Egypt’s Misguided Drive to Wage War on the ‘Islamic State’ in Libya

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A handout picture released by the Egyptian Ministry of Defence on February 16, 2015 shows an Egyptian air force fighter jet landing at an undisclosed location in Egypt following air strikes in Libya. AFP/Egyptian Ministry of Defense

By: Abdel Rahman Nassar

Published Tuesday, February 17, 2015

There is no pride in Egypt’s response to the fate of its hostages. It is being lured into an open-ended battle by the Islamic State (IS) group in Libya, a sprawling organization in a fragmented country. On the other hand, perhaps the Egyptian government was seeking out this battle and is seizing on the execution of 21 Copts on February 15 as an opportunity and pretext to obtain popular endorsement to wage this battle — exactly as what happened in Jordan.

Egypt has decided to wage an open-ended “war on terror.” The country that considered its involvement in fighting terror in Sinai enough and had reservations about direct participation in the international anti-IS coalition in Iraq and Syria, offering only logistical and intelligence support, has become the spearhead of an aerial bombardment campaign in Libya.

Why will this battle be open ended? Firstly, Egypt will be operating beyond its borders for the first time, at least publicly, without a specified time frame. Secondly, there are challenges related to the configuration of Libya itself, whether in terms of its topography or its tribal and factional landscape, and the splintering of the polity in the country into eastern and western parts.

Moreover, a high-level Egyptian diplomatic source has revealed that his country is pushing for the formation of an alliance to lead the aerial bombardment campaign in Libya, comprising France, Italy, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the UAE. The source indicated there are talks underway between Egypt and Russia to secure Russian support for the Egyptian army operations in Libya, according to the Anadolu news agency.

But before we talk about achievements and failures in Sinai, or assess the condition and capabilities of the Egyptian army, analyzing the Libyan theater shows that what Cairo has decided to do is tantamount to an adventure or gamble with uncalculated results. Indeed, the reality of IS’ presence in Libya differs from its presence in Iraq, Syria, and even eastern Egypt.

For one thing, the presence of a clearly defined IS entity in those areas helps direct the war and strikes against the group, regardless of the comparative effectiveness of air strikes and ground operations. This raises questions about which IS exactly President Sisi wants to target in Libya.

Even experts on insurgent and terrorist groups say the mosaic of armed groups in Benghazi, Misrata, and Tripoli, including Wilayat Barqa (Cyrenaica), that declared allegiance to IS a few months ago, has volatile and conflicting loyalties, with tribal and regional affiliations being the deciding factor more often than not.

Even with the presence of an ally like Khalifa Haftar and his forces, this does not guarantee that Egyptian aerial bombardment will get results on the ground. Haftar’s Operation Dignity, which has been going on for over a year, has not achieved anything on the field, although intense bombardment could help him move more freely and make gains against IS and other Islamist and non-Islamist factions.

Above all, the Egyptian assumption is that the strikes will degrade IS. But in reality, the strikes would not prevent the group from continuing attacks against Egyptian interests and even Egyptian soil. As is known, Libya is home to more than 500,000 Egyptians, has a border that is nearly 1,150 km long with Egypt, and has multiple and diverse joint economic interests with Egypt.

In addition, IS can increase its attacks in eastern Egypt via its affiliate Wilayat Sinai, something alluded to in statements attributed to Wilayat Barqa. The latter group threatened to attack Egyptians in Libya, and wage attacks through the deserts of Barqa and Fezzan.

Further complicating the situation is the fact that not all Libyan political parties are in favor of the Egyptian strikes. Prominent parties like the Libyan National Congress see the strikes as violation of Libyan sovereignty — though it did not describe the international attack on the Gaddafi regime in those terms.

The so-called Mujahideen Shura Councils in the cities and areas targeted voiced the same objections, and criticized the Egyptian army for killing civilians in the strikes on Monday. They also accused Cairo of collaborating with Haftar as part of a UAE-led alliance against Qatar-backed factions.

