The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has spent a fortune supporting Libyan warlord Khalifa Haftar — despite his failures — against his country’s UN-recognized government. 

Despite the international arms embargo on the war-torn country in place since 2011, the UAE has been continually looking for ways to get heavy and strategic weapons to Haftar and his forces in Eastern Libya to overthrow the government since 2014.

After the Libyan army took control of the key Al-Watiya airbase from Haftar and seized Russian-made air defense systems supplied by the UAE, Abu Dhabi’s financial support for the war has increasingly come under scrutiny.

Libya’s army on Monday retook Al-Watiya airbase occupied by Haftar’s militias, a key facility now back under government control after some six years under putschist forces.

Libya’s government has been under attack by Haftar’s forces since April 2019, with more than 1,000 killed in the violence.

Following the ouster of late ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, Libya’s government was founded in 2015 under a UN-led political deal.

According to data compiled by Anadolu Agency from UN reports and open sources, the UAE has also been using its regional and international ties in its quest to propel Haftar to replace the country’s legitimate government.

– Haftar’s UAE-supplied weapons

The UN Security Council’s Libya report, published in November 2019, confirmed the UAE’s support for Haftar.

Among the arms Abu Dhabi provided were millions of dollars worth of heavy weapons such as Russian-made $14.7 million Pantsir S-1 air defense systems; $15 million South African Super Puma Helicopters; $25 million of Yabhon armed drones made by the UAE; $100,000 Russian Orlan-10 armed drones; Soviet-made Antonov An-26 and Ilyushin IL-76 cargo aircraft; $2 million in China-made Wing Loong 2 armed drones, Blue Arrow BA-7 and GP6 missiles; $250,000 valued US-made MIM-23 Hawk missiles and UAE-made Nimr, Panthera, Spartan and Tygra armored personnel carriers.

The UAE also pays the salaries of a large number of foreign fighters-for-hire who have long fought for Haftar, such as the Russian mercenaries, Sudanese Janjaweed militias and Chadian armed rebels.

Further, UAE-owned companies carried 11,000 tons of military-grade jet fuel to illegitimate armed forces in Libya, despite the UNSC’s embargo.

According to confidential documents by UNSC Libya Sanction Committee made available to Anadolu Agency, a UAE-based company sought to raid ships departing from Libya with six helicopters and two watercraft it purchased through a front company in Jordan, spending at least $18 million in support of Haftar.

– UAE: Eighth biggest arms importer

According to a report on global military expenditures in 2015-2019 by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), the UAE was the eighth top arms-importing country during this period.

Emphasizing that despite having a small population of 10 million and being small geographically, the country makes 3.4% of all arms imports worldwide, the report pointed out, along with the fact that the UAE is one of the top providers of weapons and military equipment to Haftar.

Besides Chinese armed drones, the UAE has also transferred Belarusian helicopters to Haftar and recently purchased 4,569 MRAP-type armored personnel carriers from the US worth $556 million for “personnel protection and humanitarian” operations.

The UAE has dispatched high quantities of military aircraft, heavy weapons and armored vehicles to the region and, according to air traffic observers, sent hundreds of cargo aircraft to Libya between Jan. 12 and Feb. 26.

– UAE’s occupation activities in Libya

The UAE’s intervention in Libya, which began by supporting the Haftar’s militias, turned into a permanent presence on the country’s territory via direct control and occupation of the Al-Jufra and Al-Khadim airbases.

According to UN reports, Egypt is also involved in violations in the Libyan war, allowing the UAE to use its territory.

Satellite images have shown that at least six Mirage 2000-9 fighter jets belonging to the UAE were stationed in the town of Sidi Barrani, located roughly 85 kilometers (53 miles) from Egypt’s western border with Libya.

– Internal tensions

The UAE’s Vice President and Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who is also the ruler of the Emirate of Dubai, had voiced concern last year on the country’s foreign policy during a meeting of the leaders of each of its seven emirates.

“We should review our entire foreign policy. We are spending hundreds of millions of dollars every day. So, what do we earn in return?” asked Maktoum, emphasizing that the country should leave its aggressive and intrusive foreign policy as soon as possible.

He had said that there was no need to spend so much money in places where the UAE had no interests.

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