Posts Tagged ‘Libya’

Arms to Libya? But who gets the guns?

May 17, 2016


Christopher Lee

17 May 2016, London

The papyrus of Manetho tells us that when, 5,000 or so years ago Menes-Namer was anointed the first of the Pharaohs then the land we call Libya had no divine rule and the coming of its age was the appearance of a great general.

Egyptians leaders would still vote for that idea.

This week the solemn convocation of Western leaders of the United Kingdom (a paradoxon called 23 June), the United States (disunity their watchword) and various United Nations leaders (comfortable in their moral indecisions) announced that they are sending guns to Tripoli so that the “government” of Fayez al-Sarraj can take on ISIS in Libya.

For good measure, the Western leaders promised to send soldiers who will show the Libyans how to use the arms shipments. No this is not military deployment.  These are advisers – just as they were at the start of Vietnam and Afghanistan.

Sounds efficient use of diplomacy and military assets. The West can run the war without getting into its front line. But that does not take into account the modern Menes-Namer.

Since July 2013 Egypt’s Pharaoh has been President Abdel Fattah Saeed Hussein Khalil el-Sisi. Sisi is not keen on soft diplomacy and neighbours, run by civilians.  He does not trust civilians even though this former general commanding Egypt’s forces goes about disguised as a well tailored and shod civilian.

Just as Menes-Namer looked with despair on the sub-Saharan tribes that ruled the hinterlands of modern Libya, so Sisi cannot trust the make-believe government of the desperately neutral al-Sarraj.   Sisi too wants rid of ISIS in very oil-rich Libya.  But like all generals who say peace cannot be secured by military means alone, Sisi believes it can and so sees al-Sarraj with his head full of democracy with suspicion.  Sisi has his own man in mind for the role of Pharaoh of Libya: General Khalifa Haftar.

Haftar has his army in Tobruk. Like Sisi he has no time for al-Sarraj.  It is hardly the politics of the leader of the government of National Accord in Tripoli.  It is simply the military reality.

Not since King Idris has Libya been ruled by peaceful means (and then hardly). Pharaoh Sisi believes there is no way that a civilian government in Saharan Africa can rule for long in these times.  Certainly Sisi and General Heftier can make a good case that al-Sarraj can never placate the disparate groups of militia sprawling across Libya each of which has a grouse. Each of which has too much to lose, including the day job.

So, as the papyrus of Manetho reminds us the “divine pharaohs who came from elsewhere” (aka the British, the Americans and UN hangers on) may have believed their plan for the desert lands was the only one with principle. The Western gods and heroes in Vienna this past week have harder tasks than who can beat ISIS into submission.

Most importantly, the Western governments have to accept that Sisi ruthlessly controls Egypt and that Egypt has been since the first Pharaoh the centre of the Arab world and that one quarter of the Arab world is Egypt.

The Pharaoh still rules and the USA that gives more overseas aid to Egypt than it does to any other nation other than Israel has to accept that. Moreover, there is not a single Middle East state going through the misery and dangers of transition today that does not ask (albeit in camera) what does Sisi think about this?

Most Middle East nations do not do democracy. Five thousand years of history since the great papyrus tell us that the motives have not changed – all of which are thousands of years older than those who now demand that they should change to Western rules of government and human rights.

If the United Kingdom and the United States believe that by sending arms to Libya they will fix the problem then they may find it surprising that the Pharaoh Sisi will agree.  The difference is that Sisi believes they are sending the guns to the wrong man. Al-Sarraj is a good man. Hafter is a good general. Sisi would bring them together but Haftar would rule. Pharaohs always trusted the man with the spear.

Mind you, 6 October 1981 is always a silent anniversary: the day of Anwar Sadat’s assassination, at a military parade in Cairo.





Terrorism & War – Looking Good says Colonel Steve

February 26, 2016


Christopher Lee

27 February 2016. London.

The colonel from the Pentagon looked the part.  Cleaner cut than a saint, with more medal ribbons than a pantomime hero.  He landed in the UK this past week with a word perfect mission.

He had come to to every newspaper and broadcaster that the war on IS (he uses Daesh) is right on schedule and IS/Daesh is taking a beating. He says the US-led coalition is killing terrorists leaders most days. Their bases are taking big hits, the armoured vehicles are been wasted.

Colonel Steve Warren was here to tell us that Daesh was beginning to lose. “We see them in a defensive crouch” he told us. No journalist mentioned that a panther springs from a crouch.

The fact that IS is on a killing high hit and having nauseating fun using beheaded cadavers as road blocks is a side issue for the colonel with a message.  He says we’ve got it wrong.

Who sent the colonel?  Answer: the people who believe that too many media reports from Syria, Iraq, Turkey and Libya are telling a different story.  They are undermining the reports, especially those relayed in Washington, that it is not long now before IS collapses.

About five or six months ago the same US sources were briefing British and French TV and newspaper hacks that ISIS was a second rate bunch of no-hopers that given political guts could be wiped out inside the Christian winter holiday.  The message is dulled. Hence the colonel’s visit. A regional scan shows why. From the Bosphorus to Tripoli via the Gulf there is a tragedy that just a few years back would not have got off the staring block.

