The London Conference on Libya was a forum for a new imperial carve-up of Africa. Plans to attack Libya have been longstanding and part of a strategy to control the supercontinent formed by Eurasia and Africa, known as the “World-Island.” But before all this - according to Nazemroaya’s riveting investigation - there is an economic backdrop that led to Libya’s destabilization and prepared the way for today’s full-blown conflict, putting the country on the path to becoming a gateway for Africa’s predators.
- Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi addressing the London School of Economics in 2010. Well turned out in expensive tailored suits, speaking perfect English, Gaddafi’s son was until recently the acceptable face of the Libyan regime. Someone the west were happy to do business with.
With the start of Washington’s rapprochement with Tripoli came a new era of Libyan neo-liberal economic reforms. Saif Al-Islam Qaddafi, the Austrian-educated son of Colonel Qaddafi, was pivotal in this process. Tripoli itself would also begin to carve a niche in the global banking and investment sectors.
But the neo-liberal reforms would come at a price. Saif Al-Islam’s IMF-style reforms began to erode the internal stability of Libya and accentuated already existing tensions. To make matters worse, Washington also demanded Tripoli allow the Pentagon and CIA to gain influence over different aspects of Libyan state security and intelligence. From there the seeds were planned for the present conflict in Libya.
Here We Go Again: “Cry ‘Havoc’ and Let Slip the Dogs of War!”
Before rapprochement with Colonel Qaddafi, for years the U.S., Britain, France, and their allies have worked to destabilize Libya. Even according to U.S. government sources the U.S. has attempted regime change in Tripoli several times.  According to Wesley Clark, the former military commander of NATO, the Pentagon also had active plans for launching a war against the Libyans.
The U.S. and its NATO allies are now embroiled in a new war that has the patented characteristics of the wars and invasions of Iraq and the former Yugoslavia. A large naval armada off the shores of Libya has been bombing Libya for weeks with a public aim of ousting the Libyan regime. At the same time Libyan internal divisions are being fuelled. Misinformation is systematically being spewed. Like Saddam Hussein before him, the U.S. and the E.U. powers have armed and helped Colonel Qaddafi. It is also very important to hold the U.S. and the E.U. accountable for these weapon sales and the training of Libyan forces.
Also, like in Iraq, another Arab dictator has been befriended by the U.S., only to be betrayed and turned on. Before rapprochement with the United States at the dawn of the Iraq-Iran War, Saddam Hussein was a Soviet ally and considered an enemy by Washington. The case of Colonel Qaddafi is the same. Ironically, Qaddafi even warned all his fellow Arab leaders gathered in Damascus for the 2008 Arab League Conference about the U.S. government’s habit of betraying its Arab dictator friends. In Damascus, Qaddafi warned the gathered Arab leaders:
- Gaddafi foretold end of Arab dictators.
Why won’t the [U.N.] Security Council investigate the hanging of Saddam Hussein? How could the leader of an Arab League state be hanged? I am not talking about Saddam Hussein’s policies or our [meaning the other Arab leaders] animosity towards him. We all had our disagreements with him. We all disagree with one another. Nothing unites us except this hall. Why is there not an investigation about Saddam Hussein’s execution?
An entire Arab government is killed and hung on the gallows – Why?! In the future it is going to be your turns too! [The rest of the Arab officials gathered start laughing] Indeed!
America fought alongside Saddam Hussein against Khomeini [in the Iraq-Iran War]. He was their friend. Cheney was a friend of Saddam Hussein. Rumsfeld, the [U.S.] defence secretary during the bombing of Iraq [in 2003], was a close friend of Saddam Hussein.
At the end they sold him out. They hung him. Even you [the Arab leaders] who are the friends of America – no I will say we – we, the friends of America, America may approve of our hanging one day. 
At the end of the 1991 Gulf War, the U.S. deliberately encouraged open revolt against Saddam Hussein’s regime, but stood back and watched as Saddam Hussein put down the Iraqi revolts by force. In 2011, they have done the same thing against Qaddafi and his regime in Libya and have even taken it a few steps further. Not only has the revolt in Libya been instigated by Washington and its allies, but it has been nurtured and armed by them too. In the wake of the Gulf War, Washington and its partners instigated the revolts against Saddam Hussein’s government. The “no-fly zones” were then established by the U.S., Britain, and France over Iraq under the pretext of protecting “the Iraqi people from Saddam.” For years Iraq was systematically attacked. The Iraqi Republic was bombed and its capabilities to defend itself were eroded.
Today, the U.S. and its allies have imposed a no-fly zone over Libya with the pretext of protecting “the Libyan people from Qaddafi.” If they wanted to protect the Libyan people from Qaddafi, why did they arm Qaddafi and do business with him after the 2006 and 2008 riots and violence in Libya? There is much more to this narrative, which is part of a broader march to war.
