‘Libya’s problem isn’t lack of weapons to fight ISIS, but lack of any real government’

A handout picture released by the Egyptian Ministry of Defence on February 16, 2015 shows an Egyptian air force fighter jet landing at an undisclosed location in Egypt following air strikes in Libya. (AFP Photo)
Lifting the arms embargo on Libya will not help to combat ISIS, as the real problem is that since NATO intervention in 2011, the country has splintered, with the government not really in control of anything, political analyst Chris Bambery told RT.

RT:The Libyan foreign minister has requested that the UN lift the ban on foreign arms being supplied to Libya. Do you think that the government will be able to combat the Islamic State (formerly ISIS) if it receives weapons from abroad?

Chris Bambery: I don't think the problem is a shortage of arms in Libya. In fact, Libya is awash with arms. Since the collapse of the Gaddafi regime, huge arsenals of arms were just simply opened up and have been [made] available. Not just in Libya, but also, for instance, for Islamic groups in Nigeria, and elsewhere in North Africa.

READ MORE: Libya requests UNSC lift arms embargo to fight ISIS

So the problem is not lack of arms, the problem is the lack of any real government in Libya. The Libyan government controls virtually nothing in this country. And is having to call on Egyptians to carry out air strikes and [provide] air support. This is a consequence of the NATO intervention which has been disastrous.

Since the overthrow of the Gaddafi regime, the country just splintered into various fragments, many of which, not just Islamic State but other Al-Qaeda type groups as well, control swathes of territories. As I've mentioned, arms from Libya have been made available to other ISIS/Al-Qaeda type groups across North Africa.

So when we hear the Libyan government talking, firstly they represent very little. And secondly they have very little forces on the ground in order to carry it out. And I think we have to say, tragically, that further Western intervention into Libya will just add troubles in that country.

RT:The Egyptian president recently asked the UN to support his country, that’s as Egypt carried out several airstrikes against Islamic State positions in Libya. Will the UN intervene?

CB: I would hope not. The Egyptians are claiming to be intervening on behalf of the Coptic population. We saw these terrible murders. They could not care less about the Copts in Egypt itself which have been very badly mistreated. They have done nothing to prevent that. The Egyptians have got so many weapons. They are the huge recipients of American military aid. I don't see how they would need, given the size of their armed forces, given the fact the armed forces run that country, why they would need the Western aid? They are awash with Western aid and arms to do that. And I think again it rather questions the ability of the Egyptian military which I suspect has pocketed much of that money and it is not that effective a fighting force, in terms of fighting wars abroad. Its main emphasis is to maintain the internal form of order.

So I hope the UN won’t get in this, because the lesson here is – Western intervention, or United Nations intervention, which would be the same thing, into Libya has been a catastrophe, as it was in Iraq and Afghanistan. We are now seeing a huge price, reports warning that Libya could become a base for ISIS operations against Italy and Southern Europe. I mean, people must be worrying about that now.

RT:In 2011, the UN voted for an intervention in Libya – it was widely believed that this would lead to democracy in the country – but regime change led only to chaos in the country...Why did the West not anticipate this?

CB: Well I think the West in a sense have got no interest in building a stable government in Libya. In a sense they are quite happy with the fairly chaotic situation. They’ve removed the Gaddafi regime, like they tried to remove the Assad regime in Syria. They are removing what they regard as obstacles, opponents of Israel. And therefore they don't want particularly to build up strong Arab regime which might create problems.

But of course the situation has got out of hand as it has in Syria, as it has in Iraq and we’re now seeing the Islamic State. Now I think we should take some of the more lurid report warnings about the Islamic State in Libya with a pinch of salt. They control some towns, it’s true, but they face other warring militias.

However the very fact that the Islamic State has got a hold in this area is a consequence of that intervention. And David Cameron, for instance, the British Prime Minister, can’t even bring himself to apologize to the fact that far from bringing democracy to Libya, it brought utter chaos, and a really very, very dangerous situation, mainly for the people of Libya, for its neighboring countries and potentially Europe. I suspect there will be blowback from this crisis, from this mess in Libya.