Never mind the regime change

There's little more to be said about the efforts expended by successive UK governments in recent years to brown-nose Colonel Gaddafi's military and security apparatus, right up until the moment in February when they suddenly decided it had always been a "brutal regime" that "had to go" (with a sort of twisted jingoism, this ground's been particularly well-covered in the Sunday Telegraph).

A couple of extra vignettes from a belated FOI request, though, confirms in particular the primacy of international arms fairs as occasions for a quick spot of security diplomacy. It seems Libyan and British security officials could hardly bring themselves to meet at all without leafing through a weapons catalogue:

  • David Cameron's 'Counter Terrorism Advisor for North Africa', Maj Gen Robin Searby (right) visited Tripoli in November 2010 along with a "senior UK Military officer". November 2010 just happens to have been the occasion of the last 'LibDex' arms fair in Tripoli.

    (Maj Gen Searby, incidentally, has moved smoothly on from brown-nosing Gaddafi in the name of counter-terrorism and arms sales, to brown-nosing that other noted democrat and human rights enthusiast, President Bouteflika of Algeria).

  • Libyan Interior Minister, General Abd Al Fattah Younis Al Obeidi (left), met with Foreign Office Minister Gerald Howarth on 19 July 2010, during the Farnborough International Air Show, vis Farnborough Arms Fair.

    (Abd Al Fattah, you'll recall, was formerly head of Libya's human-rights-friendly special forces, switched to the rebels in February, and was killed in an inter-necine rebel row in July).

This is in addition to the regular visits of Libyan military missions to the UK (which might be expected to take place under the aegis of arms fairs and weapons sales).

  • "A visit took place in late July 2010 when five members of the Libyan Air Defence Technical Committee (ADTC) attended the Farnborough International Air Show (FIAS) between 19-21 July at the invitation of the previous Government. The delegation was led by Brigadier General Suliman Ramadan Ahmedah and was combined with a visit to General Dynamics UK in Wales to assess the company’s capability to act as prime integrator for Libya’s Air Defence modernisation programme. Additionally, the ADTC visited RAF Boulmer to see Air Defence Command, Radar and the Search and Rescue Squadron facility."

  • (Memo to Libyan Air Defence Technical Committee: don't let a foreign country redesign your air defences if there's any chance in the near future they might want to, um, rapidly destroy your air defences).

  • "A further visit took place 19-24 September 2010 of a four-man delegation from the Libyan Military Engineering Academy. The delegation was led by Brigadier General Ali Mohamed Saeed al Fakri. The visit programme included a number of UK military technical training and academic establishments such as; the armoured training school at Bovington, the Royal Signals school at Blandford, the REME Arms school at Arborfield, the Defence Academy, Cranfield University and the marine engineering school at HMS Sultan. A demonstration of a REME Light Aid Detachment (LAD) ‘in action’ was also provided at in the vicinity of Tidworth garrison."

Needless to say, the UK Ministry of Defence declined to release to me any actual documents or records related to these meetings, or the "wide-ranging "Accord on a Defence Co-operation and Defence Industrial Partnership" that the UK signed with Libya on 29th May 2007 (for anyone hunting this Accord in future through FOI, training aspects were apparently the subject of a separate Memorandum of Understanding signed on 17 February 2009). I particularly enjoyed the rationale for their refusal: that disclosure could "damage our [the UK's] ability to co-operate militarily with Libya in the future". And if we were left in any doubt about the government's firm intention to resume yet another round of cosying up to yet another Libyan regime with arms sales and security training, there's this nice aside to the MOD's description of the UK-Libya Defence Accord:

The aim of the Accord (which technically remains extant) is “to build stable and long-term special relations between the countries as equal partners, proceeding from the principle of mutual respect and confidence”. (Emphasis added)


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