What if that 2:00 AM phone call never comes?
A huge international surprise was revealed today and the US knew nothing about it.
Late last week, diplomats and journalists reported Islamist positions in Libya being bombed in Tripoli by an unknown air force. Now, 4 senior American officials have told the New York Times that planes from the United Arab Emirates and Egypt carried out the bombings - without telling the US government or seeking its blessing.
Both countries are denying the story. But if true, it would constitute a major escalation as foreign governments are choosing sides in what is looking more and more like a Libyan civil war.
Twice in the last seven days, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates have secretly launched airstrikes against Islamist-allied militias battling for control of Tripoli, Libya, four senior American officials said, in a major escalation of a regional power struggle set off by Arab Spring revolts.
The United States, the officials said, was caught by surprise: Egypt and the Emirates, both close allies and military partners, acted without informing Washington, leaving the Obama administration on the sidelines. Egyptian officials explicitly denied to American diplomats that their military played any role in the operation, the officials said, in what appeared a new blow to already strained relations between Washington and Cairo.
The strikes in Tripoli are another salvo in a power struggle defined by Arab autocrats battling Islamist movements seeking to overturn the old order. Since the military ouster of the Islamist president in Egypt last year, the new government and its backers in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have launched a campaign across the region — in the news media, in politics and diplomacy, and by arming local proxies — to roll back what they see as an existential threat to their authority posed by Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood.
Arrayed against them and backing the Islamists are the rival states of Turkey and Qatar.
American officials said the Egyptians and the Emiratis had teamed up against an Islamist target inside Libya at least once before. In recent months, the officials said, teams of “special forces” operating out of Egypt but possibly composed primarily of Emiratis had also successfully destroyed an Islamist camp near the eastern Libyan city of Derna, an extremist stronghold.
Several officials said in recent days that United States diplomats were fuming about the airstrikes, believing the intervention could further inflame the Libyan conflict as the United Nations and Western powers are seeking to broker a peaceful resolution. Officials said the government of Qatar has already provided weapons and support to the Islamist-aligned forces inside Libya, so the new strikes represent a shift from a battle of proxies to direct involvement. It could also set off an arms race.
“We don’t see this as constructive at all,” said one senior American official.
Not that the UAE or Egypt needs American "permission" to act. But a heads up would have been nice. The fact that they ignored President Obama is an ominous indication that no one is listening to us anymore. The president won't have to worry about that 2:00 AM phone call because fewer and fewer nations are believing that the US is relevant anymore.
The snub is unprecendented in my experience. I can't recall anything similar happening in the Middle East in my lifetime. Allies conducting military operations without informing us? Egypt is angry with us for supporting the Muslim Brotherhood but relations between our two militaries has apparently been little affected. They must really hold President Obama in contempt to not inform the US of this action.