Berenice Stories

Short Stories by John Oakes

Posts Tagged ‘MI6

LIBYA – WAS PRESIDENT OBAMA’S INTERVENTION IN LIBYA’S CIVIL WAR BELATED?

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Janet Daley, writing in the British ‘Sunday Telegraph’ today, appears to argue that the anti-American violence in the Islamic world is a by-product of President Obama’s Middle East policy. She states that: ‘He [Obama] retreated dramatically from confrontation in the Middle East: so much so that when the opportunity arose to remove the tyrant Gaddafi from power, he would offer only belated back-up to an Anglo-French initiative. (This did not, of course, prevent him taking credit, after the fact, for liberating the people of Libya from their oppression.)’
It is likely that he was wary of intervention for a number of reasons. As the events in Libya were unfolding I was writing my book ‘Libya – The History of Gadaffi’s Pariah State’ and said this therein: ‘The French and British governments had been working hard to construct a consensus in favour of military intervention on the good and clear evidence that Gaddafi was murdering civilians. President Sarkozy of France was taking the lead, perhaps to boost his popularity ratings which had slipped alarmingly. The Arab League was in favour of intervention since a number of its members were less than happy with Gaddafi, though their contribution was unlikely to extend further than diplomatic manoeuvring.
The USA was wary. The CIA had been concerned for some time about the uncomfortable presence of Libyan jihadists in Derna and Benghazi, who had been involved in the Afghan war. Libya watchers, and there must have been some in the CIA, MI6 and elsewhere, will not have forgotten the Islamic fundamentalist violence in the Gebel Akhdar (Green Highlands) of Cyrenaica – now called East Libya – between 1995 and 1998. The violence was fomented and largely controlled by ‘The Libyan Islamic Fighting Group’. It was ruthlessly suppressed by Gaddafi using the Libya Air Force, though the aircraft that did the strafing and bombing were flown by Cubans and Serbs.’
In my blog of 13th September 2012 (LIBYA – HOW THE LIBYAN INTERIM NATIONAL COUNCIL ASKED FOR NATO’S HELP IN MARCH 2011) I explained how President Sarkozy opened a ‘back channel’ with the anti-Gadaffi leadership in Benghazi and recognised it as the legitimate government of Libya thus pre-empting others. I also showed that Hilary Clinton was sufficiently impressed by the arguments raised by Sarkozy and Jebril [see my 13th September blog] that she saw to it that UN security Council Resolution 1973 was approved, permitting intervention against Gaddafi. I also noted the Sarkozy’s foreign minister was excluded from the consultations and that German Chancellor, Angela Merkel. was not in favour of intervention. It might be said that Sarkozy’s actions were partly motivated by a need to improve his popularity ratings.
Despite the lack of unity amongst Europeans and the anxiety about al Qaida franchises in Libya Obama authorised his forces to act. On 19th March 2011, Tomahawk missiles fired from US and UK navy vessels hit air defences around Tripoli and Misurata and French jets attacked Gaddafi’s armour near Benghazi. The city was saved but just in time. Tanks were in its western approaches and Gaddafi’s snipers were firing from buildings very close to the rebel headquarters in the court house. It would be as well to remember that President Obama, for a number of reasons no doubt, offered crucial but limited assistance and required NATO to assume command of the No Fly Zone.’
So Janet Daley is nearly right but her neat change of emphasis makes Obama sound weak. She states that Obama offered belated back-up. I argue that he offered timely back-up but he had good reason to be cautious. An al Qaida franchise may have been embedded in Libya.
This appeared in the Libya Herald online toady: ‘Questions are being asked both in the US and in Libya whether there is an Al-Qaida link [to the killing of the US ambassador to Libya and some of his colleagues]. It is being suggested that the Omar Abdul Rahman Brigade, which supports al-Qaida, was behind the attack. National Congress Speaker Mohamed Magarief himself has already indicated that it is not coincidental that that attack took place on the anniversary of al-Qaida’s 9/11 attacks on the US.’

