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For Egypt not to fall in the ISIS trap

The U.N. Security Council and international community saved Egypt from falling into a trap

Jamal Khashoggi

Published: Updated:

The U.N. Security Council and international community saved Egypt from falling into a trap which the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) set for it. The international community did so by rejecting President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi’s call for an international military intervention in Libya. Sisi’s call for this intervention came amidst the anger and desire to avenge the murder of 21 Egyptians by ISIS in Libya. This act pushed prominent Egyptian officials and the media to call for war.

President Sisi settled with air strikes on what he described as ISIS strongholds in Derna. Some Egyptian media figures went as far as claiming that the strikes accurately targeted some terrorists who took part in beheading the 21 Egyptians. These claims are good for local consumption. According to experts, however, striking accurate targets requires smart bombs or pilots flying on low altitude. But the Egyptian air force does not have such options. One must simply remember the case of Jordanian pilot Moaz al-Kasasbeh to understand why. ISIS wants Egypt to follow suit but Egyptians would not want to see one of their pilots going through a tragedy like that of Moaz.

Unified Gulf stance

The recent unified Gulf stance which openly rejected the Egyptian government’s accusations that Qatar supports terrorism because Qatar rejected Egypt’s war plan in Libya is a stance taken out of love for Egypt. It’s a stance which is aware of Egypt’s political reality and military capabilities. Those who love Egypt must definitely prevent it from falling into ISIS’ trap. ISIS hopes for war and it’s not concerned with emerging victorious and finishing the war with the least losses as other responsible and civilized armies are. War is ISIS' Raison d'être. War leads to chaos and chaos is the environment in which ISIS thrives. This is why we must believe that the fight against ISIS begins with ending chaos. It’s time that the efforts of the Gulf Cooperation Council unite with the efforts of the international community, both of which are aware of the reality of the struggle in Libya and are pushing the rival parties there towards reconciliation.

The Libyan reconciliation talks, which the U.N. is now sponsoring, will benefit a lot from Gulf consensus

Jamal Khashoggi

The Libyan reconciliation talks, which the U.N. is now sponsoring, will benefit a lot from Gulf consensus. But extremism in Libya needs to be redefined to focus on those who refuse participation, sharing power and fortune and reconciliation, regardless of their slogans and political affiliation.

Of course, ISIS and other similar groups have no place in any participatory political system in Libya. For ISIS everyone must pledge allegiance to the “caliph” and announce loyalty to him. Crucially, it does not think the opposition has a place in its political system. General Khalifah Haftar, despite having a different ideological mindset that rejects political Islam, he also rejects democratic participation. He was the first to take up arms in Libya, before ending up taking refuge in Tobruk, thereby further deepening the country’s divisions.

Libyan reconciliation

Libyan reconciliation is the first step in the war against ISIS. When this is achieved, all Libyans will stand unified against the terror group. Fueling the war will certainly push some Libyans to join ISIS, similar to what happened in Iraq after former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki refused to respond to the demands of Iraqi Sunnis during their year-long protests in Anbar. Instead, Maliki threatened Sunni tribal leaders, accusing them of terrorism. Maliki arrested some of them while others had to flee to Jordan, Turkey and the Gulf. In the end, Maliki resorted to excessive force in ending the protest at the end of 2013 and his militias targeted Ramadi and Fallujah. Opposition members of parliament and tribal sheikhs were arrested and dozens were killed. The result was that those who survived enbraced ISIS, which they once fought. The world woke up months later to the fall of Mosul, the second biggest Iraqi city. ISIS continues to expand despite the airstrikes and the repeated statements that there’s a regional and an international war against it.

Of course no sane man wants a repeat of this Iraqi scenario in Libya. No one would want that unless he thinks like Maliki. The Italians were aware of that and their Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni said “time is running out in regards to reaching a peaceful solution” in Libya. Most importantly was his warning that the resumption of the current war will push some armed organizations to join ISIS. This is exactly what happened in Iraq. We hope the rest of Libya’s neighbors contemplate this Italian wisdom, act upon it and stop fueling struggles among the sons of the one country. They should also stop sounding the drums of war to cover up for their domestic problems and to justify their inability to reach a real national reconciliation that helps them leave their crises behind.

Egypt has enough problems. Loving Egypt lies in keeping it away from another “relapse” and in advising it against falling into one.

This article was first published in al-Jarida on February 23, 2015.

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Jamal Khashoggi is a Saudi journalist, columnist, author, and general manager of the upcoming Al Arab News Channel. He previously served as a media aide to Prince Turki al Faisal while he was Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States. Khashoggi has written for various daily and weekly Arab newspapers, including Asharq al-Awsat, al-Majalla and al-Hayat, and was editor-in-chief of the Saudi-based al-Watan. He was a foreign correspondent in Afghanistan, Algeria, Kuwait, Sudan, and other Middle Eastern countries. He is also a political commentator for Saudi-based and international news channels.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.