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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

NY Times reports US officials claim Egypt and UAE behind Libya bombings

Four senior U.S. officials told the New York Times that the first two attacks targeting Islamist militia in Tripoli were a joint operation of Egypt and the UAE


The New York TImes has often been used as a mouthpiece for the US administration as discussed in a Guardian article back in June 2012 by Glenn Greenwald. According to the Times report: The United States, the officials said, was caught by surprise: Egypt and the Emirates, both close allies and military partners, acted without informing Washington or seeking its consent, leaving the Obama administration on the sidelines. Egyptian officials explicitly denied the operation to American diplomats, the officials said. 
While it is possible that the two countries acted without US consent the only evidence for this given is from anonymous US officials who obviously leaked the information about who was responsible for the strikes to the Times. Surely, US intelligence has enough monitoring equipment to probably know where the first flight originated and certainly after the bombing would trace the flight of the aircraft back to its base. The first flight was a week ago. Why did not the US tell the Libyan government who have repeatedly claimed they do not know the identity of the aircraft? Why did they not offer to protect the government from the bombing as the government had asked for international help? Even after the second strike, there was nothing from the US. The US was cooperating in keeping things quiet about who was doing what.
 The article goes on to note quite correctly that both Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States are trying to suppress Islamists associated with the Muslim Brotherhood. On the other hand, Turkey and Qatar are friendly to them. The article claims that Qatar has already been arming Islamists in Libya. While no doubt the Times is correct about these matters, this does not mean that the US had no involvement.
 The Times story continues: Several officials said that United States diplomats were fuming about the airstrikes, believing they could further inflame the Libyan conflict at a time when the United Nations and Western powers are seeking a peaceful resolution. If the US is seeking a peaceful solution why did they not intervene after the first raid and warn Egypt and the UAE that they would not tolerate further attacks? Why not expose the culprits at least and publicly reprimand them? Even now there has been no official statement on the issue holding Egypt and the UAE to task, just this leak to the New York Times. According to the article, Egypt provided bases for launching the strikes and UAE the pilots, warplanes, and aerial refueling necessary for the flights. These are all provided thanks to US training and aid. Egypt has denied any direct role of its forces in the flights. The UAE has so far not commented directly. However, Anwar Gargash, minister of state for foreign affairs said that allegations about the role of the UAE role come from a group who "wanted to use the cloak of religion to achieve its political objectives" when "the people discovered its lies and failures". Perhaps he is referring to Libya Dawn who earlier accused Egypt and the UAE of being behind the bombings before it was confirmed by the US. He is also referring to the alleged defeat of Islamists in recent elections.
The Times provides a misleading account of what Haftar and his commanders said about the strikes: Anti-Islamist forces based in eastern Libya under the renegade former general Khalifa Hifter sought to claim responsibility, but their statements were inconsistent and the strikes were beyond their known capabilities. However, from the beginning Haftar has claimed that the bombing was a joint effort between his own forces and the "international community". No doubt he has given valuable targeting information to the bombers. Ironically, a report given to a New York Times reporter contradicts this article:".later in the day a senior Operation Dignity source claimed his forces had been responsible for the attack, which targeted Libya Dawn fighters who have been attempting to gain control of strategic sites like Tripoli International Airport. The source told New York Times journalist Osama al-Fitory that the bombs were dropped by a Sukhoi Su-24 plane, in a “joint operation” between Haftar’s forces and the international community." Haftar also made a similar claim saying that the operation was supported by the international community. 
What the article is attempting to do is create a narrative that makes this action part of the attempts of UAE and Egypt to attack the Muslim Brotherhood. The article also notes that Egypt and the UAE had mounted other strikes inside Libya recently: In recent months, a special forces team operating out of Egypt but possibly composed primarily of Emirates personnel had also successfully destroyed an Islamist camp in eastern Libya without detection. All this comes out now. The US saw no reason to reveal this or try to stop it earlier. After two bombings and now a third of Tripoli, even the dimmest-witted US officials began to realize that they had to create a narrative about what happened. They marketed the narrative through the New York Times. 
While General Khalifa Haftar is mentioned the background of events and Operation Dignity one of the main sources for the present clashes of militias is not discussed at all. Haftar started out in February to try and dissolve the elected parliament, and when that failed he later began Operation Dignity: On 14 February 2014, General Khalifa Haftar ordered the GNC to dissolve and called for the formation of a caretaker government committee to oversee new elections. The GNC ignored his demands.The conflict began two months later, on 16 May 2014, when forces loyal to General Haftar launched a large scale air and ground offensive codenamed Operation Dignity (Arabic: عملية الكرامة‎; 'Amaliya al-Karamah) against Islamist armed groups in Benghazi. Two days later, Haftar's forces tried to dissolve the General National Congress (GNC) in Tripoli Actually the Zintan brigades attacked parliament ransacked it and set it on fire and kidnapped some Islamist legislators and officials.These are the same brigades that were charged with protecting the airport and later clashed with the Misrata militia who took the airport just the other day. Bombings completed the destruction of the airport hitting the main terminal. 
As I thought, this type of background essential for understanding what is going on will be almost completely omitted in mainstream press accounts of what is happening. There will also be nothing about Haftar's earlier CIA connections. Haftar is also a US citizen and lived in the US for almost two decades. An excellent and detailed account of Haftar's career can be found here and is well worth reading in its entirety. Near the end the author Barak Barfi of the New American Foundation had some suggestions as to what role Haftar could play in the future of Libya: "Washington and its partners should persuade the new Libyan government to appoint Haftar as chief of staff. Respected by his troops, he has the military skills and combat experience necessary to create a modern army. But most important, he is the sole Libyan willing to take on the Islamist militias that are preventing the establishment of a modern state" This would complete the coup that Haftar was accused of mounting when he started Operation Dignity. Perhaps, the US really does think that the Egypt and UAE acts are counter productive but it is also possible that the US supports their intervention and will use them as proxies to help push the balance of power towards Haftar's forces.


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