Moammar Gadhafi Warned U.K.’s Tony Blair That Ousting Him Would Open the Door to Jihadis
Transcripts of two fraught telephone conversations between the U.K.’s Tony Blair and Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi in 2011 show Gadhafi warning that his removal from power would enable jihadi groups to seize control of Libya and use it as a staging ground to attack Europe.
Blair, who was not Britain’s prime minister at the time, reportedly decided to act as an intermediary between Gadhafi and the West because of the contact the two men had while Blair was in office. Blair confirmed that both London and Washington, D.C. — presumably meaning Hillary Clinton, then-secretary of state and current Democratic presidential candidate — were aware of the calls.
The transcripts were published with Blair’s consent by the U.K. Foreign Select Affairs Committee, which is investigating the Western air campaign that led to the ousting and killing of Gadhafi in October 2011.
In the calls, Blair pleaded with Gadhafi to relinquish power or end the violence. Patrick Wintour reports at The Guardian, “The transcripts reveal the gulf in understanding between [Gadhafi] and the west over what was occurring in his country and the nature of the threat he was facing.”
In the first call, at 11.15am on 25 February 2011, [Gadhafi] gave a warning in part borne out by future events: “They [jihadis] want to control the Mediterranean and then they will attack Europe.”
In the second call, at 3.25pm the same day, the Libyan leader said: “We are not fighting them, they are attacking us. I want to tell you the truth. It is not a difficult situation at all. The story is simply this: an organisation has laid down sleeping cells in north Africa. Called the al-Qaida organisation in north Africa … The sleeping cells in Libya are similar to dormant cells in America before 9/11.”
[Gadhafi] added: “I will have to arm the people and get ready for a fight. Libyan people will die, damage will be on the Med, Europe and the whole world. These armed groups are using the situation [in Libya] as a justification – and we shall fight them.”
Three weeks after the calls, a Nato-led coalition that included Britain began bombing raids that led to the overthrow of [Gadhafi]. He was finally deposed in August and murdered by opponents of his regime in October.
At one point in the conversations [Gadhafi] urged Blair to go to Libya to see the lack of violence in Tripoli, and held the telephone to a TV screen so Blair could hear people voicing their support for [Gadhafi] in the streets.
Commenting on the exchanges recently, Crispin Blunt, the Foreign Select Committee chairman, said: “The transcripts supplied by Mr. Blair provide a new insight into the private views of Colonel [Gadhafi] as his dictatorship began to crumble around him. […]
“The committee will want to consider whether [Gadhafi’s] prophetic warning of the rise of extremist militant groups following the collapse of the regime was wrongly ignored because of [Gadhafi’s] otherwise delusional take on international affairs. The evidence that the committee has taken so far in this inquiry suggests that western policymakers were rather less perceptive than [Gadhafi] about the risks of intervention for both the Libyan people and the western interests.”
Read more here.
— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.
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