Egypt parliament approves possible intervention in Libya

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Egyptian parliament members on Monday approved the possible deployment of troops in Libya to support Khalifa Haftar, if rival Turkish-backed forces recapture Sirte. (AFP)
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A handout picture released by the Egyptian Presidency on June 6, 2020 shows Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (C), Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar (R) and the Libyan Parliament speaker Aguila Saleh (L). (File/AFP)
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Updated 21 July 2020

Egypt parliament approves possible intervention in Libya

  • Egyptian intervention would put Turkey and Egypt — in possible direct confrontation
  • Vote intended to help Egypt defend Libya against Turkish aggression

CAIRO: Egypt’s parliament on Monday mandated President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi to send troops to Libya.
A statement by the parliament stipulated “the approval of sending elements of the Egyptian Armed Forces on combat missions outside the borders of the Egyptian state, to defend Egyptian national security in the Arab strategic direction against the actions of armed criminal militias and foreign terrorist elements, until the end of the forces’ mission.”
The mandate comes a few days after El-Sisi met Libyan tribal leaders in Cairo, where they called on the Egyptian Armed Forces “to intervene to protect the national security of Libya and Egypt.”
El-Sisi also discussed the Libyan issue and developments in Ethiopia’s Renaissance Dam with US President Donald Trump.
The Egyptian parliament had met in order to give El-Sisi a mandate to use military force to defend Egyptian national interests, specifically with regard to Ethiopia and Libya.
El-Sayed El-Sharif, deputy speaker of the parliament, said that Article 152 of the Egyptian constitution stipulated that the state could not declare war nor send forces on combat missions until after the approval of parliament.
“In these situations there is no majority or opposition. We are all one vote in support of our Egyptian state in confronting these dangers,” he said.
Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA), with the support of Turkey, recently launched an offensive against the Libyan National Army in northwest Libya and vowed to advance to capture Sirte and the inland Al-Jufra airbase.
El-Sisi had stressed that the frontline of Sirte and Al-Jufra was “a red line” for Egyptian national security.
El-Sisi was also briefed on Sunday night on the developments in the Renaissance Dam and the three-way negotiations between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan, and discussed developments in the situation in Libya during a meeting of the National Defense Council.
“The council discussed the overall political, security and military situations of the state in all strategic directions, in the context of developments of the various current challenges on the regional and international arenas,” a spokesman for the Egyptian presidency said.
“In light of Egypt’s endeavor to stabilize the current situation and not to cross previously declared lines, with the aim of bringing peace between all Libyan parties, the council stressed the strong ties that link the two countries.
“Egypt will not spare any effort to support Libya, and help its people take their country to safety and overcome the current crisis, based on the fact that the Libyan file is considered one of the highest priorities of Egyptian foreign policy, taking into account that Libyan security is an integral part of Egyptian and Arab national security,” the spokesman said.
The council’s members affirmed Egypt’s commitment to a political solution to the Libyan crisis in a manner that guaranteed preserving Libyan unity and the sovereignty of the country, restoring the pillars of national institutions and eliminating terrorism.
“(Egypt aims to) prevent the spread of criminal groups and extremist armed militias, as well as put an end to illegal foreign interventions that contribute to worsening security conditions and threatening neighboring countries and international peace and security. It also will ensure a fair and transparent distribution of Libyan wealth to its people and prevent the control of any extremist groups over this wealth,” the spokesman said.

Revealed: How Iran smuggles weapons to the Houthis

Updated 56 min 46 sec ago

Revealed: How Iran smuggles weapons to the Houthis

  • Captured gang tells of route to Yemen through base in Somalia

AL-MUKALLA, Yemen: A captured gang of arms smugglers has revealed how Iran supplies weapons to Houthi militias in Yemen through a base in Somalia.

The Houthis exploit poverty in Yemen to recruit fishermen as weapons smugglers, and send fighters to Iran for military training under cover of “humanitarian” flights from Yemen to Oman, the gang said.

The four smugglers have been interrogated since May, when they were arrested with a cache of weapons in Bab Al-Mandab, the strategic strait joining the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden.

In video footage broadcast on Yemeni TV, gang leader Alwan Fotaini, a fisherman from Hodeidah, admits he was recruited by the Houthis in 2015. His recruiter, a smuggler called Ahmed Halas, told him he and other fishermen would be based in the Somali coastal city of Berbera, from where they would transport weapons and fuel to the Houthis. 

In late 2015, Fotaini traveled to Sanaa and met a Houthi smuggler called Ibrahim Hassam Halwan, known as Abu Khalel, who would be his contact in Iran. 

This is a complex network that requires constant monitoring, hence the focus on maritime security.

Dr. Theodore Karasik, Security analyst

Pretending to be relatives of wounded fighters, Fotaini, Abu Khalel, and another smuggler called Najeeb Suleiman boarded a humanitarian flight to Oman, and then flew to Iran. They were taken to the port city of Bandar Abbas, where they received training on using GPS, camouflage, steering vessels and maintaining engines.

“We stayed in Bandar Abbas for a month as they were preparing an arms shipment that we would be transporting to Yemen,” Fotaini said.

On Fotaini’s first smuggling mission, his job was to act as a decoy for another boat carrying Iranian weapons to the Houthis. “The plan was for us to call the other boat to change course if anyone intercepted our boat,” he said.

He was then sent to Mahra in Yemen to await new arms shipments. The Houthis sent him data for a location at sea, where he and other smugglers met Abu Khalel with a boat laden with weapons from Iran, which were delivered to the Houthis.

Security analyst Dr. Theodore Karasik said long-standing trade ties between Yemen and Somalia made arms smuggling difficult to stop. “This is a complex network that requires constant monitoring, hence the focus on maritime security,” Karasik, a senior adviser to Gulf State Analytics in Washington, DC, told Arab News.

“The smuggling routes are along traditional lines of communication that intermix with other maritime commerce. The temptation to look the other way is sometimes strong, so sharp attention is required to break these chains.”