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North Africa

By Dr Robert Crowcroft, Senior Research Associate, UK Defence Forum

The United Nations-sanctioned military intervention in Libya is only a few days old, but already its execution is looking cack-handed. Listening to the news, every politician or military officer has their own perspective. Usually this contradicts what someone else has said just an hour before. 'Message' indiscipline is rife; no single narrative unifies the mission. Nor is there much in the way of strategic vision either. At the moment there seems to be a worrying lack of clarity as to what we are doing in Libya in the first place, how we are going to do it, and how we are going to get out. The Daily Telegraph rightly called it 'an unedifying muddle'. Such interventions require conceptual clarity, and in the campaign to bludgeon Colonel Gadaffi this is sorely lacking. Considering that the operation has only just begun, this raises serious issues about the effectiveness of our political leadership.

Some preliminary questions:

[1] Why are we there?

For the last month, David Cameron has been spoiling to launch military strikes against Gadaffi. To be sure, when he was slapped down by the United States the prime minister had to row back for a little while. But Cameron has pushed for the intervention more than any other leader, with the possible exception of Sarkozy. This is odd, because there is no obvious British national interest in Libya and military action in the Islamic world generates all kind of political headaches.

If we were being cynical, we might recall that prior to the outbreak of civil war in Libya, the British press were, for the first time, starting to land really heavy blows on the government about 'cuts'. Then, when the Libyan crisis began, Cameron leapt into it with a rather baffling eagerness. The prime minister would, without question, have recognised the domestic advantages of deflecting media attention abroad; and what better way to do that than engaging in a 'moral' military campaign against a tin-pot tyrant? Mr Cameron has spent the last month playing the role of 'international statesman', 'good liberal', and 'defender of human rights'. Politically speaking, this is far more appealing than being 'the man who freed the criminals' or 'the man who cut the police'. I know which I'd prefer.

There is a long tradition of British politicians using foreign affairs as a pawn in domestic calculation (most obviously Lord Palmerston, for whom being the scourge of Johnny Foreigner was a recurrent ticket to political success at home). It would be naïve to think that such manoeuvring is not at work here. The problem, however, is that while a month ago it seemed plausible that the Gadaffi regime would fall (and hence a few airstrikes in assistance would represent an easy political win for Cameron) now it looks likely that Gadaffi will survive in some shape or form. Launching an intervention when the rebellion has been pushed back to a small enclave is arguably a grave error; we should either have gone in much earlier, or not at all. Yet Mr Cameron remained eager to drive the policy forward, despite the fundamental changes on the ground. If the mission is now disconnected from easily achievable strategic goals, then serious questions must be asked about his leadership.

[2] Joined-up government

Sir Peter Ricketts, the National Security Adviser, should be awarded an Academy Award. Time and again he informs us that the National Security Council is the best thing since sliced bread, that the NSC is now bridging gaps across Whitehall, and that policy is more co-ordinated as a result. Unfortunately, in the two big tests the NSC has faced since its inception, it has failed to produce anything resembling joined-up government, let alone coherent policy. The SDSR process last autumn was a rushed exercise driven by the Treasury, and in which crucial strategic decisions were blatantly avoided. And now, in Libya, the lack of leadership and grip at the heart of government has been exposed. Cameron and Liam Fox (unlikely allies it must be said) are at loggerheads with General Sir David Richards over whether or not Gadaffi himself is a legitimate target for airstrikes. Fox said that targeting Gadaffi was 'potentially a possibility'. When the question was put to Richards, however, he declared 'absolutely not' and added that 'It is not allowed under the UN mandate'. Downing Street responded by asserting that Richards was 'wrong'. In the House of Commons, Cameron then said that the UN resolution 'does not provide legal authority' to get rid of Gadaffi, but then qualified this by stating that 'there is no decent future' for Libya under the current ruler. I shall translate his statement: 'We want rid of Gadaffi but couldn't get that idea past the UN'. Political leadership in war is supposed to inspire confidence. Can anyone say they have confidence in the British government at the moment?

More worryingly, there is a lack of clarity over whether we should simply be enforcing a no-fly zone, or interpreting the UN resolution in such a way as to pursue regime change on the cheap. Are we there to ensure Gadaffi's planes don't fly, that he doesn't attack civilians (and how is this to be done from the air in urban areas), or to get him out of power? The discord is already building.

