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
May 27, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
Silencing America as It Prepares for War
Rob Urie
By the Numbers: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are Fringe Candidates
Andrew Levine
Hillary’s Gun Gambit
Paul Street
Feel the Hate
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
Basic Income Gathers Steam Across Europe
Gunnar Westberg
Close Calls: We Were Much Closer to Nuclear Annihilation Than We Ever Knew
Jeffrey St. Clair
Hand Jobs: Heidegger, Hitler and Trump
S. Brian Willson
Remembering All the Deaths From All of Our Wars
Dave Lindorff
With Clinton’s Nixonian Email Scandal Deepening, Sanders Must Demand Answers
Pete Dolack
Millions for the Boss, Cuts for You!
Peter Lee
To Hell and Back: Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Karl Grossman
Long Island as a Nuclear Park
Binoy Kampmark
Sweden’s Assange Problem: The District Court Ruling
Robert Fisk
Why the US Dropped Its Demand That Assad Must Go
Martha Rosenberg – Ronnie Cummins
Bayer and Monsanto: a Marriage Made in Hell
Brian Cloughley
Pivoting to War
Stavros Mavroudeas
Blatant Hypocrisy: the Latest Late-Night Bailout of Greece
Arun Gupta
A War of All Against All
Dan Kovalik
NPR, Yemen & the Downplaying of U.S. War Crimes
Randy Blazak
Thugs, Bullies, and Donald J. Trump: The Perils of Wounded Masculinity
Murray Dobbin
Are We Witnessing the Beginning of the End of Globalization?
Daniel Falcone
Urban Injustice: How Ghettos Happen, an Interview with David Hilfiker
Gloria Jimenez
In Honduras, USAID Was in Bed with Berta Cáceres’ Accused Killers
Kent Paterson
The Old Braceros Fight On
Lawrence Reichard
The Seemingly Endless Indignities of Air Travel: Report from the Losing Side of Class Warfare
Peter Berllios
Bernie and Utopia
Stan Cox – Paul Cox
Indonesia’s Unnatural Mud Disaster Turns Ten
Linda Pentz Gunter
Obama in Hiroshima: Time to Say “Sorry” and “Ban the Bomb”
George Souvlis
How the West Came to Rule: an Interview with Alexander Anievas
Julian Vigo
The Government and Your i-Phone: the Latest Threat to Privacy
Stratos Ramoglou
Why the Greek Economic Crisis Won’t be Ending Anytime Soon
David Price
The 2016 Tour of California: Notes on a Big Pharma Bike Race
Dmitry Mickiewicz
Barbarous Deforestation in Western Ukraine
Rev. William Alberts
The United Methodist Church Up to Its Old Trick: Kicking the Can of Real Inclusion Down the Road
Patrick Bond
Imperialism’s Junior Partners
Mark Hand
The Trouble with Fracking Fiction
Priti Gulati Cox
Broken Green: Two Years of Modi
Marc Levy
Sitrep: Hometown Unwelcomes Vietnam Vets
Lorenzo Raymond
Why Nonviolent Civil Resistance Doesn’t Work (Unless You Have Lots of Bombs)
Ed Kemmick
New Book Full of Amazing Montana Women
Michael Dickinson
Bye Bye Legal High in Backwards Britain
Missy Comley Beattie
Wanted: Daddy or Mommy in Chief
Ed Meek
The Republic of Fear
Charles R. Larson
Russian Women, Then and Now
David Yearsley
Elgar’s Hegemony: the Pomp of Empire
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail