Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Jan. 23 that the United States is preparing a renewed military campaign in Libya with its imperialist allies. Dunford’s narrative provides a rationale and political justification for a permanent imperialist occupation of the region, thus negating the right of self-determination for the states involved.
Dunford referred to deepening interventions: “You want to take decisive military action to check [the Islamic State group’s] expansion and … do it in such a way that’s supportive of a long-term political process. … I think it’s pretty clear to all of us — French, U.S. alike — that whatever we do [will] be in conjunction with the new government,” referring to the neocolonial-dominated regime that U.N. envoy Martin Kobler is attempting to mold together in Libya. Dunford stresses: “My perspective is we need to do more. Quickly is weeks not hours.” (Reuters, Jan. 23)
Speaking as if the U.S. had a limited or even non-existent role in the North African state’s military and security crisis, Pentagon officials and other NATO members, including France, Britain and Italy, say they are motivated by the instability and “threat of terrorism” posed by the Islamic State group. Pentagon and State Department efforts are aimed against the group’s growing influence: I.S. now controls several cities and towns on the Mediterranean coast.
Washington has been fighting a low-level war against I.S. in Iraq, Syria and now Libya. The Obama administration rejected the Russian Federation’s intervention in Syria last year as unwarranted interference designed to bolster Syrian President Bahsar al-Assad’s government.
“Unity” under neocolonialism
Two rival regimes in Libya stem from a split in the political forces installed by Washington and Brussels after the 2011 war of regime change. Rebel organizations, including many labelled as “terrorists,” were funded, armed and given diplomatic support by the U.S. State Department, the British Foreign Office and others in an effort to impose them as “legitimate” leaders of the oil-rich country.
Setting the stage for an intervention depends on securing a “unity accord” between these two rival factions. Although a peace agreement has been announced, ranking elements in Tripoli’s General National Congress and Tobruk’s House of Representatives have rejected its terms.
Some elements reject a foreign military occupation. If they maintain their position, it could signal a much more complicated and contentious tenure for the proposed force of 6,000 troops led by Italy, Libya’s former colonizer prior to its independence in 1951.
Colin Freeman wrote in the Jan. 21 British Telegraph that Ahmed Mateeq, deputy prime minister in Libya’s new “unity” government, “warned that the country may be unwilling to accept British troops in its fight against [I.S.’s] growing presence. [He] said that Libya ‘did not need’ to take up the offer from Britain of 1,000 soldiers to train Libyan troops,” and that while Western “logistical and technical support” was welcome, “most Libyans would not accept the presence of foreign troops on their soil.”
Despite these remarks, Freeman wrote, “[D]iplomats close to the UN negotiations on the new unity government said last weekend that they thought [that government] was likely to accept the British offer [of indefinite foreign occupation], as long as the troops were confined to a training role.”
Mateeq’s statement following an announced “unity accord” aimed at ending 1.5 years of civil war between the opposing installed forces could signal the entire scheme’s unravelling. If imperialist forces are fired upon by Libyan groups — supposedly parties to the U.N.-brokered agreement — this could create more instability in the country and the region.
A new ministerial regime was established in January, after lengthy, heated talks mediated by Kobler, a career German diplomat with experience in other imperialist war scenarios. Even if Kobler and his Western backers can pressure the rival regimes into accepting the “unity accord,” that still leaves the hundreds of armed militias roaming the country outside the agreement.
The region is far more unstable than at any time over the last four decades: The 1973 war fought between Egypt and Israel prompted an oil embargo and an economic crisis in the U.S. In 1978-79, President Anwar Sadat’s regime in Egypt, under U.S. pressure, signed a separate peace agreement with Tel Aviv, which neutralized Cairo’s role in the Palestinian independence struggle.
Currently, discussion around North African and Middle Eastern affairs focuses on the roles of I.S., al-Qaida and other so-called “Islamist extremist organizations.”
Whatever the purported rationale, the imperialist countries are planning further intervention in Libya and the surrounding region. Anti-war and other progressive forces in the U.S. and NATO countries should oppose all such moves.