This lack of leadership is just as clear in the case of President Obama. He has suggested that the US is going to 'tone down' its role in the coming days, which could simply mean a ceremonial transfer of control to NATO. But it might also mean that the coalition collapses into ineffectiveness without US leadership to drive it forward. Any attempt to toss the problem to the Europeans is unlikely to produce a positive result. Such an outcome would be far, far worse politically than not having become involved in Libya at all. In both foreign and domestic policy, Obama has repeatedly displayed a worrying inability to take any decisions. Don't bet against the same thing happening here.

[3] What is the exit strategy?

If Gadaffi holds on to power, the most likely outcome is a stalemate and the effective fracturing of Libya into two entities. In such circumstances, how long do we have to remain in Libya for? It is probably impractical to do a no-fly zone over the long term, given the logistical constraints. But how do we get out without losing face? Is the West putting itself in a position where it assumes a duty to protect the rebel enclave indefinitely?

Moreover, how do we know that the rebel leaders are any better than Gadaffi? If this is essentially a civil war between the regions of Libya, then it seems unlikely that the rebel leaders are good Guardian-reading liberals in disguise. The incident at the weekend, when the rebels shot down one of their own jets and tried to depict it as a Gadaffi violation of the ceasefire, should make us deeply cautious about them.

There is no clear exit strategy from Libya and so, given the likelihood of a stalemate on the ground, there is much potential for embarrassment. After the British failure in Basra, which saw the US forced to ride to the rescue, the UK cannot afford another blow to its military credibility.

[4] The indulgence of left-wing dogmas

Cameron has shot himself in the foot here. He has stressed repeatedly how the international community 'has given its permission' for the military action. The problem is this: what happens in six months if British, or Western interests, mandate action elsewhere that is not rubber-stamped by the UN? Without this 'permission', can we not defend our national interests? Everyone with common sense knows that the UN is not a collection of virtuous do-gooders but individual states (usually led by gangsters and criminals) looking out for themselves. In the long-term, employing such left-wing language in justifying military conflict is simply self-defeating. The fact that the UN is driven by power-politics was demonstrated vividly in 2003. So why should sovereign democracies permit it such importance? On BBC Radio 4, William Hague stressed that the UN is the world's 'highest moral authority'. Don't make me laugh. The UN refused to sanction the Kosovo war. Should we have stood aside?

Pretending that international politics functions in this way is a feckless thing for politicians to do. If they are so stupid, they deserve their fate.

[5] The duplicity of the Arab states

Long-time observers of the Middle East will know that Arab states are about as trustworthy as a convicted conman. The support of the Arab League for military action was a positive sign. But the League's lapse into ambiguity once the airstrikes actually began was entirely predictable. The narrative which will be spun in mosques across the Middle East is of 'Crusaders' killing Muslims for oil. Arab leaders, hard pressed with their own internal problems, will no doubt make enthusiastic appeals for national unity on the grounds that civil strife opens the door to the Jews and Christians.

So, in conclusion, there is cause for serious concern about the quality of political leadership currently on display, particularly in London. It is, of course, plausible that secret intelligence reports indicate the Gadaffi regime is on the verge of collapse. It would be sensible for the government to keep quiet about this. But as far as we can detect in public, at any rate, the big story is the lack of clarity about the campaign. Imposing discipline on Whitehall would be a start. Mr Cameron needs to come up with some answers – and quickly.

 

Forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi began to approach the eastern rebel capital of Benghazi on March 19, with the BBC reporting that loyalist armor already is inside the city, though this may have been only a reconnaissance element. Soon after these reports, word of impending international military operations against Gadhafi's forces began to emerge, with French and Italian aircraft reportedly beginning to conduct combat air patrols.

Though Gadhafi declared a unilateral cease-fire in response to the U.N. Security Council's (UNSC) authorization of the use of force against Libya on March 17, it is becoming apparent that this was simply a stalling tactic in an attempt to consolidate gains ahead of airstrikes. The military incentive for Gadhafi is to reach Benghazi before any airstrikes begin. If a "no-drive" zone between Ajdabiya and Benghazi were to come into effect, military vehicles and supply convoys would be vulnerable to any coalition aircraft orbiting overhead, making it far more difficult for Gadhafi to project force across the large open terrain that separates the two cities. Airpower can also make it difficult to move and resupply forces, so the heavier elements of Gadhafi's forces — tanks, tracked vehicles and artillery — already operating at the end of extended lines of supply, may quickly face logistical issues. However, while airpower can attempt to prevent forces from approaching the city, it cannot force the withdrawal of those forces from within the city without risking significant civilian casualties.

