The attacks against Islamic militias in the vicinity of Tripoli, Libya's capital, were performed without the knowledge or consent of the United States. In fact, U.S. diplomats -- more interested in a negotiated peace in Libya -- were explicitly told no air operation was planned.
"We don't see this as constructive at all," said one U.S. official.
The battle in Libya comes as Arab powers line up on both sides of the pro-democracy Arab Spring's aftermath. Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates form a bloc against Islamist movements including the Muslim Brotherhood, backed by governments that include Turkey and Qatar.
Two airstrikes against Islamists in the Tripoli area were launched last week, with Egypt providing bases of operations and the UAE -- whose Air Force was supplied and trained by the United States -- providing the pilots and planes, the diplomats said. Despite the attacks, the militants were successful in capturing Tripoli's airport.
The airstrikes were initially regarded as mystery, with no one claiming credit and witnesses unaware of whose planes were engaged in the bombing.