Egypt threatening to enter Libyan civil war, risking regional clash

Egyptian President al-Sisi draws a red line in the civil war raging in neighboring Libya, threatening a clash between regional powers if Turkish-backed forces try to take the city of Sirte.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Egypt’s President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi warned allies of the Libyan government that he will not tolerate specific interference in that country’s civil war, but a Turkish warfare expert said Sunday the Egyptian leader wasn’t backing up his threats.

The Egyptians have been backing the Libyan National Army (LNA), the breakaway militia headed by General Khalifa Haftar. A former military commander under deposed Libyan dictator Muammar Gadaffi, Haftar fled to the U.S. after a failed bid by Gadaffi in 1986 to seize part of neighboring Chad.

Haftar returned to Libya in 2011 after the fall of Gadaffi and joined in the ensuing civil war. However, in 2015 he rejected the internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) that ended the war and had himself declared “leader” of Libya with his headquarters in the city of Tobruk – leading to a second civil war breaking out.

With the GNA having sympathies for the Muslim Brotherhood which several Arab governments, especially Egypt’s, oppose, the LNA found backing from Egypt, the UAE and Russia. The GNA on the other hand is backed by the UN and most of the international community including Turkey, which has involved itself militarily.

Sisi says any attack on the Libyan city of Sirte, 500 kilometers (300 miles) west of the Egyptian border, constituted a red line that could bring Egyptian military intervention.

“Egypt has a 326 ship Navy, it is number one in the Mediterranean according to the Global Firepower Index,” said retired Turkish admiral Cem Gurdeniz in a video interview posted on Twitter, noting that the Turkish navy is ranked fifth, but “for the last five months the Turkish Navy has been patrolling 24/7 of the coast of Libya with only five or six ships.”

“Sirte is a coastal city but the Egyptian Navy is nowhere to be found there … You have to back up your threats [with action],” Gurdeniz said.

However, regional analyst Alexander Mercouris of the news website The Duran said Sisi “can do what he says he’s going to do because Egypt borders Libya and Turkey doesn’t.”

Mercouris noted that Egypt has a large and powerful army with advanced weapons and the Egyptians “can easily match those that Turkey has.”

“He could even conceivably send troops into Libya. He has the means to do so,” Mercouris added, noting that Sisi had a recent long phone call with Russian leader Vladimir Putin, who is supplying Hatfar’s forces along with several hundred ‘consultants’ who appear to be Russian mercenaries working for a Russian contracting company Wagner Group.

“Erodagan is furious and he also called President Putin of Russia,” Mercouris noted, adding however that Erdogan may have no choice but to abide by Sisi’s red lines.