Relevant political negotiations and military planning now taking place in Europe continues and more time is needed to mass forces for the impending air campaign against Libya. Nevertheless, if the European-led effort is to stop Gadhafi from reaching Benghazi, it will have to begin soon, with what forces have so far been moved into place — though given Libya's distance from mainland Europe, the presence of U.S. Marine Corps and Italian Harriers and cruise missile-armed warships off the coast, there already is a considerable amount of coalition airpower in place.

As nightfall approaches, loyalist forces with little night-vision capability may slow operations, and any air campaign against them will likely begin under the cover of darkness, consistent with longstanding U.S. and NATO operational practice. Targets are prioritized, so available airpower will begin to work down the list with the suppression of enemy air defenses as well as command, control and communications likely to be at or near the top of the list, though SA-7 MANPADS and anti-aircraft artillery will remain a persistent threat.

Rules of engagement will be an important question. While Gadhafi's forces have been led by a vanguard of T-72 main battle tanks and supported by BM-21 rocket artillery, his infantry is often videotaped using civilian vehicles for transportation. While the intention will likely be to stop all traffic between Ajdabiya and Benghazi, whether coalition aircraft are willing to fire on civilian vehicles remains to be seen. If so, they risk considerable civilian casualties. If not, they may deny the use of tanks and artillery but risk not stopping Gadhafi's infantry.

The use of airpower has been authorized, forces are being massed and Gadhafi appears to be acting as though its use is inevitable and so is moving while he can. However, the application of airpower entails civilian casualties, and it remains unclear if that application can be translated into the achievement of political objectives in Libya. So while there are many tactical questions moving forward, there is only one strategic one: How has the European-led coalition translated the UNSC authorization into military objectives, and what are the operational parameters and rules of engagement that govern them?

Reprinted from Red Alert by STRATFOR with permission. All rights reserved (c) www.stratfor.com

 

A Falklands veteran who was working on a clean water project in Libya, a Cardiff contracts manager and a couple of Yorkshire teachers has thanked the Royal Navy for their safe rescue.

Mike Wilson, 61, was among the 207 exhausted civilians delivered to Malta on Saturday by HMS Cumberland.

The former sailor from Stamshaw in Portsmouth, Hampshire made his way from Brega in the desert south of Libya to meet the British warship in Benzaghi.
He said: "I can't speak highly enough of how we were treated and cared for in getting out of Libya.

"It was a very dangerous situation which was escalating and all of us onboard were glad to be rescued."

Mr Wilson was working on the Great Man Made River project in the town of Brega. Dozens of British workers have been involved in building a pipeline from a giant underground water source to the rest of Libya.

He said: "It's a really important programme for the people and it's a real shame that we have had to come out. But we were getting reports about looting and militias and it was best to get out of there."

Mr Wilson travelled north by car past fighting factions in Libya, and spent more than 30 hours in HMS Cumberland as she crossed rough seas to Malta.

He said: "I served in HMS Broadsword which was a frigate that was in the 1982 Falklands conflict. The seas in the South Atlantic are renowned for being choppy and dramatic but this was just the same as back then.

"We were in a small Junior Rates mess room and there were several people who were ill. But it was fine given the situation we were leaving and we're very happy to be safe.

"We were in a compound of buildings back in the desert and we had looters trying to get in, armed with knives.

"It was potentially terrifying situation and it's sad for Libya, where I've been for three years."

Mr Wilson's son David is in the Royal Navy and serves on HMS Illustrious and his other son Mark is an army corporal based in Germany.

Richard Weeks, a 64-year-old contracts manager from Sully near Cardiff, who had also been working on a clean water project, had been robbed at knifepoint..

The father of two said: "We were faced with looters rushing into the property where we were holed up and there was nothing we could do. It had been getting more risky for the ten days before and there was no
prospect of it easing.

"They were armed with knives and knew they could take what they wanted, so it was better to let them get on with it. It was a very sad and terrifying situation. I've lived between Cardiff and Benghazi for 20 years and the hope is that the country can return to peace soon."

The government sent HMS Cumberland to Benghazi to collect Britons and civilians from more than 20 nations. RAF planes and commercial airliners have rescued people from the north african country.

Mr Weeks said: "The Royal Navy has really impressed me during this journey. Space and resources were obviously limited but people were kind and considerate and we were kept warm and fed."

Cumberland's Commanding Officer, Captain Steve Dainton, said: "Ten days ago the ship was off the coast of Somali which shows how flexible we can be."

