MOSCOW, (BM) – Instability in the Arab East is growing, threatening to expand the list of players involved in the armed struggle for the future of the oil-rich region. On June 20, the President of Egypt visited military units located on the border with Libya and ordered them to prepare for an invasion of a neighboring country.
As a reason, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi cited the ongoing offensive of the Government of National Accord (GNA) detachments against the Libyan National Army (LNA), which opposes them, with the prospect of an early defeat of the latter.
The head of the Egyptian state warned that in the event of the seizure of the city of Sirte and the Jufra air base, GNA troops would cross the red line established by Cairo. They fear that the fall of these points will change the strategic situation in the civil war, and instead of reconciling the opposing sides, one of them will be physically destroyed.
This prospect categorically does not suit the current president of Egypt, since the forces that prevail in Libya are close in spirit to his opponents from the Muslim Brotherhood movement banned in the country (as well as Russia, Syria, Saudi Arabia and other states).
As you know, al-Sisi came to power in the summer of 2013 through a military coup, overthrowing his predecessor, Muhammad Mursi, who was elected by popular vote, and only then became legal through new elections.
The views of the Muslim Brotherhood are supported by part of the population of the region. Qatar’s financial assistance is being provided with the movement, and a close-minded Justice and Development Party rules in Turkey. Syrian President Assad Bashar has repeatedly characterized his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan as a staunch supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Worrying about the growth of Turkey’s economic and military potential and fearing the prospects of rebuilding the Ottoman Empire, the wealthy Arab monarchies, primarily Saudi Arabia and the UAE, are providing financial and military support to opponents of the Muslim Brotherhood.
At one time, they persuaded al-Sisi to a military coup, and today they supply the LNA. So, the Arabians handed over to her such advanced weapon systems as Chinese-made “Rainbow-4” unmanned aerial vehicles and Pantsir-S1E anti-aircraft systems purchased in Russia.
The strong support of the KSA and the UAE with the assistance of Egypt allowed Khalifa Haftar to take control of the remains of the army of the long-term ruler of Libya, Muammar Gaddafi, defeated in 2011. Having received the necessary resources, the Haftar detachments inflicted a number of defeats on the PNS troops and reached the outskirts of the capital city of Tripoli.
However, the succession of LNA victories ended when Turkey decisively intervened. Using the predicament of the GNA, Ankara concluded agreements on military mutual assistance, division of the sea borders, joint oil production in the sea zone between the two states, on favorable terms, and further. Using these agreements as a legal base, Erdogan sent troops to Libya. and as cannon fodder – Syrian mercenaries.
The beginning of 2020 was a turning point in the alignment of forces of the warring parties to the Libyan conflict. A mottled and poorly trained LNA was not able to withstand the Turkish personnel and the Syrian thugs for a long time. For several months of intense fighting, the Turks felt for the weaknesses of the VLA, including through the military equipment used.
If earlier Chinese drones and Russian anti-aircraft guns acted successfully, causing serious damage to the enemy, recently their effectiveness has fallen sharply. On this account, experts have expressed various conjectures, mainly of a technical nature, but few pay attention to the main thing.
The Turkish manpower army, built according to NATO standards, is by definition a much more serious military force than the semi-partisan LNA. Some examples of advanced weapons of Chinese and Russian production in the Haftar arsenal cannot change the overall picture.
Turks operate in Libya seriously and thoroughly. They landed their soldiers and officers on the African land with experience in military operations in Syria and Iraq, and are building naval and aviation groups on the theater of operations. Haftar air raids are repelled by US-made air defense systems, including Land-based Improved Hawk, Sea Sparrow, and Sea-based Standard-SM1.
Radio-technical reconnaissance and electronic warfare have been established, and the intellectual and production resources of the Turkish defense industry are being actively involved in improving them. As for the stupid and robbed Syrian mercenaries, it’s just cannon fodder that has been brought to the forefront to reduce the losses of Turkish troops.
Stopping a battle-hardened and gaining momentum Turkish military machine will be difficult. The opposing forces need their own personnel army, which would stand up for the LNA. The Armed Forces of Egypt, the largest in the entire Arab East, are best suited for this role.
By the number of personnel and equipment, they are close to Turkish, and even surpass in a number of positions. If a big war breaks out and Cairo throws everything it has into battle, the Turks will have a hard time.
The weak point is the lack of a land border between Turkey and Libya, therefore reinforcements, ammunition, provisions and other things will have to be delivered by sea and air.
Egypt is not constrained by geography and can introduce a huge land army into a neighboring country. She, even if it turns out to be less combat-ready than the Turkish troops, will crush them in numbers.
Over the past decade, Egypt has acquired advanced air defense systems from Russia, including the S-300VM long-range caterpillar chassis. If they are involved, then the Turkish air bridge to Libya will collapse. Fourth-generation fighters — up to 300 F-16, MiG-29M1 / M2, “Rafal” and “Mirage-2000” will also help him crumble. They are purchased respectively in the USA, Russia and France.
In addition, the old MiG-21s and their Chinese clones have been preserved in parts and warehouses. Although the fleet is of different sizes, the strong point is that even after losing (for political reasons) the support of a pair of manufacturing countries, the Egyptians will be able to use the third product for a long time, not to mention rarities.
But the Turks – one type of fourth-generation fighter. Moreover, the F-16 is a light class, and to protect the air and sea bridge to Libya, given its considerable length, heavy vehicles with an increased flight range would be much better.
Such as the Su-30SM, Su-35S and Su-57E, which Vladimir Putin personally showed Erdogan at MAKS-2019, but he has not bought anything since then. In a word, Turkey came to African land with aircraft not adapted for a large air battle with Egypt and other Arab countries.
The Turks are doing better with the fleet: 16 missile frigates and 10 corvettes, as well as a dozen dozen submarines of the German project 209. Egypt has seven frigates and corvettes, four new German and old Chinese submarines. However, the Turkish advantage in the ships of the sea zone is leveled by a large number of Egyptian missile boats, which will sink to the bottom everything that approaches the coast.
At the same time, Egypt also has a pair of landing assault carriers of the Mistral type, built by France for Russia, but not transferred to it. In the case of proper use, these large ships, albeit slow in speed, can give stability to the naval group, performing the tasks of isolating Libyan ports, in order to prevent Turkish transports with reinforcements and provisions.
The main weapon of Mistral is helicopters, the latest Ka-52s can be based on it. They will provide control over the coast, and, if necessary, they will find and put to the bottom vessels that go where they should not. In short, the big battle in Libya is likely to end in favor of Egypt, if, of course, he decides on a full-scale invasion. Cairo will do this only as a last resort, when the negotiation path is completely closed.
Politically, the Turkish leadership needs not a long, protracted, but a small victorious war, which with little blood on the wave of patriotism would strengthen its position within the country and open access to the oil and gas fields of the Mediterranean. Therefore, Ankara will look for ways to de-escalate. And if so, there remains hope for an agreement between the warring parties.