The mystery warplanes that thundered in on Islamist militias fighting for control of the Libyan capital this week are harbingers of a widening regional conflict. The Libyan chaos following the U.S.-backed ouster of strongman Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 has opened the way to a proxy war among regional and global powers that Washington appears utterly unable to contain – even as it wades once again into the carnage of Iraq and possibly Syria.
This week U.S. officials publicly confirmed that Egypt and the United Arab Emirates carried out airstrikes against the Islamist militias in Tripoli on August 18 and 22, but said they had not given the green light for the raids.
But this does not square with what members of the recently elected Libyan House of Representatives are saying in Tobruk, where they are holed up because Tripoli is too dangerous. They say Obama officials were aware that air strikes by the U.A.E. were to be launched, even though they did not endorse them. It appears Washington also withheld approval for further planned interventions involving not only the U.A.E. and Egypt but Algeria as well.
In any case, the raids mounted by U.A.E. warplanes using Egyptian air bases proved ineffectual in stopping renegade Islamists from securing Tripoli’s mostly destroyed international airport.
The United States and its European allies fear outside interference will only exacerbate deep political divisions and will draw Libya deeper into regional disputes, turning the country into a proxy battleground for outside powers. But the Americans and the British have closed their embassies because of the growing threat to their personnel. And once again Washington, Brussels, Paris and London seem to be behind the curve figuring out what’s happening on the ground.
Advisers to Libya’s latest interim prime minister, Abdullah al-Thinni, accuse Western powers of “lacking realism” about the perilous situation that already exists.
Read More:Libya’s Proxy Apocalypse – The Daily Beast.