A New Imperial Re-Division of Africa: The London Conference
The London Conference on Libya reveals the true colours of the coalition formed against Libya. In a clear breach of international law, the U.S., Britain, France, Germany, and their allies are making decisions about the future of Libya ahead of any changes on the ground.  Democracy is a bottom-up process and governance is an internal matter to be decided upon by the Libyans themselves. These decisions can not be made by foreign powers that have been the staunch supporters of some of the worst dictatorships.
The nations gathered at the conference table in London have no right whatsoever to decide on whether Qaddafi must stay or go. This is a sovereignty right that only Libyans alone have. Their involvement in the civil war is a breach of international law, as is their siding with one of the camps in the civil war.
The London Conference on Libya can be likened to the Berlin Conference of 1884. Unlike 1884, this conference is aimed at dividing the spoils of war in Libya, instead of the direct carving up of an entire continent. Also, Washington, instead of staying away like in 1884, is the leading power in this new conference involving the affairs of the African continent.
The position of the U.S. and its Western European allies is very clear:
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and British Foreign Secretary William Hague led the crisis talks in London between 40 countries and institutions, all seeking an endgame aimed at halting Qaddafi’s bloody onslaught against Libya’s people.
Although the NATO-led airstrikes on Qaddafi’s forces that began March 19 aren’t aimed at toppling him, dozens of nations agreed in the talks that Libya’s future does not include the dictator at the helm.
“Qaddafi has lost the legitimacy to lead, so we believe he must go. We’re working with the international community to try to achieve that outcome,” Clinton told reporters.
As she spoke, U.S. officials announced that American ships and submarines in the Mediterranean had unleashed a barrage of cruise missiles at Libyan missile storage facilities in the Tripoli area late Monday and early Tuesday — the heaviest attack in days.
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle echoed Clinton’s point. “One thing is quite clear and has to be made very clear to Qaddafi: His time is over. He must go,” Westerwelle said. “We must destroy his illusion that there is a way back to business as usual if he manages to cling to power.” 
The London Conference on Libya, however, not only deals solely with Libya, but holds the blue prints to a new imperialist re-division of the entire Africa continent. Libya, which became a holdout when Qaddafi changed his mind, will be used to complete the “Union of the Mediterranean” and as a new bridgehead into Africa. This is the start of major steps that will be taken by the U.S. and the E.U. to purge the growing Chinese presence from Africa.
A New Imperial Re-Division of Africa: “Operation Odyssey Dawn”
The name “Operation Odyssey Dawn” is very revealing about the strategic intent and direction of the war against Libya. The Odyssey is an ancient Greek epic written by the poet Homer that recounts the voyage and trails of the hero Odysseus of Ithaca on his way home. The main theme here is the “return home.”
The U.S. and the imperialist powers are on their own odyssey of “return” into Africa. This project is also tied to Southwest Asia and the drive into Eurasia, which will ultimately target Russia, China, and Central Asia. Washington does not want Eurasia alone. Together Africa and the Eurasian landmass make the super continent known as the “World-Island.” It is the World-Island that U.S. strategists want.
The U.S. and NATO are using the civil war in progress in Libya, which they have fuelled, as their pretext for longstanding plans of military aggression. A systematic media disinformation campaign, similar to the one used against Iraq from 1991 until 2003, has been in gear. In fact, the media has led the way for the war in Libya as it did in the former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, and Iraq. The U.S. and its cohorts have also used the atmosphere of popular revolt in the Arab World as a cloud to insert and support their own agenda in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya and to encircle it like hyenas and jackals over weak and wounded prey.
The Libyan Prize of the Mediterranean
There is an old Libyan proverb that says “if your pocket becomes empty, your faults will be many.” In this context, Libyan internal tensions are not dominated by breadbasket issues. This sets Libya apart from Arab countries like Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Morocco, and Jordan.  In Libya a lack of freedom and corruption has been capitalized upon by external actors. If it were not for this, Libyans would never be exploited into fighting one another.
Libya has come a long way since 1951 when it became an independent country. In 1975, the political scientist Henri Habib described these conditions:
When Libya was granted its independence by the United Nations on December 24, 1951, it was described as one of the poorest and most backward nations of the world. The population at the time was not more than 1.5 million, was over 90% illiterate, and had no political experience or knowhow. There were no universities, and only a limited number of high schools which had been established seven years before independence. 
According to Habib the state of poverty in Libya was the result of the yoke of Ottoman Turk domination followed by an era of European imperialism in Libya.  Habib explains: “Every effort was made to keep the Arab inhabitants [of Libya] in a servile position rendering them unable to make any progress for themselves or their nation.”  The political science professor goes on to say:
The climax of this oppression came during the Italian administration (1911 – 1943) when the Libyans were not only oppressed by the [foreign] authorities, but were also subjected to the loss and deprivation of their most fertile land which went to colonists brought in from Italy. The British and French who replaced the Italians in 1943 attempted to entrench themselves in [Libya] by various divisive ways, ultimately to fail through a combination of political events and circumstances beyond the control of any one nation. 
