Insight Turkey
Insight Turkey
Challenging ideas
On Turkish politics and International affairs

Insight Turkey > Events |

Web Panel | The Role of External Actors in the Libyan Crisis II

In this panel, experts in their fields discussed the ways and purposes of foreign actors' involvement in Libya, the political order in post-revolution Libya, and Turkey's Libya policy and shared their views on the course of events in Libya. The panel was held online due to the COVID-19 pandemic, was broadcast live on YouTube and other social media platforms.

Web Panel The Role of External Actors in the Libyan



Ibrahim Efe, Insight Turkey


Talha Köse, Ibn Haldun University

Murat Aslan, Hasan Kalyoncu University

Bilgehan Öztürk, SETA



Talha Köse

Talha Köse starts his speech at the panel by going before the crisis in Libya and talking about the history of Libya, its geopolitical importance and the reasons for being dragged into the crisis. Claiming that the new focus of the Middle East-centered conflicts that have been going on for years has shifted to the Eastern Mediterranean due to energy resources, Köse argues that Libya has an undeniable importance in the Middle East, Africa and Europe in this regard. According to Köse, Libya's entry into a tectonic transformation process with the Arab Spring is considered an important parameter for the Middle East, European and African countries. Köse divided the countries that had a say in the Libyan crisis into four categories: offensive-based countries that take care of their own interests, defense-based countries that prioritize their own security and act with geopolitical concerns, countries that want to determine the ideological framework in the region, and lastly, opportunistic countries that want to take advantage of the new economic opportunities in Libya.

Claiming that the countries penetrating the crisis cannot fully adhere to a parameter, Köse cited Turkey and Egypt as examples of countries that identify their national interests with Libya's and approach the crisis on a defensive basis, while the UAE and Saudi Arabia is an example of countries that are both opportunistic and attack-oriented. Russia, on the other hand, taking advantage of the political vacuum in the region and taking advantage of Libya economically and militarily, and characterizing Libya as a gateway to the Eastern Mediterranean and Africa, causes Russia to be included in the category of opportunistic countries by Köse. The opportunistic approaches of Italy and France, which are among the European states, are mostly based on economic interests and historical ties.

As a result, according to Köse, there are many external actors playing an active role in the Libyan Crisis, but the most important thing is for which interests and with what approaches these actors are involved in the crisis. In his speech, Köse argued that the countries with a defensive attitude will establish sustainable relations by making longer-term investments in Libya, so the attitude of Turkey and Egypt and the agreement to be reached between the two countries are important for the stability of Libya. On the other hand, he concluded by claiming that the offensive countries could withdraw from the region in case of possible risk and would not be able to provide stability.


Murat Aslan

 Based on the article Aslan wrote, Murat Aslan talks about the  emergence of non-state armed actors in general and what kind of effect they have in terms of gaining power in the Libyan crisis. Aslan starts his speech by looking at the military aspect and security understanding of Libya from a historical perspective. Aslan analyzes the impact of the military structure built during the Gaddafi period, especially since World War II, on the Libyan crisis.

According to Aslan, the pressure that Gaddafi put on the people during his administration is the main issue that caused the revolution, and the organization of the people as a result of this pressure lays the foundations of political instability. The combination of different dynamics such as lack of democracy, totalitarian regime, oppressive administration, and lack of service are thought to be the reasons for the effect of the Arab Spring in Libya.

Aslan claims that this revolution that broke out during the Gaddafi period also had an impact on the current Libyan crisis. First, the indecisiveness of the security forces as to which side to support has led to confusion and polarization. While one part supported Gaddafi, another part joined the revolutionaries. In addition, Gaddafi's bringing mercenaries from other African countries caused an increase in internal turmoil. While this was the case in Libya, the attitudes of foreign actors towards state-building were not successful because they did not show determination. Aslan defines the current crisis as the development of the revolution itself since state-building has not started since the revolution.

In the revolution, Libyans organized on a city basis and carried out their own training, armament and connections through the military councils they formed. However, after the state-building failed, these military elements, which were established, adapted to the traditional social structure of Libya and formed different organizations by putting forward parameters such as city, region, tribe, ethnicity. Aslan describes the organization of armed groups and their directing towards a single goal, together with Haftar's attack, as a turning point in the context of the crisis. In addition, the establishment of a regular and united army is also in question.

As a result, Aslan relates the Libyan crisis to the military structures in the Gaddafi period and argues that two issues, external and internal actors, come into play for the resolution of the crisis. Aslan is of the opinion that Libya's own structure is not sufficient to resolve the crisis without the influence of external actors, and questions how well-intentioned its external actors are in this regard. Finally, in Aslan's opinion, the unification of Libyan armed organizations can only be possible by eliminating abusive and divisive external actors and by determining a constructive policy.


Bilgehan Öztürk

Bilgehan Öztürk starts his speech in which he talks about how Libya's geopolitical and strategic preferences will be shaped in the crisis phase, by defining the temporary administration to be established in Libya. It sees the fact that the candidates put forward for the chairman of the presidential council and the prime minister of the government to be formed are from different regions and are chosen from the least favorite candidates as a manifestation of the United Nations' mission to Libya. According to Öztürk, with the election of Muhammet Menfi from the Eastern region of Libya as the chairman of the Presidential council and Abdulhamid Dibeybe from the western region as the Prime Minister, it was aimed to create a situation of mutual concession.

In his speech, Öztürk claims that the most important factor in the winning of the candidates who were not shown as the favorite is the use of reaction votes, rather than a libertarian approach, in the elections. He explains the reason for this with the anxiety felt over the coming together of Akile Salih İsa and Fethi Başağa, who are considered certain to win.

According to Öztürk, the selected list has its own advantages and disadvantages. The fact that they do not have much political background, that they are not dominant actors and that they do not have known causal ties provides an advantage, while expanding their room for maneuver. On the other hand, as a disadvantage, more powerful actors should be involved in the process, since the newly elected names do not have a self-contained power yet. Öztürk, on the one hand, argues that there are reactions from the public that the newly created structure is promising, on the other hand, he claims that there is a concern about the intervention of internal and external actors and distrust towards the new structure.

Öztürk claims that the attitude of regional and international foreign actors towards the newly elected interim government is good. However, Öztürk argues that the good intentions of external actors do not make sense in practice at first and their attitudes will be shaped after observing where the government will evolve.

Öztürk concludes his speech by mentioning the risks posed by the newly formed government. According to Öztürk, the weakening of Akile Salih with the newly elected list strengthens Hafter. The strengthening of Haftar causes him to be more demanding towards the new government and creates a structure that will encourage Haftar, as he still has control of important oil regions.


The panel ended with a question-and-answer session. If these topics catch your interest you can reach the full panel session via YouTube.

Labels »  

We use cookies in a limited and restricted manner for specific purposes. For more details, you can see "our data policy". More...