Libya: imperialists prepare to break the stalemate

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The letter signed by US President Obama, British Prime Minister Cameron and French President Sarkozy published on 15 April 2011 is a statement of their intention that imperialism will remain dominant in North Africa and the Middle East. They say, ‘Colonel Gaddafi must go, and go for good,’ and thereby intend to demonstrate their power militarily, politically and symbolically by imposing regime change on Libya. Dressed-up in the language of humanitarian intervention, this is naked, brutal rule by armed force.

The three leaders state, ‘The city of Misrata is enduring a medieval siege as Gaddafi tries to strangle its population into submission.’ Typical of the ruling class media has been The Independent (17 April 2011) which carried the headline ‘Misrata becomes Libya’s Stalingrad.’ There are claims that cluster bombs have been fired on Misrata’s people, the Libyan government denies doing this, and we have been shown television coverage of children and others wounded in Misrata’s hospitals and people fleeing the city by boats. On 18 April the Canadian head of NATO’s Libyan operations accused Libyan government forces of taking off their uniforms and ‘hiding on rooftops of mosques, hospitals, schools, that’s where their heavy equipment is positioned’. In the context of a military stalemate between the Libyan government and its opponents, the media coverage can be construed as propaganda preparations for some form of NATO and European ground force intervention. There is no coverage of the use of depleted uranium weapons by the NATO forces and no scenes of suffering in Tripoli’s hospitals recorded for our television screens.

Misrata is a city of approximately 500,000 people. By 18 April the Libyan opposition forces said that about 1,000 people had been killed in the city after three weeks of fighting. The Libyan government has agreed to allow aid agencies to access the city.

All efforts at brokering a ceasefire in Libya have been rejected by NATO and the opposition forces. The Libyan government approached Greece and Turkey to act as mediators with the opposition forces and NATO, both rejected the approach. On 11 April the opposition Transitional National Council (TNC) rejected the African Union’s attempt to negotiate a ceasefire, which the government had accepted. President Chavez of Venezuela efforts at bringing the opposing parties to discussions was similarly refused by the TNC. The British, French and US governments’ mantra is ‘Gaddafi must go’ and the TNC repeats it. The opposition forces are entirely dependent upon the imperialists’ armies and the imperialists cannot allow them to be defeated, even if it takes more airstrikes, arms supplies, contracted auxiliaries or British, French and US soldiers on the ground in Libya. The NATO allies will hope that the combination of sanctions, the seized assets and sustained military force will drive Gaddafi out of Libya.

The cost of the war to the British state is estimated to be £3 million a day. However, the government has set aside much more to fund its own operations and those of the opposition. There is little evidence of the anti-government forces being able to use guerrilla tactics. The government forces have deployed these more effectively. NATO planes have twice attacked anti-government forces, killing 13 people on each occasion, as we predicted they would in FRFI 220. British Rear Admiral Russ Harding said of the ‘friendly fire’ incidents, ‘It would appear that two of our strikes yesterday may have resulted in [rebel] deaths. I am not apologising. The situation on the ground remains extremely fluid and until yesterday we did not have information that [rebel] forces are using tanks.’ Anti-government forces have been supplied with anti-tank missiles and hand-held radios.

Britain and France have approached the UAE and Qatar for money and military specialists; after all, they have trained and equipped their armies. They intend to implant military contractors as Britain and the US did with the Northern Alliance against the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001.  British, French and US special forces are already in Libya. Prime Minister Cameron has repeated, ‘We’re not occupying, we’re not invading.’ Yet the need for specialist forces on the ground to direct both aerial strikes and the opposition forces will to lead to an increased deployment of British and French forces directly and this would be done with a humanitarian pretext. On 19 April British Foreign Secretary Hague said that Britain would send a group of officers to Benghazi to advise the opposition forces on ‘communications and logistics, including how best to distribute humanitarian aid and deliver medical assistance’. As the former Liberal Democrat party leader Sir Menzies Campbell pointed out, the US involvement in the Vietnam War began with military advisers. We can expect the targeting of government strategic sites, even though they were previously considered off-limits under the UN Resolution 1973. The Libyan government dismissed the ‘humanitarian’ eye-wash and said that the British officers would be targets.

Since the US scaled back its deployment of attack aircraft the bulk of aerial attacks have been made by British and French planes, with four other NATO members joining in: Belgium, Canada, Denmark and Norway. France has deployed an aircraft carrier and two frigates. Italy has made seven airbases available for NATO sorties. However, NATO command and foreign ministers asked Italy and Spain to supply more combat aircraft. By 7 April Italy’s 12 planes had flown 108 missions but not fired once! On 15 April the Italian government rejected the French and British governments’ request for its planes to bomb Libya.  The tensions within NATO command and between national governments and states and within ruling classes of the NATO countries will increase if the stalemate sets in. Turkey, Greece and Sweden have rebuffed calls for planes in combat missions; Belgium said it would not increase its deployment.

Germany initially refused to endorse the NATO intervention or commit its forces to what its government called a ‘North African civil war’ and abstained in the United Nations vote for Resolution 1973. However, in early April, Germany reversed its decision and said that it would commit its military to the Libya campaign, but under the authority of the European Union, in EUFOR Libya (set up on 1 April 2011 and based in Italy) and not NATO. Libya is Germany’s fourth most important oil supplier. The German state may seek to promote a European Union force distinct from that of NATO. The European Union has 1,000 soldiers ready for deployment in Misrata as part of the EUFOR force, the largest component of which are German troops.

As the imperialists manoeuvre so the issue between them becomes who will pay for the war and who will get the oil spoils.

Trevor Rayne

 

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