The US airstrikes are further polarizing opinion on the ground in Libya and are making strange bedfellows between the Islamists and Haftar who both oppose the airstrikes. It is also being reported that Italy is now offering support to the US operations.
Although the UN-mediated GNA received two significant breakthroughs last week; namely the oil ports deal on 31 July and beginning of US airstrikes against IS targets in Sirte on 1 August, both of these are still failing to translate into strengthened political legitimacy or unity between the opposing Libyan factions. To the contrary, the oil deal seems to be fueling tensions rather than reducing them, with conflict possible between the LNA and Jadhran’s PFG forces in Zeuitina, while US airstrikes seem to have widened the political gap between the various anti-ISIS actors even further.
US airstrikes were also received with different reactions in the country: welcomed by pro-GNA Misratan factions who were grateful at their potential for cutting their large loss of life via US air support.
Ironically however, bitter enemies Grand Mufti Sadeq Al Ghariyani and Khalifa Haftar, both anti-GNA, found themselves in another agreement in denouncing the intervention. Ahmed Mismari, LNA spokesman claimed that the air raid was carried out for US electoral purposes to help Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, insisting that Sirte would be only liberated by the LNA.
For his part, Al Ghariyani, who leads the hardliner Islamist alliance against both Haftar in the east and the Presidency Council in the west, likewise called it illegitimate, edging ever more closer to condoning IS in Sirte. Asked on his Tanasah TV station why international intervention was acceptable in 2011 but not in the fight against IS, he said that NATO help against Qaddafi in 2011 was legitimate because he was not a true Muslim. However, raids now were illegal because what was happing in Libya was a conflict between local people who were all Muslims. The statement has sparked further fury from the wider population at Ghariyani’s claims, as evidence of a closer rapprochement between Islamist militias endorsed by Ghariyani and IS & AS terrorists. Other more moderate Islamists are following Ghariyani’s suit.
Many are now worried about, how ISIS will lash out in response to the Western intervention. Possibly with an attack on Italy.