The War in Libya Will Never End

Yves here. Libya….yet another country that has become a quagmire. An update on the sorry state of play.

By Vijay Prashad, an Indian historian, editor, journalist, and a writing fellow and chief correspondent at Globetrotter, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He is the chief editor of LeftWord Books and the director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. He has written more than twenty books, including The Darker Nations: A People’s History of the Third World (The New Press, 2007), The Poorer Nations: A Possible History of the Global South (Verso, 2013), The Death of the Nation and the Future of the Arab Revolution (University of California Press, 2016) and Red Star Over the Third World (LeftWord, 2017). He writes regularly for Frontline, the Hindu, Newsclick, AlterNet and BirGün. Produced by Globetrotter

General Khalifa Haftar and his Libyan National Army (LNA) continue to partly encircle Libya’s capital, Tripoli. Not only does the LNA threaten Tripoli, but it is within striking distance of Libya’s third-largest city, Misrata. Both Tripoli and Misrata are in the hands of the Government of National Accord (GNA), which is backed by the United Nations and—most strongly—by Turkey. The second-largest city—Benghazi—is in the hands of Haftar’s LNA. Haftar’s LNA is backed by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Russia. There has always been a whiff of suspicion that Haftar himself is an old CIA asset—having lived under the shadow of the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, for decades. What the NATO war on Libya did to that country is to turn it into a battlefield of other people’s ambitions, to reduce Libya into a chessboard for a multidimensional game that is hard to explain and even harder to end.


On January 19, the United Nations and the German government held a conference in Berlin on the Libyan question. Curiously, the two belligerent parties from Libya were in Berlin but did not attend the conference. General Haftar of the LNA and Fayez Serraj of the GNA stayed in their hotels to be briefed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the UN representative on Libya Ghassan Salamé. In 2012, the UN had said that no conference should be held that is not “inclusive” and does not have the stakeholders at the table. Nonetheless, the point of this exercise was not so much to create a deal within Libya as to stop the import of arms and logistics into Libya. “We commit to refraining from interference in the armed conflict or in the internal affairs of Libya,” agreed the external parties, “and urge all international actors to do the same.” External backers of each of the sides—Egypt, France, Russia, Turkey, the United States—were all signatories of this agreement. You can imagine that none of them will take it seriously.

Merkel hastened to Istanbul after the Berlin conference to solidify the pact she has made with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who then flew to Algeria to say that he would not appreciate external intervention into Libya. It is not Erdoğan alone who sounded bewildering—all the other leaders who came to Berlin made similar remarks. You stay out of Libya, they said, but we will have to be involved in any way we think appropriate. Turkey has provided the GNA with arms and logistical assistance, and it has helped bring a few hundred Syrian jihadis to Libya to assist the GNA-backed militias.

The UN released a statement recently with a clear indication that the deal is not worth its paper. “Over the last ten days,” the UN notes, “numerous cargo and other flights have been observed landing at Libyan airports in the western and eastern parts of the country providing the parties with advanced weapons, armoured vehicles, advisers and fighters.” It does not name the countries that continue to violate the embargo, but everyone knows who they are.

Emboldened by his backers, Haftar’s forces tested the GNA and its assorted militia groups in the outskirts of Misrata over the past few days. The LNA had taken up positions in al-Wishka, but they made a foray into Abu Grein, which is on the road to Misrata. The ceasefire that was supposed to be honored was violated, as the GNA Army’s spokesperson Mohammed Gununu said on Sunday. Haftar’s spokesperson Ahmed al-Mismari said that there is no political solution for Libya; the only solution is through “rifles and ammunition.” It is a clear statement that this war is not going to be ended at the UN or in Berlin. It will have to end in Misrata and in Tripoli.

