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Free, but confusing, Libya

January 25, 2014 at 5:49 am

No one can deny that Gaddafi-free Libya has to be a better place in all respects, but a Libya protected by NATO troops and under UN trusteeship is not what we hoped for post-Colonel Nightmare. Replacing evil with evil was not on the agenda, nor was getting rid of Gaddafi only to create a NATO protectorate. While it was easy to think ill of Gaddafi, NATO is not above suspicion; isn’t it enough for it to be a military wing of US foreign policy?

Last Thursday it was announced that a new international alliance with NATO has been formed in Doha, with 13 member states including the US, Britain and France. The new body, to be chaired by Qatar, was agreed at a “Friends of Libya” conference in the Gulf state’s capital. On the agenda was the situation of post-NATO Libya.

The President of Libya’s Transitional Council, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, called for NATO’s role to be extended until the end of 2011. “Libya,” he said, “still needs the aid of friends to assist in securing its borders.” This would be a service to Libya, a service to neighbouring countries, and a service to the countries of Southern Europe, claimed Abdul Jalil.

The media published statements from the Qatari military’s Chief of Staff, who said that the new alliance will provide support to the Libyans with training and the round-up of weapons once NATO’s role has finished. No troops will be sent to maintain Libyan security, he insisted, although they will be available to rebuild the country’s military capacity by introducing the former rebel forces into the system.

Explaining why the Transitional Council had asked for NATO to stay, Libya’s Minister of Defence said that circumstances require it, as the new regime has to address the issue of collaborators and foreign mercenaries, and stop illegal immigration. The latter is a problem worrying the whole Mediterranean region. The new regime is also unsure about what to do with the remnants of the former Gaddafi revolutionary committees. In addition to all this, Libya needs to secure its borders following the collapse of the country’s security apparatus.

I do not find the published statements entirely convincing. Since when did helping a new regime in training and the collection of weapons need an international coalition of 13 countries? Its formation is reminiscent of the US-led group embroiled in Afghanistan and the coalition formed to liberate Kuwait after Iraq’s invasion in 1990. Experience shows that such alliances are a front for putting US foreign policy aims and objectives into practice.
The new alliance’s is to be chaired by Qatar over major players such as the USA, Britain and France. This can only be explained in one of two ways:
The first is that the United States wants to stand behind an Arab front in order to avoid the curse of Arab public opinion, which is understandably wary of further Western intervention in Arab affairs. The second is that Qatar is the key financier of the new alliance, perhaps with other Gulf countries, and will cover the cost of its duties on Libyan soil.

What is confusing is that the three major countries which rushed to support the Libyan Transitional Council and had a role in putting the NATO forces “in the Libyan theatre”, did not do it out of the goodness of their hearts; they expect and will demand some sort of payback. This doesn’t sit easily with the notion of post-Gaddafi Libya being under the trusteeship of the international community, as discussed by the UN Secretary General more than three months ago.

The most striking absentees from the “Friends of Libya” get-together were the Arab League and Egypt. This was surprising as Egypt is the most populous Arab country and it regards Libya as a vital component of its security strategy. Was the meeting in Qatar for Libya’s friends but not brothers?

So many questions are raised by the scenario in Libya, that we are justified in saying that although Libya is now free, it is also very confusing. Libya’s liberation was very pleasing, but the accompanying puzzlement tempers our joy. We hope for Libya’s sake that evil is not, in fact, being replaced by evil.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.