Keith and Sue Rodgers are bound for Settle in North Yorkshire but said they were reluctant to leave Libya.

Mrs Rodgers, 54, who teaches primary pupils at the British School in Benghazi, said: "It was very surreal because we could hear gun fire but could still pop to the shops to get items.

"It was in the last few days that the situation really worsened and we knew we had to go. We live in a normal apartment block in the city and had never had any trouble before; the Libyan people are incredibly friendly.

"We don't know if we will go back yet, for the moment we will go back home to Yorkshire."

HMS Cumberland is continuing to offer assistance in getting people out of Libya, and the Type 42 destroyer HMS York is also nearby to help if required.

Editor's note : Both ships are destined for the scrap heap under recently announced defence cuts. But this proves that 19's not enough.

 

 

 

 

 

Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman delivered the following statement Feb. 11: "In the name of God the merciful, the compassionate, citizens, during these very difficult circumstances Egypt is going through, President Hosni Mubarak has decided to step down from the office of president of the republic and has charged the high council of the armed forces to administer the affairs of the country. May God help everybody."

Suleiman's statement is the clearest indication thus far that the military has carried out a coup led by Defense Minister Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi. It is not clear whether Suleiman will remain as the civilian head of the army-led government. Egypt is returning to the 1952 model of ruling the state via a council of army officers. The question now is to what extent the military elite will share power with its civilian counterparts.

At a certain point, the opposition's euphoria will subside and demands for elections will be voiced. The United States, while supportive of the military containing the unrest, also has a strategic need to see Egypt move toward a more pluralistic system.

Whether the military stays true to its commitment to hold elections on schedule in September remains to be seen. If elections are held, however, the military must have a political vehicle in place to counter opposition forces, particularly the Muslim Brotherhood. The fate of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) thus lies in question. Without the NDP, the regime will have effectively collapsed and the military could run into greater difficulty in running the country. While the military council will be serving as the provisional government, it will likely want to retain as much of the ruling NDP as possible and incorporate elements of the opposition to manage the transition. Sustaining its hold over power while crafting a democratic government will be the biggest challenge for the military as it tries to avoid regime change while also dealing with a potential constitutional crisis.

Read more: Red Alert: Mubarak Resigns, Military is in Charge | STRATFOR www.stratfor.com

 

By Lauren Williamson, Great North News Services reporter

(Watch a minute and a half video that includes photographs of Saturday's protest. It can be viewed via this ">Youtube link.)

This weekend protesters in London took to the streets as part of a continued display of solidarity with the Egyptian popular uprising against President Hosni Mubarak, whose rule has lasted nearly thirty years.  Though the number
of demonstrators on Saturday was only around a hundred, far fewer than in llast weekend's London demonstrations, the emotional and political fury were still intense.

"We won't give up, we won't give in, until we see our people win," chanted the emphatic crowd.

Parents with children, young students, British nationals and other foreigners joined the Egyptian diaspora as they called on London-based Egyptian representatives and the UK government to support the populist movement.  Though some sections within the protesting group talked of different paths toward Egyptian political change, everyone seemed to share the same goal of achieving a sweeping transformation.

Saturday's protest at the Egyptian Embassy on 26 South Street was closely monitored by dozens of police on foot, on bikes, and in surveillance vans, with additional forces on standby in Hyde Park. Though the noon demonstrations started off slowly, within a few hours more people joined the group. Some women bought roses to commemorate the lives lost in the clashes between security forces and protesters in Egypt. The UN estimates around 300 people have been killed and an equal or greater number injured.

"We support the [Egyptian] people because we know now what Mubarak did in supporting Saddam Hussein," said a Kurdish protester as he expressed outrage over the atrocities Hussein committed against his fellow Kurds. The man
proudly displayed a large poster with a caricature of Mubarak oozing into the sewers with rats crawling nearby.

Though the protest's organisers refused to speak to us, other members of the crowd expressed their opinions freely, requesting to remain anonymous.

"Some protest because they want Islamic law. They think that kind of system would bring peace," one Egyptian said. "But we don't want that. The people who started all this, here, we don't support the Muslim Brotherhood."

This demonstrator's statement encapsulates a pressing concern of Western governments.  There is a worry over the Muslim Brotherhood's conservative policies, which conflict with liberal democratic values.  There is further
anxiety that if the Muslim Brotherhood were to take power, Egypt's peace with Israel might be compromised.