Turkey vs. Saudi Arabia

Several years ago, when it became clear that Libyans who were close to the Muslim Brotherhood might come to power, Saudi Arabia went to work against them. The Saudis have made it clear that they will not tolerate any more Muslim Brotherhood forces coming to power in North Africa or West Asia. The Saudi embargo on Qatar, the Saudi interference in Tunisia, the Saudi intervention in Egypt to remove the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammed Morsi, and now the Saudi backing of Haftar provides a clear indication of the Saudi intention to rid the region of the Muslim Brotherhood. Turkey and Qatar have been the main sponsors of the Muslim Brotherhood; Saudi Arabia has dented Qatar’s ambition, but it has not been able to tether Turkey. The war in Libya is—apart from the clueless intervention of the Europeans—a war between Saudi Arabia and Turkey, with Russia playing a curious role in between these powers.

Neither Saudi Arabia nor Turkey will relinquish their backing of the LNA and the GNA, respectively. No one makes any public noises about this, although everyone knows that it is these powers that are behind this horrendous new phase of the conflict ever since NATO entered Libya in 2011 and sent the country into a situation of permanent war. The UN has done the calculations. Since April, in Tripoli alone there are 220 schools closed and at least 116,000 children with no education. Schools, universities, hospitals—all working on reduced hours or closed.

Oil and Refugees

Haftar made his move on Tripoli in April 2019. He felt that he not only had the backing of the most important powers, but that he had already taken charge of several oil fields and squeezed the Tripoli government. His rush to Tripoli, dramatic in the first few weeks, then stalled in the outskirts of the capital. He is obdurate, unconcerned that his war will simply continue the attrition of social life that had begun in the 1990s and accelerated after the NATO war in 2011.

On January 19, the LNA and its allies seized the Sharara and El Feel oil fields; both of them produce a third of Libya’s oil, Sharara being the largest single field in this country. Oil production from Libya fell to less than 300,000 barrels per day from over a million barrels per day previous. The Libyan National Oil Company—controlled by the government in Tripoli—has now forced an embargo on oil exports from Libya. This is a blow to Europe, which relies on the sweet Libyan oil as much as it has relied upon Iranian and Russian energy sources—both blocked by U.S.-driven sanctions.

European Hypocrisy

Europe wants the oil but does not want the refugees. A UN report was recently released on the LNA’s bombardment of a refugee detention center in Tajoura on July 2, 2019. That attack, by LNA aircraft, killed 53 migrants and refugees who had come from Algeria, Chad, Bangladesh, Morocco, Niger, and Tunisia. After the jet dropped its bombs on the Daman complex, there were “bodies everywhere, and body parts sticking out from under the rubble. Blood [was] all around.” The migrants and refugees who survived remained in the complex. Four days later, they went on hunger strike. There have been several murders since July 2019, mainly of refugees shot by guards as they tried to leave the various detention centers that sit along the Libyan coastline and in Tripoli. There is no proper account of the total number of refugees and migrants in detention.

The European Union (EU) has been paying the Tripoli government and militia groups to hold these refugees and migrants in Libya rather than let them travel across the Mediterranean Sea. Europe has taken no responsibility for its role in the NATO war in 2011, which destabilized Libya; it has, instead, militarized the refugee crisis in Libya by using the militias. Operation Sophia of the EU brought European ships into the Mediterranean Sea to stop oil and refugee smuggling from Libya to Europe; there is now interest in restarting this policy. In Berlin, the EU’s High Representative Josep Borrell told the Süddeutsche Zeitung that “Libya is a cancer whose metastases have spread across the entire region.” This is the attitude of Europe: how to contain the crisis and let it remain within the Libyan borders. It is a shocking statement.

I Have No Illness

In the midst of Libya’s war against Italian colonialism a century ago, the poet Rajab Hamad Buhwaish al-Minifi wrote a poem—“Ma Bi Marad” (“No Illness but This Place”)—about the torment of his society. This is a poem that is often recited, never far from the lips of Libyans who know their long and difficult history. The line that repeats often in the poem, “Ma bi marad ghair marad al-Egaila” (“I have no illness but this place of Egaila”), seems apt for Libya today, a people abandoned to this war that will never end, a people buried in oil and fear, a people who are in search of the home that has been taken from them.

