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LibyaEgypt, UAE strike Islamists’ targets in Libya
Last week and again on Saturday, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) joined forces to conduct a series of airstrikes against Islamist militias in Libya. In recent months UAE special forces, operating out of Egyptian bases, destroyed an Islamist camp in eastern Libya without detection. The United States was not informed of the airstrikes, and U.S. permission was not sought. The move by Egypt and the UAE is but one more indication that after two years of introspection and confusion, the moderate forces in the Arab world have begun to assert themselves in an effort to gain a measure of control over post-Arab Spring developments in the region. The airstrikes by Egypt and UAE against Libya’s Islamist militias are thus an intensification of the regional campaign, led by Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, to confront and defeat the Qatar- and Turkey-supported Islamist forces in the region.
Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have secretly collaborated twice in the last eight days to attack Islamist militias in Libya. The airstrikes on the militias were part of an effort to prevent them from taking control over Tripoli, Libya’s capital.
Senior U.S. officials told the New York Times that the attacks represent a new phase in the on-going battle in the Arab world between political Islam and its opponents.
The newspaper quotes the American officials to say that the United States was not informed of the airstrikes, and that Egypt and the UAE did not seek U.S. permission for the attacks.
In fact, Egyptian officials, in talks with American diplomats, denied the military operation, although U.S. intelligence and military sources confirmed it has occurred.
The move by Egypt and the UAE is a continuation – and an escalation – by moderate Arab states to gain a measure of control over post-Arab Spring developments in the region. The high hopes which accompanied the eruption of the Arab Spring in early 2011 are all but gone. The collapse of the autocratic, but secular, regimes in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Yemen, and Syria left a vacuum which was quickly filled by Political Islam – either by Islamist parties, as was the case in Egypt and Tunisia, or by Jihadist groups, as was the case in Libya, Yemen, and Syria.
Qatar and Turkey, adversaries of Saudi Arabia and Egypt, rushed in to help the Islamists, with Qatar providing the financial support and Turkey lending its diplomatic muscle.
The initial drive by the Qatar- and Turkey-supported Islamists, coupled with confusion and hesitation on the part of the moderate states in the region, saw the Islamists make gains: the Muslim Brotherhood won both the parliamentary and presidential elections in Egypt; the Islamist elements among the Syrian rebels became dominant in the anti-Assad drive – and in May this year, in the form of ISIS, the Islamists were able to gain control of one-third of Iraq; Islamist militias in Yemen and Libya have made steady gains, making both countries ungovernable.
Only in Tunisia were the moderate forces successful in fashioning an effective governing coalition with the Islamists – who have also agreed to accept a modern constitution regarded as the most progressive in the Arab world.