The Turks are hitting the Kurds, the Kurds are hitting the Turks.  Sunni and Shia states and peoples are at war face to face or by proxy. The coalition is hymning the Syria ceasefire but the two main teams – IS and Bashar al-Assad are not signatories. IS does not care about a ceasefire.  Assad is bombing rebel backyards and is ready to go the extra 100 meters with I Told You So banners when the ceasefire crumbles. The Russians are happy to help them out.

Across the almost non-existent border in Iraq on Friday about 20 people were killed in a bombing of a Shia mosque (the government is Shia seeking revenge).  Who did it? Surely not IS who is on the run according to the colonel.  Yup.  The very same IS.  Ask the mourners at the Rasul al-Zam mosque.

In Lebanon, Hezbollah are training Houthi rebels to fight in Yemen and the Saudi are looking at target planning into Hezbollah.  Imagine the death toll.  Imagine the knock-on.  Meanwhile the Saudi bombing in Yemen appears as casual as cruelty can be in warfare.   Hitting civilian targets is good terrorist bombing.  It causes confusion and terror.

Before we leave that bit of the dusty world, two pipe bombs were found in Jerusalem at Herod’s Gate. Lots of shooting.  Lots of dying. Also Friday, a prediction that Gaza will be a death bed scene by 2020.  Next door in Egypt, President Sisi is telling his people, do not listen to others.  Just do as I say.

And in Libya, there is a meeting Monday to see if Libya may be split into three. The West recognises one group, detests and will fight the other while everyone will be hit by the third. It is a simple example of bloodbath created when the British, the French and the colonel’s employers go into something blazing saddles without guaranteeing the result they claim to be promising. Other examples? Viet Nam, Iraq and Afghanistan with the dankness of Syrian dead joining the tragic tapestry of failure.

So best the colonel goes home. Best someone who writes the propaganda tours gets to understand that what we call the Middle East is seeking a new identity that is different from the one the West created for it in the 1920s. IS emerged because the Western-led coalition got it wrong.

And, let us hope and those who do these things, let them pray that the crouching IS not about to leap with another Paris.  When a well turned out colonel tells them they are losing, they may just have to prove they are not in the crudest manner.




ISIS atrocities, Libya feet first, a new President – here comes 2016

December 28, 2015


28 December 2015


2016 will be a sinister affair. That’s what they say in the darker alleys of Whitehall and across the river on the Albert Embankment.

The oil guys in the Middle East say ISIS is working up a nasty. Big hits in as many European capitals as they can manage on the same day. Make Paris look like a hooligan mugging. The Middle East oilmen having the most to lose and twice that to protect have been known to get it right.

They says something like this: four or five organisers with long placed hitters in seven or eight capitals. Museums are easy targets.  Metros have to be quick. Theatres.  Everyone dies in the third act. Yup.  There’s a lot of black humour out there. Why the third act? Security is sharper in Act I and Act 2.  Act 3 has a It Won’t Be Tonight feel.

On the wider screen for 2016, Libya is the hardest one to tackle. The factions are still spilling blood and revenge is easy done.  France and UK are all for getting in there with air support, intelligence gathering and special forces reconnaissance (SAS’s original role) and smart diplomacy i.e. soft and hard power operation.  Trouble is no one knows for certain where ISIS has got to in Libya and most importantly who is running it there.

In the Middle East proper there is every chance of a strong US-Russia partnership developing in Syria.  Give it a couple of months. Russia without a sign of Oooops-sorry! is intent on whacking as many anti-Assad rebels as possible before going the extra distance on some form of election.  Here’s something that is not going to change in 2016 unless Assad is taken down by his own people – palace revolutions will be a general feature through the world of British interests.

Moscow clearly believes that Assad is the best bet in Syria. A lot of people at State Department could copy that but it is never going to be official policy especially as in Moscow Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov could be running Putin.  Watch those two names next year.

Everything is tugging Washington (and the UK) into further involvement in the big places it has failed during the past decade. More troops and close air support in Iraq and Afghanistan has a ring of the military version of American Old Home Week.

The future of Afghanistan is in the hands of Pakistan – always has been. So watch for higher training programmes and arms supplies from Pakistan military to Taliban. Watch also for Taliban’s biggest enemy in Afghanistan in 2016: ISIS.

It is all heady stuff and somehow makes the UK-MOD headaches low budget stuff. But the work is underway to see how much of a battle group or an force projection the carrier programme could make.  One carrier means six or so frigate/destroyer escorts plus a couple of subsurface vessels.

In spite of promises paying for all this is a hard call.  But the toughie for all three services to be sorted in 2016 is manpower. A great tr-service fighting force emerging from the 2015 SDSR – but fewer and fewer people with on-going training programmes to “man” them.

The biggest event of 2016 will be on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November – when the US votes for a new President. On November 9 they will wake in every city anywhere you can name and ask Who Won? They should do.  The new incumbent will be the most important person in the whole world.

On present showing the presidential election will be the most racially influenced presidential election in decades. Latinos, Asian and Black America since Fergusson will pack a  punch this time.

Meanwhile the current tenant on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, the 44th President, will be ending his term by going after ISIS in the biggest way he can: hopeless superpowerdom testing to destruction.

And that is almost it except for the little matter of the election of a new secretary general of the UN. Ban Ki-moon goes on December 31 2016.  Who get’s the job.  No one knows. My money – against all the odds called thus far – is on a Bulgarian, foreign minister Irina Bokova.  But what do I know?