Libya Just Keeps Getting Worse

by Dish Staff

Meanwhile, in Libya, the The NYT reports that Egypt and the UAE have secretly launched airstrikes on Islamist militias battling for control of Tripoli:

Since the military ouster of the Islamist president in Egypt one year ago, the new Egyptian government, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have formed a bloc exerting influence in countries around the region to rollback what they see as a competing threat from Islamists. Arrayed against them are the Islamist movements, including the Muslim Brotherhood, backed by friendly governments in Turkey and Qatar, that sprang forward amid the Arab spring revolts. Libya is the latest, and hottest, battleground.

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. “We don’t see this as constructive at all,” said one senior American official. … The strikes have also proved counterproductive so-far: the Islamist militias fighting for control of Tripoli successfully seized its airport the night after they were hit with the second round of strikes.

As the above image shows, the capital’s airport has been almost completely destroyed in fighting between the Misratan and Zintani militias. Ishaan Tharoor flags the recently released footage of a “public execution” by an Islamist militia, which further illustrates how the already tenuous security situation is deteriorating:

In the footage, which is available on YouTube, masked gunmen waving black flags bring a blindfolded Egyptian man identified as Mohammad Ahmad Mohammad onto the field in a pick-up truck. He is eventually shot in the head by a person dressed in civilian clothes, believed to be the brother of a man Mohammad is said to have killed. The murder is one of the starkest instances yet of Islamist groups enacting sharia law in the country. (Since Gaddafi’s fall, Salafists have also set about attacking the shrines of Sufi saints.) “This unlawful killing realizes the greatest fears of ordinary Libyans, who in parts of the country find themselves caught between ruthless armed groups and a failed state,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, the organization’s Middle East and North Africa deputy director, in Amnesty’s press release.

Siddhartha Mahanta warned last week that the country was rapidly falling apart:

[F]ighting has only grown more intense over the summer, raising questions about whether Libya is on the fast track to civil war — or already in one. On Monday, planes of initially unknown origin conducted airstrikes on Islamist targets in Tripoli. Then, in the early hours of Tuesday, unidentified militants shelled an affluent section of Tripoli with Grad rockets, killing three. And, yes, that’s the same kind of artillery Russia has been accused of firing across the Ukrainian border. Who fired the Grad rockets remains a mystery, but eventually Gen. Khalifa Haftar, a onetime Qaddafi loyalist turned revolutionary and now a hardened anti-Islamist fighter, took credit for the airstrikes. Haftar said it’s part of his broader campaign for control of the city and airport, though there’s still some question as to whether Libyan planes could have been in any shape to conduct the strikes.

Not for the first time, Larison attributes this chaos to our “successful” intervention there in 2011:

While it is possible that Libya would still be suffering from internal conflicts in the absence of outside intervention in 2011, it is far more likely that aiding in the destruction of the old regime condemned Libya and its neighbors to the destabilizing and destructive effects of armed conflict for an even longer period of time. It was not an accident that Libya’s immediate neighbors were among the least supportive of the U.S.-led war, since they were always going to be the ones to experience the war’s harmful effects. Unfortunately for the civilian population in Libya, they will be living with the dangerous consequences of that “humanitarian” intervention for years and perhaps even decades to come. Considering that the war was justified entirely in the name of protecting civilians from violence, it has to be judged one of the most conspicuous failures and blunders of U.S. policy in the last decade. The desire to “help” Libyans with military action has directly contributed to the wrecking of their country. The lesson from all this that the U.S. and its allies shouldn’t be forcibly overthrowing foreign governments is an obvious one, and one that I am confident that all relevant policymakers in Washington will be sure to ignore.