Foreign Affairs

The fall of Tripoli

The fall of Tripoli

Sure, Barack Obama made an unholy mess of Iraq, but at least he’s still got his big foreign policy triumph in Libya to brag about.  How’s it going over in Tripoli, UK Daily Mail?

Islamist militias have seized control of Libya’s main airport, setting planes and surrounding buildings ablaze.

The group called Dawn of Libya, consisting mainly of fighters from Misrata, captured the major foothold in Tripoli at the weekend from a rival faction from Zintan in western Libya.

It followed weeks of fierce fighting. The group said it has also taken hold of other locations in the capital controlled by rival militias.

The fight has largely destroyed the airport and scarred the capital, prompting diplomats, foreign nationals and thousands of Libyans to flee.

Fire destroyed the terminal at the airport on Sunday, but it was unclear who had burned it. Supporters of the rival factions took to social media to accuse each other.

Impossible!  Obama fixed Libya.  It was so safe that U.S. ambassadors could be sent into terrorist hot zones on the anniversary of 9/11 without protection… provided some YouTube video didn’t rile up the locals and turn them into a murderous swarm of movie critics armed with mortars.  Which YouTube video set off these Islamists in Tripoli?  They’re not upset about Sofia Vergara standing on a turntable at the Emmys, are they?

In the campaign to overthrow Gaddafi, fighters from Zintan and Misrata were comrades-in-arms. But they later fell out.

The violence in Libya is rooted in the empowerment of militias. Successive transitional governments since the 2011 ousting of long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi depended on them to maintain order in the absence of a strong police force or a unified military.

These forces receive state salaries and wear uniforms, they report in practice to their own commanders and towns.

The attack comes as part of a backlash by Islamist factions after losing their power in parliament following June elections and in the face of a campaign by a renegade military general against extremist Islamic militias in Benghazi, Libya’s second-largest city.

That’s why Obama and his team of liars served up their pile of crap about YouTube video protests in Benghazi.  They didn’t want anyone to know how bad things were getting in Libya while the President ran for re-election.  They didn’t want to divert military and security resources to the area while Ambassador Chris Stevens ran a quiet errand.  When it all blew up in their faces, the White House political team hatched its “video protest” story, while stunned intelligence officials and veterans of the Benghazi conflict looked on helplessly.

The media obligingly gave Libya very little coverage, beyond a few embarrassed reports about just how difficult it was to conduct an FBI criminal investigation in the nation Obama liberated.  Now that Tripoli has fallen to Islamists, everyone gets to digest the surprising news that the country is either teetering on the edge of a civil war, or has already begun one:

The fighting on the ground has mirrored a political stand-off between Islamists and the outgoing parliament they controlled, and anti-Islamist groups who control the newly elected parliament.

Each considers the other illegitimate.

Libya now faces the prospect of two competing parliaments.

In a challenge to a parliament elected on June 25, a Dawn of Libya spokesman called for the old General National Congress, set up after the fall of Gaddafi, to be reinstated.

The Misrata forces have rejected the new House of Representatives, where liberals and lawmakers campaigning for a federalist system have made a strong showing.

The parliament has declared Dawn of Libya as well as militant Islamists like the Ansar al-Sharia as ‘terrorist groups’.

Muslim Brotherhood party member Amina al-Mahjoub, a former national congress member, told Reuters the congress would reconvene on Monday morning.

‘It is not clear if the meeting will be consultative or we grant legitimacy to the rebels,’ he said.

The Daily Mail mentions some “mysterious bombing runs” against targets in Libya, but the UK Guardian says there’s no great mystery at all: it’s Egypt and the United Arab Emirates launching air strikes against the Islamists.  They saw no reason to bring the American Golfer-in-Chief off the back nine to tell him about it.  Unfortunately, their efforts against the Islamists were in vain:

US officials have claimed the United Arab Emirates and Egypt were behind several air strikes on Islamist militias in Libya last week, in what would be an escalation of a regional power-play between Islamists and opposing governments across the Middle East.

UAE pilots flying out of Egyptian airbases allegedly twice targeted Islamist fighters vying to take control of the Libyan capital, Tripoli, last week,several US officials claimed to the New York Times, and later to the AFP news agency. Speaking to the Guardian, a US official confirmed the reports were plausible.

The air strikes failed to stop Islamist militias from capturing Tripoli later in the week, announcing a new breakaway regime and forcing Libya’s elected government to flee to the eastern city of Tobruk.

The strikes’ alleged origins suggest a block of Middle Eastern countries led by the UAE are seeking to escalate their opposition to the Islamist movements that have sought to undermine the region’s old order since the start of the Arab spring in 2011.

The Arab Spring?  Wasn’t that supposed to be an Obama foreign policy triumph, too?  He used to wax rhapsodic about that wonderful flowering of democracy, but he doesn’t seem interested in talking about it much any more.

Last summer, Egypt’s military ousted the Muslim Brotherhood – a major Islamist group – and has since been cracking down internally on its activities, a tactic pursued for years in the UAE.

If the US allegations are true, both countries now want to expand the campaign beyond their borders, seeking to curb the rise of Brotherhood-affiliated militias threatening to take over Libya. The move could turn Libya into a proxy war between the country’s elected government, backed by UAE and Egypt, and Islamists backed by Qatar, another Gulf state.

On Tuesday, the US would not confirm the reports on the record. But Jen Psaki, a state department spokesman, criticised any external military intervention. “We believe outside interference exacerbates current divisions and undermines Libya’s democratic transition,” said Psaki.

Qatar?  The same guys who have been sponsoring ISIS?  Man, Obama’s transformed Middle East is a rough neighborhood.  Don’t those crazy Egyptians know that they should be dropping Twitter hashtags on the Islamists, instead of bombs?  Jen Psaki could help them whip up a few good ones.  #BringBackOurCapital!  #DontTakeTheHallsOfMontezumaToo!

When asked about the air strikes, a Libyan cabinet minister expressed surprise at the reports of their provenance, and said that Libya did not want direct military intervention. But Habib Amin, Libya’s culture minister, said the international community needed to provide more logistical and diplomatic support to his government.

“The international community until now has not been serious about helping the government, the legal authority in Libya, and the Libyan people,” said Amin after discussing the Libyan civil war with Egyptian officials in Cairo.

“Libya is now in a civil war. And the international community is just watching. Tripoli is half-destroyed. Half of Benghazi is destroyed. What does the world want? To see the whole country destroyed?”

In an interview with the Guardian on Monday, Libya’s foreign minister, Mohamed Abdel Aziz, claimed his government did not want foreign military intervention.

But he said Libya’s government, which has fled to the eastern city of Tobruk, is now unable to safeguard key state institutions by itself, and called for “arms and any other equipment … that could ensure the possibility of protecting our strategic sites, our oil fields, our airports” against militias “who are now stronger than the government itself, and who do now possess arms even more sophisticated than the government itself”.

Don’t hold your breath, Mr. Aziz.  You’re yesterday’s news.  Other Obama foreign policy disasters are burning much hotter right now.  Which is why we’re now slipping American intelligence on jihad-inclined Syrian rebels to Mr. Bashar Assad of Damascus – the man Obama was keen to bomb into oblivion, just one year ago.  Moammar Qaddafi’s got to be looking up from Hell and cursing the lousy timing of his rebellion.

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