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  1. ptb

    To be a little more blunt about it, all the powers involved benefit from reducing Libya’s oil (and gas) export. Saudi, US, and Russia, (Qatar etc) as rival producers, Turkey and Egypt as transit countries to the EU market.

    As in Syria, maintaining a deadlocked conflict is the lowest common denominator solution for all involved. Except of course the Libyans. And the EU.

  2. JBird4049

    This is rather like what has happened to Afghanistan since the 1970s. There were some problems so the Soviets invaded to help their puppet regime. Forty years later and the country is still in a war.

    1. marcel

      You sound like you’re working at the American embassy of Denmark.
      The Soviets invaded Afghanistan to halt the flow of heroin from the coubtry into the USSR.
      That didn’t please the US, so Zbigniew Brzezinski and Carter transformed a few Islamist extremists into the worldwide franchise known as Al Qaida to put up a fight.
      When the Soviets left (they had their own empire to dismantle), they left a regime in place that was in control of the country, and with a local and well-trained and equipped army. As recently as 2017 (iirc), the Afghan army was still flying with the Soviet heli’s, more reliable than the American stuff.
      Not saying the Soviets were heros, but the US has a big part in all the mess in that area of the world (and nothing to show for the countless $trillions spent).

      1. John A

        The Soviet army entered at the invitation of the Afghanistan government. The US bombed their way in uninvited. A crucial difference.

        1. JBird4049

          Whatever the justifications the Soviet Union had for invading Afghanistan, and countries always have justifications, it did and ultimately devastated it. Whatever justifications the United States had for supplying the Mujahideen, it did and helped to devastate it.

          When the Soviet Union was defeated and left the United States also left. Both empires abandoned their clients and left Afghanistan with a shattered economy, government, and society to fought over by warlords, “liberated“ by the Taliban, invaded again, but by the United States; its society has been manipulated and various opposing factions supported by Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and of course the United States. Like Libya it is the chew toy of other countries that are concerned about their own desires rather than the people suffering in the ruins of a now four decades long series of unending conflicts.

          1. Anon

            But whatta bout women’s rights? Somehow bombing a culture back to the Stone Age hasn’t done much on that front. No?

            They must hate us for our freedoms.

            1. JBird4049

              Maybe they hate our supposed “freedoms,” of which the average sees ever less of, because it usually is just another code word for “bomb, loot, pillage, and destroy” all for the greater glory of the pocketbook of the inhabitants of the Congressional-Military-Industrial Complex.

              The weak, the poor, and the vulnerable get reamed by the powerful will it, while they suffer what they must. The same as it ever was except we Americans are so gosh darn good at putting up a pretty, pretty picture on the sorrow, blood, and death.

              If I was truly religious I would say like Thomas Jefferson wrote (IIRC in 1826 on slavery) “Indeed I tremble for my country when reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep for ever: that considering numbers, nature and natural means only, a revolution of the wheel of fortune, an exchange of situation, is among possible events: that it may become probable by supernatural interference!” He got his confirmation thirty-five years later.

              Too bad that the plantation class regained most of its power although not its wealth and that the wealthy Northern financial interests did just fine, heck even made money from the war, while poor, working, middle, even into the upper middle classes of both sides died in job lots paying the debt. So, will the architects of the past few decades who have profited so well actually have to settle their accounts in this life? I doubt it.

      2. ranthony1903

        What do you mean nothing to show? Our banks are richer by $trillions, Wall Street is richer by $trillions, our richest citizens continue to grow richer by the minute. They even give it away for free to their friends/relatives in other countries–can you say Israel at $3.8 billion per year?
        There’s plenty to show, but maybe you don’t see it because your are not a banker, Wall Streeter, or 1%er–sorry for you.

