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The apparent airstrike against targets in Tripoli, Libya, last week by the air force of the United Arab Emirates, in conjunction with Egypt, must go down as one of the most intriguing developments in the modern history of the Arab Gulf states. The fact that UAE planes allegedly used Egyptian air bases and other facilities to carry out the attack makes it even more intriguing – a sign of substantive, sophisticated cooperation by two Arab states to attack targets in a third Arab state. The UAE-Egyptian attack against Libyan Islamist militias from Misrata, who are fighting rival militias from Zintan, may reflect deep concern, even panic, in the GCC and Egypt that the current chaos in Libya could lead to a takeover of the government by Islamists.The overriding fear that seems to have prompted the UAE-Egyptian attack in Libya is that Islamists could come to power through three available means in the region these days – democratic elections, popular uprisings or militia-based fighting.GCC states are now deeply involved in these domestic battles across the region, often with different Gulf countries supporting opposing sides in places such as Libya or Lebanon.
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