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A willful war

Strictly confidential: Norway's secret attempt to stop the war in Libya.
LIBYA / The book Strictly confidential refers to a gloomy experience for Norwegian diplomacy in Libya. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton decided to go to war against the country – against Defense Secretary Robert Gates' wishes. Clinton must have played a brutal double game against the Norwegians. The threat against the people of Benghazi was pure propaganda.


Henrik Thune's new book Strictly confidential: Norway's secret attempts to stop the war in Libya should be read. He describes honestly and in detail about meetings with Muammar Gaddafi's son Saif al-Islam and meetings with those close to him already from the time when the UN Security Council made its decision in March 2011, to continued meetings in the spring also with representatives of the rebellions. Thune describes how misinformed Gaddafi- the family had been, not least by their own UN ambassador, who immediately went over to the rebels. But the book also reflects a Norwegian notion that conflicts can be resolved if the parties gain trust in each other, that they find a compromise.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Britain's David Cameron wanted regime change.

The book, which is definitely worth reading, concludes towards the end: "Were we all in a war that was about something completely different than we thought!". Libya came to collapse. Thune shows a tragic picture of the grand political game – but the problem with the book is not primarily what the author writes, but what he does not write. Under the leadership of Geir O. Pedersen and Tomas Stangeland, Henrik Thune applied with Jon Hansen farmer and Henrik Hovland to find possible ways to stop the war, while French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Britain's David Cameron wanted regime change. The British almost succeeded in stopping the Libyan representative's trip to Oslo. Sarkozy and Cameron had decided early on to go to war, while President Barack Obama was more uncertain, and according to Thune, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had shown an interest in the Norwegian peace talks.

What is left out

A central problem with the book is that it seems as if the Norwegian diplomats trusted too much Clinton and the Americans in 2011. It would have been an advantage if the Norwegians had been informed about the United States Africa Command's talks with the Libyan leadership that began in March of that year. Rear Admiral Charles R. Kubic said that Libyan commanders had promised to halt all operations immediately if negotiations could be initiated between the Libyan defense minister and the US Africa Command with observers from the African Union. Admiral Kubic wanted proof that the Libyans meant business and asked them to withdraw their troops from Benghazi – which they did. They withdrew from both Benghazi and Misrata. A 72-hour ceasefire had been agreed upon. Almost everything was worked out, Kubic said, but then Secretary of State Clinton decided to suspend all negotiations. She had already decided to go to war against the wishes of Defense Secretary Robert Gates – and she succeeded in getting President Obama's support for her war. She was close to Sarkozy. So she must have played a brutal game double play towards the Norwegians. While the Norwegian diplomats kept the Americans fully informed, the Americans said almost nothing to the Norwegian side.

Sarkozy and Cameron could not have waged the war alone. The war would hardly have been possible without Clinton. It was her war. She supported Qatar with weapons and let ground forces from there support the Islamists in Benghazi. As the CIA had supported the Islamists in Afghanistan from the summer of 1979, those who would later become Al-Qaeda, supported Hillary Clinton now the Islamists in Benghazi, many who later became IS in Libya. Everyone knew that air forces were not enough, and the ground forces they could use were the Islamists who hated Gaddafi and had combat experience from Afghanistan. There were of course young people who had had enough, but they played a marginal role. The Norwegian diplomats would have benefited from reading the more realistically oriented one Alan Kuperman#s articles in International Security (2013), i Foreign Affairs (2015) and i Genocide Studies and Prevention (2019), who point to the central role of Islamists. He said that NATOs intervention probably increased the number of people killed tenfold.

Nicolas Sarkozy and Hilary Clinton

In June 2011, Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr traveled store to Paris. He was briefed by Jean-Paul Levitte, Sarkozy's national security adviser. Levitte was uninterested in Norwegian peace negotiations. He said that "the rebels would take over, establish their own transitional government and stabilize the country". He knew all about the French military support and the forces from Qatar. French intelligence played a central role and Levitte showed on a map how to go in and take Tripoli. France went against the UN's own decision. Norway was not informed. "They must have planned this for a long time," said Støre.

As evidenced by emails from Clinton's intelligence contact Sidney Blumenthal, the war in Libya was intended to open a war in Syria. The neoconservatives and the circle around Clinton wanted to initiate as early as 2001 war against seven countries: Iraq, Libya, Syria, Lebanon, Sudan, Somalia and Iran. For the French, according to Blumenthal's email to Clinton, it was also about stopping Gaddafi's plans for a gold dinar – a pan-African review in competition with the US dollar and the European euro. It would replace the French CFA franc in French-speaking Africa. The 'gold dinar' would be launched shortly. Gaddafi had stored a large amount of gold and silver to finance the new currency. It was not at all a threat to civilians in Benghazi, which is also evident from the British Foreign Affairs Committee's libya-report from 2016. The threat to the people of Benghazi was pure propaganda.

From a secular to an Islamic state

Back to the book: Henrik Thune describes the uneasiness of Saif al-Islam's closest associates – and he describes their willingness to compromise. Two representatives of the rebels who came to Oslo were also willing to accept compromises. The problem was the hard guard – they had the full support of the US, France and the UK. They had everything to gain from a war. They wanted an Islamic republic, but with ties to the West. What would come out of free elections was more uncertain. The largest tribes would have a majority. It is possible that Saif al-Islam would prevail in a presidential election. So the rebels wanted a military victory before Gaddafi went away – to be able to replace the relatively secular Libya with a more Islamist state. The Gaddafi family was more African and national in its approach, while the uprisings were oriented towards the Arab world and Europe. They did not want to wait for Gaddafi to step back because of age. They would not even allow Saif al-Islam to be elected in free elections.

Boken Strictly confidential gives an interesting insight into the conversations that took place. It allows us to take part in a bleak experience for Norwegians diplomats. The book is honest and to the author's credit, but it is partly also characterized by the Anglo-American propaganda which probably made the war possible.

According to Sidney Blumenthal's email to Clinton, they wanted to stop Gaddafi's plans for a pan-African currency – in competition with the US dollar.

Thune blames Libya for the bombing of the American-frequented discotheque in Berlin in April 1986, which opened the door for US air strikes against Libya shortly afterwards. Paris and Madrid immediately saw that the claim of Libyan responsibility was not credible – and they never gave the American planes permission to fly over France and Spain respectively.

Moreover, the accusations against Libya after the bombing of the Pan Am plane over the city of Lockerbie in December 1988 were also 'politics'. After Iran and Syria had supported the US's war against Iraq in 1991, the US and Great Britain had to find a new 'suspect'. It became Libya. One found the remains of a 'timer' for the bomb which was thought to belong to a package of 'timers' such as a Swiss company , BO had sold to Libya. But it was later found that the chemical composition of the circuits of the 'timer' was different from the device in the MEBO package. – Many of these accusations were pure propaganda.

Ola Tunander
Ola Tunander
Tunander is Professor Emeritus of PRIO. See also wikipedia, at PRIO: , as well as a bibliography on Waterstone

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