All this leads to concerns over a backlash in Libya against Egyptian expatriates, and the possibility of kidnapping and killing Egyptians in the country, especially with the lack of any news on the abduction of 21 Egyptian fishermen kidnapped a day before IS executed the 21 Copts. In addition, there is bad blood between the two countries, particularly regarding the border region, which has become a gateway for militants and weapons to countries like Syria and Iraq. Not many have forgotten the border clashes between the two countries in the 1970s that killed 1,400 people in battles that lasted three days.

Last but not least, putting pressure on Egypt via the Sinai will definitely limit the freedom of its army. The Egyptian army cannot operate on two fronts and guarantee victory in either, let alone both, especially as it faces a protracted guerilla war.

The Egyptian response is being deliberated from several angles, motivated by the political convictions of the various parties. The government believes for example that the Muslim Brotherhood is an essential part of the drive by IS and al-Qaeda to form a western belt hostile to the state. For their part, Islamist and other forces believe Cairo is fighting someone else’s war, despite their condemnation of the slaying of the Coptic hostages.

Meanwhile, it is no secret that all these developments are happening as the regime is trying to consolidate its power through parliamentary legitimacy and economic achievements. Any major involvement against IS could lead to negative results for the Sisi administration, while any achievement could be seen as part of the battle to consolidate the power of the ruling party.

Regarding the possibility of ground operations, informed sources told Al-Akhbar that the National Defense Council is considering the deployment of special forces to help evacuate Egyptians trapped in Libya, after an armed group gave them a 48-hour ultimatum.

This echoes what Interior Minister Maj. Gen. Mohammed Ibrahim told Al-Akhbar asserting that, “All options are on the table, to protect Egyptians.” He added that ground intervention was possible if necessary, provided that it followed procedures to guarantee the safety of the evacuees and forces taking part in the evacuation.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

Comments

Moussa Ibrahim spokesman | LIBYA AGAINST SUPER POWER ...

www.libyaagainstsuperpowermedia.org/ category/ libya/ libyan-resistance/ moussa-ibrahim-spokesman/ -

On Monday 12 Jan 2015, in Committee Room 15 in the Houses of Parliament, George ... Q&A with Dr Ibrahim Moussa at anti-Nato event at British Parliament ...
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we suggest you have rad/listen to

Q&A with Dr Ibrahim Moussa at anti-Nato event at British Parliament
and see who is against a peaceful settlement in Libya
and YES >Egypt foolishly FELL into the trap set for it
Why should OUR Libyans have bombing
Who funded/trained/supported ISIL and still does!
Egypt never answered the question before foolishly went on the bombing

So what this article is saying is the Egyptians should basically "empathize" with Daesh by not doing anything because it will hurt the sensibilities of Daesh.

Clearly, Daesh is the best friend Israel ever had, not only in making violent Zionism appear moderate by comparison, but by providing Israel, its friends--well, thralls--and its allies--hostages--a pretext to further destroy everything around Israel.
If you want Egyptians to be secure, you should advise them to remove their generalissimo, restore the elected president, and get on with the business of building the state and society.

Putin partering up with Sisi to sell weapons (for $3.5 billion IIRC) and thus supporting a "Coallition against Lybia 2.0", including France, Italy and the GCC has opened the last door to WWIII.

All NATO wants is to escalate various crisis in the world, including the Syrian, Ukranian (as it paradoxically is called by the total sum of media, at it is an ethnic Russian crisis since it's they who are under attack by Kiev), but also the constantly growing crisis in Venezuela. The US through its NGO's are constantly trying to overthrow the Bolivarian governments since April 11 2002, and it has escalated in past years. Yemen, why are western countries closing down their embasies when the Houthis have acted very restrained and clearheaded against their opponents, including the Al-CIAda network in the south?

