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Erdogan Overstretching Himself to Libya Will Help Syria Finish Off AQ Rebels

The sultan is already transferring some of the jihadis to his 2nd (3rd?) front in Libya

The Turkish intervention in Libya might develop into a major international crisis as each side in the ‘civil’ war in Libya has several international supporters.

Turkey is now taking serious steps to move troops and equipment to Libya:

Turkey will introduce a bill to send troops to Libya as soon as Parliament resumes, in response to the country’s invitation, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced on Thursday.Speaking at a meeting of provincial heads at the headquarters of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) in the capital Ankara, Erdoğan said the military mandate to send troops to Libya will be on Parliament’s agenda when it resumes early January.

He also criticized countries supporting the East Libya-based warlord Khalifa Haftar rather than Fayez al-Sarraj.

Reuters noted that there is no public record of the ‘invitation’ Erdogan talked about:

It was unclear what specific invitation Erdogan was referring to as the interior minister in the Tripoli-based government, Fathi Bashagha, suggested in comments to reporters in Tunis that no official request had yet been made.

Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Russia and several west European countries support the anti-Muslim Brotherhood forces under Khalifa Haftar who controls most of Libya (red). Qatar and Turkey have taken the Islamists’ side. Fayez al-Sarraj controls little more than Tripoli and Misrata (blue). He originally had UN and EU support but the lack of progress since 2015, when Sarraj’s Government of National Accord was formed, has weakened his authority and his international support.

More foreign involvement in the war in Libya will be bad for that country but it might be good for Syria. In 2011, after NATO had supported Islamists to destroy the Libyan state, many of those fighters were transferred to Syria to help to destroy that country. Weapons from Libya were transported via Turkey to Syria to support the ‘rebels’ against the government. Both flows are now reverting:

Turkey-backed rebels from Syria will soon join the internationally-recognized Libyan government’s forces in the fight against strongman Khalifa Haftar.The ethnic Turkmen rebel groups that have fought alongside Turkey in northern Syria are expected to reinforce the government in Tripoli imminently, according to senior officials in Libya and Turkey.

The Libyan government had initially resisted the idea of such a deployment but eventually accepted it as Haftar’s forces began to advance on Tripoli, according to that administration’s official.

The so-called Sultan Murad Brigade has been used by Turkey to ethnically cleanse the Kurdish areas in northwest Syria. Its fighters are known to be undisciplined and brutal. They have been trained and armed by Turkey and their commanders speak Turkish. Some of them are also trained to call in air support. Other groups currently undergo training by Turkish officers to then be sent to Libya.

Turkey and Qatar are offering relatively large sums to recruit more of such Syrian ‘rebels’ for Libya [Actually I don’t buy these sums, looks like somebody added a zero]:

Sources confirmed that the Turkish-backed factions attract youth to join war in Libya offering temptations and rewarding salaries range between 1800 and 2000 US dollars for a single fighter per month. In addition to that offering additional services to be guaranteed by the host country.Other sources confirmed that two fighters were killed in Libya days ago, they are of those who had displaced from Damascus and joined the Turkish-backed factions.

Less ‘rebel’ fighters in Syria will make it easier for the Syrian army to make progress in its renewed Idleb campaign. Since its launch on December 19 the new operation on areas held by the al-Qaeda affiliated Hayat Tahrir al Sham (HTS) already liberated more than 40 villages.

Both, the President of the United States and the Emir of al-Qaeda in Syria, issued quite similar messages of concern about the Syrian government attack. Both pointed to Russia and Iran instead of the terrorists those countries seek to defeat.

A day before Trump’s tweet HTS leader Abu Mohammad al-Julani published a video which one of his fan boys translated:

“Between the two [Russia & Iran], the regime is being used by the two sides as a puppet to take over territories and properties, through demographic change… To achieve their goals, the two have no qualms in committing the ugliest massacres against the Sunni people”…., through airstrikes, bombardments and leveling to the ground, after they failed to pacify the revolution through political and security means.”

Jolani: “Having said that, we are in front of a great battle, on behalf of the whole Islamic Ummah, and on behalf of a hypocrite world that once wanted to destroy the Soviet Union & to confront the Iranian ambitions.”

The last part, ‘on behalf of the Islamic Ummah’, can be understood as a fresh invitation to Islamists and sponsors from everywhere to support al-Qaeda in its fight in Idleb governorate.

Joulani had previously rejected help from the ‘rebels’ associated with Turkey. He fears that they could endanger his dominant position in Idleb. He is looking for new recruits who are willing to swear personal allegiance to him. It seems unlikely though that his call will receive sufficient response to make up for the losses his current forces have to take.

The U.S. State Department has designated HTS as a terrorist organization. At a 2017 conference (vid) organized by the Middle East Institute, Brett McGurk, the U.S. government’s Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS, called Syria’s Idlib province “the largest Al Qaeda safe haven since 9/11 tied directly to Ayman al-Zawahiri [current leader of Al Qaeda].” He added that the Al Qaeda presence in Idlib was a “huge problem” and had been so “for some time.”

Neither Trump’s nor Joulani’s protests will have any effect on the Idleb campaign. The Syrian operation to liberate Idleb will continue in several phases.

The Syrian army is currently fighting to control the blue area. It is then likely to proceed further north to gain full control of the M5 highway between Hama and Aleppo. The army will then move to take the western part of south Idleb to reopen the M4 highway which leads from the coast to Aleppo.

Idleb governorate is mostly rural and has few economic assets that are worth a big fight. But the control of those highways is essential for the revival of Syria’s economy.

Source: Moon of Alabama

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