Fighters from the Fajr Libya (Libya Dawn) militia fire shells from a tank during clashes with forces loyal to Libya's internationally recognized government, southwest of Sabratha on April 28.(Photo: Mahmud Turkia/Getty)
ABU DHABI — An unpublicized meeting by Arab chiefs of staff will take place in Cairo on May 18 to coordinate plans for a Libyan intervention, an Arab League source revealed. France and Italy may also play a role, the source said.
The meeting, which will include high-ranking military personnel from Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain, Sudan and Libya is intended to set up intervention plans to stabilize Libya, which has seen unrest since the toppling of the Gadhafi government in 2011.
According to the Arab League, source talks between Libya National Army chief Maj. Gen. Khalifa Haftar, Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and Arab leaders have resulted in arms purchases by the Libyan Army, including helicopters delivered on April 26 from the UAE.
"Five Mi-35 Hind upgraded helicopters were delivered last month ahead of more Russian equipment, which include anti-tank and armor-piercing weapons and munitions," the source said.
He added that talks with France and Italy are ongoing to confirm their participation in the Arab operations.
"France has been asked to supply support with logistics and special forces while Italy has been called to provide naval support," he said.
With operations ongoing in Yemen by Arab forces, intervention in Libya might still be plausible, said Jean-Marc Rickli, assistant professor, Department of Defence Studies, King's College London and a lecturer at the Qatar National Defence College.
"With the operations in Yemen going quit well at the moment and with the movement from the first phase of operations to the second phase, now this could embolden the Arabs to move in to Libya," Rickli said.
"However, in Yemen it was known who were the assailants [and] where direct actions [can] be taken," he said. "In Libya, the question is who could be labeled as the bad guys."
According to the source, a meeting at the end of the month hosted by the Egyptian government for Libyan tribal leaders will be to coordinate operations and guarantee safe passage for the Arab troops.
On May 5, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry announced that the forum for Libyan tribes is to "unify the Libyan people."
The ministry said in a statement that the forum aims to give Libya the "necessary boost toward political dialogue" and endorse national reconciliation.
Egypt's Foreign Ministry spokesman Badr Abdelatty stressed in the statement "the extremely important role of Libyan tribes and civil society" in restoring stability to Libya and supporting the state's "legitimate institutions," such as the Parliament and the "legitimate" government.
"A meeting to coordinate the different tribes in Libya would reinforce the credibility of an action by the Joint Arab Force in Libya," Rickli said.
The Italian and French would be behind that because they have been trying to set up a force to stabilize Libya since 2011 and they wanted the Arabs to take the lead.
Arabian Gulf-based geopolitical analyst Theodore Karasik said Egypt is preparing to lead the coalition of states, much like Saudi Arabia in Yemen, to give military support to the Libyan National Army and government in Tobruk.
"The threat from the Islamic State not only in Libya but also in Western Egypt is getting to be too great, so action is required," he said.
"It is important to point out that after the Cairo meeting is a forum hosted by Justice First in the Egyptian capital that will bring together many of Libya's tribes to achieve a new unity that will act as a force multiplier for the Egyptian-led campaign."
The Italians areplaying an active role to find solutions for the situation in Libya, said Andrea Margelletti, president of the Rome-based Center for International Studies.
"The main point is that there can be no effective military mission without a clear political strategy. With no political strategy, it is likely only to worsen the already difficult situation in Libya," he added.
"The reasons that push Italy to take part in an international mission would be the promotion of regional stability and the protection of its national security.
"A Libya in convulsions of civil war is a source of instability for the whole North Africa and the Mediterranean, as it represents a geopolitical black hole which breeds the phenomenon of international crime trafficking of drug, arms and people and religiously motivated terrorism," he said. "In addition, there are Italian economic interests in Libya that our government intends to protect, above all those related to the hydrocarbon sector."
Margelletti said that Italy considers it essential to promote dialogue within the two governments in Libya and with all social tribal actors involved in the conflict.
"Indeed, only by involving all social and tribal groups and only trying to build an embryonic form of unitary Libyan political consensus, [it's] possible to think of an international mission to stabilize the country."
Margelletti added that the involvement of the European Union, the African Union and the United Nations would guarantee the political support necessary for any military action in Libya.
Margelletti added that the Italian Navy is in full preparedness for such a mission due to Operation Mare Nostrum, which has been in effect for over a year in the Libyan coast and employing one landing helicopter dock ships and a mix of offshore patrol vessels and frigates.
"Technically, the Navy has all the capabilities to support a military operation in Libya, providing special forces, logistic support and, in case, also air defense and close-air support," he said.
The only issue that could deter Italy from joining the international coalition is political, Margelletti said.
"In fact, the organization of an international mission needs a strong political will, a clear unity of purpose among partners and precise shared goals to be reached. Without these elements, the government in Rome could opt for different strategies."
Arab Chiefs To Meet on Libya Intervention