Christian Whiton: UAE, Egypt Fill US Void in Libya

Tuesday, 26 Aug 2014 07:51 PM

By Sean Piccoli

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The United States is so far behind events in Libya that Middle East countries have stopped waiting for our help and are going it alone against the radical Islamist militias that threaten a country the U.S. once helped to liberate, a former State Department official told Newsmax TV on Tuesday.

News that United Arab Emirates warplanes, flying from bases in Egypt, bombed Libyan militia targets "shows you that the situation is really out of control," State's former senior adviser Christian Whiton, now an executive at a geopolitical risk assessment firm, told "MidPoint" host Ed Berliner.

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"You're seeing all of these countries — many of whom are U.S. allies — basically reacting to the fact that they can't count on the United States at present," said Whiton.

Meanwhile, as internal fighting rages and one Islamic splinter group seizes the capital city's airport, Whiton's former employer is calling for Libya's warring parties to negotiate.

Whiton ridiculed remarks on Monday by State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki, who said, "Libya's challenges are political, and violence will not resolve them."

"Her talking points are a solid three years out of date," said Whiton. "I mean, these people really have wandered off the campus into positions of power, much to our detriment.

"There's a war going on," said Whiton, "and it's nice to be able to think you can talk your differences out. But once the shooting has begun, the way you advance the situation in Libya — and this is true of Syria — is you find people who are at least the least worst, and support them with funds and munitions

"And so to say, 'Oh, well, we need a political outcome' — well, the secularists who are in Libya fighting these Islamists — fighting people who will give safe harbor to terrorists — need weapons," said Whiton.

In the "least worst" category, he pointed to a former military aide to the late Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi, who was ousted with help from U.S. airstrikes in 2011.

"There's actually a guy, Gen. [Khalifa] Haftar, who's referred to as a 'renegade general' but [is] attempting to fight the Islamists," said Whiton. "And so, he needs not verbiage from the State Department, he needs support and resources."

The alternative, he said, is to leave the country to terror groups including Libya Dawn, which seized the Tripoli airport, and Ansar al-Sharia, which took part in the deadly 2012 attack on a U.S. embassy compound in Benghazi that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

"The group that just took over Tripoli, Libya Dawn, is an umbrella group of Islamists, and Ansar al-Sharia is going to be right there with them," said Whiton.

He predicted that President Barack Obama will be drawn back into the Libyan conflict — but reactively, as with ISIS in Iraq, bereft of a strategy and a "coherent plan" to defeat the Islamists.

For now, it falls to countries such as the UAE, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia to try to check the violent Islamic movements that are upending the Middle East — even if that means bombing Libya.

"For an Arab state to attack another Arab state is a big deal," said Whiton.

But any solution imposed on Libya primarily by Arab nations won't necessarily be helpful to the United States, said Whiton, author of "Smart Power: Between Diplomacy and War."

He also noted that not every regional power is on board with stopping Islamic extremism. Whiton cited Qatar, a U.S. ally and military partner accused of funding ISIS.

Whiton used a Winston Churchill metaphor to describe Qatar's motives for giving money to ISIS: "feeding the alligator or the crocodile with a hope that it will eat you last."

"They are trying to play footsie with Islamists, hoping that Islamists depose its government last," said Whiton.

He said the U.S. needs to persuade Qatar to try something less inimical to U.S. interests.

"There's still a chance to try political coercion and diplomacy," he said.

Failing that, he said, there's always the threat of shutting down Centcom Forward, the massive U.S. air base in Qatar, "which also brings with it an implied — not explicit, but implied — defense agreement."

Telling Qatari leaders that they might have to do without a protective air base, and that maybe the U.S. will ask another Persian Gulf country to host it, "would be good starters to really signal Qatar that the jig is up," he said.

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