, and this will only succeed through military action, and it is possible, and it seems that the decision has already been taken.
The international position on the government conflict and its repercussions
It can be said that the two poles of the governmental conflict in Libya at the regional level were Cairo and Ankara. The Bashagha government and its endorsement by Haftar.
Ankara, on the other hand, which seeks rapprochement with the Tobruk-Al-Rajma front for reasons related to its economic interests, especially the maritime economic sphere of influence, seems to have seen that the Egyptian approach of domination still exists; Cairo was strongly behind Haftar in his attack on the capital three years ago, and it is still dealing with the Libyan file with this logic. According to reliable sources, Ankara has conveyed to its ally in the Libyan West its concern about the government formation headed by Pashaga, in which the Tobruk-Al-Rajma Front, backed by Egypt, won its most important ministerial portfolio.
What was leaked about a meeting that included the deputy head of the Turkish intelligence service with Libyan parties from the western region who rejected the Pashaga government, before the recent attack on Tripoli, and his saying: The capital is a red line, confirms that Ankara has reservations about the control of Pashaga and his military allies in the west and his supporters in the east At the forefront of them is Haftar, on the capital, and that it is ready to stop any movement in this direction, and to activate the drone, which was one of the main reasons for resolving the confrontations, and clearly revealed the Turkish position (6) .
What happens after the failure of the last military operation?
The governmental meeting that Fathi Bashagha intends to hold in the city of Benghazi comes in the context of absorbing the negative repercussions of the failure of the military operation, but Bashagha needs more than one governmental meeting to mitigate the negative effects of his failure to impose a fait accompli in the country. Given his audacity, which is close to recklessness, it can be said that he will repeat the action if he has the opportunity, but the opportunity may be delayed or perhaps not come, meaning that the deterrence faced by the forces allied to Bashagha will make the possibility of resorting to force again unlikely, and the opposition will be from his allies. The military in the western region, and they are the most important in any military action to subdue the capital, and if Pasha did that, there is no guarantee that he would achieve results different from what happened in the last confrontation. Therefore, it is likely that his bet will turn to political action.
The argument and motive from which Bashagha’s supporters launched his support is that his government is able to move east, west and south, and therefore is qualified to supervise the elections, unlike the government of Dabaiba, which is confined to the western region. However, what happened in the past few days made Bashagha unable to move in the capital; Where about a third of the population resides, it is wanted by the Military Prosecutor and its security services.
The pressures that Dabaiba began to exercise, including directing the Public Prosecutor and the security services to arrest those who were behind the military operation, including politicians and civilians, and the issuance of a list of names for this, may indicate a strict tendency in dealing with any attempt to undermine his authority, but on the other hand, it may not be an implementation measure, and perhaps It will turn into a bargaining chip, and it is expected that Dabaiba will back down from it with the intensification of mediation efforts from inside and outside, in exchange for Pashaga to stop threatening his government, and thus Dabaiba’s negotiating position will be stronger and could even form an influence independent of the political leadership of the western region headed by the Supreme Council of State ; This means that the negotiating process will be more complicated, the crisis will last, and the elections will be postponed indefinitely.
It remains among the options to search for a third path, i.e. a new government that is not subject to any of the parties to the current conflict, and it will be urgent if the estrangement between Dabaiba, on the one hand, and Tobruk and Al-Rajma, on the other, is the master of the situation, which is what Dabaiba accepted before the military operation The latter, and developments after the failure of the military operation may push Dabai to change his position, but if he did, he would face great pressure from within and without, which he may not be able to avoid.
About the author
Libyan writer and researcherREFERENCE
(3)Libya.. Will the Dabaiba and Haftar agreement on oil drop the Bashaga government?, Al Jazeera Net, July 18, 2022, (entry date: August 29, 2022): https://bit.ly/3KyU1y5
(4)Al-Urfi: We expect to reconsider the Bashagha government, 24 hours, August 29, 2022, (entry date: August 30, 2022): https://bit.ly/3Q6Q6d4
(5)The appointment of a new head of the Oil Corporation.. What are the indications of the rapprochement between Dabaiba and Haftar?, Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, July 13, 2022, (entry date: August 30, 2022): https://bit.ly/3q14kS6
(6)Aqila Saleh’s visit to Ankara: a new page in bilateral relations, Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, August 5, 2022, (entry date: August 28, 2022): https://bit.ly/3B4OoVq