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The civil war is taking over in Libya. Since April, militias under the command of General Khalifa Hafer have surrounded the capital Tripoli. The latest attack is the height of tension between two groups, each of which claims the right to lead Libya. From the east, General Khalifa Hafter and his militia face a "national unity government" led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj in the northwest.

In early July the refugee camp in Tajoura was subjected to aerial bombardment, according to UN information, killing 53 people and injuring about 130 others. At the time, the United Nations said the attacks could be assessed as war crimes, and that the possibility of a mistaken attack was unlikely, because the parties had obtained the coordinates of the camp in advance to avoid being attacked. For its part, the internationally recognized government of Al-Serraj, General Hafer and his Libyan National Army, took responsibility for the attack, but Hafer rejected any responsibility for the incident.

Regardless of the identity of the attackers on the Tajoura refugee camp, the UN Security Council strongly condemned the attack and wanted to document it in a formal UN declaration. However, the United States delegation to the Security Council opposed a declaration to that effect without giving reasons. But such a condemnation could have been seen as criticism of General Hafter, whom President Trump promised in April of public support.

A shift in US policy

The White House announced days after a telephone call between Trump and General Hafter on April 15 that President Trump had valued the role of General Hafter in the fight against terrorism and in protecting Libya's oil wealth. The two sides talked about their perceptions of a transitional period in Libya that would pave the way for a stable democratic political system in the country, the statement said.

Libyen General Chalifa Haftar (picture-alliance / dpa / M. Elshaiky)

The strong man in eastern Libya, General Khalifa Hafer

Hafez presents himself abroad as the struggle for a free Libya without extremists, where the general himself is the strong man who hunts terrorist groups in Libya, such as the so-called "Islamic state." President Trump is of course impressed. However, the official announcement of the telephone call between Hafter and Trump was an unflinching step. Washington still officially recognizes the legitimacy of the Sarraj government as an international representative of Libya. Even days before the phone call, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sharply criticized General Hafer for his attack on Tripoli. At the time, Pompeo said that "high-level government officials" made clear "we reject the military attack."

But Mr Trump's gentle phone call with Huffer points to a different attitude, which is a "catastrophic" position, said Jeffrey Feltman, a diplomat who worked between 2012 and 2018 as a second secretary of political affairs at the United Nations. He was also between 2009 and 2012 as Deputy Secretary of State for Middle East Affairs.

Jeffrey Feltman UN-Untergeneralsekretär (Getty Images / AFP / R. Arboleda)

Veteran diplomat to the United Nations, Jeffrey Feltman

Haftar does not attach any importance to democracy

But the United States is not the only member of the UN Security Council supporting Haftar. Russia and France have officially indicated their support for the national unity government, but, according to experts, both countries simultaneously support General Hafter. In addition, regional states do not abide by the decision to ban the shipment of arms to Libya, according to the UN resolution issued in 2011. Egypt and the United Arab Emirates provide a handful of weapons and finance its "Libyan National Army" with money, according to media reports. The two countries are Trump's main allies in the region, but Trump does not exercise his influence to prevent arms shipments to Libya.

Frederick Weray, an academic at the Carnegie Endowment, explains that the US government acted as a green light for Hafar's regional allies to breach the arms embargo and continue what he has done so far. The American expert says: "This affects negatively and greatly on the peace process in Libya."

American expert Wirai, who personally met Haftar in 2014, said it was unlikely that General Hafer would stop his ongoing military campaign without pressure from abroad. "The expert said in an interview with -," Hafter says he has long wanted to rule the country. " "Haftar does not lend any importance to democracy, and he believes that Libya must rule with a strong grip, and that means its strong grip."

External influence is crucial

It should be said that neither Hafer nor his Libyan national army, nor the national unity government led by al-Seraj, give the impression that they are interested or concerned in a diplomatic solution to the crisis. That is why the diplomatic efforts of other States are of exceptional importance. In the opinion of the American expert Wirai that the Trump government to "demand a cease-fire," in addition to affect the regional parties that pour oil on fire to assume their moral responsibility.

However, the American expert does not really believe that Washington will actually put pressure on its most important allies in the region, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates in this regard. "There are ties and personal ties between the Trump government and the two countries, and some regional factors play a big role, such as concern about Iran," says Wirai.

But former UN diplomat Feltman warns that civil war will have dramatic consequences for the civilian population of Libya if major powers, such as the United States, do not rush to bring the conflicting parties to the negotiating table for a peaceful solution. The veteran diplomat adds that the parties to the conflict must begin seriously to seek a political solution. And, "says the UN diplomat," there will be a second Aleppo. "" Who wants it? "

Carla Bleiker / Hassan A. Hussain

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