Just thirty miles north of London, on the same day as the Embassy protests, thousands of English Defence League supporters filled the streets of Luton. Their message targeted UK lawmakers, imploring them to help stop the spread
of Sharia law and Islamic extremism within the UK, as reported by Sky News. Interestingly, the day prior in London, on 5 February, the Egyptian embassy protesters were unexpectedly joined by an extremist Muslim anti-war group
whose members made threatening statements against the UK, according to Demotix.

The extent of the fear from all sides, built upon vastly contrasting rhetoric, is dangerous. It contributes to misunderstandings of the evolving process in Egypt and may fuel further grievances of disenfranchised groups.
Many in the West equate the Muslim Brotherhood to al-Qaeda when, in fact, they are two separate organisations with very different doctrines. The connections, however, do exist. It is well known that a Muslim Brotherhood
leader, Sayyid Qtub, served as an inspirational mentor for Osama bin Laden. But the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt has urgently tried to distance itself from violent jihad and gain political legitimacy to support their conservative religious policies.

Of course, political legitimacy in Egypt, which outlaws openly religious political factions, is nearly impossible to gain. Because group members have had to run for political positions as independents and operate
clandestinely, the exact number of Muslim Brotherhood supporters and sympathisers is unknown. Prominent anthropologist Scot Atran, in an article for *The International Herald Tribune*, says it may be around 20-30 percent.
This, Atran argues, should not spark such panic of a Muslim Brotherhood usurpation in Egypt.

But the Muslim Brotherhood's ideals have gained traction among the Egyptian people, as evidenced by the group's parliamentary election gains in 2005, which deeply disturbed Mubarak and the National Democratic Party.  Could it
be that the oppression of this group has actually gained them sympathisers?

In stark contrast to Atran's views, authors in *The Jerusalem Post* have been overwhelmingly alarmist about the situation; an anti-Zionist group is, to Israel, a decisive threat. The US has also indicated that it would not support extremist groups. But Atran's point is that by and large the demonstrations have been organised and sustained by a more educated and secular stratum.

Saturday's London protest provides some proof of this. The weekend demonstrations, which included protests on Downing Street on Sunday, were organised via Facebook groups, just like the initial demonstrations in Egypt
before the government shut down the internet. Many Facebook attendees have changed their profile pictures to Egyptian flags, a show of loyalty to their countrymen in this time of upheaval.  Generally  the
digital majority's chosen representation is the Egyptian flag, not the crescent and star of Islam.

"Like standing in no man's land, many Egyptians are confused, caught between feeling immense pride and great shame," wrote one London-based Egyptian, poignantly describing the ambivalence he and many of his countrymen feel at this point.

The author said it is pride for the scenes of bravery, the people's struggle for a freer life, the unity seen between Christians and Muslims.  It is shame for the eruptions of violence, the government's manipulation, and those that believe the propaganda, he argued. The author chided the notion that the protestors have caused the chaos in Egypt, an idea promoted on state-run media outlets. He equates it to blaming a rape victim for screaming for help.

There are endless accounts and opinions circulating on the web via social media platforms from Facebook to Twitter, Youtube to independent blogs. Some want Mubarak gone immediately. Others want the current administration to
maintain control of security and allow protesters to pursue their demonstrations, gaining support for a future election.

It is perhaps all too obvious that true democracy takes time to cultivate. A transitional period for Egypt seems only appropriate. But if during the transition any emerging political group, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, receives undue global condemnation, these criticisms may escalate the faction's domestic support. This political revolution is under intense international scrutiny and equally intense media coverage. At this critical juncture, decision makers in the West and the Arab world must not underestimate the potential of deeply rooted national loyalties.

---

Lauren Williamson is a London-based freelance journalist with a passion for security and development issues. She holds a Master's degree in International Studies and Diplomacy from the University of London.

 

By Laurent Rathborn, UK Defence Forum Researcher

The moral question over how Europe and America should respond to Gaddafi's attack on civilians has been at least partially answered; aircraft from multiple nations are attempting to keep the peace, and so far seem to be succeeding. What happens next, however, depends on a number of factors and the response that NATO forces will adopt in the face of ongoing violence. Unlike Iraq in the mid-90s, this no-fly-zone (NFZ) has been set up right in the middle of a civil war. Legitimised by its bid to throw off a tyrant who, like Saddam Hussein, has little compunction about murdering his own citizens, this is almost a textbook example of an uphill struggle for democratic freedom, supported by a regional body – the Arab League - which asked for outside help in restoring sanity.

