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Western Alliance Fissures Grow About Libya Policy

May 6, 2019 in Economics

By Ted Galen Carpenter

Ted Galen Carpenter

When Field Marshal Khalifa Hafter began his military offensive
in early April to capture Tripoli, Libya’s longtime capital city,
the United States and its European allies seemed united about the
policy to adopt. They adamantly opposed his move. Haftar’s Libya
National Army (LNA) is the military arm of a rival government in
Benghazi that opposes the Tripoli-based Government of National
Accord (GNA), which the United Nations and most Western countries
recognize as the legitimate government of Libya.

The Western powers, especially France, have been working for
years to facilitate nation-wide elections that both the GNA and
Haftar would accept. French President Emmanuel Macron successfully
negotiated a ceasefire agreement between the warring parties
in 2017 and a 2018 agreement to hold elections in December 2018. When
continuing disagreements prevented the December election, the
parties agreed to reschedule it for the spring of 2019. Haftar’s
offensive guarantees that the revised target date will not be met
either.

Both the United States and its European allies clearly were
miffed about Haftar’s decision to seek a military victory
rather than a political resolution. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made it clear that the Trump
administration opposed the LNA’s offensive. The European Union demanded that Haftar’s
forces cease their advance on Tripoli. With considerable Western
input, the G7 and the UN Security Council did the same.

However, there are multiple indications that US policy may be
shifting in favor of Haftar. Washington broke with Britain and
France regarding a new UN Security Council resolution criticizing
Haftar and calling for an immediate ceasefire. Instead, the United
States joined Russia in refusing to support the
resolution. Then, on 15 April, President Trump called Haftar and
clearly had a very cordial conversation. According to the White
House’s official readout of the call, issued a few
days later, the President “recognized Field Marshal
Haftar’s significant role in fighting terrorism and securing
Libya’s oil resources, and the two discussed a shared vision
for Libya’s transition to a stable, democratic political
system.” Although Trump did not endorse the military
offensive, such a statement suggested a noticeable change in
Washington’s previously hostile view toward Haftar.

And that is how the conversation was interpreted on both sides of the Atlantic. The
European governments seemed blindsided by the President’s actions,
with EU officials reportedly wanting an immediate reversal. Both
domestic and European critics condemned Trump for his apparent
policy shift. Representative Adam Schiff (D-California), Chairman
of the House Intelligence Committee immediately denounced Trump’s action,
“Trump has endorsed Gen. Hafter in Libya, …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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