Libyan Civil War Intensifies: Opportunity for Iran

Fighters of the UN-backed Government of National Accord during clashes with the Libyan National Army in Tripoli, Libya, on April 2
Amru Salahuddien/Xinhua via Getty Images

Libyan Civil War Intensifies: Opportunity for Iran

How Iran is secretly using Islamic militias to conquer Libya

The tide has turned in Libya’s Civil War. The internationally recognized government’s counteroffensive, in conjunction with Islamic militias, has reclaimed territories and advanced on a key base of operations threatening to end the four-month siege of Tripoli.

Ever since the ousting of Muammar Qadhafi in 2011, Libya has been engulfed in civil war. The battle for Libya is currently split between the internationally recognized Government of National Accord (gna) based in Tripoli in the west, and the Libyan National Army (lna) based in Tobruk in the east. In this conflict, the gna is supported by Italy, Qatar, Turkey and the United Nations; the lna is supported by Egypt, France, Russia, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and, to a lesser extent, Israel.

Last April, Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar, commander of the lna, began his western offensive against the Tripoli government. Within only a few short months, lna forces had conquered a majority of Libya’s interior; however, Tripoli remained under gna control as the two sides reached a stalemate just south of the capital city. In December, Haftar launched his battle for Tripoli, which, according to the United Nations, has left hundreds killed and more than 200,000 displaced.

After being bombarded for nearly four months, the gna announced on March 26 its counteroffensive against Haftar’s forces. Operation Peace Storm, as it was named, has ironically produced what some are calling the heaviest rocket fire and fighting between both sides since the conflict began last year.

By April 13, gna forces announced that it had reclaimed six cities and two strategic areas of land around Tripoli. The advance continued as gna forces pushed toward the city of Tarhuna, a key stronghold which acts as Haftar’s central command, dropping flyers over the city giving an ultimatum to all lna soldiers to surrender or face the coming bloodshed.

Some sources believe if the Tripoli government retakes the city of Tarhuna, Haftar’s siege of Tripoli would be over, and likely his western offensive as a whole. While such a scenario would seem to put an end to the violence, it also threatens much worse violence to come.

Empowered Militias

In order to understand the rising threat, it is first important to understand how the gna suddenly managed to achieve these victories against the lna when they have for years suffered a series of defeats.

In the Arab Weekly, Michael Cousins wrote, “For the first time since April 2019 and the start of the lna’s offensive to take Tripoli, the gna now controls the entire coastal road from Abu Grein to the Tunisian border. This dramatic turnaround is attributed to Turkey’s military intervention in Libya’s civil war in support of the gna, and air superiority played a large part in it” (April 19).

On December 21, Turkey’s parliament approved a security and military cooperation deal with the Tripoli government. On January 5, Turkey began deploying Syrian mercenaries in Libya to support gna forces. Turkey has also sent Libya dozens of drones and relocated Turkish frigates armed with surface-to-air missiles to the Libyan coasts. This combination of drones and missile-armed frigates with the gna Air Force has given Tripoli air supremacy over the Tobruk forces, and the surge of troops from Turkey has allowed Tripoli to battle on multiple fronts.

While the gna and Turkish forces focus their assault on Haftar’s stronghold in Tarhuna, local Islamic militias continue their advance on the wings. To the west of Tripoli, the gna’s offensive on Sorman and Sabratha on April 13 was actually spearheaded by local Islamist militias. During the fighting, some 400 prisoners managed to escape, reportedly including a large number of Islamist fighters who were freed by the arriving forces. These two cities west of Tripoli, Sorman and Sabratha are now back in the hand of the Islamic militias, some of whom have ties to the Islamic State.

To the southeast of Tripoli, Islamic militias from Misrata regained control of territories wresting them from lna forces. One of the militias involved in the offensive was Misrata’s Steadfastness Front. According to the Italian Institute for International Political Studies, the Steadfastness Front, or Al-Samoud as it is more commonly called, formed in June 2015 in support of the National Salvation Government, which has since been disbanded.

