On April 4, the Libyan warlord Khalifa Haftar launched a major offensive from his stronghold in the eastern part of the country to take Tripoli from the Islamist government ensconced there. His attack has since bogged down in heavy fighting. Jonathan Spyer examines the implications of this ongoing civil war, which he understands as a conflict between two regional alliances:
Haftar and his Libyan National Army (LNA) have benefited since 2014 from the support of Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The UAE, according to regional media reports, has carried out air and drone strikes in support of the LNA. Egyptian and Emirati provision of funding, arms, and equipment is crucial to Haftar’s efforts. In the period immediately preceding the launch of his offensive, Haftar appears also to have secured the support of Saudi Arabia. . . . Haftar is thus the ally and client of those broadly Western-aligned, authoritarian Arab states that find a common enemy in the Sunni political Islam of the anti-Western Muslim Brotherhood and its allies.
On the other side, Turkey and Qatar (and the now-deposed Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir) are strongly supportive of the Islamist and Muslim Brotherhood-associated elements that share power with the government in Tripoli. . . . Ankara and Doha seek to expand and deepen their regional influence through support for Sunni Islamist political and military organizations. This pattern may also be observed, of course, in Syria, the Palestinian territories, and Iraq.
It is worth noting that Haftar and his forces are currently in the unusual position of enjoying the tacit support of both Russia and the U.S. . . . Israel’s position in the regional contest between Western-aligned authoritarianism and Sunni political Islam is also not ambiguous. What is good for Sisi and bad for the Muslim Brotherhood and Erdogan is likely to be welcomed in Jerusalem. It remains far from certain, however, if any such neat outcome will occur. Libya may well continue to share the fate of Syria, Yemen and, to a lesser extent, Iraq: . . . namely, fragmentation, chaos, and ongoing proxy war.