The elitist warmongers that are allied materially as well as in their kabbalist "faith" are getting ready for the last bit of prelude before WWIII officially begins: the crossing of that "red line". Now that Syria doesn't have any chemical weapons - which of course was no coincidence, rather, quite the opposite, since the sole meaning of those limited Wahabi directed and produced chemical attacks was for the comming zionist and NATO entry. This will probably lead to neuclear strikes in the area, with following mass contaminations erupting everywhere, with the current Birdflue and other epidemics hinting the future, all this will culminate by a Hollywood produced global zombie finale. Yes, THEY ARE THIS SICK (if that sickness in the enemy is incomprehensible to you, as a theoretical possiblility, then that sickness obviously isn't you. This doesn't exclude the existance of such sick minds).

Syria, Lebanon and everybody on the outside of those 8m high concrete walls surrounding the entity will either be fried or a zionist sushi, and Russias involment in this comming war, known in the Biblical End Times, is probably the last step the zionists kabbal needs.

A reservation could be that of Iran's needed participation to make the McJihad war credible enough as a threat to the European and other media spectators.

Allthough I find it existentially nessecary for the survival of the Axis that Iran has boots on the ground in Syria, a survival both as a whole and in the end for Iran itself, I worry that the zionist kabbal will use a future more obvious Iranian involvement as their "red line".

Iran might therefore do best in self limiting itself to things like military advisors, commando's, drone operators and air defence forces.

What else necessary "ingredients" were needed in the 2011 invasion of Lybia, could they help enlighten our future?

I agree with the broad sweep of your argument but distinguish it in this way: mass-suicide, which is a concrete description of the end-times myth, is never the people's choice. I'll take an example from US history. The US civil war 1861-5 was fought with tenacity by both sides, although the southern side, for the most part, was fighting against its own interest. Slavery was both an undermining of the rule of law ("sorry, I don't have to listen to you, you're African and you're property") and competition with "free" persons in the labor market. But the war was presented to the southern masses as defensive, against an attack that threatened dictatorship from Washington at the hands of fast-talking Yankees. I am suggesting that southern culture was more social and intimate than the already-heavily commoditized northern culture where every conversation had a price tag. I think that even today people move to the north and find racism worse there than in the south, although it wears a mask up north of politeness and detachment.
But the mass of the people never regard any crisis as the reason to destroy life itself on a social scale. Both Nazi Germany and modern Israel were probably founded by individuals with a strong belief that their projects would lead to some Armageddon, some Viking flaming funeral, some Massada last stand, and in the latter days both populations probably saw/see that outcome as more and more inevitable. But when you are not in the conversation, you tend to hope for the best as to what they're talking about.
It seems Obama is more and more suicidal. His acknowledgement the other day that his government "brokered the transition" in Ukraine, where an elected government was toppled by a mob with foreign financing, then "laws" "passed" that legitimized the coup, all under NATO diplomatic/media cover, is his taking responsibility for the ensuing violence and set-backs, such as the recent defeat of a major Kiev military taskforce.
So it is becoming clear to the public that Obama's administration, and its sister administration in Israel, are on that one-way long trip on a short pier to plunge into the deep end of political oblivion. But does that need to lead to physical destruction of these two statelets? (I regard the US Constitution as being in abeyance since the assassination of Osama bin Laden was "owned" by Obama, a single murder bringing down a regime because that regime owned that murder as its highest legal achievement.)
It may have struck you that Obama's projects all end in failure, the more so, the more Obama-esque. His ISIS crusade might not consume his remaining days in office since the change of rule in Saudi Arabia may have cut off the support for ISIS at its source. If KSA follows through with ending its anti-Shia/anti-democracy crusade, the entire region may coalesce, focusing on Lebanon and its newly-enfranchised Shia majority, as a weight on Israel's chest (akin to the weight of Israel and its war-to-end-all-wars on the global economy) that finally persuades the Jewish majority in Israel to give law and liberty a try.

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