Those familiar with Libya know that the National Salvation Government, also called Libya Dawn, has strong ties with the Islamic State and the Muslim Brotherhood. After losing the June 2014 elections, the National Salvation Government and its supporting militias invaded Tripoli. This attack led to the House of Representatives and the General National Congress, Libya’s transitional government, signing the Libyan Political Agreement, which created the Government of National Accord. In 2017, gna forces pushed the Islamist pro-National Salvation Government militias out of Tripoli. Al-Samoud was one of the militias the gna banished from the capital. Now the two are fighting together against the lna.

Cousins continued: “The predominant view, not just among diplomats but also Libyan observers across the country, is that because of the turnaround, [Libyan Prime Minister Fayez] al-Sarraj is now completely in the hands of the Islamist militants and any pressure on him to break with them or with the militias will be futile” (emphasis added).

Since the gna’s counteroffensive began on March 26, we have seen Tripoli work in unison with Islamic State-linked Syrian mercenaries from Turkey and Islamist militias who were invading Tripoli only three years ago. This seemingly sudden shift was actually long in the works and has the Islamic Republic of Iran written all over it.

Weapons Trafficking

In “Watch Algeria!Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry wrote: “Iran has designs on being the strongest power throughout the region, and is extending its reach throughout North Africa.” At the time, in 2013, Mr. Flurry said that Iran was doing all it could “to encourage the radicalization of Egypt and its spread into Libya.” That is exactly what happened.

After Egypt fell to Mohamad Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, Libya’s government was toppled, and the country has been in a state of civil war ever since. “These terrorists are sponsored, for the most part, by Iran,” wrote Mr. Flurry. The same can be said about the Islamic militants in Libya today.

For the past few years, Iran has been working behind the scenes to supply these Libyan militias with arms. A couple weeks after Haftar began his offensive against the gna, the Tripoli government announced on April 27 that it had seized an Iranian ship blacklisted by the United States for its previous involvement in Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps weapons trafficking. However, Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lanes Director Mohammad Saeedi said that the claim that the ship was “detained” was inaccurate. Iranian media quoted Saeedi as saying, “There is a dispute with the Libyan government about a ship that we are negotiating to resolve, but that ship has not been seized.”

The Shahr E. Kord, a cargo ship carrying 144 containers, was anchored off the port at Misrata, home to Salah Badi’s Al-Samoud militia. A week earlier, the Iranian ship departed from Bulgaria en route to Misrata. But before Bulgaria, the Shahr E. Kord was in Latakia, Syria—a port leased by Iran and linked to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. lna spokesman Ahmed al-Mismari claimed that the vessel was illegally transporting weapons and ammunition to gna and militia forces in Misrata.

“Bulgaria, for its part, has a close relationship with Qatar and also with Iran–so any such cargo will not be a surprise,” Ruslan Trad told the Libyan Address Journal. “What is carried with this ship is not exactly known, it is hardly a good thing.”

Two weeks later, another Iranian container ship connected with weapons smuggling, the Azargoun, departed from Turkey en route to Misrata. However, it diverted its destination, halting off the coast of Malta.

The next week, a Moldovan-flagged cargo ship arrived in Tripoli after stopping in Turkey. The vessel was stocked full with about 40 “armored vehicles, ammunition, and quality weapons,” according to the gna. Al Arabiya news site claimed that the shipment was met at the port by Al-Samoud militia forces. Since the shipment, photographic evidence on social media showed these Turkish armored vehicles—and other machine guns, sniper rifles, and anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles—in the hands of Al-Samoud forces and another radical militia, Tripoli’s Marsa Brigade.

Why would the gna allow this to happen? Because Sarraj, the prime minister, is actually from Misrata and has strong connections with Turkey.

More recently, the Telegraph reported that a Lebanese-flagged freighter left Turkey on January 24 with a shipment of acv-15 amphibious armored combat vehicles and anti-aircraft cannons en route to Tunisia. However, in Iranian fashion, as it approached Libya, the vessel turned off its transponder and arrived in Tripoli escorted by two Turkish warships. The investigation found two other vessels that arrived in Libya with armored personnel carriers after turning of their transponders.

