Foreign Policy Research Institute A Nation Must Think Before it Acts As Egypt Fires at ISIS, the U.S. Still Wants to Talk it Out

As Egypt Fires at ISIS, the U.S. Still Wants to Talk it Out

The beheading of 21 Egyptian Copts working or seeking work in Libya and held hostage by ISIS for the past month was in effect a declaration of war by the extremist group against Egypt.

We are at a turning point, one prompted by the atrocities committed and filmed by ISIS. Those atrocities forced the U.S. to join with Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Jordan in an international coalition striking at ISIS forces and facilities in Iraq and Syria from the air. Just as the recent video of ISIS burning to death a captured Jordanian pilot was a turning point in Jordan, the beheading of 21 Egyptian Copts in Libya has spurred anti-ISIS sentiment in Egypt.

For months, Egyptian military intelligence has been cooperating with Libyan Army intelligence and with the renegade Commander General Khalifa al-Haftar while he has been battling Islamist forces. However, despite the provocations of Libyan Islamists – such as their suspected role in a deadly attack on an Egyptian border post last summer – Egypt did not intervene.

Egyptian expansionism?

This was because of a concern among both Egyptian and Libyan strategists late last year that an open, significant Egyptian military intervention in Libya might be perceived by Libyan public opinion as Egyptian expansionism. Many Libyans remember the brief border war between Egypt and Libya during the time of Anwar Sadat and Muammar Qaddafi. Sadat, it is said, was preparing to turn that border war into a full scale invasion and ouster of Qaddafi but was deterred by the Americans for convoluted reasons. But now, the time for an intervention, upon the repeated request of what many see as the legitimate government of Libya (for there are two separately functioning governments as the country faces political rifts) has finally come.

Only last month, the Libyan parliament meeting in Tobruk called upon the U.S. led anti-ISIS coalition to…

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