Twice in the last seven days, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates have secretly launched airstrikes against Islamist-allied militias battling for control of Tripoli, Libya, four senior American officials said, in a major escalation of a regional power struggle set off by Arab Spring revolts.The UAE and Egypt denied the charges. The US officials also claimed that they were not informed about the raids and that they regarded them as unproductive. The Islamist militias were not deterred from driving the Zintan brigades, allies of Haftar, out of Tripoli. Now it seems that someone is attempting the same game.
No doubt it is Haftar who was given the "green light" by the Libyan government to liberate both Benghazi in the east and the capital Tripoli from the control of rival groups, who have also set up their own rival government in Tripoli with their own prime minister Omar al-Hassi. The internationally recognized government is meeting in the far eastern city of Tobruk. It was supposed to move to Benghazi the beginning of August but met in Tobruk since Benghazi by that time was in control of an umbrella group of Islamists. The government now supports Haftar's Operation Dignity, directed against Islamists even though as part of that operation an earlier parliament was burned and ransacked. Hafter was then described as leading a coup and a warrant was out for his arrest. The present prime minister Al Thinni was prime minister then but listen to his change of tune:
Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thani’s cabinet said in statement posted on Facebook that the armed forces have the green light to “liberate” Tripoli “and state institutions from the grip of armed groups.” The cabinet also urged Tripoli residents to launch “a civil disobedience campaign until the arrival of the army.”
Egyptian planes were also reported to have been involved in attacks by Haftar on Benghazi beginning in October. The government at the time also reported that it supported Operation Dignity. Again Eygpt denies any involvement. However Egyptian president al-Sisi who led a coup that ousted former Muslim Brotherhood-supported President Morsi and declared the Islamists group terrorists has asked for foreign intervention:
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi urged the United States and Europe on Thursday to help the Libyan army in its fight against Islamist militants now to save the country from requiring intervention on the scale of Iraq and Syria.
The Libyan army is now hardly to be distinguished from Haftar's militia which he always called the new Libyan army. There are so far two separate attacks that targeted the Mitiga International airport, the only functioning airport in the capital. The airport is under control of the alternative government and protected by the Libya Dawn militia. The Libyan National Army declared airports at Tripoli and Misrata as "military zones". The first strike is reported by Al Jazeera. The second report of an attack today comes from Reuters:
An armed group loyal to Libya's internationally-recognized government, which has transferred to the east of the country, claimed responsibility for the air strikes."We bombed the airport a second time," said Saqer al-Joroushi, head of the air force for the group, which is controlled by former general Khalifa Haftar.
The main international airport in Tripoli has been closed since July after battles between Haftar-allied Zintan brigades and Libya Dawn with the latter winning the battle. Somehow in recent reports on these conflicts there is no mention of the Libyan Suprerme Court ruling November 6, that declared the June elections unconstitutional and ordered the Tobruk government dissolved.
The UN has been studying the decision and has asked that the parties not do anything to exacerbate the situation. The UN envoy is also meeting with parties on both sides to reach a political solution. The alternative government has suggested elections after a referendum on a new constitution. Western powers have been silent on the legitimacy issue since they are acting as if the Court had never made a ruling at all. Most international media narratives are following suit for some reason. The UN has asked that both sides refrain from any violence that would exacerbate the situation and make a political solution more difficult. The Tobruk government and Haftar have paid no attention to this demand in its attacks in Benghazi and now Tripoli.