Arab League approves military support for Libya against ISIS
TUNIS - The Arab League has agreed that Arab states can provide military assistance to internationally recognised authorities in Libya to fight the Islamic State (ISIS). However, the league fell short of authorising Libya’s request for Arab air strikes against the jihadists.
Libya had called the emergency meeting, which convened on August 18th in Cairo, following ISIS slaughter of Salafists and members of the Farjan tribe in the central coastal town of Sirte. The latter had risen up against ISIS control of the town after an imam was killed there.
Libyan Foreign Minister Mohammed al-Dairi appealed for air strikes in Sirte against ISIS, saying that the Libyan Air Force did not have the capability to do the job. “Libyan national security is Arab national security,” he said at Cairo meeting.
There was strong support from Egypt, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates for the request but there was opposition from Qatar and Algeria, with Algiers saying it was against outside intervention in Libya. There was “an urgent need to swiftly put into place an Arab strategy that includes military assistance to Libya” to crush ISIS, the Arab League noted as a result.
It also said there needed to be support from the international community to help Libya defeat ISIS. It also called on all the parties in Libya to back the UN-brokered dialogue process and quickly come up with a government of national unity.
However, the Arab League’s decision to allow member states to provide military support to Libya in the fight against ISIS means it has effectively set aside the UN arms embargo against Libya, which was already being ignored, and that those states that wish to do so can carry out air strikes against ISIS targets. If air strikes occur, they could affect the dialogue process. In a letter to the Arab League just before its meeting, the General National Congress (GNC) appeared to threaten to quit negotiations if a decision to approve military action in Libya by outside forces was made without its endorsement. It claimed that its forces were capable of taking on ISIS.
The league’s call for all Libya parties to back the dialogue and rapidly produce a national unity government mirrored a joint condemnation of the Sirte killings two days before from the US, British, French, German, Italian and Spanish governments.
Reflecting earlier statements that international military help would be provided to fight terrorism only when a unity government was formed, they said then it would be able to partner with the international community to provide security against the extremists.