Libya is in the spotlight once more. Some seven years after the NATO-led intervention, aimed ostensibly at doing away with Colonel Gaddafi, the UN sanctions committee has reported that certain foreign powers are still flouting the arms embargo on Tripoli. Much has been made of usual suspects Egypt and the UAE trying to influence the future direction of the oil-rich nation. This has been framed at best as audacious attempts to prop up political set-ups that happen to coincide with particular national security interests and geopolitical designs. Which, of course, suggests that actors in Libya’s backyard are simply taking a page out of the US-led Alliance rulebook.
All of which has led to questions being asked regarding how these weapons made their way into unsafe hands and into Libya. If we may be so bold, Britain’s Theresa May might be of help on this front given that her country is now the second biggest global arms exporter; which only goes to show that war is always in someone’s interest. This is to say nothing of London’s “open door” policy that actively encouraged Libyan exiles and British-Libyan citizens to join the anti-Gaddafi uprisings. Yet it is quite possible that membership of the exclusive P5 club might just get May off the hook given that weapons can go to Tripoli if the UNSC permits this.
This apparent exclusion of the Libyan people from any kind of procedural norms does not bode well for either the parliamentary or presidential elections that the world body is hoping will be a done deal by the year’s end. In fact, we do not frankly understand this push towards the rubberstamping of democracy. For this will never have any true value if peace is not first secured. Indeed, some pundits on the ground have pointed to the worrisome possibility that Gaddafi’s son, Saif al-Islam, may run for the presidency. This naturally begs the question as to what the last seven years of foreign intervention have been about; something that we here in Pakistan can all too sadly relate to given recent yet overdue developments across our western border.
The arming of already warring factions in an election year suggests that the aim is not to back individual proxies — but is instead reflective of broader regional manoeuvrings that have the largest oil reserves in Africa in sight. And the US seemingly has no idea of which of the many sides it should back. In fact, its biggest concern is likely doing everything it can to prevent the Russians from going ahead with possible plans to build a military base in the country. Especially as the request to do so came not from the UN-backed regime in Tripoli but from so-called renegade General Khalifa Hafta, who is said to be battling the Islamists and does not recognise the official Government of National Accord. That this comes hot on the heels of Moscow’s imminent setting up of shop in Syria will do nothing to ease Washington’s concerns; nor pull the plug on hubris of the worst kind.
At this stage, it is hard to see any way forward in Libya. But one thing that all sides would do well to remember is that the children of the NATO ‘revolution’ will not be fooled. *
Published in Daily Times, March 4th 2018.