Egypt and Emirates Ask Obama to Stay out of Their Action against Qatar

A major Middle East rift has put Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates on one side and Qatar on the other. They are fighting it out at various flashpoints across the region. Libya became their first outright military arena on Aug. 18, when 23 Emirate F-16 fighter jets took off from an Egyptian air base and bombed militia forces in Tripoli.
The militia was on the point of seizing control of the Libyan international airport in Tripoli.
DEBKA Weekly‘s military sources reveal that the jets took off from an Egyptian air base at Mersa Matruh, a Mediterranean port 270 km west of Alexandria on the route from the Nile Delta to Libya.
From there, they covered the 1,337-kilometer distance to Libya. Upon entering the Gulf of Sirte, the Emirate jets veered east to Tripoli and dropped their bombs on the Islamic “Dawn of Libya” militia from Misrata.
This group had already seized a foothold at Tripoli international airport from a rival faction from the western town of Zintan, after weeks of fierce fighting. “Dawn” also claimed to have taken more locations in the capital from various rival militias.

Egypt and UAE take on Qatari-funded Islamists in Libya

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi and Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Sheikh Muhammed bin Zayed decided to undertake their first overt military operation against a shared target to settle two scores.
One was to deal a dangerous Islamist militia a punishing setback; the other, say DEBKA Weekly’s military and intelligence sources, was to teach the young Qatari ruler Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, a lesson for his policy of funding and arming this and other radical Islamist groups.
Ever since the Arab Spring erupted in early 2011, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the UAE have been engaged in a fair amount of verbal sparring and covert intelligence warfare with Qatar for its championship of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Over Tripoli, their feud exploded into its first frontal military clash under the noses of the West, at about the same time as Israel took on another of Qatar’s pet radicals, the Palestinian fundamentalist Hamas in the Gaza Strip – not only in its own interest, but also on behalf of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
This was in effect the first proxy war between two proactive Middle East rivals.
Since the air strike in Libya was a flop and the Gaza conflict was interrupted by a ceasefire before either side scored a decisive victory, our military and intelligence experts expect the rivalry to spill over into other parts of the region (see separate article on the US & Iran versus Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Israel).

Washington walks on eggs

A New York Times report, disclosing the joint UAE-Egypt operation on Aug. 26, was the first sign that it aroused the notice of the US administration as well as the tacit acceptance of the partnership which conducted it.
But before the ink on the story was dry, the US State Department backed away from any show of support. Spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a regular briefing the same day: “We understand there were air strikes undertaken in recent days by the UAE and Egypt in Libya."
Later in the day, the State Department issued a statement saying enigmatically that the comment on Libya was “intended to refer to countries reportedly involved, not speak for them.”
Our intelligence sources say these convoluted comments were born of Cairo and Abu Dhabi’s outrage at The New York Times article. The two Arab governments went through back channels to warn President Barack Obama off from getting involved in their affairs. The tone of their message implied a threat to go public on the Egyptian-Emirates’ discord with Washington, which has so far not reached general awareness, and even possibly to expose the clandestine steps taken in concert by the US and Qatar in the Libyan and Gaza crises.

Qatar is rebuked by Arab foreign ministers

The Qatari controversy with the Emirates and Saudi Arabia surfaced sharply at a meeting of the Foreign Ministers of Arab State Members of the International Contact Group on Syrian Affairs which took place in Jeddah Sunday, Aug. 24.
The Saudi News Agency said the ministers discussed the latest developments in Syria and regional and international arenas, in addition to the challenges facing the Middle East. On the table was the spread of extremist and terrorist ideology and the turmoil in some Arab countries that were producing serious repercussions across the region and imperiling international peace and security.
The SNA characterized the gathering as marked by “a congruence of views on the issues at play and a need to tackle them head on.” The statement on “the spread of extremist and terrorist ideology and turmoil" referred directly to the radical Islamist elements which Qatar was accused of propping up in Libya, Syria and Gaza.
But Riyadh and Abu Dhabi were not prepared to let Qatar get away with a slap on the wrist.
Wednesday, Aug. 27, a powerful Saudi delegation landed in Doha to administer a dressing-down and deliver a dire warning to the rulers of Qatar. It brought Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, Intelligence Chief Prince Khalid bin Bandar and Interior Minister Prince Muhammad bin Nayef to the emir’s doorstep.
Their visit was described officially as “brief” and “fraternal.”
Brief it was, but hardly fraternal.

The falling-out between two Gulf rulers may affect US counter-IS actions

Formal courtesies were observed. The visitors were met at the airport by a brother of the Qatar ruler, Emir Sheikh Tamim, and the Qatari Prime Minister Abdullah bin Nasser al-Thani, and left a few hours later after the ruler gave them lunch.
This was time enough for the three Saudi heavyweights to clarify to their host the risks he incurred by continuing to succor Islamist militias in Libya and Hamas extremists in Gaza.
Last year, Kuwait tried and failed to act as peacemaker between Saudi King Abdullah and Sheikh Tamim. In March, relations deteriorated to the point of the oil kingdom, the UAE and Bahrain, all declaring a diplomatic boycott of Doha.
Last month, Sheikh Tamim flew to Jeddah to visit King Abdullah. But this too failed to bring about an end to the feud.
The falling-out between the two Gulf nations is apt to affect America’s decisions about military action against the Islamic State extremists in Iraq and Syria – especially if Riyadh and Doha fall to direct military blows.
The UAE-Egyptian air operation against a Qatari Libyan proxy came closer to this pass than ever before.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email