LIBYA – ‘The Deal in the Desert – Dining with the Devil without long spoons’ (Updated 24th January 2015)

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The meeting in 2004 between Muammar Gaddafi and Tony Blair in the former’s famous Bedouin tent was labelled the ‘Deal in the Desert’. Amongst other things it led to an exchange of information between MI6 and Gaddafi’s intelligence service.
In my blog on 21st August I argued that when dining with the devil one should use a long spoon and Mr Blair misplaced his when he and Gaddafi met that day. At best, the ‘Deal in the Desert’ may have been and exercise in excessive pragmatism. At worst, and suspicion is growing that the worst is likely, it may have been a disaster.
There was tawdriness in the way the Blair government used the British intelligence services. It may have led to deterioration in standards as bad leadership so often does. For example, the manner in which Alistair Campbell, Mr Blair’s Director of Communications and Strategy, presented the case for going to war against Saddam Hussein was cavalier and cynical.
On 3rd February 2003 Campbell produced a dossier which asserted that Saddam Hussein was in possession of weapons of mass destruction. It was called ‘Iraq: It’s Infrastructure of Concealment, Deception and Intimidation’ and was said to have been the distillation of the best intelligence available. It was later to be called the ‘Dodgy Dossier’ and was largely plagiarised, some, it is said, from the work of a graduate student whose typos were not corrected. It must surely have embarrassed some good MI6 officers.
A government capable of such cynicism might well have known – but chose to ignore – that intelligence gathered by the Gaddafi regime would be tainted. It might be argued that it also knew that the USA was passing on intelligence gained by torturing suspects during the notorious ‘rendition’ program of the Bush era.
The Libya Herald reports that Gaddafi’s former spy-chief, Abdullah Al-Senussi, has been extradited by Libya from Mauritania and will go on trial in Libya soon. We are hoping to hear a great deal from Mr Senussi. Perhaps he will be asked about the destruction of PA103 over Lockerbie, the Union des Transports Aériens flight number 772 which was blown up in 1989, the notorious massacre in Tripoli’s Abu Salem jail, the back channel conversations which may have preceded the release by the Scottish government of Abdelbaset Ali Mohammad al Megrahi and of the connections between Gaddafi’s intelligence services and MI6.
The Libya Herald also carries and excellent piece about a Human Rights Watch report, released yesterday, which states that scores of incriminating documents have been discovered, some of which were in the offices of former Libyan intelligence chief Musa Kusa after Tripoli fell to rebel forces. They are said to show a high level of cooperation between the Gaddafi government in Libya and the US and the UK governments in the renditions of Libyan prisoners during the Bush admiration.
The Human Rights Watch report also argues that ‘the US played the most extensive role in the renditions back to Libya’ where prisoners were tortured by the Gaddafi regime, probably at the behest of Mr Senussi. It adds… ‘Other countries, notably the UK, were also involved even though these governments knew and recognized that torture was common during Gaddafi’s rule’.
The Libya Herald quotes three of the dissidents returned to Libya who say ‘they were subsequently interrogated by American, British, French and Italian intelligence officers in Qaddafi’s jails’. MI6 may be working on damage limitation plans.

Update 13th December 2012
It has just been reported in the Telegraph that the British government has made a £2 million out of court settlement with a sometime Libyan dissident, Sami al Saadi, who was rendered from Hong Kong to Gaddafi’s Libya where he was imprisoned and tortured. Papers relating to the case, in which MI6 may have been involved, were found in the offices of Musa Kusa after Tripoli was liberated in 2011.
It seems that Sami al Saadi intended to take the British government to trial but that would have entailed the case being heard in secret. As he pointed out secret trails were common in Libya under Gaddafi and he was not about to repeat the experience in Britain.

In the British Telegraph today, Sir Richard Dearlove, who was head of MI6 at the time, has been quoted as saying: “It was a political decision, having very significantly disarmed Libya, for the government to co-operate with Libya on Islamist terrorism. The whole relationship was one of serious calculation about where the overall balance of our national interests stood.”

It was a shoddy ‘Deal in the Desert’ was it not?
Read: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/9742884/Britain-pays-out-2-million-to-illegal-rendition-Libyan.html

Update 27th July 2013

This in the British Telegraph has to be read, though perhaps with a pinch of salt. It suggests that the release of the Lockerbie bomber was linked to a major arms deal.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/10206659/Lockerbie-bomber-release-linked-to-arms-deal-according-to-secret-letter.html

Update 4th August 2013

The British Sunday Telegraph seem to have unearthed evidence of some murky aspects of the relationship between Mr. Blair and Gaddafi. Whilst this piece, dated 4t August 2013, might be read with caution it raises some serious questions.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/tony-blair/10220684/Tony-Blair-helped-Colonel-Gaddafi-in-1bn-legal-row.html

Update 21st December 2013

The failure of Belhaj’s attempt to sue the sometime British Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, in connection with his rendition back to Libya and subsequent torture has sparked a number of articles in the UK broadsheets. This from the Guardian is amongst the most thoughtful and gives context to Sir Richard Dearlove’s statement posted above.