Iran’s and Turkey’s shipments of military equipment has enabled the gna to conduct its counteroffensive and to regain control of territory lost to the lna. As fighting between the two sides continues and the Islamic militias are rising in power, Iran has found itself in the best position to take advantage of the current situation.

Fall to Iran

Supporting local militias during a civil war is Iran’s specialty; it is the primary way the regime exerts its power.

In Lebanon, Iran supported the Hezbollah militia during the Lebanese civil war. Now Hezbollah, an Iranian proxy, has become entrenched in the country and has even gained control of parts of the government. In Iraq, Iran supported several Shia militias in the Iraqi civil war against the Islamic State. Now its control of the government is being protested by millions of Iraqis who understand that it is simply an Iranian puppet regime. In Yemen, Iran threw its support behind the Houthi militia during the Yemeni civil war, providing it with arms and training. Now, it is becoming more and more evident that the Houthis will not be removed from power, giving Iran a foothold on the Red Sea. What is taking place in Libya is no different.

Before any of this happened, before Muammar Qadhafi was killed, Mr. Flurry wrote “Libya and Ethiopia Reveal Iran’s Military Strategy.” In that article, he wrote, “You need to continue to watch for Libya and Ethiopia to make a severe and rapid turn into the radical Islamic camp” and fall under Iranian control.

How could Mr. Flurry have known that Libya would fall to Iran? Because the Bible says it will happen.

Daniel 11:40 says, “And at the time of the end shall the king of the south push at him: and the king of the north shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, and with horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter into the countries, and shall overflow and pass over.”

In his booklet The King of the South (free upon request), Mr. Flurry proves that radical Islamic extremism, led by Iran, is this prophesied king of the south. Iran is the world’s number one state sponsor of terrorism. It is the king of radical Islam. About 80 million Iranians are followers of Twelver Shiism, a branch of Shia Islam that believes that the mahdi, or its version of the Messiah, will return during a time of great chaos and destruction. Iran’s religious leader and head of state, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, believes he can hasten that event by causing world catastrophe. This foundational belief has shaped Iran’s foreign policy. As a result, Iran has become an extremely aggressive and pushy nation, just as Daniel 11:40 prophesied.

What about Libya? Verse 43 says that “the Libyans and the Ethiopians shall be at his steps.” Soncino commentary defines “at his steps” as “either joining his army, or placing themselves at his beck and call.” The Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon defines that expression as “in his company.” The Moffatt translation says “following in his train.” In other words, Daniel 11:43 says that Libya will fall under Iranian control!

“So you need to watch Libya and Ethiopia. They are about to fall under the heavy influence or control of Iran, the king of the south. That is why they are subdued in the king of the north victory,” Mr. Flurry continued. “That prophecy is easy to understand. The big question is this: Do you believe your Bible?”

While Turkey and Iran are often enemies geopolitically, they have agreed to work together in Libya because they both support Islamist governments. Right now, Turkey is the primary supporter of the gna. However, Bible prophecy says that Iran will lead this radical Islamist resurgence, not Turkey. Continue watching for Iran to begin taking on a larger role in Libya.

If gna and militia forces manage to push the lna out of their stronghold in Tarhuna, the lna could find itself in a considerably weakened state, unable to continue its western offensive. The result could see the empowered Islamic militias in Misrata and Tripoli praised for supporting the government during it civil war and either being permitted to exist or even invited into the government, just like Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Shia militias in Iraq. Such a scenario would give Iran a foothold on the Mediterranean Sea—well positioned to attack Europe’s soft underbelly (Daniel 11:40).

As a result of Iran’s backing of the Islamist militias, Libya is poised to fall under Iranian control.

For more details about this Bible prophecy, read Mr. Flurry’s 2011 article “Libya and Ethiopia Reveal Iran’s Military Strategy.”