Even under political mismanagement and the corrupt status quo, the wealth of Libya is vast. It has the highest standards of living in Africa. There are multiple reasons for this. Currently having the African continent’s largest energy reserves, which were discovered in 1959, is one of them.
As well as its energy reserves, how Libyan energy revenues are used by the state has an important role on the economic livelihood of Libya too. Libyan energy reserves were nationalized after the 1969 coup against the Libyan monarchy. It should be noted that these Libyan energy reserves are a source of wealth in Libya that if fully privatized would be a lucrative spoil of war.
To a certain extent, the isolation of Libya in the past as a pariah state has also had a role in insulating Libya. As most the world has globalized economically, Libya has been delayed in its integration into the global economy. Despite having vast sums of money stolen and squandered by Qaddafi’s family and their officials, social services and benefits, such as government housing, are also available in Libya. It has to be cautioned too that none of this means that neo-liberal restructuring and poverty are not afoot in Libya, because they very much are.
Until the conflict in 2011 ignited, there was a huge foreign work force in Libya too. Thousands of foreign workers from every corner of the globe went to Libya for employment. This included nationals from Turkey, China, sub-Sahara(n) African, Latin America, the European Union, Russia, Ukraine, and the Arab World.
Neo-Liberalism and the New Libya: Saif Al-Islam Qaddafi and Rapprochement
From 2001 to 2003, rapprochement began between Libya and the United States and its partners in the European Union. What changed? Colonel Qaddafi did not stop being a dictator or change his behaviour. Rapprochement was brought by an end of defiance towards the U.S. and the E.U. by Tripoli. Libya had bowed to U.S. and E.U. pressure and a modus vivendi came into effect.
Qaddafi’s credentials as a democratic or just leader were never an issue. Nor was the use of brute force. Subservience was the real issue. The force used against the riots in 2006 and 2008 did not even faze the E.U. and Washington, which continued their business with Tripoli. Even U.S. government sources imply that economic interests in Libya subordinate issues of international law or justice; for example, BP pushed the British government in 2007 to move forward with a prisoner exchange with Libya so that a Libyan oil contract could be protected. 
Almost overnight, Libya became a new business bonanza for U.S. and E.U. corporations, especially in the energy sectors. These lucrative contracts also included military contracts for almost 344 million euros or about 482 million U.S. dollars in military hardware, training, and software from E.U. members (including chemical and biological agents).  Yet, two more things were demanded by Washington and those were imperial tribute and the opening up of the Libyan military and intelligence apparatus to U.S. influence. As a result Libya ended all support for the Palestinians and handed the U.S. government its dossiers on resistance groups opposed to Washington, London, Tel Aviv and their allies. This turned Libya into a so-called “partner” in the “Global War on Terror.” This process moved forward thus:
Although U.S. sanctions on Libya were lifted in 2004 and terrorism-related restrictions on foreign assistance were rescinded in 2006, Congress acted to limit the Bush Administration’s ability to provide foreign assistance to Libya as a means of pressuring the Administration and the Libyan government to resolve outstanding terrorism claims. The Bush Administration’s October 2008 certification […] ended standing restrictions on the provision of U.S. foreign assistance contained in appropriations legislation for FY2008 and FY2009. Assistance requests submitted by the Bush and Obama Administrations for FY2009 and FY2010 included funding for programs to re-engage with Libyan security forces after “a 35-year break in contact” with their U.S. counterparts and to support Libyan efforts to improve security capabilities in areas of common concern, such as border control, counterterrorism, and export/import monitoring. 
Libya also became active in global banking and finance. The U.S. Federal Reserve Bank of New York even made 73 loans to the Arab Banking Corporation (ABC), which is a bank mostly owned by the Central Bank of Libya, totalling an amount of $35 billion (U.S.).  According to Senator Bernard Sanders of Vermont in a complaint to U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Benjamin Bernanke, the mostly Libyan-owned bank has received over $26 billion (U.S.) in near zero interest rate loans from the U.S. Federal Reserve that it has been lending back to the U.S. Treasury at a higher interest rate.  The Arab Banking Corporation is currently exempted from sanctions on Libya and may serve in creating a fiscal link between Wall Street and Benghazi.
Saif Al-Islam Qaddafi was vital in this process of opening up Libya to trade with Washington and the European Union. In 2000 Saif Al-Islam graduated from university in Austria and became heavily tied to foreign associates who would become his advisors and friends. Prince Andrew of Britain, the special trade envoy of Britain, would even reportedly become close friends with Said Al-Islam. The relationship is reported to have been so close that Chris Bryant, a senior Labour Party politician, demanded within the British House of Commons that Prince Andrew be removed from his position at the start of the conflict with Libya.  These foreign advisors from Western Europe and North America would have a huge influence on the changes that would be brought about in Libya.
