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· Ancient Gaseous Emanation
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Andrea Widburg
January 8, 2020

On January 5, while all eyes were focused on the fallout from Qasem Soleimani’s death, Turkish President Recep Erdogan announced that he had moved Turkish troops into Libya. The move sparked concerns that Erdogan is again trying to position Turkey as a regional empire.

Erdogan’s desire for imperial status looks back to a time at which Istanbul, Turkey’s capital, was the center of the Muslim Ottoman Empire. That Empire, which reached its peak in the late 17th century, controlled vast swaths of the Middle East (including Jerusalem) and Central Europe. In 1683, when the Ottoman military was making a push into Western Europe, it was turned back at the gates of Vienna (although the retreating troops were good enough to leave their coffee behind). Turkish president Recep Erdogan has made it clear that he dreams of reinstating that Ottoman Empire.

Currently, Libya is under the control of an internationally-recognized Government of National Accord (the GNA). General Khalifa Haftar, leader of the Libyan National Army (LNA) is besieging GNA headquarters in Tripoli and the siege has been escalating.

Half of the LNA’s troops are Salafist militias. The other half are Sudanese, Chadian, and Russian mercenaries. It is the presence of mercenaries that gave Erdogan the excuse to move troops into Libya.

On January 2, the Turkish parliamentary, which is firmly under Erdogan’s control, approved military intervention into Libya. Erdogan’s Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, stated that Turkey's sole concern is the mercenaries’ presence in Libya:

"We are against mercenaries coming to Libya. We think mercenaries cannot bring peace and stability,” Mevlut Cavusoglu told a joint news conference with Awut Deng Acuil, South Sudan’s foreign affairs and international cooperation minister, following their bilateral meeting in the capital Ankara.

“However, our aim is to establish a cease-fire as soon as possible and to contribute to the revival of the political process and to accelerate it,” Cavusoglu said.​

Erdogan also emphasized that Turkish troops are in Libya for peaceful purposes:

"[T]he goal is to support a legitimate government. This will not hurt our agreement. The task of the Turkish military there is to ensure a ceasefire, not to fight. On the other hand, by supporting a legitimate government, prevent a humanitarian catastrophe".​

Knowing Erdogan’s imperialist dreams, no one believes him, including the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli. After deploring the LNA’s escalation against Tripoli, the official Embassy statement denounced Turkey’s interference:

This deterioration in security underscores the dangers of toxic foreign interference in Libya, such as the arrival of Syrian fighters supported by Turkey as well as the deployment of Russian mercenaries.​

Writing at Breitbart, John Hayward explains what critics suspect is really going on:

Critics suspect Erdogan’s long-term goal is to secure territory in Libya through which he can control vital passages through the Mediterranean, much as the Ottoman Empire he openly admires did before World War I. Drilling rights in the Mediterranean were part of the negotiations for Turkish support between Erdogan and Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj of the GNA.​

Because this is the Middle East, we can assume that none of this will end well.
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