The United Arab Emirates (UAE)’s air strikes against militants in Libya last week, has brought in focus the military capabilities of this oil-rich Sheikhdom which has never gone to war.
The joint air strike conducted with Egypt with support from Saudi Arabia reportedly took Washington “by surprise” with senior US officials telling news agencies that they were “not consulted” about the attacks possibly because American weapons may have been used, violating agreements under which they were sold.
According to reports, the two air strikes were carried out by Emirati pilots, warplanes and aerial refueling planes using Egyptian bases on militia positions around Tripoli's international airport.
The strikes failed to stop militias from Misrata and other cities, which operate under the banner Libya Dawn and include some Islamist groups, seizing the airport from a militia from Zintan that had controlled it since 2011, the BBC said.
The first strike hit a small weapons facility and the second, rocket launchers, military vehicles and a warehouse were damaged. Both areas were under the jurisdiction of Islamist-friendly militia forces.
Egypt, however, has denied conducting air strikes or other military operations in Libya while the UAE has chosen to remain mum. Local media reports from the Emirates have also been sparse on the subject.
Meanwhile, UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Dr Anwar Mohammed Gargash, took to his twitter page to say, “The attempts to involve the UAE in Libya’s domestic affairs are meant to dodge facing the results of the parliamentary election and its legitimacy.
These attempts disregard the wishes of the large majority of the Libyan people, who hoped for stability and security to prevail in their country”, he said.
Dr Gargash added that it will soon become clear that the sections targeting the UAE are the same ones opposed to the results of the Libyan election. He also made it clear that involving the UAE, Egypt and Saudi Arabia in Libya’s domestic affairs is made by the “same group” which wants to achieve its political goals under the veil of religion.
US officials told Russia Today that this was not the first case of the two countries joining forces against Libya. In the past few months, a Special Forces team based in Egypt destroyed an Islamist camp in Libya’s east. UAE personnel were also thought to have been involved.
The UAE operates a battery of American aircraft and weapons including 79 F-16 aircraft, 3 C-130H Hercules heavy lifts, 6 Boeing C-17 Globemaster III aircraft and last year announced plans to buy missiles and munitions, including “bunker-buster” bombs from the US.
Earlier this year, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) requested a possible sale of 30 F-16 Block 61 aircraft and to support the upgrade of its existing F-16 Block 60 aircraft for an estimated cost of $270 million.