Unlike Iraq, where the no-fly zone was imposed after the brunt of the fighting had stopped, this conflict is still hot. Several ways forwards for NATO forces are now possible, but will depend on Gaddafi's next moves. In the immediate term, there must be an active effort to prevent what happened at the end of the first Gulf War; a deliberate punishment of civilians by Saddam's helicopter corps. Whereas all reports indicate that Gaddafi's air forces are now no longer a factor, it will take constant monitoring to ensure that revenge attacks are not perpetrated by ground forces in the future for what NATO is doing in the present.

Libyan government forces have thousands of square miles of desert to hide in, and the language used in Resolution 1973 explicitly forbids foreign occupation. However, as noted by UK government ministers, in strict legal terms, a ground force does not have to be an occupation force. The situation as it exists at the moment is very fluid, and all efforts will be concentrated on stopping government forces punishing civilians and disabling the infrastructure that enables them to do so. Strikes to this effect have already been carried out, but NATO forces will eventually run out of military targets. Once they do, several options may present themselves. The following are listed in order of aggression:

Actively target the Libyan leadership by military means. Emplace a NATO-backed, UN-approved government;Actively target the Libyan leadership in order to place them before the International Criminal Court, which is investigating multiple human rights abuses by the regime;Quarantine the east of the country from government forces via heavy NFZ activity or troop emplacement while seeking a political settlement that may end in partition or the creation of a transitional rebel-led government. Allow the internal prosecution of former regime elements;Continue to quarantine the air and wait for the rebels to win;Retreat, and let affairs come to their own conclusion.

The last of these is unlikely, but is included for the sake of completeness in the light of complaints by the Arab League that the intervention goes too far and was not what it had envisaged when it asked for international help. There are feelings amongst some commentators that those expressing legitimate revolutionary sentiments in Libya have now been disenfranchised by NATO's actions. They miss the more immediate point that people expressing revolutionary sentiments would have been overrun by now without intervention. Whether the democratic protests and rebel action can still be called legitimate is a talking point for political philosophers; what matters now is what NATO, the democratic rebels, and the Arab League can achieve.

Read more...  



Distinct interests sparked the European involvement in Libya. The United Kingdom and France have issued vociferous calls for intervention in Libya for the past month, ultimately managing to convince the rest of Europe — with some notable exceptions — to join in military action, the Arab League to offer its initial support, and global powers China and Russia to abstain from voting at the U.N. Security Council.

U.S. President Barack Obama said March 21 that the leadership of the U.S.-European coalition against Libya would be transitioned to the European allies "in a matter of days." While the United States would retain the lead during Operation Odyssey Dawn — intended to incapacitate Tripoli's command and control, stationary air defenses and airfields — Obama explained that Odyssey Dawn would create the "conditions for our European allies and Arab partners to carry out the measures authorized by the U.N. Security Council resolution." While Obama pointed out that the U.S.-European intervention in Libya is very much Europe's war, French nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle (R91) and Italian aircraft carrier Giuseppe Garibaldi (551) arrived in waters near Libya, giving Europeans a valuable asset from which to increase European air sortie generation rates and time on station.

Before analyzing the disparate interests of European nations in Libya, one must first take stock of this coalition in terms of its stated military and political goals.

Read more...  

By Scott Stewart, Stratfor

On March 19, military forces from the United States, France and Great Britain began to enforce U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973, which called for the establishment of a no-fly zone over Libya and authorized the countries involved in enforcing the zone to "take all necessary measures" to protect civilians and "civilian-populated areas under threat of attack." Obviously, such military operations cannot be imposed against the will of a hostile nation without first removing the country's ability to interfere with the no-fly zone — and removing this ability to resist requires strikes against military command-and-control centers, surface-to-air missile installations and military airfields. This means that the no-fly zone not only was a defensive measure to protect the rebels — it also required an attack upon the government of Libya.

Certainly, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi has no doubt that the U.S. and European military operations against the Libyan military targets are attacks against his regime. He has specifically warned France and the United Kingdom that they would come to regret the intervention. Now, such threats could be construed to mean that should Gadhafi survive, he will seek to cut off the countries' access to Libyan energy resources in the future. However, given Libya's past use of terrorist strikes to lash out when attacked by Western powers, Gadhafi's threats certainly raise the possibility that, desperate and hurting, he will once again return to terrorism as a means to seek retribution for the attacks against his regime. While threats of sanctions and retaliation have tempered Gadhafi's use of terrorism in recent years, his fear may evaporate if he comes to believe he has nothing to lose.

Read more...  

