Egypt’s Sisi Pushes for UN Military Intervention in Libya

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A relative of one of the Egyptians purportedly murdered by ISIS in Libya reacts after hearing the news on February 16, 2015 in the village of al-Awar in Egypt's southern province of Minya. AFP/Mohammed al-Shahed.

Published Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi again on Tuesday urged the UN Security Council to adopt a resolution allowing for an international military intervention in Libya.

"There is no other choice. Taking into account that the Libyan people must agree that we act to restore security and stability," Sisi said in an interview with French radio Europe 1.

Sisi has repeatedly called for global intervention in Libya, which has been wracked by conflict since the overthrow of dictator Muammar Gaddafi in a 2011 NATO-backed uprising.

Chaos in Libya has seen rival governments and powerful militias battling for control of key cities and the country's vast oil riches, and has provided fertile ground for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) to grow.

Sisi on Monday launched airstrikes against ISIS camps and weapons stores in the Libyan city of Derna hours after Libyan militants affiliated to ISIS released a video showing masked jihadists beheading 21 Egyptians on a Libyan beach.

The European Union said on Monday it saw no role for the bloc in any military intervention, but would discuss joint action with Washington and Egypt.

"What we are seeing today in Libya is a double threat: it is a threat of a country that is breaking apart and of a country where Daesh is taking power and infiltrating," said EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini using another acronym for ISIS.

Meanwhile, the African Union maintained the only solution for Libya was a political deal.

Benefits of airstrikes for Sisi

Bombing ISIS targets in Libya will now show Sisi's resolve to counter a wider Islamist threat in the region, H.A. Hellyer, Arab affairs expert at Washington-based Brookings Institute, said.

"In this case, he probably sees the Egyptian action as comparable to the Jordanian military retaliation after the killing of their pilot," Hellyer added.

Jordan, a member of US-led coalition fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria, where the group has captured swathes of territory, escalated its air campaign after the jihadists claimed the murder of a Jordanian pilot captured in Syria in December.

Hellyer said air raids in Libya would silence some critics of Sisi's government.

"There remain those critical of Egypt due to human rights concerns and curbing of civil liberties, but against the backdrop of Daesh or ISIS, that's likely to take a back seat."

"With strikes in Libya, Sisi's stature will definitely rise in the West and also at home," Mustafa Kamel al-Sayyid, a Cairo University political professor, said.

"Although he has been building new allies by speaking to Russia, China and France, the Libyan operation will also help lift the rest of US sanctions imposed on Egypt when the military aid was frozen."

On Monday, Egypt signed a $5.9 billion deal to purchase 24 French Rafale warplanes — a show of support for Sisi who wants to break a US monopoly over Egypt's arms supplies.

Meanwhile, an Egyptian daily reported on Tuesday that Egyptian security agencies were mulling the possibility of sending an elite anti-terror commando force to Libya to fight militant groups in the embattled country.

"There are intensive contacts with the Libyan side on the issue," Shorouk newspaper quoted a high-level source as saying.

"If the Libyan side agrees, the force will be dispatched to fight along Libyan troops to combat terror," added the source.

The source said the elite commandos, codenamed Unit 999, were specialized in combating international terrorism.

"The unit is on constant high alert and ready to deal with extremist and terrorist groups," the source added.

Mourning families

On Monday, sobs filled the roofless church of a poor village in southern Egypt as funeral prayers were said by the families of 13 Egyptians beheaded in Libya.

"My son left for Libya 40 days ago after finishing his military service," Boshra, a civil servant in his 50s, said of his 22-year-old son Kirollos.

"He went to earn money so he could get married," he added before breaking down.

Kirollos earned almost $25 (22 euros) a day — five times what he could hope for at home.

The 13 sons of al-Our, who were beheaded by ISIS on Sunday, were all cousins and laborers, and all lived in the same house in Libya.

Black-clad women relatives wailed as they mourned in a nearby house off a dusty narrow street of small adobe and red brick buildings in Our.

Men stood in the church, with its straw-covered altar, some giving vent to their emotion and bursting into tears.

Coptic Christians form some 10 percent of the population in Egypt, the Arab world's most populous country.

(Reuters, AFP, Anadolu, Al-Akhbar)

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