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:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

January 16, 2017
Paul Street
How Pure is Your Hate?
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
Did the Elites Have Martin Luther King Jr. Killed?
Robert Hunziker
Global Warming Clobbers Ocean Life
Patrick Cockburn
The Terrifying Parallels Between Trump and Erdogan
Kenneth Surin
The Neoliberal Stranglehold on the American Public University
Lawrence Davidson
Is There a Future for the Democratic Party?
Douglas Valentine
Who Killed MLK Jr?
Robert Fisk
The Foreign Correspondent in the Age of Twitter and Trump
Dale Bryan
“Where Do We Go from Here?”
David Swanson
The Deep State Wants to Deep Six Us
Dan Bacher
Obama Administration Orders Speedy Completion of Delta Tunnels Plan
Mark Weisbrot
Obama Should Make Sure that Haitian Victims of UN-Caused Cholera are Compensated
Winslow Myers
The Light of the World
Bruce Mastron
My Latest Reason to Boycott the NFL: Guns
Weekend Edition
January 13, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Gregory Elich
Did the Russians Really Hack the DNC?
Jeffrey St. Clair
The President Who Wasn’t There: Barack Obama’s Legacy of Impotence
Anthony DiMaggio
Ethics Fiasco: Trump, Divestment and the Perversion of Executive Politics
Joshua Frank
Farewell Obummer, Hello Golden Showers
Paul Street
Hit the Road, Barack: Some Farewell Reflections
Vijay Prashad
After Aleppo: the State of Syria
John Wight
Russia Must be Destroyed: John McCain and the Case of the Dodgy Dossier
Rob Urie
Meet the Deplorables
Patrick Cockburn
The Russian Dossier Reminds Me of the Row Over Saddam’s WMDs
Eric Sommer
U.S.-China War: a Danger Hidden from the American People
Andrew Levine
Are Democrats Still the Lesser Evil?
Linda Pentz Gunter
What’s Really Behind the Indian Point Nuclear Deal?
Robert Fantina
Trucks, ‘Terror’ and Israel
Richard Moser
Universal Values are Revolutionary Values
Russell Mokhiber
Build the Bagdikian Wall: “Sponsored News” at the Washington Post
Yoav Litvin
Establishment Narcissism – The Democrats’ Game of Thrones
David Rosen
Return of the Repressed: Trump & the Revival of the Culture Wars
Robert Koehler
War Consciousness and the F-35
Rev. William Alberts
The New Smell of McCarthyism Demands Faith Leaders Speak Truth to Power
John Laforge
Federal Regulator Halts Move to Toughen Radiation Exposure Limits
Norman Pollack
Farewell Address: Nazification of Hope
David Swanson
Imagine the Confirmation Hearing for Secretary of Peace
CJ Hopkins
Why Ridiculous Official Propaganda Still Works
Ron Jacobs
Striking in Reagan Time
Missy Comley Beattie
The Streep
Graham Peebles
Climate Change: The Potential Impacts of Collective Inaction
Uri Avnery
Confessions of a Megalomaniac
Kenneth Worles
Black Without a Home: King’s Dream Still Deferred
Geoff Dutton
The Russian Patsy
Jill Richardson
The Coming War on Regulations
Jeremy Brecher
Resisting the Trump Agenda is Social Self-Defense
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail