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Op-Ed: Canada could intervene militarily in Libya

In an interview with Chris Hall on the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.(CBC) radio program The House, Defence Minister, Harjit Saijan, hinted that Canada could soon join a coalition of countries who would intervene in Libya saying: “I had a good meeting with my counterpart, the minister of defence from Italy, [on military intervention in Libya]. Italy is willing to take the lead on this; once we have a good understanding of the political situation, that will allow us to figure out what we need to do. Before we can actually say ‘Yes we’re interested,’ ‘Yes we can do this,’ we’re doing what all responsible coalition partners should do, assess the political and security situation, and then decide if we have the right capabilities to assist in this mission.We will be part of that conversation.”

Saijan said that any military action in Libya would be based upon lessons learned from Canada’s experience in Afghanistan. I should think that the lesson learned from Afghanistan would be that military intervention results in continued warfare with no lasting solution even after more than a decade of US-led intervention. Saijan noted that there needed to be a political structure in place, so that when there are military gains the political structures will safeguard peace and quiet tensions. The UN, with the support of the international community, is trying to impose such a structure through the Government of National Accord(GNA) which it brokered. But the GNA was never approved by either parliament of the two rival Libyan governments. The internationally-recognized government is in Tobruk in the east, the House of Representatives(HoR), while the rival General National Congress(GNC) is in the west in Tripoli. The Libya Political Agreement(LPA) the basis for the GNA has also not be approved by either parliament. However the HoR must give a vote of confidence in the GNA before its term can begin its term.

After meeting several times and failing to reach a quorum, the HoR did meet and vote on the GNA but rejected it as having too many ministries. A deadline of ten days was given to present a new list but that deadline was missed. A new deadline set for tomorrow February 14th. If the list is presented to the HoR by then they could vote on it as early as this Monday. Even if the vote of confidence passes, there is no guarantee that the GNA will be able to move into Tripoli and gain control of the Central Bank, and National Oil Company without armed resistance from GNC-associated militia. The GNA itself is split between opponents of the HoR commander in chief of the Libyan National Army, Khalifa Haftar, and opponents mostly members from the GNC who signed on to the LPA in Skhirat on December 17th. The likelihood of a strong political structure to bolster Libya after a military defeat of the Islamic State seems unlikely. The intervention is more likely to produce even further civil discord as many will reject the intervention. It is not even certain that the GNA will even ask for such intervention.

The Italian defence minister, Roberta Pinotti, said that coalition partners at a recent Paris meeting totally agreed that the GNA government should ask the West to aid them fight the Islamic State “to avoid fuelling “jihadist propaganda” of yet another “Western invasion”. In this case the propaganda appears to be close to the truth. She also noted that the US has expressed a greater concern over the Islamic State in Libya. Indeed, the US is planning a third front in Libya against the Islamic State. Already there is foreign military intervention in Libya by special forces from several countries. The UK is flying sorties

Many media outlets are criticizing the Trudeau decision to withdraw from the bombing mission against IS in Iraq. However, the US has supported Canada’s new role. Actually, the Liberals will have a more extensive and expensive campaign than the Conservatives, and now it seems may expand their mission against IS to Libya. No wonder the US is not complaining. Not all the media are criticizing the Liberals for withdrawing from the bombing. Thomas Walkom, in the Star sees the Trudeau move as expanding Canada’s role: Sly Justin Trudeau. Critics are still attacking the prime minister for pulling back from the war against Islamic State militants. What they haven’t noticed is that his Liberal government has, in fact, expanded Canada’s role in this conflict. The new operation will spend more money, $1.6 billion over three years. Canada will send 180 more soldiers to the area. The number of special forces to train the Kurds will rise from 69 to 200, Now Saijan is suggesting Canada might be involved in a Libyan campaign against the Islamic State as well.

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