The government is taking us ever closer to war in Libya, says Chris Nineham
The government is taking us ever closer to war in Libya. Yesterday, conveniently the day before a parliamentary recess, David Cameron announced that a fifth British warship will be sent to the Libyan coastline, with the intention of entering Libyan waters for the first time.
Cameron claimed this will be a legitimate move once an invitation is issued from the Libyan government. But the Al-Sarraj government has been imposed by the Western powers at the end of March and was shipped into the capital last month under heavy guard in a Saudi vessel. The government is not accepted outside of Tripoli, and it is not fully in control of the capital.
It is facing strong opposition particularly in the East of the country, where the previously recognised government of the House of Representatives holds sway. Al-Sarraj himself is reported as being nervous about inviting Western forces in for fear of being seen as a 'puppet of the west'.
Anything but humanitarian
Yesterday, Cameron promised that Britain would now take 'an active leadership role' in the Libyan campaign. There is nothing humanitarian about it. Operation Sophia, as it is dubbed, is first of all designed to 'stem the flow' of Libyan refugees into Europe. This involves harrassing and potentially attacking vulnerable vessels laden with refugees. The government hope soon to send more troops to the country in order to clamp down on the migrants. This will involve British forces patrolling what will effectively be prison camps for migrants.
This won't end well
If more troops are deployed, the West risks moving towards a permanent occupation of a country devastated by Nato's 2011 aerial bombardment. Beyond the question of the refugees, the NATO powers want to secure control of the massive oil and gas reserves in the country.
This in turn will almost certainly mean active engagement in what is already a simmering, three-sided war. The Tobruk based government in the East and forces loyal to Al-Sarraj are competing to take on the forces of Islamic state, growing in strength in the central sector of the country, key to the oil industry.
Everything about the last 15 years of war tells us that deploying Western troops into this situation will deepen the conflict. We need to escalate the campaign against another Libyan war.
Chris Nineham is a founder member of Stop the War and Counterfire, speaking regularly around the country on behalf of both. He is author of The People Versus Tony Blair and Capitalism and Class Consciousness: the ideas of Georg Lukacs.
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