Haftar Gearing Up for Power Grab When New UNSMIL Deadline of Oct 20 Expires
With the manifest failure of the international community’s attempts to bridge the gap between the discordant Libyan factions, a new approach is direly needed. And yet, there has been no motion to create one. In fact, UNSMIL and other international stakeholders are simply extending the deadline 20 October, without fundamentally modifying the approach, such as providing stronger incentives and disincentives. This new deadline is not arbitrary: it signals the end of the official mandate for the Tubruq-based House of Representatives. If, as seem quite likely at present, the deadline is not met there will be strong case for opponents of the HoR such as Qatar, Turkey, and Sudan to withdraw recognition of the body.
Conversely, for Khalifa Haftar and his supporters, the lack of recognised and legitimate political institutions inside the country would open the door to the establishment of a military council to rule Libya. This would not be the Haftar’s first attempt at a power-grab: he’s already announced two military coups and proclaimed himself Libya’s ‘supreme defender’. You can bet your bottom dollar that rhetorical coups three, four, and five will follow in rapid succession.
Last week, in Cyrenaica, he encouraged the establishment of a political movement demanding a military council to rule Libya, and by renewing military efforts in Benghazi. Needless to say, if Haftar were able to take full political control of the Eastern bloc, Libya would likely descend into an even worse civil war, losing any chance of achieving stability or a political solution in the foreseeable future.
Operation Doom, the moniker likely coined by Haftar’s Madison Avenue consultants, is strikingly similar to Operation Dignity, but its sole difference is that it makes extensive use of coordinated airstrikes and artillery shelling alongside ground operations. This reportedly allowed pro-Haftar troops and volunteers to make considerable gains throughout the city. During the past week, the LNA claimed to have regained control of strategic sites in Bu’atni, such as the Saiqa 21 Camp and Air Defence. Base, whilst also laying siege to rival forces positioned at the 319 Military Camp. At the time of writing, there was no sign indicating a diminishing intensity of attacks. On the contrary, on Sunday 27 September the LNA reportedly tried to establish a citywide curfew to ensure better control and coordination.