Al-Araby Al-Jadeed has obtained 20 “top secret” documents consisting of three main section all signed on behalf of the Egyptian authorities by Brigadier General Muhammad Muhsin Al-Shadhli, chief of Armed Forces Operations within the army. The first section is a general agreement that resembles joint defence agreements among states. It consists of a preamble and 13 articles.
Article five represents the most important article in the “Joint Strategic Military Cooperation Agreement between the Arab Republic of Egypt and the State of Libya” in that it stresses that “any threat or military aggression against any of them or any of their armed forces whether directly or indirectly would be considered an attack on the other party. Consequently, each party commits to assist the other that comes under attack, including with the use of armed forces in order to deter attacks while informing international and regional organisations of the nature and type of threat or attack and of the measures and actions taken to deal with it.”
Observers believe that the danger of this article emanates from the fact that the interpretation of the type of threat is left for the stronger party to this deal to make, and that party is of course Egypt. Consequently, the Egyptian regime may mobilise ground, air and naval forces upon deciding that a certain threat is posed to it from within Libya. This is a matter that is not subject to verification as per universal legal concepts but is left for individual discretion.
Article six of the general agreement states that “the two parties will consult among themselves, upon the request of one of them, whenever the territorial integrity or independence or security of one of them is threatened.”
Military experts believe that the Libyan side has fulfilled its commitment in accordance with this article by virtue of the repeated requests made by the head of the resigned government Abdullah Al-Thanni as well as by his Foreign Minister Mohamed Abdelaziz and by the speaker of the Libyan parliament that is convened in Tobruk in East Libya Aqilah Saleh. These officials have, in every single international and regional function, demanded immediate intervention in order to protect civilians and state institutions. This is what the Egyptian party to the agreement considers to be an obligation that warrants intervention by it in the implementation of the aforementioned article.
The second part of the documents of this Egyptian secret agreement with the government of Al-Thanni, which consists of a preamble and seven articles, states in its first article that the term of this agreement is five years renewable upon mutual agreement. Article three defines the spheres of joint military cooperation between the two countries along 13 points which cover details of the exchange of information, training and development of military capabilities. Article five stipulates the formation of a joint military committee whose main objectives include supervision and follow up of the implementation of military cooperation and determining the potential threats to which the parties to the agreement may be subjected.
The last part of the agreement is an addendum to the Egyptian Libyan military cooperation agreement consisting of 15 detailed items about the obligations of the party that dispatches ground, air or naval forces to the other country and the obligations of the party that receives these forces. In addition, there are details covering the entire process from the moment troops are mobilised until they are back at base regarding the security, deployment and logistics of the planned military operations. This is considered an integral part of the joint military cooperation agreement.
Some military experts believe that this addendum determines in advance the identity of the dispatching party, which is Egypt. Libya is the de facto recipient of the troops because it has no ground, air or naval forces that are capable of rendering assistance to Egypt if it is ever exposed to any threats. The items of this addendum provide detailed descriptions of the commitments of the country hosting these guest military forces including securing their operational performance inside the territories or within the air space.
The second item of the agreement’s addendum states that the dispatching party, that is Egypt, would have to provide transport means to and from the specified location. This location, according to experts, may extend from the east of Libya to the city of Sirt. The third item states that the recipient party, which is Libya, has the obligation of providing transport means from the point of arrival by the incoming troops to the specified targets.
Item five discusses the details of aerial intervention by the dispatching party within Libyan air space. It refers to the provision of airports, most of which happen to be in the Libyan east such as the two La Abraq airports to the east of the city of Al-Bayda and Gamal Abdul El-Nasser Air Base in the city of Tobruk or some air strips in the bases of Al-Watiyyah and Al-Zintan and the airpot of Ghadames in the south of the country.
However, a number of Libyan military experts have questioned the suitability of these landing strips and their ability to receive Egyptian war planes.
Item six addresses the detailed obligations of the recipient party, which is Libya, focusing particularly on providing Egyptian troops with transport, fuel, oil, aerial refuelling and placing Libyan ports, airports, mechanised vehicles and communication networks at the disposal of the troops arriving in Libya from Egypt once the agreement is implemented.
Articles seven to 14 deal with military logistical issues and agreements about the party that bears the cost of the military operations, and that happens to be the party that receives the incoming troops. They also deal with issues such as coordinating security measures, safeguarding information between the two sides, licensing mechanised vehicles, governmental and judicial jurisdiction, appeals for compensation, commandeering troops, freedom of movement and military fatigue.
Some experts interpret these details as paving the way for an Egyptian political and military intervention in Libya. The evidence they provide to prove the interventionist nature of this agreement is that Al-Thanni’s Libyan government, that is the recipient party, did not submit this agreement to the parliament, which is the legal body qualified to endorse it and turn it into law.
These documents appear to have been signed in Cairo on September 4. Observers consider this an important timing for the resigned government of Abdullah Al-Thanni and for the Libyan parliament who backed the operations of dissident Brigadier General Khalifa Haftar in the wake of designating the “Libya Dawn” forces as a “terrorist organisation” following the defeat of the forces loyal to Haftar in the capital Tripoli and their retreat in Benghazi.
The revelation of these secret documents comes in the wake of US leaks about the embroilment of both Egypt and the UAE in launching a military air strike against positions within the Libyan capital of Tripoli. This, as many believe, points to the fact that the Egyptian regime is seeking, by means of this agreement, to legitimise its military operations in the Libyan East. It is likely that this agreement will be endorsed by the Libyan parliament in Tobruk without an announcement being made.