Egypt Trying to Clean up Obama’s Mess in Libya

The NATO operation responsible for removing Muammar Gadhafi has quite predictably proved to be a disaster. It paved the way for the Benghazi attacks as well as the recent fall of Tripoli to Islamists and total lawlessness in that country.

As Islamists were in the process of taking Tripoli, they were having to deal with air strikes from mysterious sources. As it turns out, those strikes were the result of a joint operation involving Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

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 United States, the officials said, was caught by surprise: Egypt and the Emirates, both close allies and military partners, acted without informing Washington, leaving the Obama administration on the sidelines. Egyptian officials explicitly denied to American diplomats that their military played any role in the operation, the officials said, in what appeared a new blow to already strained relations between Washington and Cairo.

The strikes in Tripoli are another destabilizing salvo in a power struggle defined by old-style Arab autocrats battling Islamist movements seeking to overturn the old order. Since the military ouster of the Islamist president in Egypt last year, the new government and its backers in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have launched a campaign across the region — in the news media, in politics and diplomacy, and by arming local proxies — to roll back what they see as an existential threat to their authority posed by Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood.

Arrayed against them and backing the Islamists are the rival states of Turkey and Qatar.

That would be the same Turkey and Qatar that side with Hamas in Gaza and whom Secretary of State John Kerry attempted to include in a ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas last month. It proved a major miscalculation as Israel was furious:

Kerry’s error has been to put so much emphasis on achieving a quick halt to the bloodshed that he has solidified the role of Hamas, the intractable, unpopular Islamist group that leads Gaza, along with the two hard-line Islamist nations that are its key supporters, Qatar and Turkey. In the process, he has undercut not simply the Israelis but also the Egyptians and the Fatah movement that runs the Palestinian Authority, all of which want to see an end to Hamas rule in Gaza.

On September 11, 2012, U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were murdered by Islamists in Benghazi. Last month, the U.S. closed its embassy in Tripoli because of Islamists. This week, Tripoli fell to Islamists and the Obama administration was furious with Egypt and the UAE for trying to stop them?!

Of course, some additional irony here is that under Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood president Mohammed Mursi, Egypt was complicit in the Benghazi attack as our “Ironclad” Report outlines. When Mursi was overthrown in 2013, it was the Obama administration who demanded his release and the release of other Muslim Brotherhood leaders.

If Mursi were still in power, Egypt would likely be helping the Islamists in Libya along with Turkey and Qatar.

Of all the countries involved in this latest operation in Libya – as well as those that support the Islamists there – it is only Turkey that is a formal U.S. ally based on its NATO membership.

Where are the calls for either the U.S. or Turkey to leave NATO?

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