Pandemonium is the main current from Libya to Iraq. U.S. President Barack Obama dashed off from New Delhi to greet King Salman, the new ruler of Saudi Arabia. Both had a great deal to discuss. Neither can be comforted with the mess that their countries have made in West Asia. Tragically, the only pathway they seem to favour is the one that would create more distress in the years to come. Plainly, their example is Egypt, where both the U.S. and Saudi Arabia backed the coup by General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, and now back his government despite repression against protests.
The murder of a young socialist, Shaimaa el-Sabbagh, as she went to lay a wreath of flowers in Tahrir Square on the fourth anniversary of the Revolution against Mubarak, is a sign of the rot. It did not stop an “Islamic State” (IS) detachment from an attack in the Sinai Peninsula, killing over 30 security personnel and civilians. In Libya, the Saudis and the U.S. favour the strongman (Khalifa Haftar), as they did in Yemen (Abdullah Saleh). In Iraq and Syria, both the U.S. and Saudi Arabia disliked the dispensation and sought to undo it. The Saudis are driven by sectarianism — against the rule of the Shia (and the influence of Iran). It is what turns them against the governments in Damascus and Baghdad, as well as the rebels in Yemen. Mr. Obama and King Salman cannot solve the problems in the region. They have run out of ideas. Others will have to show the way.
Chaos in Libya
Libya. The Corinthia Hotel is Tripoli’s most luxurious. It has been home to successive Prime Ministers, who fear for their lives in the fractious capital city (Prime Minister Ali Zeidan was abducted from there in 2013). It is also home to the United Nations mission, which held a Libya Dialogue in Geneva. On January 27, gunmen entered the hotel and killed guards and foreign residents (including a security contractor from the U.S.). The Tripoli branch of the IS took credit for the operation.