  3. The Rev Kev

    Vijay Prashad might have been better served going more into Turkey’s part in the fighting in Libya. They are making a power play for the oil reserves in this country but more importantly, have made their own Nine-Dash Line for all the Mediterranean off-shore oil reserves between Turkey and Libya and is backing it up with their military. This includes everything around the entire island of Cyprus as well. Thus any oil/gas lines that got from the eastern Mediterranean to Europe would have to get permission from Turkey first and likely paying baksheesh, errr, transit fees.

    Libya anchors their so-called claim and as the oil from there goes to Europe Turkey wants to own it to have a headlock on Europe for this oil supply. You would think that NATO would have a united front on this issue but some NATO countries back Haftar while others back the Government of National Accord. The later controls not that much but it is “internationally recognized” which does not get them much. Almost forgot to mention – Algeria is backing the GNA as well and is funneling foreign fighters into Libya as well as apparently providing aerial defense weaponry for that government.

    And Turkey has done more than bring a ‘few hundred Syrian jihadis to Libya to assist the GNA-backed militias’. Last time I heard, it was more like about 2,500 fighters so far with plans to bring in eventually about 6,000-8,000 fighters. And not just any fighters but mostly Al-Nusra Front fighters which is the Syrian franchise for al-Qaeda. Probably good news for the Syrian Army in their fight to retake their country but for North Africa, not so good.

    Maybe the best solution is that Hafter takes over Libya and provides some sort of stability to this country but too many players want that sweet oil and does not care what happens to the ordinary Libyan people.

  4. makedonamend

    As I’m not too conversant with North African geo-politics beyond the few headlines I glean from the tabloids I glimpse in the supermarket on the way to the exit, I rely on these types of articles to inform. Commentary sections are often useful as well.

    On broad terms, people often claim that X country doesn’t need the oil, therefore these conflicts are only about oil in a peripheral sense. However, just because a particular country may not need the oil for its own uses doesn’t mean that the control of oil isn’t valuable as an economic-military asset in its own right. Being able to deny your foes resources is a significant advantage. Right now three major sources of carbon fuel are being being denied to Europe. Cui bono?

    Merkel’s attempt at some sort of negotiated settlement and its failure merely highlights that any international attempts at cooperation based upon UN ideals are kaput, and have been for some time now. It’s no longer about the good guys versus the bad guys, bar for propaganda purposes. We’re squarely back to the days of might-makes-right, that is, if we ever really left those days.

    It’s quite a pickle for the EU. On the one hand capital flows are being restricted which must cause some long term macro-economic harm, but there is no appetite for a EU army from any quarter – maybe bar Marcon. (So aint going to happen.) Of course individual European countries are quite capable of intervention* but beyond France and the UK no other country has any real military clout, and I suspect both of these countries really can’t afford to follow such a path on their own. It’s a long time since the Suez French-British expeditionary force was conceived, even if the USA quickly put the dampers on that quixotic quest. Europe was conquered after WWII and it, in effect, remains conquered in so many ways.

    I also wonder if the Russians are just hanging around as opportunistic spoilers?

    *such a quaint term for imperial meddling in another country’s affair for sole the benefit of the interventionist while inflicting maximum pain and mayhem on the inhabitants

    1. Susan the other

      This is finally making sense. Markets. The EU consumer is being kidnapped for ransom by big oil/gas interests. They are being blocked from Russian oil and supplies from the east and Libya has been shut down. I think this is very interesting in view of the recent incorporation of a new gas company quietly registered in Cyprus. The parties concerned are the UK, Israel and Cyprus. So not only have these guys managed to build a pipeline and a shipping company to supply southern EU – they have also managed to block anybody else who might want to participate in a “free market”. Could this be true? The EU consumer is a sitting duck. So it looks like it is no longer enough, in this new age of petroleum and climate change, to control the resource – it is now just as important to control the demand. No – I must be dreaming.

  5. PlutoniumKun

    Sometimes we tend to think of neocons and establishment warmongers as evil geniuses, continuously meddling in things to achieve their strategic objectives. But Libya is item of evidence #1 at the moment to show that at least significant elements of the decision-making apparatus from the US to France, from the UK to Turkey, has more than its fair share of reckless idiots. Destabilising Libya because nobody liked Ghaddafi wasn’t just a crime, it wasn’t just barbaric, it was utterly stupid.

