David Cameron looked comfortable and at ease in the House of Commons chamber on Monday afternoon when updating MPs on what has happened in Libya over the summer.
And well he might: the rebels have overtaken Tripoli, Gaddafi is on the run, and the one major controversy – the discovery of papers suggesting British intelligence colluded with the Gaddafi regime in the rendition of terror suspects – happened under the last government.
But as soon as one set of questions about the conflict ends (even Richard Ottaway, the chair of the foreign affairs select committee, who has always been sceptical of the conflict, gave the prime minister credit for the way it has turned out), another begins: namely what happens to our troops now? Read more
The revelations in the FT and elsewhere that MI6 appeared to have a close working relationship with the Gaddafi secret services is providing something of a dilemma for the current government.
One one hand, this is an open goal for the coalition to plunge the knife into Labour: to accuse them of collusion with the Gaddafi regime in torturing Libyan dissidents. And there are signs that Tory MPs are doing just that.
Patrick Mercer, the former chairman of the House of Commons subcommittee on counter-terrorism, said over the weekend:
This document seems to indicate that our intelligence services were getting unhealthily close to practices that the British government at the time and its successors rightly condemn.
I trust that the Foreign Secretary will look into this, despite the fact that it did not happen on his watch.
When the western coalition invaded Iraq the problem was not the initial military campaign; Saddam Hussein was toppled in just days. It was instead the lack of adequate planning for the post-invasion scenario, with insufficient thought given to how the country would be run after the invasion.
Most news channels are focusing this morning on William Hague’s comments (on the Andrew Marr Show) that Gaddafi’s time is running out. (Some defecting officers, never the most reliable of sources, also told a Sunday newspaper that the regime is crumbling). Read more
When David Cameron dispatched “military advisers” to Libya, he crossed an important line. It is a relatively small military contribution that carries with it a heavy burden of extra responsibility.
The prime minister is taking part-ownership of rebel actions, whether he likes it or not. The barbarity of the Gaddafi regime is well documented. But small wars like that in Libya usually involve both sides committing atrocities. Now that British officers are involved in helping the rebels, Britain will be more answerable for what they do.
William Hague insists the officers won’t be involved in planning or executing operations. But when they are providing advice on “military organisational structures, communications and logistics” they are bound to find out more about rebel military preparations.
What happens if they discover something unsavoury is afoot? This will be a question taxing the minds of lawyers in Whitehall. Should they attempt to stop them? Withdraw support and defence materiel that has been provided? Inform Nato so strikes can be prepared to protect civilians? Read more
When Colonel Gaddafi accused the eastern rebels of Al-Qaeda links there was a presumption that this was merely propaganda from the Libyan dictator.
Now, however, a Nato US commander has suggested that intelligence reports indicate a potential “flicker” of al-Qaeda within the resistance. James Stavridis, Nato’s supreme allied commander for Europe, was speaking during Senate testimony today. Here is the relevant transcript:
“We have seen flickers in the intelligence* of potential Al Qaida, Hezbollah. We’ve seen different things. But at this point I don’t have detail sufficient to say that — that there’s a significant Al Qaida presence or any other terrorist presence in and among these folks. We’ll continue to look at that very closely. It’s part of doing due diligence as we move forward on any kind of relationship.”
The Conservative chair, Baroness Warsi, was asked about this on Sky today; her reply wasn’t exactly reassuring. To quote Politicshome.com:
Baroness Warsi responded to reports that there are “flickers” of Al-Qaeda in the Libyan opposition by saying it was “very concerning” but she is confident that the Interim National Council’s “vision of Libya” is not a “post-Gaddafi Libya that includes Al-Qaeda”. “That is the first I’m hearing