Monday, September 14, 2009

UK-Libya Relations: Release Terrorist, Make Oil Deal, Train…Terrorists?

By Barry Rubin

First the British government released a Lockerbie terrorist, despite his having killed so many people, as part of an oil deal with Libya. Now, according to a credible report, the British army will be training the elite forces of dictator Muammar Qadhafi, the same man who almost certainly ordered the Lockerbie bombing and many other terrorist attacks.

So reports the Daily Telegraph. Since early this year, the British army has been training Libyan Special Forces. The newspaper notes that Libya has also armed the IRA with guns and explosives in launching terror attacks against Britain in the past. The leak comes from British soldiers who are disgusted with this policy.

There could be arguments for this kind of activity in some cases. The British army could be trying to teach Libyan soldiers to behave better, seeking to build bridges for a closer relationship, or even recruiting intelligence agents.

The British government might well see this connection as shielding their country from terrorism at Libya’s hands. Let them go kill citizens of some other place. This is a frequently seen European policy in the past. Starting in the 1960s, archival documents show, the British government made nice to Fatah and the PLO politically in order to buy immunity, while France and Italy had policies in later decades of letting terrorist groups operate within their territory as long as they only attacked those outside of it.

But with the mercurial (a polite word for bizarre and psychopathic) as leader, it is unlikely that this will lead to anything good. Probably these skills will be put to use in future for carrying out terror attacks and training people from other countries to do so, possibly even against Britain.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles, or to order books: . To see or subscribe to his blog, Rubin Reports, .

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