Aguila Saleh's motives are unclear but some speculate that he might be positioning himself as a power broker.
On July 4, warlord Khalifa Haftar and his militias retreated from their remaining footholds in the suburbs of Tripoli and one day later, the forces of the UN-backed government of Libya entered the city of Tarhuna, the last major stronghold of Khalifa Haftar.
Tarhuna was a signal that the warlord Khalifa Haftar’s 15-month offensive against the internationally recognised and UN-backed government had hit a dead-end. The Government of National Accord was formed in 2015 under the Libyan Political Agreement, a UN-led initiative.
Haftar’s territorial losses raised eyebrows among his international and regional supporters. One of those concerned parties is a member of Libya’s eastern-based Parliament, Aguila Saleh.
Recently, Saleh urged Egypt’s Abdel Fattah el Sisi to intervene militarily in support of Haftar should the GNA forces attack the strategic city of Sirte. To justify it, Saleh said on Wednesday that an Egyptian intervention in Libya would be "legitimate ... if the terrorist and armed militias crossed the red line."
Sisi came to power after ousting Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s first and only democratically elected president, in a coup in 2013.
"The Libyan people are officially asking for Egypt to interfere with military forces if the necessities of maintaining Libyan national security and Egyptian national security require this," he added.
Sisi, Saleh and Haftar
When reports emerged that there was a dispute between Saleh and Haftar, Saleh was quick to deny any involvement, suggesting that anyone believing the existence of a dispute was simply trying to promote fake controversy.
“My relationship with Haftar exceeds any formal positions. There is a difference between disagreement and difference of views. The latter is a natural and healthy phenomenon in all countries of the world,” Saleh said.
Talking to Anadolu Agency, Libyan analyst Mohamed Buisier said that Haftar will be defeated by the end of this year as several countries, including the US, have just realised that Haftar is a war criminal following his attacks on civilians and diplomatic missions.
The US has been putting pressure on the United Arab Emirates, a long-standing strong supporter of the warlord. When Haftar’s forces started suffering heavy losses, most of his international backers started raising the political process and made calls for a permanent ceasefire on behalf of Haftar. In fact, Haftar has broken almost a dozen peace initiatives in Libya brokered by international actors.
Recently, the warlord met with Egypt’s Sisi, in a bid to invite Libya's rival factions for talks after the GNA's military advances. Following Sisi’s invitation, Aguila Saleh and Haftar met in Egypt.
Following the meeting, and Saleh’s visit to Algeria, the speaker urged Sisi to intervene in Libya in support of Haftar. As a jurist and politician, Saleh’s demand struck many as odd.
Some experts argued that Egyptian authorities seem to be losing their confidence in Haftar and the country no longer believes in the warlord. Therefore, Cairo might be looking for alternatives to the warlord and Saleh’s desire to attract Egypt militarily could be a part of it.