Al-Youm7 Interview: Aref Nayed Warns Neo-Ottoman Invasion is the Gravest Threat to Arab Countries – Al Marsad

Dr. Aref Ali Nayed, head of the Ihya Libya (Reviving Libya) movement, said in a comprehensive interview with Al-Youm7 that the Cairo initiative to resolve the Libyan crisis relied on a Libyan societal dialogue and previous interactions with the Libyan stakeholders over the years. Nayed said it is a Libyan initiative par excellence, and which is supported by President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi personally and the Egyptian state. He also confirmed to Al-Youm7 that the prompt support expressed by most concerned countries for the initiative clearly shows the efforts that were exerted in forging the initiative.

“This Neo-Ottoman invasion is the gravest danger facing the Arab countries now. It threatens their independence, unity, and national security, and thus calls for activating the joint defense agreements integral to the legal system of the League of Arab States (LAS).”

On Turkish interference in Libya, Nayed indicated that Turkish military moves in Somalia, Qatar, Syria, Iraq, and now Libya, are spurred by Neo-Ottomanism ideology revived and theorized by political theorists in the late 1990s and that it is not the spur of the moment or a matter of ad hoc decisions.

Dr. Aref Ali Nayed, head of the Ihya Libya (Reviving Libya) movement

The Head of Ihya Libya pointed out that Turkish interventions are serious and grave attempts to penetrate the Arab security system and establish strong Turkish military outposts in the form of permanent air, sea, and land bases, which would serve as Ottoman forts and garrisons that resemble those deployed by Sultan Abdul Hamid in his time. Erdogan spares no effort to dominate the entire region and clone the Ottoman Empire in a new guise.

He also stated that “some voices in the US may encourage Turkish intervention on the pretext that it balances Russian presence in favour of the LNA. However, they make a grave mistake because Turkish intervention will lead to the creation of military bases for dangerous terrorist groups that will threaten the security of the entire region and coalesce with the rest of the terrorist groups in the Sahel, Sahara, Somalia, and others.”

Al Marsad publishes a full English translation of the Arabic interview given by Dr Aref Nayed to Al-Youm7:

Al-Youm7: What do you think of the Turkish military intervention in Libya and its implications for the security and stability of neighboring countries?

Dr Aref Ali Nayed: It is clear that Turkish military moves in the region, whether in Somalia, Qatar, Syria, Iraq, and now Libya, is part of the Neo-Ottomanism ideology, which political theorists in the late 1990s theorized and pondered. It not an ad hoc decision or spur of the moment.

The Turkish interventions are serious and grave attempts to penetrate the Arab security system and establish strong Turkish military outposts in the form of permanent air, sea, and land bases, which would serve as Ottoman forts and garrisons that resemble those deployed by Sultan Abdul Hamid in his time, to dominate the entire region and clone the Ottoman Empire in a new guise.

Erdogan’s new palaces, Royal Guard, and approach to Arab countries as if they were Ottoman jurisdictions governed by Walis-cum-Miris ( i.e. tax collectors), clearly indicate that he is reckoning the persona of Sultan Abdul Hamid and embodying the same Sultanic expansionist aspirations.

This Neo-Ottoman invasion is the gravest danger facing the Arab countries now. It threatens their independence, unity, and national security, and thus calls for activating the joint defense agreements integral to the legal system of the League of Arab States (LAS).

“This Neo-Ottoman invasion is the gravest danger facing the Arab countries now. It threatens their independence, unity, and national security, and thus calls for activating the joint defense agreements integral to the legal system of the League of Arab States (LAS).”

What should be done to prevent Turkey from creating a de facto sustainable military in Libya?

Firstly, the Arab countries should be aware that Turkish invasion of Libya is an invasion of all of them. If they allow Turkey to establish military bases in Libya, this will result in a domino-like impact that will cause the collapse of them all, one after another, beginning with the Libyan neighboring countries. This is particularly the case because the current Turkish Janissary army has tens of thousands of Turkmen terrorists, trained in al-Qaeda and ISIS camps and other branches of obscurantist terrorism.

Secondly, the Arab countries must meet urgently and activate the joint Arab defense agreements, without hesitation or delay, because these agreements do not need new approvals; they were originally concluded to confront such an existential threat to the Arab nation.

Do you think that the Government of National Accord (GNA) bringing in the Turks will make Libya an arena for international conflicts?

Definitely. This happened in NATO meetings. France and Greece put forward the urgent need of facing the Turkish invasion of Libya and its misuse of its NATO membership. Russia has become an important figure in the equation with its strong presence in the region. This foretells that Libya may suffer from the scourge of an international armed conflict that reminds us of the Rommel-Montgomery rivalry during World War II, which was, regrettably, at the expense of Libyan civilians.

Who is responsible for the proliferation of extremists and the shipping of foreign mercenaries into Libya?

