Key Libyan Religious Leader Slams US Airstrikes

Growing Concern as US, France, and Italy Line Up to Back Different Groups

A critic of the UN-backed “unity government,” major Libyan religious leader Grand Mufti Sadek al-Gharlani has issued a statement slamming the US airstrikes in Libya as illegal, sparking a rebuke from pro-unity government forces and raising talk of further division within the country.

The US began its strikes Monday, citing a request from the unity government as the pretext. They also claim the post-9/11 Authorization for the Use of Military Force as a legal basis for attacking Libya in general. That there is far from unity behind this “unity government,” and they don’t govern much of anything, is a subject of major dispute, raising doubts they can just give the US cover to attack the country they hope to eventually rule.

To make matters worse, Italy and France, which have long talked of “helping” the US offensive, are on the ground in Libya propping up a wholly distinct faction, the Tobruk parliament, which itself is UN recognized, but has nothing to do with the faction the US is backing.

There are three different “governments” in Libya right now, and several other local and regional factions besides, and while US officials have suggested the effort is about stabilizing Libya, throwing their weight behind one of the newer, smaller factions seems a recipe to fuel new divisions, and more resentment nationwide.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.