After many more deaths we are likely to see the partition of Libya – why has there been such a consensus for this military action?
By Jeremy Corbyn
The House of Commons is debating the government stance on UN resolution 1973
, having been invited to give its approval or withhold it. It's a bit late, as the prime minister made a statement to the Commons on Friday and within 24 hours the bombing had started. We are presented with a fait accompli.
The debate, however, takes place against a background of growing concerns about the nature of the military operation, the intensity of the air strikes, the implications for the whole region, and the real motive behind the Arab League in calling for this in the first place. India is the first country to publicly call for a cessation of air strikes. Others are likely to follow.
UN security council resolution 1973 was heavily trailed as a no-fly-zone resolution. Like most UN resolutions it is very long. It specifically welcomed the appointment of the UN special envoy Abdel-Elah Mohamed Al-Khatib and in its proposals under chapter 7 of the UN charter (mandatory for all member states) demanded a ceasefire, stressed the need to find a solution to the conflict through the UN special envoy, and demanded that the Libyan authorities fulfil their international obligations under humanitarian law.
It's not until one reaches point 6 of the resolution that the no-fly zone is mentioned, and even then it requests the secretary general to inform the security council of any actions taken in support of the no-fly zone. The rest of the resolution talks of the arms embargo, the asset freeze and the appointment of a panel of experts to consider the operation of this resolution and the implications for international law. The attacks on Libya take place with no assurance that depleted uranium weapons will be banned from the operation and come only a few weeks after Britain stopped trading with Libya and training Libyan security officials.
I welcome the popular demands all across the region, including Libya, for accountable government and an economic strategy that provides full employment for the burgeoning young populations. But abuses of human rights by Gaddafi's government didn't start three weeks ago, as any one of the Libyan opposition will attest, and a blind eye was turned to this when Libya said it was no longer developing weapons of mass destruction and British oil companies were encouraged by Tony Blair to strike long-term agreements.
The most likely outcome of this ghastly period is many more deaths, the long-term effects of depleted uranium (if it is being used), and the partition of Libya. With this strategy it is quite conceivable that the east of Libya will be partitioned into a client state centred upon Benghazi, and the west will be a pariah state led by Gaddafi.
One can't help but be struck by the rush to military involvement by politicians of all countries and all persuasions. The contrast with the western treatment of the rest of the region could not be more stark. The Palestinian people have lived with occupation for 60 years, well over 1,000 died in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead, settlements abound and Israel possesses nuclear weapons. I can't remember anyone calling for a no-fly zone in Gaza in winter 2008-09 when phosphorous bombs were used against a largely unarmed and defenceless civilian population.
Saudi Arabia is the world's biggest oil exporter, and the biggest importer of arms from Britain and other countries. The importance of Saudi Arabia to western economic interests cannot be overstated, otherwise why would Blair take such an extraordinary decision as to suspend the Serious Fraud Office investigation into the BAE contracts with Saudi Arabia? Britain is up to its neck in supporting the Saudi monarchy with all the denial of human rights and aggression that the regime has shown toward its opponents. Saudi armed forces have crossed into Yemen in recent times, and last week entered Bahrain to support the king in his suppression of democratic protest.
News today of huge demonstrations and growing isolation of the Yemeni president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, looks like almost a replay of what happened in Tunisia. I asked a young activist in Tunis just a few weeks ago if their revolution was asking for western help, his reply was: "No, we will do it ourselves; the problem with the west is, it never knows when to leave."