    Particular shame should go to the UK and French establishments for not seeing what would happen, and the Germans for not forcefully speaking out on it (Cameron and Hollande are mediocrities, but they surely were not alone in making the decisions). The very least thing we should expect from their foreign policy/military establishments, is some kind of pragmatism. We are long past expecting anything but brutality and mindless nihilism masquerading as geopolitics from the US, SA and Turkey, but the European powers should have known better.

    1. Clive

      The UK and France can indeed be singled out for special criticism. The US’ warmongering was at least predictable and consistent. It would have been a surprise and affront to form if it hadn’t been gung-ho (not that that makes it right, of course).

      But the UK and France — self-appointed stabilising influences on the US, supposedly — not only should have known better because every attempt at (cough) “nation building” in Arab states after the brutal overthrown of anti-western regimes (and in the last few years Gaddafi rowed back on the more blatan US-baiting anyhow) resulted in dismal failure but also because no other nations held any sort of sway with the US so it was the UK and France or nothing.

      A lamentable abdication of responsibility and appalling poor judgement. At least this time, Europe has reaped what it sowed in Libya. Mess up your own back yard and you can’t escape the ugliness of the scene.

      1. Colonel Smithers

        Thank you and well said, Gentlemen.

        Further to PK’s comment about Germany speaking out, I always wonder about the nearest European neighbour and former colonial power, Italy.

        Further to that mediocrity Hollande, he brought the Saudis into the Comoros as a means of getting French firms into the oil and gas concessions. We call him village idiot down there.

      2. curious euro

        What has France and UK reaped? It’s not “Europe” who bombed Tripolis and sent special forces in violation of every law, it was France and UK, and only France and UK.

        Italy gets the refugees landed on its shores and then they move on to Germany since the benefits there are better. France has long closed their borders and so has the UK.
        From their point: all is fine, and nobody cares about some african hellhole they created.
        The abdication of responsibility is France’s and UK’s and no one else. And they still got away with it.

        Also, it was not the non-entity Hollande who made war on Libya but Sarkozy. War started mid march 2011, and Sarkozy was in office until May 2012. The probably main reason why there was a war in the first place, was Sarkozy got illegal money for his campaign for presidency from Gaddafi.

        1. Clive

          Yes, Italy did indeed try to stamp its feet with France.

          But then that nasty old populist government somehow got turfed out, through its own incompetence but also because it was deemed to be insufficiently house-trained to be allowed into Polite Society and a much more pliable government formed to replace it.

          No-one but Italians can be blamed for that particular climb-down. Granted, of course, The People often seem to have very little input into Italian politics…

      3. Olivier

        Absolutely. And to think that in 2007 Sarkozy received Gaddafi in Paris with great fanfare and had all sorts of nice things to say about him, calling him a “brother leader”. The duplicity of the western political class is bottomless. It is hard not to have some sympathy for the north korean autocrats: they look at this and know exactly what to expect if they cozy up to the treacherous West.

        On the other hand, France under Sarkozy made no pretense of being a “stabilising influence on the US”. On the contrary that beast of Sarkozy was the most atlanticist president France ever had, even of any head of state in Europe: he even had the gall to go bend the knee in Washington during his presidential campaign, like any good would-be satrap. An absolute disgrace. You knew exactly, right there and then, what to expect from the creature.

        Frankly he should hang from a butcher’s hook.

  6. Norb

    In trying to understand this war, which party has the support of the Libyan people? Which party speaks the rhetoric of helping the livelihoods of common folk? That is where the true battle lines are drawn, the rest is just raw power and logistics.

    I recently came across the term, State Capitalism. It describes the phenomenon of a national economic system where private enterprise is allowed to flourish under majority State control. Seems like a workable, rational, system worth fighting for- the answer to TINA. It seems the sides in these conflicts are always drawn along the lines of forces of exploitation and the forces of nation building. The forces of tearing down and the ones of building up. If LNA represents the Libyan people and the GNA represents internationalist interests, choosing sides in the conflict become clearer. If one desires longterm peace, than one must support the LNA.

