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NATO leaders are meeting to discuss the start of the Second Libyan War

'Our next war starts officially on July 8' - George Kerevan MP

Sirte


Our next war starts officially on July 8. On that date, the heads of all the NATO countries meet in Warsaw National Stadium. Top of the agenda is rubber-stamping a Nato-led assault on what is left of Libya. Preparations have already begun with British, French and US Special Forces infiltrated and active on the ground against the Libyan branch of Daesh. Prospect: as big a Western debacle as we have seen before in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria.

Flashback to 2011 and the overthrow of mad dictator Muammar Gaddafi, the son of a local goat-herder who originally led a military coup against pro-Western King Idris back in 1969. For the record, Libya has a population not much larger than Scotland’s but is 22 times bigger. It also has oodles of oil and gas, which is its attraction to the West.

Before he went bonkers, Gaddafi and his fellow army officers represented a secular, anti-imperialist, pan-Arab nationalism, modelled on the Egypt of Gammal Nasser. But the string of post-colonial regimes spawned in the Nasserist era succumbed to corruption, authoritarianism, crony-capitalism, and (with the fall of Communism) the return of Western influence by the back door. The latter offered – in return for access to all that lovely oil – help against the Muslim Brotherhood, a new Islamic social movement inheriting Arab resistance to imperialism after the degeneration of secular Nasserism. The Muslim Brotherhood was joined by more violent Islamist movements, including al-Qaeda and Daesh.

Gaddafi’s unique 42-year regime spanned this long historic cycle. Libya’s tiny population was easy to intimidate or buy off using the proceeds of oil sales, leaving Gaddafi to do his own thing. The oil industry was theoretically “nationalised” but in truth Gaddafi was always happy to deals with Western oil companies to extract the black gold. Indeed, he proved very adept at playing US and European oil companies against each other the better to fund his regime and his family’s increasingly extravagant lifestyle. The West seemed happy with this arrangement because Gaddafi’s erratic, egomaniac politics were more of a threat to anti-Western regimes in North Africa and the Middle East than anywhere else. Only after the 1988 Lockerbie bombing did an embarrassed West finally decide it needed to rein in Libya by applying economic sanctions that brought the country to the edge of bankruptcy.

In the wake of 9/11, and under threat from the new Islamist upsurge himself, Gaddafi returned to the Western fold, offering oil and a (ruthless) hand against al-Qaeda if sanctions were lifted. Britain’s then Prime Minister, Tony Blair, was only too happy to “bring Libya in from the cold”. Gaddafi thought he was safe but soon discovered (like many before him) that the Western powers never honour a deal with the Arabs. When in February 2011, at long last, the long-suffering people of Libya rose in rebellion against the hated Gaddafi family dictatorship, the West pulled the plug. By October, Gaddafi was dead. Undoubtedly, the Western powers figured that dumping Gaddafi would open the path to a pliant pro-Western regime and easier access to all that oil and gas.

To speed Gaddafi on his way to Hades, NATO and assorted pro-Western Arab states intervened in the Libyan uprising with an unprecedented avalanche of air strikes. Nato admits to flying an extraordinary 26,500 individual sorties against targets in Libya in 2011. Yet there have been only 3,933 Allied (non-Russian) air strikes in Syria against Daesh forces since bombing began in August 2014. In Iraq, there have been 8,438 Allied air attacks on Daesh units. So in Syria and Iraq combined, US and NATO forces have flown less than a third of the air strikes they did against the Gaddafi regime.

The result of the horrendous Nato bombing of Libya was effectively to destroy the country’s entire infrastructure – oil accepted, of course. Why this ridiculous overkill? Partly, it was at the behest of the Saudi-led Arab League which wanted revenge on the maverick Gaddafi. Partly, it was Nato and the US showing it could still flex military might after the debacles in Iraq and Afghanistan. Partly it was the petty vanity of Britain’s David Cameron and France’s Nicholas Sarkozy, who wanted to pretend to be a reincarnation of Mrs Thatcher. And it was the usual Western disdain for Arab lives.

Having destroyed the country, the Western powers simply walked away leaving Libya to descend into chaos. This dysfunctional country is now split into three warring zones. In the east, in Benghazi, there is the anti-Islamist House of Representatives, which is backed by neighbouring Egypt. HoR has some democratic legitimacy and is supported (after a fashion) by the remnants of the Libyan National Army led by ambitious General Khalifa Haftar. His is the strongest indigenous military force. Meanwhile, the western part of Libya, centred on Tripoli, remains in the hands of a variety of Islamist militias. In the middle: Daesh.

Two factors have renewed Western concern over Libya. The first is the flow of refugees and economic migrants using the country as a route into Europe. After the deal brokered between the EU and Turkey to return refugees to Turkish camps, chaotic Libya is now the obvious point of departure for those seeking to get to Europe. The UN reckons there are at least 100,000 would-be migrants waiting in their chance in Libya.

How can the EU broker a deal with Libya to send back any refugees, if there is no proper Libyan government? Answer: create a puppet government, sign a deal with them, then send in NATO military assets to enforce the deal. Last month, such a puppet government was delivered to Tripoli by boat (reportedly Saudi) and now resides in a heavily fortified naval base in Tripoli. This so-called Government of National Accord (GNA) is led by Faiez Serraj, whose father was a minister under the old pre-Gaddafi monarchy. The GNA is recognised by none of the other factions in Libya including strongman General Hafter. It remains surrounded not just by hostile Islamist militias in Tripoli but increasingly by Daesh. Daesh has deliberately opened a second front in Libya to break out of its encirclement in Syria-Iraq. It has anything between 4,000 and 6,000 fighters in Libya, based on Gaddafi’s old stronghold of Sirte. Despite ceding ground recently to General Hafter’s National Army, Libyan Daesh last week inflicted heavy casualties on militia units protecting Serraj’s puppet GNA.

At NATO’s July summit, the decision will be taken to blockade Libya’s 2,000-kilometre coast, to turn back refugees and isolate Daesh. Britain has already deployed a spy ship (HMS Enterprise) to the area and US drones are flying daily across Libya from the Italian island of Pantelleria. Various reputable media sources reveal there are already British, American, French and Italian Special Forces on the ground directing militia operations against Daesh. Come July expect renewed airstrikes targeting Daesh.

The UK has publicly offered to send 1,000 military advisors to train a new Libyan army loyal to the wobbly Serraj government. As these British personnel would be based in easy striking distance of Daesh suicide bombers, any notion they would be non-combatants is risible. The Second Libyan War has already begun. Where it will end is anybody’s guess.

Source: The National

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