By Nima Khorrami Assl, UK Defence Forum Researcher

As the United States, France, and Britain take the plunge into Libya's internal conflict, there seems to be a disagreement on the objectives of the mission and therefore what the exit strategy should be.

The trouble is that objectives are unclear because tactics, as opposed to strategy, are being discussed, and hence national leaders and their military advisors have proved incapable of formulating an exit strategy. For example, UN Security Council Resolution allows for the use of "all necessary means" to protect civilians, and it also advocates the idea of tilting the balance of power against Qaddafi. However, neither of these can be achieved without arming rebels and having troops on the ground. Meanwhile, there seems to be a consensus on a maximalist objective which is to say Qaddafi must go. Unclear is what role the alliance can and should play once he is gone given the NATO members' preference for minimalist tactics and narrow commitment in pursuit of their maximalist objective.

Hence, the international community, and in particular Britain, ought to seek to resolve the conflict via covert diplomatic means while keeping their forces on alert so to ensure that Qaddafi regime will put its words into action. This is so given that an immediate departure of the Qaddafi family from power will almost certainly create a de-ba'athification symptom which could easily embroil Libya into internal battles with different parts of the country dominated by rival tribes.

In terms of political infrastructure, Libya is equivalent of Afghanistan and Yemen, and that should Qaddafi go, Libya's political structure must be rebuilt from scratch. Qaddafi does not have a formal position to match his actual authority and thus he cannot be expected to resign. He makes the key decisions, but there are no formal institutions through which he does so. Therefore, the existence and predominance of informal ties and a lack of institutions should constitute the cornerstones of British strategy in the country which, in turn, require more realism as opposed to idealism.

What is crystal clear in Libya today is that there is a strong opposition to Qaddafi. However, it is not clear whether there is any internal coherence to that opposition which, in and by itself, is problematic in a country like Libya with a population of just over six million. The majority of the competent people in Libya have, in one way or another, worked with the Qaddafi regime. Hence, once Qaddafi is gone, there will not be enough trained bureaucrats to construct a new Libyan government that is not an extension of the old one. This fact alone could propel Libya back into some form of tribalism and create a power vacuum that will then be up for grab by contesting forces leading to emergence of a prolonged civil war; indeed a breeding ground for emergence of extremist discourses in North Africa. This becomes all the more alarming given the fact that Libya used to be the second-leading source of insurgents entering Iraq via Syria, Libyan rebels' possession of weapons and missiles looted from government stockpiles, and the regime's increasing attempts to arm its supporters for defensive purposes.

British interests in Libya are threefold: namely, securing British investment and energy needs, preventing Qaddafi from "brutalising" his own people, and averting societal instability and/or civil war. The underlying question, therefore, is that can a UN backed no-fly zone assist the government in its attempt to secure those interests? And the short answer is most probably not albeit the credible threat of use of force can prove effective in forcing the Libyan regime to make compromises.

Establishing a no-fly zone can be a very time consuming and complex endeavour requiring troops on the ground in order to provide meaningful protection to citizens as well as near-perfect clarity on the rules of engagement. While the latter might prove very difficult to achieve due to involvement of poorly trained troops from Arab states, the former is disallowed by the UN Resolution and Western leaders, in particular President Obama, are unwilling to contemplate it.

The UK's relative influence is clearly on the wane, not only because the "special relationship" is no longer that special but also because financial crisis of 2008 accelerated the transformation of economic and political power from the West to China, India and other rising powers. To be effective, therefore, UK foreign policy practitioners must be able to exploit short-lived opportunities and develop new types of partnership based on a well-defined vision for Britain's future role in accordance to the rapidly evolving geopolitical realities of this Century. Securing British interests abroad will require the government to be able to influence and/or persuade others to work with it on shared goals, and a prerequisite to achieving this end is to be seen as an enabler; an actor that has the knowledge and resources to help other states to develop sufficient vision and knowledge with regards to their involvement in critical parts of the world.

As such, the coalition government ought to be credited for persuading others to back its call for the use of credible threat under the guises of no-fly zone. Nonetheless, much more needs to be done in the form of covert diplomacy if Britain and its allies are to avoid another lengthy military commitment in a Muslim land. Covert diplomacy is needed to facilitate talks between pro and anti Qaddafi forces if there is going to emerge a reform-minded, representative government in Libya. This requires understanding Saif Qaddafi's motives, and Britain is well-equipped to take on this role.

