Britain’s uncalled for attempt to help Libyan revolutionary forces has resulted in humiliation as they arrested members of its ‘diplomatic delegation’ on arrival in the African country before expelling them.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague had earlier announced plans to dispatch a diplomatic “task force” capable of giving military advice to Libyan revolutionary forces in the country’s second largest city, Benghazi, to allegedly strengthen the anti-Qaddafi front.
Hague’s remarks were challenged by analysts who drew on comments by Defense Secretary liam fox to argue Britain is moving back toward the expansionist whims, which took it to Afghanistan and Iraq after the September 11 attacks in the US.
In the same speech Fox had revealed MoD plans to “field a force of 30,000” for a “one-off intervention” to secure British interests in other parts of the world, he likened the “strategic shock” following the incidents in North Africa to the post-9/11 situation.
Analysts took the implication of a British task force to Libya against the backdrop of Fox’s remarks as evident, a conclusion that appears to have been echoed among Libyan revolutionary forces ranks.
The helicopter carrying the task force among them seven SAS soldiers and an MI6 officer made an unannounced landing near Benghazi.
To secure the release of the group, British ambassador to Libya Richard Northern was forced to contact revolutionaries and ask for their freedom but the plea was intercepted and went live on air on Libyan state television.
Northern told the revolutionary official, he contacted, that the delegation were there to contact the opposition figures in Benghazi and assess the humanitarian situation there.
The scenario turned nasty for London when a spokesman for the revolutionary National Council in Benghazi dismissed Northern’s justification that there has been a “misunderstanding”.
“The reason they were arrested was that they came into the country unofficially and without any arrangement with the Libyan authorities. Libya is an independent nation, we have our borders [and] we should expect them to be respected by everybody,” the spokesman, Hafiz Ghoga, said.
The incident has become a major diplomatic embarrassment for Britain as it will affect any future contacts between London and the revolutionary forces.
In fact, London has weakened the opposition in the eyes of the Libyan public as its move suggests the revolutionaries are complicit with a western government, which has no respect for the country’s sovereignty.
British Foreign Office has confirmed the presence of a “small diplomatic team” in Benghazi last week and that they “experience difficulties”.
The Foreign Secretary is deemed to brief MPs on the covert operation and the subsequent events amid anger in the White Hall that the fiasco has afflicted irreparable damage to Britain’s prospects in Libya.
“Coupled with the apparent interception of the ambassador’s conversations with the rebels – and the inference that Gaddafi will attach to them – and it is clear that British influence in Libya has been dented by these events,” said former Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell.