Last updated on October 13th, 2019
Taking a backseat in two major proxy wars of the MENA region, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has been playing quite safe in the brutal game of taking innocent lives. Remaining on the back of Khalifa Haftar, military commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA), the Emirates is creating a similar story of destruction in Libya that the world is already reading about Yemen.
On Monday, the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) of Fayez al-Sarraj in the west accused drones belonging to the UAE of attacks in Gharyan city, south of capital Tripoli. “UAE’s drones that support rebel war criminal [Khalifa] Haftar just targeted Abu Ghilan area in Gharyan city,” the statement said. However, the Gulf country had previously denied allegations of similar airstrikes in Libya.
The North African nation, Libya is embroiled in the prolonged political instability, which is gradually inflicting a declining humanitarian situation. The internal conflict of power between Khalifa Haftar and Tripoli-based GNA took a turn for worse with the intervention of several international actors, including France, Egypt, the UAE and Saudi Arabia.
Khalifa Haftar is a known name since the Muammar Gaddafi regime, where he served in the Libyan army and also took part in a coup that gifted Gaddafi the power to rule Libya in 1969. However, he turned infuriated towards Gaddafi, who disavowed Haftar in 1987 on being captured as prisoner of war in Chad.
The revenge-game of Haftar came to limelight on his proximity within CIA, as he backed several attempts to overthrow and assassinate Gaddafi. After the downfall of the dictator in 2011, Haftar went back to the United States. However, since his return to Libya in 2014, Haftar commenced the Second Libyan Civil War, which is still soaking up the stability of the country.
While Haftar has been trying to capture Libya in the name of dismantling terrorists from the country, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt made their entry for personal interests creating one of the most terrible ongoing wars. The UAE seeks to exploit the oil-rich Libya and gain full control of its economy and media. Besides, Egypt mostly remain a mouthpiece of the Emirates.
UAE’s Strategy in Libya
In July 2018, officials of the United Arab Emirates were reported to have been involved in secret talks with the military commander Khalifa Haftar, to assist him in exporting Libyan oil through the UN approved channels and also to facilitate independent oil sales through Emirati companies.
However, in the recent times, the Arab nation is seen emerging as an international actor in the Libyan proxy war, and silently creating another Yemen in the MENA region. Although it is attempting to gradually end its presence from Yemen reflecting a rift with Saudi Arabia, the UAE has its objectives clear in Libya.
Where Khalifa Haftar was aiming at ousting the GNA and capturing Tripoli, his arms power was weaker in comparison to the opposition. But, the UAE came to rescue at the beginning of the war and became Haftar’s partner in crime. A report in June 2017 highlighted that the Gulf nation has been violating the UN arms embargo of 2011 by boosting the Libyan rebel leader’s military strength and conducting multiple airstrikes in Tripoli since 2014.
An experts-panel reported that the LNA had received aircrafts and military vehicles from the UAE, building up their air base at Al Khadim. Moreover, the Emirates gradually shifted to more sophisticated weaponry and began deploying drones to attack the Libyan capital. Besides, Haftar also procured Chinese-made drones, Wing Loong I and II, from the UAE to conduct certain airstrikes. French defence analyst Arnaud Delalande stated that Haftar “pushes the United Arab Emirates to engage even more”.
The five-year long history of the Libyan Civil War depicts a film of destruction, in which the UAE remains a major actor. Last month, the UAE drones also targeted the Mitiga International Airport in Tripoli, which the GNA considered as “a continuation of the criminal record in targeting infrastructure and airports and a desperate attempt [of Haftar] to reimburse losses”. Several such attacks in the past had led to a shut down of Tripoli’s only remaining air connectivity to rest of the world.
Similar to the Yemen Civil War, the Libyan crisis has become a battle ground for international parties seeking their own interests. Both the nations are witnessing a havoc from the past four or five years at the hands of the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and other countries. However, the war in Libya remains a story in the pages of the least read books.
On October 8, the UAE reportedly withdrew some of its forces from Yemen’s southern port of Aden, a strategic port that it wanted to acquire for economic gains. Although casting a good picture of the Emirates, the move is a delayed and an insignificant effort after giving birth to the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
Besides, the Gulf nation is already becoming more active in misusing the rebellious and power hungry Khalifa Haftar. In past few months, several airstrikes by the UAE have hit Tripoli, on behalf of Haftar. Where the UAE is gradually ending its presence in Yemen, will it make Libya another war-torn country of the MENA region?