Erdogan is liable for that. He used these same monsters under the guise of Al-Qaeda-cum-Nusra and ISIS in Syria and Iraq, and now he has been exporting them to Libya openly and audaciously to become a rapid terrorist intervention force in North Africa. They are a threat to Libya and neighboring countries, the Sahara-Sahel countries, and the European countries, which are not that far away.

How do you see the Libyan initiative announced by the Egyptian President in Cairo? Do you think it will succeed?

The Cairo Declaration builds on the initiative of the Speaker of the Libyan House of Representatives (HOR), Chancellor Aguila Saleh, which originally stemmed from Libyan community dialogue and previous interactions with the Libyan stakeholders over the years. This renders it a Libyan initiative par excellence. It also has the personal support from President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and the sisterly Egyptian neighbor with its distinguished diplomacy.

The prompt support expressed by most concerned countries for the initiative clearly shows the efforts, which were exerted to forge it and the international respect for Egypt. This also shows the calm, tireless, and mighty work that Egyptian diplomacy has carried out over many months. For all these reasons, I firmly believe that the initiative was a success since the first moment and this will continue, God willing. I had the honor to support it at the media level and through community groups, such as the Sons of Libya and the National Movement for Libya, whose presidency represents the notable sheikhs of the Libyan tribes.

Who can resolve the Libyan crisis at this critical juncture?

First and foremost, the will of the Libyan people is the discriminant factor. The key to reaching common understanding between the Libyans is for them to avoid arrogance, thick pride, and trivial joy over transient victories. We all need to understand that Libya needs dialogue and political solution, not military might and invincibility.

The wise in Tripoli and Misrata know that the tactical withdrawal of the Libyan National Army (LNA) from the Libyan West should not be construed as a final defeat. Persistent attacks on Sirte and al-Jufra will entail disastrous consequences and a reversal of military advances. This may expose Misrata and Tripoli themselves to new dangers, especially if Russia and Egypt intervene militarily. Therefore, all the warring parties must not cross the current military lines. Rather, they should engage immediately in political negotiations that would lead to direct, free, fair, and internationally monitored presidential and parliamentary elections.

“The wise in Tripoli and Misrata know that the tactical withdrawal of the Libyan National Army (LNA) from the Libyan West should not be construed as a final defeat. Persistent attacks on Sirte and al-Jufra will entail disastrous consequences and a reversal of military advances.”

How do you assess the position of the neighboring countries of Libya, specifically Tunisia and Algeria?

Tunisia and Algeria have been neighbors and a source of solidarity. Algeria’s support for the Cairo Initiative and its solemn reception of Chancellor Aguila Saleh, Speaker of the Libyan Parliament, is respected and appreciated.

In Tunisia, the Speaker of the Parliament, who truly represents the Muslim Brotherhood’s Ennahdha Party, tries to spoil the ties between the two brotherly peoples. However, the Tunisian people and their dear members of Parliament (MPs) stand strongly against the Brotherhood’s attempts to implicate Tunisia in supporting the Turkish invasion of Libya. We are confident that the Tunisian people and their MPs will rein the recklessness of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Can you tell us about the crimes of the militias of the Government of National Accord (GNA) against civilians in Tarhouna and Tripoli?

In 2011, the Security Council issued Resolutions No. 1970 and 1973 stipulating the need to “protect civilians” (R2P) in Libya. Unfortunately, civilians in Libya have been subject to killing, bombing, mines, abuse, torture, displacement, starvation, and humiliation throughout Libya since 2011.

“In 2011, the Security Council issued Resolutions No. 1970 and 1973 stipulating the need to “protect civilians” in Libya. Unfortunately, civilians in Libya have been subject to killing, bombing, mines, abuse, torture, displacement, starvation, and humiliation throughout Libya since 2011.”

Independent investigations, trials, arbitrations, and dialogues should take place in Libya along the lines of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa and Rwanda. Treating the lives, honor, and money of all Libyans equitably is indispensable. All Libyans are equal and dignified. Anyone who infringes on their humanity and dignity, regardless of their background, affiliations, and their warring side, should be punished.

All mass graves should be investigated without exception or selectivity. This applies to Jannat graves in Misrata, and the tombs of Zawiya, Sirte, Tarhouna, the South, and many others. We must investigate all cases of murder, abuse, and torture, the most recent of which are the shameful crimes that not only affected Libyans, but also our brothers who are guests of Libya.

How do you assess the US position in light of the rivalry with Russia over the latter’s involvement in supporting the Libyan National Army (LNA)?

Unfortunately, the policy of isolation and withdrawal practiced by the United States of America in the last four years has left the field wide open and favourable for some regional powers, especially Turkey. Turkey has seized the opportunity and violated the strategic and military security balance in the Eastern and Southern Mediterranean region, which no one has dared to tamper with since World War II.

