British Diplomacy Leading To A New Cold War?

On Thursday 21st June, I am facing the daunting prospect of opposing the prize-winning journalist, Peter Hitchens, at the Rab Butler Debate on Anglo-Russian relations in Saffron Walden.

Tickets are free for members, or £5 for guests with a complementary glass of wine. The event starts at 7.30 p.m. in the wonderful Hart’s Bookshop.

 Richard Austen Butler

Libyan Money For IRA Compensation

The Government of National Accord is up in arms about a House of Commons proposal to pass a law enabling the British Government to use frozen Libyan assets in Britain to compensate IRA victims.

This was one of three legacy issues, which London was keen to pursue when I arrived in Libya in 2011.  The other two were the criminal investigations into the 1984 murder of PC Yvonne Fletcher and the 1988 Lockerbie bombing.  The issue of IRA compensation was the brainchild of an ambitious lawyer seeking to take a multi-million pound slice of the Libyan oil and gas money.  His letter to Prime Minister, David Cameron in 2011, was an outlandish piece of opportunism.

See Chapter 6 of Belfast to Benghazi for other mistakes London made in the aftermath of the Libyan revolution.

US Air Strikes in Libya

Following the visit of the Commander of AFRICOM to Tripoli last week, the US has killed four alleged Islamic State insurgents by an airstrike 178 miles from the coast, near to Bani Walid.  This falls within their policy to degrade terrorist groups which threaten to destabilize Libya and the region.

The government of National Accord has given authority in a way that the transitional government refused in 2012.  Bani Walid is the gateway to the Sahara and closely linked to Sirte and Misratah.  This troublesome triangle has been a constant source of insecurity; see Chapter 6 of Belfast to Benghazi for the story of the Battle of Bani Walid in January 2012.


US Military Commander in Libya

A big development in Libya’s journey to regain its place as an influential member of the international community took place in Tripoli yesterday.  The public announcement that General Tom Waldhauser was in the Libyan capital meeting the Presidency Council and the Libyan military chiefs was not possible until the security  situation and humanitarian problems improved.

There is a significant risk for the Libyan Government in welcoming the US military into the country.  The memory of the US Ambassador’s assassination in Benghazi is still fresh and there remains very strong opposition to foreign troops on the ground.  See chapter 6 of Belfast to Benghazi for the story of the first secret visit to Tripoli of the US commander of AFRICOM after the 2011 revolution.



Russia Blocks UN Proposal on Libya

The UN Security Council has proposed a travel ban and a global freeze of the assets belonging to six Libyans accused of people smuggling.  However, this has been thwarted by the Russian delegation, who have asked to see the intelligence on these human traffickers.  This stand-off will damage the recent progress made in reducing the war economy’s dependence on criminal activity.   Another senseless division between Russia and the West.


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Hart’s Book Talk

On Wednesday, I will be speaking about the origins of the current tension between Russia and the West at Hart’s Book Shop in Saffron Walden. The talk will trace the changes in UK policy since President Putin came to power and explain why Russia mistrusts the other permanent members of the UN Security Council.

Tickets are available at:



Belhaj Apology

It is quite right that Fatima Boudchar and Abdul Hakim Belhaj have been offered a sincere apology by the Government and reparation for the torture they suffered at the hands of the Gadhafi regime.

It was a severe hindrance in Tripoli when London informed me that I could no longer meet with Bel Haj due to the rendition claim.  As I have written on page 263 of Belfast to Benghazi, it was a bad judgement call because he was a rising star in Tripoli and had proven to be a highly capable leader heading the Tripoli Brigade.  As an moderate, who advocated disarmament and education for the young revolutionaries, he was someone the British Government should have brought to the negotiating table.  What chance now that he is Libya’s future leader?

The other question that has to be asked is what will be done about the other rendition cases that the UK facilitated following 9/11? See page 168 of Belfast to Benghazi.






Libyan Delegation In London

It is good news that a high ranking economic delegation has been visiting the House of Commons.  Britain is the partner of choice for many Libyans and can assist the reconstruction of its war-torn cities.  With the security situation improving on a daily basis, the country can once again can play a leading role in the Mediterranean and North Africa.

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Storm Shadow Reliability

The Daily Mail writes today that the Storm Shadow used in the attacks on Syrian chemical installations is “arguably the most advanced weapon of its kind in the world”.  However, its reliability was questionable when it was first introduced.  We found one that had failed to explode in the Libyan desert in 2012 and sent it back to England on a C-130 aircraft.  I hope the technicians have improved its performance since then.

See Chapter 6 of Belfast to Benghazi for this and other remnants of war stories from Britain’s last attempt to change a regime using Air Power.

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