Libya′s Napoleon

In May 2014, Haftar launched a military movement to create a unified Libyan National Army (LNA) and to eliminate Islamic extremists (Haftar′s definition of extremists includes many whom others would consider moderates). This moment set in stone the Qatari-UAE rivalry, each has now officially backed clearly opposing sides in the Libyan armed conflict. A month later Bahrain, UAE and Saudi Arabia pulled their ambassadors from Qatar′s capital Doha, the diplomats did not return for eight months.

The septuagenarian Haftar is perhaps the ablest military commander Libya has ever produced. Libya′s Napoleon not surprisingly has Napoleonic ambition. He makes little secret of his neo-Gaddafi ambition to rule the country.  Personality traits aside, his rapid rise has been accelerated by Egyptian and Emirati airstrikes in support of the LNA.

At first, the two countries kept their role secret due to U.S. disapproval. But, following a massacre of Coptic Christians in February 2015, Egypt publicly launched airstrikes against Islamist militants in Libya. The Qatari supported New General National Congress called Egypt′s airstrikes a "horrible assault." Al Jazeera coverage highlighted the civilian casualties of the strike.

The continual airstrikes increasingly suggest an escalation of the conflict in a conventional sense. A once semi-secret activity is now being conducted in the open.

Qatar did not respond militarily to support its clients. Even if it wanted to, Libya is beyond the operational range of Qatari aircraft. Even the 24 longer-ranged Dassault Rafale fighter jets Qatar has ordered from France could not attack Libya without access to access to friendly airbases or mid-air refuelling. 

In any case, diplomatic relations soon returned to normal in the GCC and on the surface Gulf politics seemed calm, with Qatar even joining the Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen.

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