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From Dawn to Dusk: Libya, Iraq and Western intervention
By Abdennour Toumi
Fifty-two years ago French colonialism ended in North Africa and Sub-Sahara. Eleven years ago international coalition forces invaded Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein’s regime. Symbolism in politics is like a pawn in a vicious game. Three years ago, France, the U.K. and the United States engaged in a similar confrontation in Odyssey Dawn Operation: French Air Force Rafales struck against el-Gadhafi’s military infrastructure using the Accord of the United Nations Security Council of 1973.
The official aim was to keep el-Gadhafi’s forces from obliterating the revolutionaries and their sympathizers in Ben Ghazi and the neighboring cities. However, the ultimate objective was certainly to overthrow el-Gadhafi and his clan.
Yet the truth is that there are some important differences between the two situations. In the case of Iraq, the pretext for war was to destroy Saddam’s WMD arsenal, introduce democracy to the region (MENA), and protect U.S. strategic interests, in this instance, oil. That said, the Arabs get it: when oil is needed that much in the West, democracy and socio-economic reforms can wait.
In Libya the pretext was to protect the civilians and gave the revolutionaries a second wind to regroup. Indeed, some of the Arab regimes backed it explicitly, unlike in Iraq, when they kept silent while offering their air space and money to erase Saddam’s regime.
Meanwhile this strange so-called Western and Arab countries’ action against el-Gadhafi and his clan generated mixed feelings of support among the Arab street and the intelligentsia, a complicated dilemma in the Arab world post-Jasmine revolt. So far, the populations in Tunisia and Egypt succeeded on their own to topple their dictators and their clans and set the stage for democratic values desired from Muscat to Nouakchott.
The on-going development of revolts in Libya, Egypt, Syria, Sunni Provinces in Iraq, and Yemen raised the question why these Western forces are not assisting the Syrians for instance? One gets the answer…
Indeed, for the Libyan case the narcissism of el-Gadhafi forced the point of intervention and took away the beauty of the Jasmine scent that was blowing through Arab gardens. This undermined the credibility of civilian movements in other countries. On the other hand, Western countries, led by the United States, simply cannot stand by and watch the massacre of innocent civilians in Libya, masse trial in Egypt and masse killings in Syria!
The Arabs wish this sentiment of responsibility to act quickly by the world’s leaders in Iraq and Libya could manifest itself also in the Occupied Territories, and not use the Arabs as a bogyman in national elections in France. Why President then Sarkozy and his Foreign Minister, M. Juppé, rushed to focus on Libya. Well, Libya has oil, like Iraq.
President then Sarkozy used this justification to escape from Marine Le Pen’s shadow and virtually to contain the U.S. presence in North Africa. France lost Algeria and Tunisia, although Morocco is still under its thumb – so Libya appeared to be a perfect alibi.
Thus President Hollande surprisingly wore the military uniform and acting as Commander-in-Chief ordered Operation Serval in 2012 an effort to establish law and order in Mali, a bombing mission against radical Islamists based throughout the Sahara. Last weekend President Hollande called for a mini-summit in Paris with Western African nation leaders to declare “war on Boko Haram” in Nigeria. Noticing Nigeria is not a former French colony — France has a pecular position in Sub-Saharian Africa, strong political, diplomatic, economic and strategic ties between France and its African allies countries.
President Hollande has become a war President. Politically the cynical would say his Sub-Saharian militarized foreign policy is to hide his domestic public policies with his campaign promises. Sometimes substance melts into symbol.
As the situation in North Nigeria, Mali and Libya goes, so goes the Algerian Sahara in the wake of the turmoil in the sub-region has forced Algiers to become a major player in this asymmetric war, despite its denial to the Algerian street and the fuzzy picture given to the West on the disorder in Mali and the chaos in Libya.
The mind-set has been, “the truth if I lie,” but in the aftermath of the Ain Amenass hostage-taking of the Winter’s 2013 first major international hostage crisis in decades in the southern city of Ain Amenass, Illizi. this position has become clear to the Algerian street as well as the West.
The Algerian Sahara is considered the “lungs” of the Algerian State because of its petro-gas fields under the control of the Algerian national oil company, Sonatrach. The terrorist attack that took place at the natural gas complex and compound against foreign and national crews left many unanswered questions: for instance, the timing, how could these criminals so easily get into the well-guarded area and facility? Who benefits from this crime?
Which brings to the first question linked to the second; to say the French operation in Mali was the source of the attack on natural gas complex in Ain Amenass, at this point seems fallacious, because Algerians know very well if there is one heavily guarded area in their vast country it is the south and these goldmines.
Furthermore, if the regime’s version at that time was true, this is a very important development in its “war on terror” which has been going on for two decades. After being dismantled in the northern regions of Metidja and the high plateaus, these criminals immigrated to the Sahara.
Today they are in quasi-control of the area, having been involved in the tourist hostage situation in 2003, human and drug trafficking, and targeting of Arab and Western diplomats in Libya.
Although the premise of Operations Odyssey Dawn and Serval remain a “humanitarian” objective, their outcome transform these operations into an occupation. Hence, President then Sarkozy’s amateurish actions, President Hollande’s Sahel foreign policy adventurism, and President Obama’s careful prudence foreign and defense policies in Iraq and Afghanistan, transplant a Somalia, create a Sudan and simply transpose el-Qae’eda’s franchise from the Sahel to the southern shores of the Mediterranean.
In that case, quite another so-called Western coalition, aligned with the passivity of the Sub-Saharian amnesiac regimes, has a solid excuse to protect its petroleum tankers from dawn to dusk.
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- France correspondent for The Arab Daily News.
- www.bareed-areej.com Editor-in-Chief
رئيس تحرير مجلة بريد الأريج
- Political consultant at IMPR a Think-Tank based in Ankara, Turkey.
- Member at the European Observatory for Arabic Language Teaching based in Paris, France.
- Affiliated with Sociology of Islam Journal and contributor at Middle East Studies / International Studies, Sociology of Islam and Muslim Societies Center, Portland State University in Portland, OR.
EDUCATION: Diplôme des Études Approfondies (DEA) in Political Science from Toulouse University I, France. Master’s degree in Law from Algiers University, Algeria.
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