Britain: an historic and modern role in Libya?

As UK forces play a key role in helping the rebel advance, can Libyans rely on Britain's continued friendship?

The BBC reports "Shashank Joshi, associate fellow of the Royal United Services Institute (Rusi), said 22 of the 29 targets struck on Saturday by British forces were in Tripoli.  He said British forces had stepped up their action in response to a surge in internal opposition within Tripoli, which seemed to have been activated by the capture by the rebels of the key town of Zawiya, outside the capital earlier this month.  "As a way of hardening that uprising in Tripoli, and, as a way of weakening regime command and control to help the rebels outside Tripoli, they [British forces] clearly stepped up strikes on the capital."  He said British advisors with the rebels had played an "important role" and Britain's provision of equipment for the rebels, including body armour and communications, had been "significant".  Britain had also carried out more frequent air strikes than any of the other coalition forces, he added."

The Historic Link

It's perhaps no surprise that the heir to the Libyan throne, Crown Prince Mohammed el Senussi, lives in London as there's an historic link between these two countries.  His great uncle, King Idris I was awarded many honours from many countries (including a Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour from France), but also a KBE in 1946 by King George VI and GBE in 1954 by Queen Elizabeth II.

Idris had battled for the withdrawal of the Italian occupiers, as he and his supporters fought for a unified Libya.  The Brits came to his aid, establishing military governorships of both Tripolitania (1942-51) and Cyrenaica (1941-9) which morphed into civil administrations under 'Administrators' then 'Residents' to prepare for an orderly handover to Libyan control under Idris' command.  Idris I reigned from December 24 1951 until overthrown by Colonel Gadaffi on September 1, 1969.

It would be auspicious if Gaddafi could be captured and held before the end of August and flown to The Hague by September 1st to face justice at the hands of the International Criminal Court.

Is it all about Oil?

Britain continues to be Libya's friend.  And it's not because of oil, as the UK imports very little of its oil from Libya.  Welt calculated that Libyan oil export destinations were as follows: 

"More than 85% of Libyan oil exports go to Europe. The rest go to Asia, Australia and the US. 

(barrels = barrels per day)
  • Ireland - 14,000 barrels (23% of all oil imports)
  • Italy - 376,000 barrels (22% of all oil imports)
  • Austria - 31,000 barrels (21% of all oil imports)
  • Switzerland - 17,000 barrels (19% of all oil imports)
  • France - 205,000 barrels (16% of all oil imports)
  • Greece  - 63,000 barrels (15% of all oil imports)
  • Spain  - 136,000 barrels (12% of all oil imports)
  • Portugal - 27,000 barrels (11% of all oil imports)
  • United Kingdom - 95,000 barrels (9% of all oil imports)
  • Germany  - 144,000 barrels (8% of all oil imports)
  • China  - 150,000 barrels (3% of all oil imports)
  • Netherlands - 31,000 barrels (2% of all oil imports)
  • Australia - 11,000 barrels (2% of all oil imports)
  • United States - 51,000 barrels (0.5% of all oil imports)." 

Aside Germany and Holland, therefore, the UK is least dependent of the Europeans on Libyan oil.  No, there's a genuinely fraternal relationship between these two countries, it appears. 

The Present Relationship

According to the BBC, British involvement in the developing situation in Libya is intense: "British officials are taking part in a meeting with members of the NTC (Libyan National Transitional Council) in Dubai on Tuesday to discuss how to ensure security and basic services should the Gaddafi regime fall.  The UK government has said Libyan assets in the UK will soon be unfrozen to help with post-conflict reconstruction, and the UK will offer help with medical supplies, food provision and communications and utilities services."

The sooner Gaddafi and his troublesome sons are gone the faster Libya can be rebuilt.

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