    Also, the curious stance of Russia in this situation can be explained by the observation that Russia is a civilization as much as a nation. Same with China. Both countries hold stability as a foundational principle of their worldview. Russia will side with the force able to bring stability to the region above all else.

    Western capitalism, as lead by the US, is the bringer of chaos- masked in false promises, enforced by a duplicitous use of force. What else can be expected from rule by billionaires.

    Western analysis and goals have been proven to be completely wrong in the past 40 years. If Haftar is opposed by the US and allied powers, odds are that he represents the best chance for a return to some form of stability and normalcy in the region.

    In a way, Russia can help solve the problem both Turkey and the US created by eliminating all the violent terrorists that were created in the Syrian war. Creating violent extremists seems like a good short term goal but present a real problem when the plans fall apart or the objective of regime change is accomplished. What to do with all the violent killers that were created. The real US policy seems to be to create Terrorists so that We can fight them over there- making profits in the process. It seems the locals have had enough and are slowly gaining the experience and the means to change the situation.

    Clash of civilizations indeed. One gets the feeling that the fate of the world is being fought out in the middle east. The battle lines are for a multipolar world of cooperation, or a continued advance of US hegemonic control of resources.

    The choice is that clear, regardless of all the propaganda tossed about to cloud the issue. The West is collectively loosing touch with reality and going insane.

    Forever war is a human sickness. Instead of lamenting that clear fact, say enough is enough and work for peace- whatever form that might take. Wars must end.

    1. Adam Eran

      Let’s not forget the money: Stirring up trouble in the Middle East keeps oil in peril, and the price up. Those fracked wells and offshore deep drilling are not economic if the price is lower. Greg Palast says the Iraq war was to keep that (cheap, easy-to-drill) oil in the ground, not to steal it, necessarily (although the U.S. big oil companies got contracts that previously went to Russian concerns too).

  7. La Peruse

    Proxy wars are a failing of the human condition and have been with us throughout history. They are fought by elites who both have the capacity to fight them from relative safety and the belief that they are to their advantage, however that is defined. They (almost) always deny the suffering imposed on those caught up in the affray, and invariably justify their actions as necessary, expedient and just.

    The 20th flowing into the 21st century has seen the franchise expand, from physical wars fought in distant lands, to economic, virtual and environmental wars that take no prisoners and relinquish no advantage. These are new manifestations, following on from the religious wars fought more recently by the Christians, for nearly 2000 years, and the Muslim wars, for around 1200 years. To say nothing of Asia and the Americas.

    NC has covered the economic war of neo-liberalism well, noting the human toll in declining longevity rates at its centre in the US. But the most bizarre manifestation is the fight against the environment, as if this proxy war of short-term advantage can deliver benefits that justify the annihilation of gaia itself. As an Australian watching my country (and home) burn, I am as much a victim of those who project their own advantage onto others as those caught up in more traditional wars.

    Libya is already a victim of environmental degradation (thanks to Rome), and if current trends continue, will fall victim to an unliveable environment that exacerbates and forecloses on this short-sighted and brutal war.

  8. Michael Fiorillo

    Why isn’t Trump being impeached for illegally attacking the most prosperous country in Africa, turning it into failed state with warring factions, slave markets and criminal immigration mafias?

    Oh, wait…

    1. Anon

      Because the House gave up it’s responsibility for war-making in 2003. (It’s currently trying to claw that back, somewhat. Only because they think Trump may impestuously annihilate everyone with a “limited nuclear” war with KJ Un, or Iran.)

