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Op-Ed: UAE illegally shipped arms to Libya to support CIA-linked Haftar

The UAE has been a strong supporter of the internationally-recognized House of Representatives(HoR) government and the commander of its armed forces, Khalifa Haftar. The UAE was also involved in shipping weapons to the HoR government to help the forces of CIA-linked General Haftar, as he is commander of the HoR armed forces. He has been carrying out a military plan called Operation DIgnity, which seeks not only to attack groups such as the terrorist Islamic State but also the forces of the rival General National Congress(GNC) government based in Tripoli. Leon put himself in an obvious conflict of interest situation. Leaked emails show Leon was receiving instructions from and revealing his plans to the UAE while he was negotiating. The UN has used the tactic of simply denying there is a conflict of interest in the face of the facts.

The UN and Leon himself point to his final draft as evidence of his impartiality. While it is true that groups on both sides support the draft, the draft itself was rejected by both parliaments as well, but without a formal vote. In any event, even if the final LPA were impartial, there is ample evidence that in the dialogue process Leon tried to isolate the GNC. Indeed, at one time he actually had a draft that was initialled only by the HoR and Leon continued talks with the GNC absent. He also met with militia commanders in GNC-controlled areas without the consent of the central GNC command in an attempt to weaken the GNC forces and gain support for his plans. However, the extensive emails showing Leon’s communications with UAE authorities make it crystal clear he was biased in favour of the HoR. As Leon says he was just a part of a much larger team. No doubt his plans were ruined by the influence of other members of his team, who represented the aims of other external powers who wanted the GNC to be a partner in any agreement. This might not have been due to any love of the GNC but a recognition that without the GNC agreement, civil war was bound to continue and would give even more power to Haftar ensuring a long term brutal conflict.

UN Security Council Resolutions on Libya include a ban on weapons shipments. In an email on August 4, Ahmed al-Qasimi, a senior Emirati diplomat, wrote to the the UAE ambassador to the UN saying: “The fact of the matter is that the U.A.E. violated the U.N. Security Council Resolution on Libya and continues to do so.” The UAE was also a strong backer of now Egyptian president el-Sisi and his military campaign that ousted elected Islamist president Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood. The UAE emails discuss how to hide the shipments from a UN monitoring panel and how they could provide a cover to lessen any damage were they discovered. Qatar which supports some Islamist groups on the GNC side is also thought to be covertly shipping arms to Libya.

UN officials were well aware of the potential conflict when UAE offered their special envoy Leon a 50,000 a month job as head of a diplomatic college back in June. They were no doubt also aware that he was negotiating an increase in his $96,000 a year housing allowance over the summer. In clear violation of its own regulations, it claims there was no conflict of interest or reason to believe that Leon might be impartial as a result. The UN even asked permission to have Leon stay on longer in an email dated August 27: In another email, dated Aug. 27, and not previously disclosed, Jeffrey Feltman, under secretary general for political affairs and a former American diplomat, wrote to senior Emirati leaders asking them to allow Mr. Léon to stay on as mediator for a few more weeks in the hope of signing an agreement. “(If needed) I could ask the secretary general to call you to make the request,” Mr. Feltman suggested.

Wolfram Lacher of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, who researches events in Libya, said of Leon:“It is a real scandal. He had to know that taking up this position would cause damage to the negotiations or, even if an agreement had been signed, this would have caused retrospective damage to the agreement. He obviously didn’t care about that.”

The New York Times is often an outlet for material that reflects the views of the Obama administration. The article that reveals the UAE illegal shipments to Libya also notes the UAE has been importing arms from North Korea, something that angers the U.S. The entire article may simply be a message that the U.S. is increasingly upset with UAE actions. Strangely enough the article does not mention UAE participation in bombing of Tripoli in cooperation with Egypt that had been intended to help defeat Libya Dawn at present the main military forces supporting the GNC. Libya Dawn still took control of Tripoli.

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