FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Cameron and Sarkozy’s Coy Victory Lap in Tripoli

by PATRICK COCKBURN

David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy were careful during their first visit to Libya since the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi to avoid anything evoking comparisons with President Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” rhetoric after the occupation of Iraq. They know how his imperial arrogance and premature declaration of victory came back to haunt him.

Their caution is sensible given that it is too early to say exactly what Britain and France have accomplished in Libya. Col Gaddafi is gone, but it is unclear what will replace him. In power in Tripoli, he provided a focus for a broad but disparate coalition of Libyans struggling to defeat him. Now that his followers hold only a few beleaguered towns, there is not much to bind together these lawyers from Benghazi, former Islamist guerrillas and defecting members of the old regime, who will be Libya’s next rulers.

Britain, France and other foreign powers are uncertain of their status in the new Libya. The rebels’ success would not have been without NATO. The final collapse of the Gaddafi regime came not only because of NATO air strikes, but because French and British planners played a commanding role in the military campaign.

It is uncertain how much political influence the NATO powers most involved in the war will enjoy, though presumably it will be large. Members of the National Transitional Council (NTC) have tried to show they are not push-overs when it comes to dealing with their foreign allies by rejecting suggestions they should send Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, convicted of the Lockerbie bombing, to Britain. At the same time, the chairman of the NTC, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, implied that the countries which led the NATO intervention would be regarded favorably in commercial dealings.

This is someway down the road. The war is not entirely over. Damage to oil facilities is not severe, but it will take time for Libya to again export 1.3 million barrels of oil a day. As the government established itself, the scramble for a share in Libya’s oil wealth will intensify.

This has been a backdrop to the war from the beginning in a way that was never quite true to the same extent in Iraq. ENI of Italy, BP of UK, Total of France, OMV of Austria and Repsol YPF of Spain will all look to see how far they turn the post-war situation to their advantage. Any incoming Libyan government will be wary of giving credibility to Gaddafi’s claim that the rebels were pawns of foreign powers and oil companies aiming to steal Libya’s only asset.

A problem is that, whatever happens in Libya, it is difficult to see a strong government emerging. It will continue, to a greater or lesser degree, to be reliant on NATO powers. Gaddafi prevented the development of independent political and social groups so it is difficult to see how an elected “National Congress”, as is provisionally planned, will be able to assert its authority.

There is not just the divisions and disruption of war to be considered. Some members of the NTC speak of putting apolitical civil servants and technicians back to work, though this not an unmixed blessing given the ramshackle nature of Gaddafi’s state machine.

So far Libyans and foreigners have reassured themselves with the mantra that Libya is not Iraq or Afghanistan. It is true there is not the same legacy of war, communal and sectarian hatred. On the other hand, many successful national liberations have been followed by nasty and violent struggles to see who will be top dog.

PATRICK COCKBURN is the author of  The Occupation: War, resistance and daily life in Iraq and Muqtada! Muqtada al-Sadr, the Shia revival and the struggle for Iraq

 

 

 


Patrick Cockburn is the author of  The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution.

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
July 29, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Michael Hudson
Obama Said Hillary will Continue His Legacy and Indeed She Will!
Jeffrey St. Clair
She Stoops to Conquer: Notes From the Democratic Convention
Rob Urie
Long Live the Queen of Chaos
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
Evolution of Capitalism, Escalation of Imperialism
Margot Kidder
My Fellow Americans: We Are Fools
Ralph Nader
Hillary’s Convention Con
Lewis Evans
Executing Children Won’t Save the Tiger or the Rhino
Vijay Prashad
The Iraq War: a Story of Deceit
Chris Odinet
It Wasn’t Just the Baton Rouge Police Who Killed Alton Sterling
Brian Cloughley
Could Trump be Good for Peace?
Patrick Timmons
Racism, Freedom of Expression and the Prohibition of Guns at Universities in Texas
Gary Leupp
The Coming Crisis in U.S.-Turkey Relations
Pepe Escobar
Is War Inevitable in the South China Sea?
Norman Pollack
Clinton Incorruptible: An Ideological Contrivance
Robert Fantina
The Time for Third Parties is Now!
Andre Vltchek
Like Trump, Hitler Also Liked His “Small People”
Serge Halimi
Provoking Russia
David Rovics
The Republicans and Democrats Have Now Switched Places
Andrew Stewart
Countering The Nader Baiter Mythology
Rev. William Alberts
“Law and Order:” Code words for White Lives Matter Most
Ron Jacobs
Something Besides Politics for Summer’s End
David Swanson
It’s Not the Economy, Stupid
Erwan Castel
A Faith that Lifts Barricades: The Ukraine Government Bows and the Ultra-Nationalists are Furious
Steve Horn
Did Industry Ties Lead Democratic Party Platform Committee to Nix Fracking Ban?
Robert Fisk
How to Understand the Beheading of a French Priest
Colin Todhunter
Sugar-Coated Lies: How The Food Lobby Destroys Health In The EU
Franklin Lamb
“Don’t Cry For Us Syria … The Truth is We Shall Never Leave You!”
Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin
The Artistic Representation of War and Peace, Politics and the Global Crisis
Frederick B. Hudson
Well Fed, Bill?
Harvey Wasserman
NY Times Pushes Nukes While Claiming Renewables Fail to Fight Climate Change
Elliot Sperber
Pseudo-Democracy, Reparations, and Actual Democracy
Uri Avnery
The Orange Man: Trump and the Middle East
Marjorie Cohn
The Content of Trump’s Character
Missy Comley Beattie
Pick Your Poison
Kathleen Wallace
Feel the About Turn
Joseph Grosso
Serving The Grid: Urban Planning in New York
John Repp
Real Cooperation with Nations Is the Best Survival Tactic
Binoy Kampmark
The Scourge of Youth Detention: The Northern Territory, Torture, and Australia’s Detention Disease
Kim Nicolini
Rain the Color Blue with a Little Red In It
Phillip Kim et al.
Open Letter to Bernie Sanders from Former Campaign Staffers
Cesar Chelala
Gang Violence Rages Across Central America
Tom H. Hastings
Africa/America
Robert Koehler
Slavery, War and Presidential Politics
Charles R. Larson
Review: B. George’s “The Death of Rex Ndongo”
July 28, 2016
Paul Street
Politician Speak at the DNC
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail