The House of Commons’ report on Libya: A Machiavellian tactic

By Rafaa Chehoudi

A new report has been recently published by the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Commons, entitled “ Libya: Examination of Intervention and Collapse and the UK’s future Policy Options”. The report  primarily examines the UK intervention in Libya back in 2011, and outlines its consequences on Libyan people and the region by and large. Two days after David Cameron resignation from the parliament, the report is brought out to public harshly denouncing UK foreign policies in Libya and critically addressing the former PM decisions, oscilating between a strong determination to militarily intervene in Libya against Muammar Gaddafi regime and a blatant disregard for the unfolding civil war on the Libyan territories. The report delineates several other issues, including the decision to impose a no-fly zone over Libya, the UK intelligence ineptitude to comprehensively understand the Libyan context before intervention and the unresolved issues of possible reconstruction after the end of the civil war. The report concludes with few recommendations and comments on the available future alternatives for the UK government to positively and conclusively engage in the Libyan plight. Notwithstanding the exhaustive analysis, the report introduces implausible arguments with clear controversy in certain cases. The puzzle question is why now? Why did the House of Commons choose to publish the report during a critical stage in the history of UK?  In order to guarantee an objective and careful examination, a thorough reading of the report background and context becomes inevitable.

It is no doubt that the House of Commons’ report coexists with the ongoing implications of the Brexit.  Theresa May’s new cabinet  is yet to adjust itself with the refrendum outcomes on immigration, trade and manufacturing, financial services and foreign investments. The UK cabinet has also to respond to the diverse local and international reactions. On the one hand, a 4-million- petition  calls for a second referendum in a desperate attempt to keep UK in Europe and prevent a series of radical changes. On the other hand, the international community is increasingly expressing its concerns over the Brexit. On the G20 Summit in China, Barack Obama publicly announced that UK will no longer be a priority for US trade deal, whereas Japan released a 15-page report warning the UK of the serious long term implications of Brexit.

Within the wave of relentless interactions, the conservative party once again seems to come up against serious divisions among its members including those appointed for ministrial responsibilities. The first critical issue is immigration, particularly the dissent over the points-based system.While the latter is strongly recommended by many ministers from the Conservative Party, including Andrea Leadsom, Priti Patel, Boris Johnson and Liam Fox, the new Prime Minister Theresa May rejects the system altogether. She argues that the points-based system is not effective as to who should come into the country. The second notable disagreement within the Conservative Party pertains to the issue of access to the Single Market. David Davis, the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, rejects any endeavour to keep access to the Single Market as this would reduce UK capabilities to control its borders. Meanwhile, Anna Soubry, a leader of “ Britain remains open” campain,  highlights the importance of , first remaining open to the Single market, and second underlining a clear plan on how to leave Europe. Anna released a short video on social media to assert that “ Now we need to know what Brexit looks like, that’s why we say we want to be member of that Single Market. That’s why we say we want the free movement of labor , but we want to mend it not end it”. Accordingly, it is safe to assume that these internal divisions within the conservative party along with apparent conflicting voices inside and outside UK contributed to the release of the report in such timing. The report metaphorically becomes a reaction to the inability of the political spectrum to  resolve the ongoing issues and reflects to some extent the state of turmoil within the Conservative Party, between Cameron’s allies and the new voices calling for a strict implementation of Brexit.

Away from UK, events in Libya took a surprising different turn with Khalifa Haftar unforeseen military operations on the ground. The House of Commons report was published almost two days after Haftar’s forces succeeded in seizing four oil ports, known as North Africa Oil Crescent. Haftar military action comes as a result of Government of National Accord inability to impose its authority and provide relative stability, despite being internationally recognized and backed by the United Nations. It is also necessary to mention that Haftar recently visited Moscow, where he met senior Russian officials such as Defence Minister Sergey Shoygu, the Head of Russia National Security Council Nikolai Patrushev and other officials from the foreign ministry. This visit also comes after Hafter outstanding victory against few Islamist groups such as Ansar Al Sharia  in Benghazi and Derna. Although the aim of the visit has not been disclosed yet, many observers deem that Hafter is looking for Russia support, given that both sides share common long term objectives. Accordingly, the report again seems a systematic reaction to the unfolding event in Libya and an attempt to harshly blame Cameron for his uncalculated decisions in Libya. The report  becomes a Machiavellian tactic, by which  destroying Cameron’s political future is the only way out to save the conservative party future.

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Rafaa Chehoudi

Rafaa Chehoudi is a Tunisian graduate student at the Manar University and a member of the Committee of MENA Region Politics within International Association Political Science Students

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