Saif Qaddafi is British educated and has close links to this country; that is to say, we know him well and he knows us well too. He is, in fact, amongst the very few people in the Libyan government that Western officials can engage with on both political and intellectual levels. He is a reformer who, according to people close to him, believes in Western liberalism as evident in his writings. Writing him off for remarks, which were considerably taken out of context when reported, would be a major geostrategic mistake. It has to be realised that one single rule that every Arab is familiar with is that of 'family first, everything else next'. And Saif Qaddafi is no exception. Britain has the means to influence Saif and as a result can persuade its allies to support its efforts for a diplomatic solution.

A diplomatic end to the current instability in Libya can help Britain and its allies to avoid acquisitions of meddling in Muslim affairs and/or hijacking the Libyan revolution which will be voiced regardless of Arab states involvement. Moreover, Qaddafi's money and cheap oil have helped Robert Mugabe to buttress his position in Zimbabwe. Hence, a negotiated end to the Libyan drama can help Britain to force Qaddafi stop bailing out Mugabe thereby weakening his position in Zimbabwe indirectly. Finally, there is the real danger of a sharp drop in Libyan oil flow to Europe in events of a revolution or prolonged civil war which could be avoided if Britain merges the threat of force with covert diplomacy.

A reduction in Libyan oil production leads to further dependency on the Saudi oil thereby making Britain more vulnerable to Saudi demands at this critical time in the region. Already, it seems that there is an agreement between the West and the GCC in the form of Arab consent and help over Libya in return for Western silence over Bahrain. The trouble is that GCC regimes suppression of Shia in Bahrain is helping the Iranian government to expand its influence there. Should the GCC governments fail to stabilise Bahrain and Bahrain falls under the Iranian influence, treating Iran, already an influential actor in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Lebanon, and Gaza, as an equal partner might very well become a strategic necessity.

In short, that a military no-fly zone is an insufficient, risky strategy is clearly evident in Western powers desperate attempts to present it as a joint operation between NATO and the Arab League. What has been happening in the past couple of weeks is making of a tribal war and entirely unclear is what glue will hold together this decentralized country in the absence of nationalist identification.

As a result, danger of Britain ending up inheriting an open-ended protection of a new mini-state is real and can only be avoided if Britain and its allies do not limit their strategy to the use of force. Aside from its obvious and immediate geostrategic consequences – i.e. civil war, the cut-off of oil, and the possible re-empowerment of Al-Qaeda in North Africa –, foregoing covert diplomacy in favour of overt use of force will drastically reduce Britain ability to portray herself as an enabler in the Arab world. This is important because British interests can be very well secured if Britain is seen as an enabler, especially by emerging powers and in particular India, in resource rich regions.

 

By Jamie Ingram

The UK called a meeting of the UN Security council on 16 November 2010 to address concerns over violence relating to the forthcoming referendum on South Sudanese independence on 6 January 2011. The meeting aimed to demonstrate to the North Sudanese government that the international community is paying close attention to the country and will not permit the situation to regress into violence. This was just the latest visible sign of concern over the situation in Sudan, coming shortly after the visit of a high level UN panel to the country between 10-15 October to closely examine the situation and a statement from US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton condemning the Northern government. Clinton stated that there was only one possible outcome of the referendum, South Sudan's secession, and that any attempts by the North to interfere would be unacceptable.

Sudan's divisions are strikingly evident in both its geography and history. The deserts of the North are in stark contrast to the savannah and jungles of the South, while the populations of these two regions are just as varied. The North is predominantly Arabic speaking and Islamic while the South is populated by English speaking black Africans. After the British gained control in 1899 both regions were ruled from Khartoum in the North. Since gaining independence in 1956 Sudan has been racked by bloody civil wars between the North and South. The first civil war began in 1955 before Sudan even gained independence and ended in 1972; half a million died. The second civil war began in 1983 and lasted until the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2005 after over 1.9 million civilians had died. Exploitation of the Nile by the North at the expense of the South was a major cause of the conflagration

The CPA resulted in the promise to hold a referendum for South Sudanese independence in January 2011, but difficulties surround the process and tension is rife. The precise delimitation of South Sudanese territory has proven to be extremely difficult, especially regarding the Abyei region. These boundaries were to be delimited by the Abyei Boundary Commission (ABC) but the findings of their 2005 report were rejected by the Northern Government. Eventually the boundary dispute was referred to the UN Permanent Court of Arbitration which ruled on the delimitation of Abyei's boundaries on 22 July 2009. In addition to the referendum on Southern independence, Abyei is due to hold an election in which its population will vote on whether they wish to be part of South Sudan or remain with the North.

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