Extraordinary threat? Obama prolongs Libyan sanctions

Libyan rebels drive past buildings damaged during heavy fighting earlier this year between Libyan rebels and Gaddafi loyalists in the centre of the rebel controlled city of Misrata (REUTERS/Darren Whiteside)
Gaddafi’s gone but the Libyan threat remains. That is what President Obama thinks anyway as he told congress the sanctions his administration slapped on Libya in 2011 will remain in place for another year.

­Obama informed US Congress via letter on Thursday that the continuing threat posed by family members of the slain Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi constituted a lingering threat to US interests.

“The situation in Libya continues to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States,” he wrote.

“We are in the process of winding down the sanctions in response to the many positive developments in

Libya, including the fall of Gaddafi and his government,” Obama further stated.

But Obama remains adamant that remnants of Gaddafi’s family present a clear and present danger to the US.

“We need to protect against this threat and the diversion of assets or other abuse by certain members of Gaddafi’s family and other former regime officials.”

He then concluded that it is “necessary to continue the national emergency with respect to Libya.”

Obama first declared a national emergency over Libya at the outset of the bloody uprising last February in response to perceived threats by Gaddafi to US national security and foreign policy.

National emergency regulations grant the US president the power to impose sanctions on foreign countries.

In December the US and UN Security Council lifted most of the sanctions which had been imposed on Libya, a move which subsequently freed up $30 billion in frozen assets.

But since the US-NATO campaign ousted the former Libyan leader last October, the current threat to most Libyans has little connection to the remnants of the Gaddafi era.

Widespread reports of torture and other human rights abuses at the hands of both the new regime and various tribal militias have highlighted the anarchic nature of post-Gaddafi Libya.

And last Monday, local residents drove pro-government forces out of Bani Walid in response to regular abuses committed by former rebel fighters.

In light of the situation on the ground, it remains curious that President Obama would see elements of the former regime as posing the greatest security threat to US interests.  

For the Libyan people, many of the forces currently unleashing chaos across the country are seemingly the very ones President Obama helped bring to power.