Egypt Bombs Libya as Blowback Continues and Regional War Spreads

Proving that recent history and the interwoven cycle of violence, western intervention and instability in the greater Middle East knows fewer and fewer borders, the regional war against the Islamic State (or ISIS) that has largely been confined to battlefields within Iraq and Syria appears to be rapidly spreading.

Following the public release of a video over the weekend which appeared to show the beheading of 21 captured Egyptians by a militant group that is reportedly aligned with an ISIS affiliate operating inside Libya, Egypt launched airstrikes aimed at the group early on Monday and vowed more would follow.

According to Reuters:

The pattern between Egypt and Libya is similar to that which took place recently when a Jordanian pilot was executed by ISIS after being captured. Citing vengeance for the pilot, Jordan responded with an elevated series of airstrikes against targets inside Syria and Iraq.

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According to reporting by Middle East Eye on Monday, many in the region viewed the “Egyptian airstrikes as playing right into [ISIS’] plans of eliciting a retaliatory response instead of a measured strategic one. The readiness that Egypt took to launch airstrikes also fuelled the belief that Libya, with all of its domestic tribulations and chaos, has fallen victim to the larger geopolitical gameplay of sowing more strife, as foreign airstrikes threaten the sovereignty of Libya.”

Meanwhile, critical observers who have followed the history and developments in Libya over recent years note that it was the U.S./NATO bombing of Libya in  2011, which allowed for the overthrow of Muhammar Ghaddafi, that led to the nation’s current state of instability and allowed ISIS militants to gain their current foothold in the failed state.


Making the connection between the creation of ISIS in Iraq and Syria and the branch now operating in Libya, Micah Zenko, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, stated in a tweet on Sunday: “ISIS, created in an Iraq destabilized by US-led regime change, now entrenched in Libya, destabilized by US-led regime change.”

Jesse Franzblau, a policy analyst working with the National Security Archive and another critic of the short-sightedness of western intervention in Libya, described last year why the 2011 bombing of Libya by the U.S. and its European allies was not, as many pundits argued, a model for western military intervention, but rather “a cautionary tale” about the destruction unleashed by arrogant militarism. According to Franzblau:

As the Independent‘s foreign correspondent Patrick Cockburn wrote at roughly the same time, the initial “jubilation at Gaddafi’s demise” by the west was soon beset by violence and a violent civil war. “The aftermath of foreign intervention is calamitous and bloody,” Cockburn wrote. “Foreign governments and media alike have good reason to forget what they said and did in Libya in 2011, because the aftermath of the overthrow of Gaddafi has been so appalling.”


In a column posted to The Intercept late Monday morning—titled ‘Hailed as a Model for Successful Intervention, Libya Proves to be the Exact Opposite’—journalist Glenn Greenwald lays out the argument in clear terms. He writes:

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