My article on the recent escalation of hostilities in Libya earlier this week noted that Haftar’s foreign patrons likely encouraged him to attack, and I specifically referred to possible encouragement from the Saudis and Egypt. This Wall Street Journal report today confirms that the Saudi government did just that:
Days before Libyan military commander Khalifa Haftar launched an offensive to seize the capital and attempt to unite the divided country under his rule, Saudi Arabia promised tens of millions of dollars to help pay for the operation, according to senior advisers to the Saudi government.
The offer came during a visit to Saudi Arabia that was just one of several meetings Mr. Haftar had with foreign dignitaries in the weeks and days before he began the military campaign on April 4.
The UAE has been one of Haftar’s principal backers for many years, but the Saudi role as a sponsor in the conflict has been growing. Considering the havoc those governments have wrought in Yemen and the increasing recklessness of Saudi foreign policy under Mohammed bin Salman, it is not surprising that the Saudis encouraged Haftar in his ill-considered gamble. Both governments have become the leading destabilizing forces in the region over the last few years, and the new attack on Tripoli is the latest example of that. Like their previous destructive power plays in other parts of the region, the Saudi-backed attack has gone poorly and backfired on their client.
The Guardian also reported Tuesday that the internationally-recognized government based in Tripoli believed that the Saudis were responsible for approving of the attack on the capital:
Few in the GNA doubt they are facing a UAE-sponsored attack, and that this was always Haftar’s chosen solution to Libya’s divisions. Brig Gen Mohammad al-Qunidi, the chief of military intelligence to the prime minister, Fayez al-Sarraj, has claimed they are facing a troika of Egyptian, Emirati and Saudi arms.
Speaking to Al Khaleej online newspaper on Monday, making reference to the Egyptianpresident, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, Qunidi said: “The three Arab countries support Haftar’s militias in order to create a new Sisi in Libya.”
Qunidi claims Saudi Arabia gave Haftar the green light to launch his attack and supplied him with money to take over the west of Libya.
It appears that the Tripoli government’s chief of military intelligence was well-informed. Some of the Trump administration’s favorite despots are further destabilizing Libya, and they are giving the U.S. new reasons to cut off our government’s support for them.