  9. David

    As far as I can see, Prashad is not presenting himself as an expert on the region or the country, or an Arabic speaker, so his article is really about what he thinks external powers are doing, as reported in the international media. Those interested in the situation on the ground might like to read this article or this one.
    The British and the French certainly made a major mess of things, but they were not deliberately trying to create chaos. Roughly, the two countries decided that Gaddafi was going to fall soon, once the rebellion started, and that intervening was a good way to put themselves in pole position with the next government – assumed as always to be made up of pro-western moderates. They were also heavily influenced by the humanitarian intervention lobby, which had Bosnia, Kosovo, Timor, Sudan and others among its battle honours, and was probably more dominated by the so-called Left than by the neocon Right. (In France, the egregious Bernard-Henri Levy, sometimes described as a philosopher, was effectively running French policy, supported by the massed ranks of the right-thinking media. BHL is still saying the war was a good idea (he wrote a book about it) because a tyrant was overthrown.)
    Meanwhile, back in real life, the Europeans are desperately trying to deal with the consequences, not only for the country but for the region – notably in Mali. The problem is that neither of the two main combatants is actually capable of winning the war unaided. Neither has the forces, the capacity or the support to control the whole country, and both alliances are internally unstable. Paradoxically, outside military aid that resulted in victory is probably the best hope for avoiding a conflict which could otherwise last for decades with no victor.

    1. The Rev Kev

      What you say is true, David. But there were other motives for France and the UK to attack Libya. Qaddafi was going to set up a new African currency to compete with the French CFA franc which is used by France to keep control of former French colonies. Then there was the matter of the 143 tons of gold, and a similar amount in silver that Qaddafi had to do this with. I think that all that gold went MIA after the fall of Libya. All this came out of Hillary’s emails and present a rather disgusting picture of what Libya was all about-

      In short, it was a smash-and-grab.

      1. David

        There’s a lot of theories swirling around about why the French intervened in Libya, including this one. Some of them – relating in particular to the secret financing of Sarkozy’s 2007 campaign – look as if they might have some truth in them: we’ll know more as the Sarkozy trials unfold over the next year or two.
        We need to be careful in ascribing too much reality to things that Gaddafi talked about. He was full of – literally – fantastic ideas about inter-state cooperation in Africa, including a directly elected pan-African parliament, and a pan-African Army, integrated down to platoon level. None of this ever saw the light of day, and it’s doubtful whether his financial initiative would have either. But that initiative – like the others – had to be taken at least slightly seriously by the West because Gaddafi had quite a bit of support among African states. This wasn’t because they liked him or valued his ideas, but because Libya’s oil wealth was used, often clumsily, to buy support in the African Union, and in particular to pay AU subscriptions. Although Gaddafi’s popularity was largely ignored by the western media and the foreign policy establishment, it was real enough, and was one of the many reasons western states were not sorry to see him go.
        All that said, western states were adapting quite happily to Libya’s new role after 2004, and the immense commercial opportunities that that provided. The French were in the lead there, and Sarkozy’s gofer Claude Guéant (now also on trial) was shuttling to and from Libya before 2011 setting up all sorts of deals. Had the rebellion not happened, the French would have been quite happy to continue to deal with the Libyan government: there was particularly close cooperation between the intelligence services. Ultimately, it was the human rights argument which was used too sell intervention to the French people and parliament. The full story, as always, is horribly complex, but without the human rights dimension the intervention almost certainly wouldn’t have happened.

      2. lordkoos

        Yes, it wasn’t it really all about Qaddafi trying to escape the petro-dollar regime? Any leader of a country who tries to operate outside the western banking system must die and be made an example of. And then of course Libya’s treasure was looted…

    2. steelyman

      You’re rewriting history. Gaddafi was not going to fall soon. The Libyan military was still behind him (as were various important Libyan tribes) and he was the only player with an actual air force. The British and the French intervention tipped the scales decisively in favour of the insurgents aka Islamists via the application of the no fly zone and with covert deployment of French and British special forces to support those insurgents on the ground.

  10. smoker

    There is also the not at all insignificant Fresh Water ‘issue.’

