Libya - imperialist puppet government invites imperialist intervention

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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.

To solve their problems the major imperialists plan to intervene militarily again. A new major intervention is being planned, spearheaded by the EU imperialist powers, including Italy and Britain. But to give this a fig leaf of legitimacy, they need a government – accepted by the ‘international community’ as a unified representative of the Libyan people – to invite them to intervene. So they have created one. A new ‘unity’ government entered Tripoli on 30 March and set up an interim headquarters in a naval base. This ‘Government of National Accord’ (GNA) – created by UN-brokered peace talks – is led by Prime Minister Fayez Al Sarraj. The US and European imperialists are pushing for it to take power nationally, and for all militias, governments and parties in the country to accept it. The EU has arranged to give it support with €100m. British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said that Britain would ‘stand ready to respond positively to requests for support and assistance’. The GNA has been rejected by the HoR and the GNC, with the Tripoli-based GNC demanding it leaves Tripoli immediately or surrenders to the GNC authorities. Fighting has already begun in the city. IS, which controls the major city of Sirte – which was virtually flattened by NATO bombs – and 120 miles of coastline, will not accept the GNA. Neither will regional militias with their own power bases, often built on the people-smuggling industry, in the southern deserts of Libya. The only way for the GNA to take state power will be with substantial imperialist military support.

Libya is already awash with mercenaries and international special forces, fighting with different militias and with a hundred different objectives. Britain’s Defence Minister, Michael Fallon, told Parliament on 29 February, that 20 British troops from the 4th Infantry Brigade were being deployed to the Tunisian-Libyan border to help Tunisian authorities manage people-smuggling and jihadist movements. A leaked memo of Jordanian King Abdullah – himself a former British army officer – addressing US congressional leaders confirmed that British SAS forces have been active in Libya alongside Jordanian special forces since at least the beginning of 2016. RAF planes, alongside those from the US and France, are flying reconnaissance missions over Libya to support forces on the ground. US planes launched an airstrike in Libya on an IS target on 19 February. Britain’s Foreign Affairs Select Committee discovered on a visit to Egypt and Tunisia in March that plans were in place to send 1,000 British troops to Libya ‘in the near future’ as part of a 6,000 strong international force. Cameron has so far denied this. Italy has offered 3,000 soldiers. As the GNA attempts to secure its position in Tripoli and military opposition intensifies, there is no doubt that plans for further British military support will re-emerge.

Toby Harbertson

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 250 April/May 2016