I’m not a Libya expert, nor are you, Mr. Cameron…

I’ve never made breakfast for myself in Libya (the litmus test for claiming ‘expert’ status on a nation).  Indeed, I’ve never visited the country nor interacted with its various tribal groups; hence why I would never be so arrogant as to believe I could manipulate the outcome of a military intervention in Libya to my advantage.  If only Downing Street would admit the same.

Even before the first western missiles rained down on Gaddafi’s military infrastructure, my gut reaction to the no-fly zone operation was that it will compromise British national security. Though my heart goes out to the innocent Libyans who’ve been persecuted and oppressed by Gaddafi’s regime, I am not prepared to endorse airstrikes that could very well invite revenge attacks on British interests and open Libya to exploitation by anti-British, anti-western elements. 

The most important question to ask about the no-fly zone is who exactly is it benefiting?  Britain’s coalition government and most of our media keep referring to the anti-Gaddafi rebels as ‘pro-democracy forces’; an image promoted by the Benghazi-based Libyan Interim Transitional National Council. This 31-member rebel group which claims it will guide the country toward free elections has cleverly appointed Mahmoud Jibril, an American educated professor, as its special envoy.

With a western-friendly interlocutor making the rounds, decision makers in the US, Britain and France have grown more confident that there is a democracy-loving, freedom fighting government-in-waiting to take the helm once Gaddafi is gone.  But not all members of the opposition are as palatable as Jibril.   An article in The Telegraph reported that Libyan  rebel leader Abdel-Hakim al-Hasidi admitted to an Italian newspaper that not only had he recruited around 25 al-Qaeda fighters from eastern Libya to fight coalition forces in Iraq but that some of those jihadists are now fighting on the frontlines of the anti-Gaddafi rebellion.  This corroborates what we already knew from the so-called Sinjar Records; al-Qaeda documents seized by US forces in Iraq which establish conclusively that the epicentre of the Libyan revolt is an al-Qaeda breeding nest.

As a general rule, Islamic fundamentalists reject the western liberal democratic model on the grounds that it gives non-Muslims a voice in government.  Perhaps Mr. al-Hasidi has grown more tolerant and is genuinely prepared to embrace universal suffrage. Perhaps not.  All I know is that if a post-Gaddafi power struggle ensues, my money won’t be on the political science professor with fond memories of his American university days but the hard-boiled, Islamic jihadist.

When I see the amount of attention Washington and Whitehall are lavishing on Jibril and the ITNC, I can’t help but be reminded of Ahmed Chalabi, the Iraqi National Congress member who fed the US a boatload of false intelligence on Iraq in order to spur an invasion.  A savvy PR opportunist, Chalabi styled himself as the man who could deliver Iraq to a peaceful, democratic, western-leaning future once the evil dictator Saddam Hussein was ousted.  It turned out Chalabi had zero influence in post-Saddam Iraq and the country swiftly disintegrated into a sectarian civil war.  In the end, not only did the US-led coalition not get the Iraq it had hoped for; its sacrifice of blood and treasure backfired in the worst possible way by enabling Iran to become a major power broker in Iraq’s internal affairs.

Is the West once again placing its trust in a charlatan who can’t deliver?  I really hope not.  But common sense tells me our political leaders are in no position to judge.  Look no further than the botched British secret mission to make contact with Libyan rebels that resulted in the arrest of an MI6 officer and his Special Forces escort team (all of whom were fortunately released unharmed). Sure, you can fob it off as a misunderstanding.  But the episode says volumes about Britain’s lack of understanding when it comes to Libya’s internal affairs.

Published by: bobshepherdauthor

Bestselling author Bob Shepherd is an ex-SAS soldier and security advisor. During his twenty years of service with 22 SAS Regiment, Bob participated in the Oman campaign, the Iranian Embassy siege in London, The Falklands War, the first Gulf War and Bosnia. He left the Regiment in 1994 as a Warrant Officer and went to work on the international security circuit as an advisor to media, diplomats and VIPS. Bob’s work in the private sector has taken him to some of the most volatile places on earth including Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. He is a regular media commentator on security issues and has appeared on CNN International, BBC One, BBC World, BBC Radio and SKY News.

Categories Global Security, LibyaTags, , , , 6 Comments

6 thoughts on “I’m not a Libya expert, nor are you, Mr. Cameron…”

  1. Indeed, who benefits from the no-fly zone?

    Or, phrased another way: who benefits by taking sides in yet another civil war?

    The politicians would like us to believe that all that jet-fuel is being burned to protect the civilian population.

    I have my doubts.

    ps Your insights, particularly, about the breakfast preparation, are, as usual, spot-on.

  2. I was of the opinion that we should have stayed out of this whole affair. This opinion has only been reinforced by the lack of action from various Arab states. In fact while the UAE started with a promise of supplying jets etc, they seem to backed down from anything other than token assistance. Thus making this an essentially Western intervention.
    What troubles me the most though is talk of arming the rebels, which was something both US and UK said they would not do when intervention was first discussed.

  3. Everyone needs to watch the film ‘Loose change 2nd edition’. its on youtube. the people behind the curtain are the real terrorists.

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