Cameron ready to strike Libya despite FCO ruling out renewed campaign

© Darren Staples
As the Foreign and Commonwealth Office rules out renewed strikes on Libya, Prime Minister David Cameron says he is ready to pursue military action if the UK is threatened by Islamic State militants said to be established there.

Speaking at the end of a five-day official tour of South East Asia, Cameron said: “If there is a threat to Britain or to our people on our streets, and we are able to stop it by taking immediate action against that threat, as prime minister I will always want to try and take that action.

“That is the case whether that problem is emanating from Libya, from Syria or anywhere else.”

The announcement comes after Cameron ordered government departments to draw up contingency plans in the wake of the murder of 30 British holidaymakers at a resort in Sousse, Tunisia last month.

Since the 2011 war, which saw the removal of President Muammar Gaddafi, Libya has descended into chaos, with tribal and religious militias battling for control of the destabilized nation.

Some security and intelligence figures warn a local version of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) is gaining a foothold in Libya.

Cameron’s comments appear to be at odds with the announcement by the Foreign Office on Monday that there would be no strikes in Libya.

Supporting progress towards a UN-mediated ceasefire and a stable political settlement in Libya is our immediate priority,” a Foreign Office spokesman told the Guardian.

The UK has no plans to launch airstrikes over Libya.

We are working closely with international and regional partners to support the Libyans to tackle terror groups and are discussing how to use existing UN Security Council resolutions to sanction terrorist groups in Libya, including groups affiliated to ISIS,” the FCO added.

Ongoing concerns in the UK over the fallout of Western-led bombing in 2011 appear to be converging on the idea of an inquiry into the war and its results.

Announcing the investigation on Friday, Foreign Affairs Select Committee Chair Crispin Blunt said the intervention proved a disaster and served to compound security problems both regionally and globally.

It has turned out to be a catastrophe for the people of Libya,” Blunt said. “And now it is a growing problem for us, with our undoubted enemy ISIS beginning to establish control of areas of Libya.

Many commentators point to the 2011 conflict, and other crises in the region’s recent past, to explain the increase in migrants attempting to flee the Middle East and North Africa to Europe. Often in highly-dangerous, overcrowded boats run by professional people smuggles.

Blunt took the same view, attributing the “migration crisis” to the collapse of state authorities which “poses problems for us all over the world.

Sketching out the scope of the inquiry, which is more time sensitive and likely to be better organized than the larger and much delayed Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq war, Blunt said, “I want to examine the quality of the analysis that underpinned the decision to intervene in Libya.

Had we reasonably thought through the consequences of the action? If we hadn’t, that begs questions about the scale of resources inside the Foreign Office to have that capability.

He also said the war and the manner in which the UN resolution on countering the excesses of the Gaddafi regime was interpreted had implications for the West’s relationships with other actors on the international scene.

He said the events of 2011 had “strongly reinforced the sense in Russia of Western exceptionalism, which has made negotiating with them on Syria and Crimea very difficult.

When we say to them, you have got to stick to the rules of the road, they can point to areas where they think we have bent the rules.