Why are France and Britain leading the military operation to impose and maintain a no-fly zone in Libya?
Euronews asked Claude Moniquet, a strategic intelligence and security expert and founder of an Institute in Brussels which specialises in geo-strategic research.
Euronews: “Since the start of the coalition intervention in Libya, people have been asking how Libya has become a Franco/British concern? Why were these two countries so quick off the mark?”
Claude Moniquet: “Yes, it’s a complicated mix of good intentions: coming to the rescue of the Libyan people who are being bombarded and attacked by the Gaddafi regime. It is also – or so the rumours have it – because there are various embarrassing skeletons in the closet. Remember that France put out all the flags when Gaddafi visited the country two or three years ago – although let’s be clear they weren’t the only ones to do it. Then at the beginning of the year there was the episode with Tunisia, the embarassing affair of the trips taken by the French Foreign Affairs Minister of the time, Michelle Alliot Marie. So perhaps France is eager to bury all that business. And on the British side of course there was all the sorry business of the negotiated release of Ali Mohamed al-Megrahi. He was the Libyan agent who was sentenced to prison for life for blowing up a plane over the Scottish town of Lockerbie and who was released on compassionate grounds because he had terminal prostate cancer and then of course there are British oil interests.”
Euronews: “Gaddafi’s son Saif said last week on Euronews that he could prove the Libyan regime had financed Nicolas Sarkozy’s election campaign. They were potentially damaging allegations. Could that have hastened French intervention?”
Claude Moniquet: “No, I don’t believe that because I don’t believe that Gaddafi really financed Sarkozy’s campaign. After all, we’re talking about someone who has been a professional liar for the last 20 or 30 years. I think his son Saif Al Islam takes after his father in this respect so I think that this was pure propoganda as part of a media war aimed at discrediting France.”
Euronews: “So you think this is pure propaganda, a complete fantasy?”
Claude Moniquet: “Well, if this proof ever comes to light, then we shall see.”
Euronews: “Do you think there are other motives in play for France and Britain?”
Claude Moniquet: “The main point is to take a strong political position on the Arab world which has been in a state of flux for the last three months. There, I think there is a political interest, a noble one, which explains why they had to invervene. The second thing which explains why this was mainly a Franco-British initiative was the understandable American reluctance to be the first wave of intervention. The American involvement in Iraq isn’t finished and has left a very bad impression in the Arab world and a military operation which was too American-led would have, by its very nature, been problematic.”
Euronews: “Do you think that there is perhaps a Franco-British desire to make history, to win some credibilty points on the international stage, especially in the US?”
Claude Moniquet: “There is obviously a window of opportunity for Europe, and that’s quite rare. A chance for Europe to play a role on the international stage, and if there’s anywhere where Europe can be significant, it’s obviously in North Africa and Africa. North Africa and Libya, it’s just the other side of the street from us, like Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia…for us these are neighbouring countries, countries with which we have a common history, long-standing relationships, and I think that’s the right policy to show: that we are interested in these situations and that we are on the side of their people.”