Islamic State: Egypt wakes up – when will the US and Russia?

President Obama urgently needs to rethink his September 2014 assessment of Islamic State.

February 24, 2015 12:06
3 minute read.
Egypt and Libya

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi looks at a map during a meeting with pilots and crews specialists of the Egyptian Air Force near the border between Egypt and Libya. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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Whilst the American-led coalition continues its largely ineffectual air strikes in Iraq and Syria – Islamic State has spread its barbaric tentacles into Libya with alarming rapidity.

Islamic State has claimed responsibility for:
1. Attacking Tripoli’s downtown luxury hotel in January – the Corinthian – which left 11 dead 
2. The brutal mass beheading of 21 Egyptian Christian Copts
3. A multi-pronged suicide attack that killed at least 45 people in the town al Qubbah in Libya’s east
4. Seizing the university in Sirte – deposed dictator Muammar Gadaffi’s hometown

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Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi has called for intervention by the United Nations. "What is going on in Libya could change this country into a breeding ground that could threaten the whole region, not only Egypt. Egypt, the Mediterranean Basin and Europe have to deal with this problem because the mission was unaccomplished, was unfinished by our European friends. We abandoned the Libyan people as prisoners to extremist militias."

An emergency meeting of the UN Security Council was told this week by Libya’s Foreign Minister Mohamed Dayri that "Libya needs a decisive stance from the international community to help us build our national army's capacity and this would come through a lifting of the embargo on weapons ... so as to deal with this rampant terrorism."

The Security Council ignored his plea, and with good reason. Libya currently has two governments – one located in Bayda and the other in Tripoli. In November, 2014 Libya’s Supreme Court held the Bayda Government to be illegal and unconstitutional, a decision ignored by its two principal backers, the United States and the European Union.

Removing the arms embargo – in force since 2011 – would mean new shipments of arms could end up under Islamic State control. UN special envoy to Libya Bernardino Leon has said that Islamic State and other militants can only be defeated with a united Libyan government in place that has strong international support. Any expectation that the United Nations can mediate between these rival governments to forge a unity government to end ongoing hostilities and divisions in Libya is fanciful.

Leon himself has frankly admitted the immediate threat Libya faces from Islamic State: "In Libya, Islamic State has found fertile ground in the growing post-revolution political instability, capitalizing also on the weakness of state institutions and state security."

EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini has also acknowledged the country's parlous situation. "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 (Islamic State) is taking power and infiltrating."

US President Barack Obama urgently needs to rethink his September 2014 assessment that Islamic State:
1. Is not Islamic
2. Is not a state but only a terrorist organization with no other vision
3. Can be degraded and destroyed by an American-led coalition

Professor Deborah Lipstadt has succinctly summed up Obama’s continuing political blindness: "[The President] has bent over backwards to try to separate [Islamic State] from Islam. Sometimes people try to keep an open mind. And when you have too open a mind, your brains can fall out."

Islamic State continues to change while groups such as "Province of Sinai" create mayhem and havoc in the Egyptian desert neighboring Israel and Gaza, swearing allegiance to Islamic State.

Islamic State will continue acquiring territory whilst military action remains unauthorised by a United Nations Security Council resolution. The United States and Russia must both be brain dead in ignoring Islamic State’s increasing threat to their vital respective interests in the Middle East.

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