Friday, March 11, 2011

Libyan Policy

If, as looks increasingly likely, Gaddafi wins the civil war in Libya, then the grovelling of the previous Blair/Brown administration will all have been wasted. I would tend to assume that BP's Libyan assets will be a a write-off - after all that sucking up, after the Megrahi release, after sending the SAS to train the Libyan army.

The attitude of the Cameron administration is just anti-Gaddafi enough to annoy him (and we saw from the Swiss affair that he will up the stakes when annoyed) but not anti-Gaddafi enough to damage him. He'll get the worst of both worlds. As Machiavelli put it :

"Men avenge slight injuries, but not grave ones"

The above analysis is based on the fact that Cameron's anti-Gaddafi moves (freezing assets, stopping arms sales, verbal condemnation) were all carried out in those days a few weeks back when bien-pensant opinion was that Gaddafi was doomed. Therefore he was jumping the gun, it's another Cameronian cock-up by a man better at posturing than governing, and BP and BAE (along with innumerable Libyans) will pay the price. Not only that, but he's sold off Ark Royal and scrapped the Harriers. If we did want to play rough with him, we haven't many options beyond a strongly worded diplomatic note other than a thermonuclear strike, a possibility which I think we can thankfully ignore.

But ho ! What is this ? By financial blogger John Hempton, a man with penetrating analysis when it comes to following the money. Total is the French oil company with close links to the French state.

" comes as a big surprise to see Total (ahem the French Government) recognizing the Libyan rebels as a legitimate nation and exchanging ambassadors. France does not sell arms to rebels or terrorists. Recognition of the rebels as a nation is a basis for supplying them weapons. France has gone further and is the major proponent of a no-fly zone. It has also advocated bombing Libya.

Given the very substantial French oil interests in Libya it is absurd to think that Sarkozy (first and foremost a French Nationalist) did this without either the tacit acceptance of Total or without Total's interests in mind. France is not keen to go to war (even with jets and no casualties) in support of American oil companies. They think differently about their own oil companies."
And, as Mr Hempton points out, British policy is not so far away from French.

Now he's making me think again. Could it be that Cameron and Sarkozy have a cunning plan ? It would run contrary to Cameron's current performance, but the past is not necessarily a guide to the future and I suppose it's just theoretically possible. I'd like it to be true, but I think I'm entering into the realms of fantasy, as Captain Mainwaring would say. I think Mr Hempton and I differ on what a "French nationalist" might look like, too - I'm not at all sure Sarko falls into that category.

UPDATE - if it's a cunning plan, it doesn't seem to have persuaded any of "our European allies".
Cameron tried and failed to have an explicit reference to no-fly zones and Nato in the summit statement... Merkel said Germany would not become "a party to a civil war in North Africa" and refused the British wording.

The disputes also involved the French president, who sounded defensive afterwards. Sarkozy's decision on Thursday to recognise the rebel leadership unilaterally was especially contentious, heavily criticised by east Europeans and by Merkel.

I suppose Sarkozy could always go it alone, arming the rebels and taking out a lot of Gaddafi's hardware. France probably has the military muscle. It would look somewhat obviously like an oil grab, though - and what of the currently out-of-the-news banlieus ? World opinion wouldn't like it either, though I'd discount Merkel's protests. After all, what can she do - invade Belgium ?


banned said...

And what has Oor Cathy had to say about it? You remember, Cathy Ashton, EU High Representative for Foreign Stuff.

Laban said...

She didn't like it. Now there's a surprise.

Just think, if there was an EU army, she'd be directing it.

Anonymous said...

We could be moving towards a "coalition of the willing", in other words a joint Anglo-French military/humanitarian operation.

Possibly Italy might join in, given the prospect of a flood of refugees arriving on her shores from Libya, in the event of a Gadaffi victory.

The latter would now be the worst possible outcome for the three EU countries concerned, and not just for their oil firms.

Laban said...

I think there could well be a Camp of the Saints style boat exodus, win or lose. After the Tunisia revolution five or ten thousand set sail for Lampedusa and Malta.

Gaddafi was being paid by Berlusconi to keep control of his borders and stop people sailing across to Lampedusa and Italy, which to be fair he was pretty effective at.

Unless Berlusconi can keep in his good books (and survive himself) I can see Gaddafi giving Europe even more of the huddled masses of Africa than they currently have.

Anonymous said...

But we dont have to let them in.

Will Sheward said...

While I'm no fan of the misguided SDSR, the fact that the Govt has "sold off Ark Royal and scrapped the Harriers" is irrelevant to the current situation.

The GR9s were strike aircraft with only a very limited anti-air role. Half a dozen Ark Royals with GR9s wouldn't help.

Any no-fly zone would more sensibly be imposed by land based aircraft flying from Med bases. Britain and France (the only European country with the inclination) could do this themselves with the political will to get involved. RAF Typhoons, French Rafales and AWACS and tanker aircraft from both countries provide more than enough capability.

Paulinus said...

The BBC has some responsibilty in this. Their coverage (which has some influence in the Arab world) was that of soixante-huitards wetting their pants in excitement at the thought of, you know, man, a revolution, yeah?

The poor buggers who rose up will doubtless take the punishment (elctrodes to the genitals followed by a bullet to the head, no doubt), while the Beeboids retreat to Islington and a consolatory glass of shiraz.

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