Some voices in the US may encourage Turkish intervention on the pretext that it balances Russian presence in favour of the LNA. However, they make a grave mistake because Turkish intervention will lead to the creation of military bases for dangerous terrorist groups that will threaten the security of the entire region and coalesce with the rest of the terrorist groups in the Sahel, Sahara, Somalia, and others.

Has the expanding influence of militias and militants in Libya diminished the role of the Libyan tribes?

Libyan tribes are the social fabric of the Libyan people, even in the largest cities. Therefore, their role cannot be diminished in favour of anyone. The initiative launched by Chancellor Aguila Saleh, Speaker of the Libyan HOR, at the beginning of Ramadan, relied on the Libyan social norms and provided an important role for the heads of the Libyan tribes. The Cairo Declaration also respects the Libyan social fabric.

But for the Libyan tribes to be truly active in international negotiation, they must urgently set up international communication committees to be part of any dialogue on the Libyan issue and future. The Libyan tribes now have two main groups that can contribute effectively and promptly: the gathering that took place in Bani Walid and resulted in preparatory committees under the name of Forum of Tribes and Libyan Cities, and the gathering that occurred in Tarhouna and resulted in the Presidency of the Supreme Council of Sheikhs and Notables of the Libyan Tribes. Moreover, the National Movement for Libya is headed by five of the key Sheikhs of Libya and can contribute effectively as well.

Do you expect the Libyan HOR to resume its sessions soon? Why?

The international support shown for the initiative launched by the Libyan Speaker, which crystallized and developed into the Cairo Declaration, placed the presidency of the Libyan HOR at the center of the Libyan political action at the current stage. Great efforts are underway to bring the views of the HOR’s members closer and mobilize parliamentary support for the Cairo Initiative and the roadmap contained therein.

I expect the HOR to resume its sessions soon despite the pressures and enticements by the GNA to split its ranks and form a parallel parliament in Tripoli that follows the orders of the GNA instead of being its watchdog. However, all these attempts will fail because the entire world recognizes only the HOR located in Tobruk and then Benghazi and its current Speaker.

I have worked at the diplomatic front during the past weeks to arrange dozens of meetings between the Speaker and the foreign ministers and ambassadors of several countries and missions, which showed the broad international support to the Libyan HOR as the only legitimate legislative authority in Libya and the sole representative of the will of the Libyan people.

How do you see the role of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL)? Who is the most appropriate person to lead it?

The United Nations has accompanied Libya since its independence, and the UNSMIL has made commendable efforts. Another characteristic of the Cairo Initiative is that it did not replace the milestones achieved by UNSMIL but rather built on them at all stages in Paris, Palermo, Abu Dhabi, and Berlin. Therefore, the main role in all efforts on all political, economic, security, and other tracks is that of the UNSMIL.

Because of the time constraint and sensitivity of the current situation, I do not think it is wise to change the current head of the UNSMIL, Stephanie Williams, but there is an urgent need to appoint, in addition to Mrs. Williams, a special personal envoy of the Secretary-General of the United Nations. It should be a veteran diplomat and a wise statesman able to advocate the interests of Libya and its citizens, negotiate with all the capitals active in Libya, and balance and appease their respective fears and apprehensions.

We had an important interview with you in 2017, during which you announced your candidacy for the presidency in Libya. Do you still have the intention to run in the first presidential elections?

I have the belief that only direct presidential elections, which the Libyan people had been deprived of throughout their history, could unite Libya and its leadership. The holding of the Libyan presidential elections was delayed due to the procrastination of the General National Congress (GNC) and then the HOR postponed them despite its approval in Resolution No. 5 of 2014, which is still valid because it was a quorate resolution adopted with an overwhelming majority. Then followed the procrastination by the President of the Presidential Council despite announcing his support for the elections in early 2017. He failed to pay the dues of the High National Electoral Commission (HNEC). Then, the parties that agreed to hold the elections in December 2018 under the Paris Agreement procrastinated.

All of these procrastinations, delays, and postponements have led to the wars and conflicts that have torn Libya apart and caused suffering that the citizen is suffering today. Therefore, I still assert that direct presidential elections, according to Resolution No. 5 of 2014, the decisions of the February Committee that clarified the separation and balance of powers, and the Elections Law of 2014, are the best and most effective solution for Libya.

As for my intention to run for the presidency, the team at the Libyan Institute for Advanced Studies (LIAS), including myself, have never stopped renewing the Ihya Libya plan. We will re-launch the candidacy campaign as soon as the presidential elections are announced. Libya deserves a stable and prosperous future. It needs a culture of life and revival rather than death and war; it needs a revival of the culture of serving, giving, and altruism instead of looting and exploitation; it needs a culture of hope instead of despair and hopelessness.

The ongoing campaigns of slander and marginalization will never deter us from the honest competition in the upcoming presidential, parliamentary, and municipal elections through young women and men supporting the vision of Ihya Libya (Reviving Libya).