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/dec/20/libyan-rendition-claim-uk-interests

Update 26th January 2014

The deal in the desert has repercussions for Toney Blair again. This time the victims of the IRA Semtex campaign are apparently suing him for allegedly scuppering their chances of compensation from the Libya government.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/tony-blair/10597224/IRA-victims-plan-to-sue-Tony-Blair-over-Libya-conniving.html

Update 24th January 2014

The problems for the Tony Blair increase by the hour!

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/tony-blair/11367104/Dear-Muaamar-Tony-Blairs-letter-to-Colonel-Gaddafi-reveals-collusion-between-UK-and-Libyan-regime.html

LIBYA –The trial of Saif al Islam al Gaddafi and New Labour – Dining with the Devil without long spoons (Update 2nd May 2013)

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It is hard for us to remember Tony Blair’s brief sojourn with Muammar Gaddafi in a posh Bedouin tent pitched in the desert near Sirte. In hindsight it was not the wisest of things for Mr Blair to have done. He was on a tour designed to demonstrate the success of his interventionist foreign policy and the love-in in the tent was vaunted as bringing Gaddafi in from the cold and opening channels between MI6 and Gaddafi’s personal intelligence service. When dining with the devil one needs to use a very long spoon and Tony Blair left his behind when he posed in the tent with the ‘Brother Leader’ that day.
It should be noted that a spokesman for Mr Blair said: “As we have made clear many times before, Tony Blair has never had any role, either formal or informal, paid or unpaid, with the Libyan Investment Authority or the government of Libya and he has no commercial relationship with any Libyan company or entity. The subjects of the conversations during Mr Blair’s occasional visits was primarily Africa, as Libya was for a time head of the African Union; but also the Middle East and how Libya should reform and open up.”‘
The MI6 connection has landed sometime Foreign Secretary Jack Straw with the unwanted problem of a potential court case brought by one Abdul Hakim Belhadj, recently Chair of Tripoli’s Military Council and hero of the attack on Gaddafi’s bunker at Bab Azzizia. Abdul Hakim Belhadj, who fought the Russians with the Taliban in Afghanistan, is asserting that MI6 was complicit in his imprisonment and torture by the Gaddafi regime. Because MI6 will never disclose secret information it is a good ploy to try to get Jack Straw into court where he may be forced to tell what he knows. The subsequent bad odour would probably drive a wedge between the CIA and MI6 or at least put serous pressure on the intelligence services which they could well do without.
The other founder of New Labour, Peter Madelson was apparently unwise enough to meet Muammar Gaddafi’s son Saif al Islam al Gaddafi. Mr Madelson’s Achilles heel was always his pretentious social life and Saif al Gadaffi was often seen about in those doubtful circles that the powerful and carless are fond of inhabiting. It will be recalled that the London School of Economics was induced by Saif al Gaddafi to approve his PhD thesis and to accept his cheque for a considerable amount of money. They were lulled, no doubt, by Muammar Gaddafi’s Judas kiss for Blair during the fateful meeting in the desert.
Saif al Gaddafi may soon go on trial in Zintan, an impoverished and remote town some four hours drive from Tripoli. There are no hotels there and the international press corps will be less than sympathetic if it finds itself short of accommodation, restaurants and the communications facilities it has come to expect when covering great show trials. Let us hope that the Libyan government will ship in some temporary facilities in time for the trial. (It is interesting to note that the Libya Herald is reporting today – 21st August – that Libya’s deputy prime minister is denying that the trial will take place in Zintan).
Saif al Gadaffi is charged with war crimes and more but Libya’s new government is said to be threatening to carry out a further investigation into his corrupt dealings with ‘western figures’. According to the Sunday Telegraph and the Tripoli Post, Blair and Mandleson are included in the list. That these two are implicated by the Telegraph, which may be wrong, is not surprising on two counts. The first is that the Telegraph would do that anyway and the second is that Blair and Mandelson have a gained a reputation which allows speculation of this nature to sound plausible. Both of them seem to have dined at doubtful tables without their long spoons.
John Oakes

Update 2nd May 2013
Saif al Gaddafi is still in prison in Zintan. This short piece in the Libya Herald seems to indicate that his state of mind is disconcerting.

http://www.libyaherald.com/2013/05/02/saif-al-islam-appears-in-zintan-court/

Update 31st July 2013

Trails of Gaddafi’s relatives and ministers have begun.

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/africa/2013/07/2013731164359925959.html