Since Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi threatened military intervention in Libya ten days ago in response to Turkish interference in the country, the civil war seems to have come to a halt. His message, which was launched with a clear deterrent objective, has slowed down the clashes around Sirte, a geostrategic oil enclave in dispute between the two factions, the National Liberation Army (LNA), commanded by Marshal Khalifa Haftar, and the Government of National Accord (GNA), led by Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj. However, the Muslim Brotherhood, an organization with Egyptian roots that supports the latter, is taking advantage of this "time out" to assert its interests on the Libyan chessboard.
According to analyst Jemai Guesmi in The Arab Weekly, "Libya's Muslim Brotherhood is planning to circumvent American and international demands to dissolve its affiliated militias, by suggesting the creation of a “national guard” and marketing it extensively, in a manoeuvre aimed at buying additional time in the face of mounting pressures".
This week, a virtual meeting took place between the GNA's interior minister, Fathi Bashagha, and three U.S. officials, Henry Wooster, deputy assistant secretary of state for Maghreb and Egypt affairs; Miguel Correa, senior officer for North Africa and the Middle East at the National Security Council; and Stephen de Meliano of the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM). During the meeting, the delegates from Washington demanded from the other side "the need to dismantle the militias and impose international sanctions on armed groups working against the political process or engaging in criminal activities". Bashagha acknowledged this on his Twitter account: "the American side stressed during the video conference the need to be serious in implementing the program of dismantling the militias, demobilizing them and reintegrating them in one force", he wrote on the social network.
"Bashagha, however, conveniently neglected to say that the Sarraj government does not wish to dismantle the militias, and as such seeks to circumvent its commitments to the American side and to the Berlin conference, which had also emphasised the necessity of dismantling the armed militias. Instead, the GNA prefers to form a “national guard," previously suggested by former head of the UN mission to Libya Martin Kobler to absorb these militias and turn them into a formal and structured military force" Guesmi notes in The Arab Weekly.
The meeting followed another one a week ago, on June 22, between the Prime Minister himself, Fayez Sarraj; the commander of AFRICOM, Stephen Townsend; and the US Ambassador to Libya, Richard Norland. Both parties agreed, then, to maintain a "joint coordination between the GNA and AFRICOM for the fight against terrorism within the framework of strategic cooperation between Tripoli and Washington," according to the Sarraj government in a statement. However, Norland called for an end to foreign interference, which feeds the two opposing factions, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, which is supported by Turkey and Qatar: "External actors should stop fueling the conflict and respect the UN arms embargo. In support of Libyan sovereignty, political stability, security and economic prosperity", he said.
According to Guesmi, the idea of establishing a "national guard" dates back to May 2016, when the Presidential Council of the GNA "announced that it would establish this body under the supervision of Sarraj and with financial and administrative independence". Its mission would be "to secure the presidential and sovereign seat in the state, as well as to secure and protect vital objectives in the country, including points of entry by land, sea and air".
However, information from The Arab Weekly reveals that its function would not be limited simply to ensuring the security of the high command of the ANG, but that the "national guard" would be marketed abroad, with the possibility of being in the image of other bodies of this style in the Middle East, such as the Iranian Revolutionary Guard (IRGC). In addition, it has also become known that Turkey, as an ally of Sarraj, would be interested in this project for a clear reason: it would help expand his Islamist agenda throughout the region. French intelligence reports cited by the publication have revealed, in this vein, that the Turkish defence consultancy SADAT, led by retired general Adnan Tanriverdi, former advisor to the president of the Eurasian nation, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, recently signed an agreement with a security company run by Fawzi Boukatif, a member of the Brotherhood in Libya, to train his militia and, probably, the "national guard" that would emerge from it.
"We should not exclude the prospect of transforming Libya into an alternative homeland for the Brotherhood," says analyst Abdul Rahman Al Rashed in Al-Sharq Al-Awsat. “In Libya, the adjacent country, we notice that the goals of war are changing. The fighting is no longer over the establishment of a Libyan government. Rather, the goal seems to be to make Libya the alternative country for the Egyptian Brotherhood group to be incubated and established," he adds. At this point, it should be remembered that the organization has been under increasing pressure in recent times to cease its activities and reduce its influence in Arab countries where it had managed to permeate virtually all layers of society with its agenda, such as Egypt, its home nation, or Sudan, where Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok has undertaken a real battle to banish the Brotherhood from its territory. "Given the growing Turkish military presence in the country, it seems inevitable that Libya will become the new home of the Egyptian opposition," he says.
This line is also taken by analyst Samir Salama in Gulf News: "Turkey wants to turn Libya into alternative country for Brotherhood" he says. "As for why Turkey wants to make Libya a Brotherhood state project, it is to compensate for their losses in Egypt and Sudan. The truth is that Libya, unlike Egypt, was not the land of the Brotherhood, except from a small group that had been active after the fall of the regime of Muammar Gaddafi". "Turks see in Libya oil and geography. It is a country that, when tightly controlled, is able to support the activities of Turkey, which depends for its current crisis on Doha, and a land bordering Egypt and Sudan, in which the group had deep extensions," Al Rashed concludes.