Will EU’s IRINI and NATO’s Sea Guardian stop the Libyan crisis?

Will EU’s IRINI and NATO’s Sea Guardian stop the Libyan crisis?

NATO Secretary-General Stoltenberg says that the Alliance is ready to support the GNA government in Libya, led by UN-designated PM Al- Sarraj.

As International Insider forecasted, the EU needs support both to fulfill Operation IRINI‘s primary goal and to extend it to end violations of international law and to help civilians suffering from humanitarian crises carried out by the civil war in Libya. Today, we understand that considerable help might come from NATO.

Asked about Turkey’s membership of NATO and its involvement in the Syrian and Libyan civil wars, Stoltenberg replied to Italian newspaper La Repubblica that NATO members might have different positions on several issues. Also, Stoltenberg says that Turkey is a valuable ally. However, he adds, “In Libya, there is an arms embargo that needs to be respected by all sides,” but NATO will not deem all Libyan belligerents alike. Indeed, NATO is ready to support the GNA government because it is “the only one recognized by the UN”.

NATO intervention is going to become urgent, because the LNA forces, led by general Haftar are repeatedly shelling Tripoli, the Libyan capital city, hitting hospitals and embassies and killing civilians.

To reach the new objective, NATO might decide to reinforce Operation Sea Guardian (OSG), which is running in the Mediterranean Sea. Operation Sea Guardian is a maritime mission devised to perform a wide range of maritime security tasks. It provides support to maritime situational awareness and counterterrorism at sea and contributes to marine security capacity-building in the Mediterranean Sea.

From 2016 to March 2020, operation Sea Guardian has been assisting the European Union’s Operation Sophia, the EU anti-migrant smuggling operation in the Mediterranean Sea, with situational awareness and logistical support.

In March 2020, the EU launched Operation IRINI to enforce the UN sanction on weapon smuggling to Libya. NATO has proposed to help the EU in accomplishing its assignment. In a recent interview with Italian Sky News, the head of Operation IRINI, Rear Admiral Agostini, said the EU task force was already using satellite intelligence to search land arms smuggling.

In November 2016, Operation Sea Guardian was launched as a flexible operation, potentially covering up to seven maritime security operation (MSO) tasks. Operation Sea Guardian has been carrying out three MSO tasks, namely: maritime security capacity building, support to maritime situational awareness, and help to naval counterterrorism.

Upon North Atlantic Council agreement – NATO’s top political decision-making body – OSG can execute any of the additional four MSO tasks: upholding freedom of navigation, maritime interdiction, fighting the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and the protection of critical infrastructure.

OSG brings together naval assets from several Allied countries for set periods. Operations are conducted at a cadence of three continuous weeks every two months, in total six a year. While there is no permanent ship presence at sea throughout the whole year, the Allied Maritime Command information network preserves naval alertness throughout the year.

As part of its mandate, the Operation supported EU Operation Sophia in the Central Mediterranean. NATO mainly provided intelligence and logistics support. Since 29 March 2019, the EU’s Operation Sophia changed from a naval-aerial operation to a mere aerial mission. This change ended the NATO-UN Council approved logistical support provided by OSG, but information exchange between the two forces continue

George Costa

George Costa is a reporter specialized in defence and security systems. He covers international defence and security issues, such as international conflicts, WMD proliferation, and cybersecurity, as well as news reporting on developments in the global defence community.

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