‘Gulf states begin realizing ISIS is threat to them too’

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For the first time countries like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar are beginning to realize that in the long run ISIS is a threat to them, not just a threat to the regime in Syria or the Houthis, says Dr. Conn Hallinan, contributing editor at the think-tank Foreign Policy in Focus.

The Arab League has promised to provide military support to Libya in its fight against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL). The announcement was made at an extra-ordinary meeting in Cairo on Tuesday, after a key Libyan official described the country's condition as critical.

RT: The Arab League is urging Arab countries to provide military assistance to Libya. What form could this take?

Dr. Conn Hallinan: Probably there will be some military aspect too. I suspect that the Egyptian military will become much more directly involved; they are already doing a certain amount of bombing, United Arab Emirates (UAE) as well. I just think that there is a considerable amount of irony involved in this since it was the Arab League that set out at the beginning to overthrow the Gaddafi government and there were many warnings at that time that it was a bad idea, that there should be some sort of political settlement that was arranged, but the Arab League went along with NATO, the US and Britain, and overthrew the regime. Now of course they do have a failed state and a vacuum is there and IS has filled it in. I find it somehow ironic that the Arab League has suddenly recognized that this is a problem.

RT: Libya's been in chaos for years. Why has the Arab League decided to step in only now?

CH: There are a couple of things going on. Number one – IS is not simply strong in Libya, but they are growing in Yemen and they are of course growing in Iraq and Syria. For the first time countries like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar are beginning to realize that in the long run IS is a threat to them, that it’s not just a threat to the secular regime in Syria or to the Houthis, that the ultimate kind of target of IS is the Gulf monarchies and the control of the major cities in Islam. So I think what they’ve done is a sort of picked on Libya because it’s relatively small. IS is really kind of concentrated around Sirte, that’s close to the Egyptian border. It’s more a doable sort of job. Syria and Iraq much less so, the same thing with Yemen. But again I think that part of the problem is that the very countries that are calling for controlling and destroying IS are supporting people with pretty much the same … philosophy.

RT: There's a UN arms embargo on Libya - could that complicate things?

CH: Arms embargo is an arms embargo. A lot of arms get into Libya, a lot of arms get out of Libya into Central Africa. A lot of arms get into Syria and Iraq and many of those arms are arms that come from the Gulf Cooperation Council – Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, etc. Arms embargo is a paper arms embargo, not a real arms embargo.

RT: What's the Arab League's take on the non-recognized government in Libya?

CH: The problem with that is that there are deep political problems in Libya between for instance the north and the south. Those are not being addressed. So you can talk about the militias cooperating with one another, but mainly what you are talking about that there are the coastal militias. You are still not talking about the militias in the Atlas Mountains; you are not talking about the Touaregs, about the Berbers. It seems to me that this is a kind of a military solution or attempted military solution to what is essentially a political problem and which we made worse by going in and overthrowing the Gaddafi government without first arranging for some kind of political settlement and some sort of political solution. Now we are stuck with the results. I don’t think a military solution is going to have much effect. I have no doubt they can drive IS out of Sirte, but so what? The IS is there because of the conditions we helped to create in the first place.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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