Libya: The legacy of NATO’s war

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In March 2011, the British Parliament voted to intervene in Libya, opposed by only 15 MPs. Labour ‘left veteran’ Diane Abbott is among those who voted for bombing, as is the current Shadow Defence Secretary Nia Griffith. The legacy of the 2011 NATO war on Libya was thrust back onto the news agenda in May 2017. On 22 May 2017 a British-Libyan, inspired by the Islamic State (IS), carried out an horrific suicide bomb attack at a Manchester pop concert killing 23 people and injuring more than 100. Two days later, 30 people, mainly young children, drowned off the Libyan coast after falling from a small wooden boat carrying 700 people. Together these events illustrate the disastrous legacy of NATO’s war to overthrow the government of Muammar Gaddafi.


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Libya - imperialist puppet government invites imperialist intervention

Five years on from the brutal 2011 NATO assault on Libya, the country is in chaos. There has been no functioning state since the fall of Gaddafi’s government. The Islamic State group (IS) has taken advantage of the chaos. The borders have collapsed, and the country is now a centre of human trafficking, significantly contributing to the flow of migrants to Europe. The exploitation of Libya’s plentiful natural resources – including Africa’s largest oil reserves – has been complicated by the chaos. IS controls 12 major oil fields. There are two governments in Libya which have been fighting for power for more than a year – the House of Representatives (HoR), supported by the Libyan National Army, based in the east and led by Khalifa Haftar; and the General National Congress (GNC) based in the capital Tripoli, and backed by an alliance of militias called Libya Dawn. Many other regional militias, not aligned to either government, also hold swathes of territory. For the European and US imperialists, their war in Libya has not gone to plan.


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Libya war looms /FRFI! 239 Jun/Jul 2014

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 239 June/July 2014

Since NATO-led forces overthrew the government of Colonel Gaddafi in 2011 Libya has been torn to pieces by rival militias presiding over separate fiefdoms. Now a coalition of militia and other forces headed by former general Khalifa Haftar intends to crush their rivals: full scale civil war threatens. On 16 May Haftar’s forces attacked jihadist militias in Benghazi using war planes and helicopters; over 70 people were killed and 141 injured. Two days later forces loyal to Haftar attacked the parliament building in Tripoli. Haftar said he was fighting terrorism. Parliament’s leader, Nouri Abu Shamein, called on jihadist militias to repel the attack.

Haftar participated in the 1969 coup that brought Gaddafi to power. He later fought with Libya’s soldiers in Chad where he was taken prisoner by French forces in 1987. Having become an opponent of Gaddafi, he was removed to the US in around 1990, returning to Libya in 2011. Haftar is suspected of having close ties to western intelligence agencies; his allies include current and former army officers.

In April 2014 the US State Department announced, ‘Libya has become a terrorist safe haven.’ Just days before Haftar’s forces acted in Benghazi, the US stationed 200 marines in Sicily. A Pentagon spokesperson explained, ‘We’re doing this as a contingency because we believe that the security situation in North Africa is deteriorating to a point where there could be threats’. 2,000 Libyan troops were brought to Britain for training in 2013 and a further group arrived in April this year.

Libyan oil output has fallen from 1.4m barrels a day in 2013 to 200,000 barrels a day today. Oil generates 95% of Libyan government revenues. Unemployment is over 30% and a million people are internally displaced. Militias run their own prisons, thousands of people have disappeared. Dozens of police officers, former and current army officers and judges have been assassinated since 2011. The US ambassador to Libya and three aides were killed in Benghazi in September 2012. Amidst the chaos inflicted by the NATO attack on the country, weapons from Libya have been transferred to jihadists in Syria and been sold to groups fighting across West Africa, including Boko Haram in Nigeria.

Whatever foreign backing Haftar’s self-declared Libyan National Army may have, its opponents will not easily be outgunned nor will they be without their own supporters abroad. Any confrontation could be long and bloody.

Trevor Rayne


Libya: oil output collapses/FRFI 235 Oct/Nov 2013

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 235 October/November 2013
The activities of militias and striking workers have reduced Libya’s oil output from 1.4m barrels a day at the start of 2013 to 200,000 barrels in August. As a consequence, Libya’s government and foreign oil companies such as Total, Eni, Marathon Oil, ConocoPhilips and Repsol are losing $100m a day in revenues. Most of Libya’s main oil export terminals were closed in early August by guards paid to protect them. Oil pipelines have been sabotaged. Now the oil multinationals are saying that they plan to sell up and leave Libya.

On 17 September Libya’s Prime Minister Ali Zeidan visited Britain and Prime Minister David Cameron and asked for help in disposing of the mass of weapons in Libya. The United Nations Security Council warned of a ‘worrying’ increase in the movement of weapons and ammunition across Libya’s borders ‘and an increasing number of reported cases of trafficking such material to Syria’. Libya’s militias are beyond the control of the central government and were armed by such as France, Britain and Qatar to fight the Gadaffi-led government forces. Now these militias have such a glut of weapons that they are advertising them for sale on Facebook.

Trevor Rayne


Libya: Creating a monster/ FRFI 233 Jun/Jul 2013

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 233 June/July 2013

On 2 April 2013 HMS Kent docked in Tripoli harbour, the first visit to Libya by a Royal Navy warship in 40 years. It hosted a UK Trade and Investment event which saw 11 UK businesses – including BAE, Thales and Babcock International – vie to secure lucrative security contracts. Over 100 Libyan military personnel were in attendance, including the heads of all five armed services and the police. Naval Commander Ben Ripley praised the ‘thoroughly enjoyable and rewarding visit’ and its ‘potential wider benefits for the UK’. On 10 May the British embassy evacuated all non-essential staff from its Tripoli premises, issuing a joint plea for calm with the French and US governments amid political instability sweeping the country – the newly-established US marine unit at Moron Air Base in southern Spain and an AFRICOM special-ops force based in Stuttgart, were both placed on heightened alert. Imperialism has opened Pandora’s box in Libya; it must deal with the consequences.


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