A “New Libya” would start to emerge under Saif Al-Islam, who would push for neo-liberal economic reforms in his country. It would be around 2005 to 2006 that major class differences would start to visibly emerge in Libya. The Libyan Revolutionary Committees Movement, which if still in place would have most probably insured that the present conflict would never have escalated, would also be disbanded by Saif Al-Islam. Saif Al-Islam would also go to London and be introduced by contacts in Britain to Noman Benotman, a former member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG).  He would become friends with Benotman who with Ali Al-Sallabi, a Libyan citizen based in Qatar that was wanted for ties to terrorism by Tripoli, would negotiate a truce between the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group and the Libyan government. It is also worth noting that all the ministers and ambassadors who have defected or left Libya were all selected for their posts by Saif Al-Islam.
The intertwined social and economic changes that began to emerge in Libya also acted as social stressors that also magnified the existing cleavages in Libya. Just as neo-liberal reforms heightened the tensions in the former Yugoslavia, the social and economic differences brought about by neo-liberalism in Libya also heightened the internal animosity in the country. In this lay the partial seeds of the present divisions in Libya.
Rapprochement with Tripoli and Imperial Extortion
In late-2008, the U.S. government got Tripoli to pay imperial tribute. Libya capitulated and agreed to an uneven reparation agreement with Washington. The agreement is called the “Claims Settlement Agreement between the United States of America and the Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab.” Under the agreement Libya would concede $1.3 billion U.S. dollars to Washington, while Washington would give the Libyans $300 million U.S. dollars. Article 4 of the agreement’s annex states:
Once contributions to the Fund Account reach the amount of U.S. $1.8 billion (one billion eight hundred million U.S. dollars), the amount of U.S. $1.5 billion (one billion five hundred million U.S. dollars) shall be deposited into Account A [the U.S. account] and the amount of U.S. $300 million (three hundred million U.S. dollars) shall be deposited into Account B [Libya’s account], which in both cases shall constitute the receipt of resources under Article III (2) of the Agreement. 
Despite all this, Libya has remained a relatively wealthy country. In 2010, Tripoli even made an offer to buy a portion of British Petroleum (BP), one of the largest corporations in the world.  The National Oil Company of Libya also remains one of the largest oil companies in the world.
Even with the lucrative business deals that emerged with the rapprochement between Tripoli, the U.S. and the E.U. have always had an objective of further their gains and control. The E.U. powers and Washington merely waited for the right opportunity. Plans for taking over and controlling Libya and the Libyan energy sector were never abandoned. Nor could Washington and Western Europe accept anything less than a full-fledged puppet government in Libya.
Upheaval and Qaddafi’s Response
Even with the rapprochement with Tripoli, the U.S. and its E.U. partners continued to cultivated ties to so-called “opposition” figures and organization to keep in reserve or as a future option. This is why the National Salvation Front of Libya has been mostly active in Washington. In the words of a timely Congressional Research Service (CRS) report prepared on February 18, 2011 for the U.S. Congress and its committees:
The National Conference for the Libyan Opposition (an umbrella organization of opposition groups headed by the National Libyan Salvation Front (NLSF) […]) and Internet-based organizers called for a “day of rage” to take place on February 17. Similar events had been organized by anti-government groups in many other countries in the Middle East and North Africa over the previous month. On February 17,  hundreds of protestors took to the streets in Benghazi and in other cities in its vicinity. 
Colonel Qaddafi has ruled Libya under a harsh dictatorship that has systematically used violence and fear. Yet, the level of violence that has put Libya in a state of upheaval has been distorted.  many of the initial reports coming out Libya in early-2010 were also unverified and in many cases misleading. These reports made about the upheaval in Libya have to be studied very careful. According to the same CRS report prepared for the U.S. Congress, initial reports all came from “local [Libyan] media accounts, amateur video footage and anecdotes, and reports from human rights organizations and opposition groups in exile.” 
Qaddafi’s objectives are to preserve his regime and not to undo it. After Qaddafi became aware of the growing foreign threat towards the continuation of his regime, his responses through the use of force were restrained. The regime in Tripoli does not want to give further excuses to the U.S., the E.U., and NATO for military intervention in Libya.
Qaddafi had exercised restraint for the sake of preserving his dictatorship. The Libyan regime knew very well that a bloody civil war would be used as a justification for intervention under a humanitarian pretext. That is why Qaddafi opted to try to negotiate where he could instead of using force. The use of violence is not to the favour of the Libyan regime or Libya, but rather works in the favour of the U.S. and the E.U. states.