    From July 27, 2011, NATO bombs the Great Man-Made River

    It is a war crime to attack essential civilian infrastructure. 95% of Libya is desert and 70% of Libyans depend on water which is piped in from the Nubian Sandstone Aquifer System under the southern desert. The water pipe infrastructure is probably the most essential civilian infrastructure in Libya. Key to its continued function, particularly in time of war, is the Brega pipe factory which enables leaks and breaks in the system to be repaired.

    NATO has admitted that its jets attacked the pipe factory on 22 July, claiming in justification that it was used as a military storage facility and rockets were launched from there.

    The Great Man-Made River

    Libyans like to call the Great Man-Made River “The eighth wonder of the world”.

    According to a March 2006 report by the BBC the industrialisation of Libya following the Great Al-Fatah Revolution in 1969, put strain on water supplies and coastal aquifers became contaminated with sea water, to such an extent that the water in Benghazi was undrinkable. Finding a supply of fresh, clean water became a government priority and fortunately oil exploration in the 1950s had revealed vast aquifers beneath Libya’s southern desert.

    In August 1984, Muammar Al Qadhafi laid the foundation stone for the pipe production plant at Brega. The Great Man-Made River Project had begun. Adam Kuwairi, a senior figure in the Great Man-Made River Authority (GMRA), vividly remembers the impact the fresh water had on him and his family:

    “The water changed lives. For the first time in our history, there was water in the tap for washing, shaving and showering. The quality of life is better now, and it’s impacting on the whole country.”

    On 3 April Libya warned that NATO-led air strikes could cause a “human and environmental disaster” if air strikes damaged the Great Man-Made River project.

    Engineer and project manager Abdelmajid Gahoud told foreign journalists in Tripoli:

    “If part of the infrastructure is damaged, the whole thing is affected and the massive escape of water could cause a catastrophe,” leaving 4.5 million thirsty Libyans deprived of drinking water.

    This from The Guardian, on May 27, 2011, just prior to that NATO bombing Libya: water emerges as hidden weapon, emphasis mine:

    “In a desertifying region already wracked by water conflict, Libya’s enormous aquatic reserves will be a large prize for whoever gets the upper hand in this struggle,” says Athanasiadis.

    1. smoker

      More from the Guardian Link:

      “The Colonel’s GMMR project was discounted when first unveiled as an uneconomic flight of fancy and a wasteful exploitation of un-renewable freshwater reserves,” Middle East-based journalist Iason Athanasiadis told IPS. “But subsequently it was hailed as a masterful work of engineering, tapping into underground aquifers so vast that they could keep the 2007 rate of dispersal going for the next 1,000 years.”

      Lying beneath the four African countries Chad, Egypt, Libya and Sudan, the Nubian Sandstone Aquifer System (NSAS) is the world’s largest fossil water aquifer system, covering some two million square kilometres and estimated to contain 150,000 cubic kilometres of groundwater.

      Further down, emphasis mine

      “Libya could start an agro-business similar to California’s San Joaquin Valley. Like Libya, California is essentially desert but because of irrigation and water works projects that desert valley became the largest producer of food and cotton in the world, making it the ninth largest economy in the world,” Patrick Henningsen, 21st Century Wire editor and founder, told IPS.

      “At the moment the only agro-markets in the Mediterranean zone competing to supply citrus and various other popular supermarket products to Europe are Israel and Egypt. In 10 or 20 years, Libya could surpass both of those countries because they now have the water to green the desert.”

      Fresh Water is far more vital to life than oil. Just ask the Bush Dynasty about their enormous Paraguay property holdings which encompass part of the Guarani Fresh Water Aquifer System, the second largest in the world, next to the Nubian Sandstone Aquifer System discussed above, regarding Libya.

  11. rosemerry

    I am glad to see someone mentioning the very important , life-changing Man-Made River which NATO destroyed. This was an even more important event than the currency project, and its destruction as well as all the other damage rest largely in NATO hands.
    As for “getting rid of a tyrant”, claimed by BHL the “philosopher”. We can observe which tyrants and dictators are supported by France, UK, US etc and which are selected for overthrow or death.

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