Cast your mind back to 2009, just as the so-called Manchester Arndale plot was taking shape. The plot on this occasion was alleged to have been planned by Janas Khan, a student at Hope University in Liverpool and Abid Naseer, a student in Manchester, apparently on the orders of senior Al Qaeda leaders. Ozlam Properties, owned and operated by Nasuf’s associate within the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, Mohammed Benhammedi, had leased a Liverpool bedsit to Khan, Naseer and their accomplices.
Astonishingly, just two weeks later the British Home Office under Jacqui Smith with the full backing of the High Court of England and Wales, revoked the control orders imposed on the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group and Ozlam Properties as a result of “significant developments” between Gaddafi’s Government and the imprisoned LIFG leaders (and as part of the ‘secret’ Rusal negotiations taking place between Blair and Gaddafi in January that year). Revoking the control orders on the LIFG came despite the report in The Daily Telegraph clearly implicating Ozlam Properties in the broader context of Khan and Naseer’s plot. This 2009 Court Ruling, built around the case of LIFG member ‘AV’ aka Abdul Al-Rahman Al-Faqih, can be viewed here on the BAILII website.
It was THIS court ruling that Conservative Government used as the basis to restore the passports of dozens of British-based LIFG members between December 2010 and January 2011, in their bid to remove Gaddafi.
It is thought that Khan and Naseer and their accomplices had been targeting the Trafford and Arndale Shopping Centres as part of a broader suicide campaign. In 2009 flats in Cheetham Hill were raided by Police, just as other flats in the Cheetham area were raided by Police investigating the Arena bombing at the weekend. Other accomplices and associates of Khan and Naseer were arrested in Norway that same year. Personal documents and correspondence found in the Abbottabad compound between the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group’s Atiyah Abul al-Rahman and Osama Bin Laden were used to secure Naseer’s conviction. The documents not only expressed a plausible link between Naseer’s 2009 Manchester plot and members of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group in England, they also suggest that Mi6 was negotiating with their leader, Abu Anas al-Libi in Britain. The documents appear to confirm the collusion and deals made by senior LIFG members, looking to negotiate with Mi6 about a political route out of Afghanistan and into the Maghreb:
While brother ‘Urwa al-Libi was in Iran a couple of months ago (shortly before he went to Libya), he had written me an email telling me that some of the Libyan brothers in England had talked to him about the following:
British Intelligence spoke to them (these Libyan brothers in England), and asked them to try to contact the people they knew in al-Qaeda to inform them of and find out what they think about the following idea: England is ready to leave Afghanistan if al-Qaeda would explicitly commit to not moving against England or her interests (Abbottabad Documents, Trial of Abid Naseer)
Abid Naseer was subsequently jailed in the US. As it is, the TATP explosive device that Naseer and his accomplice, Najibullah Zazi planned to use in Manchester and New York was the same TATP compound used in the Manchester Bombing.
Interestingly the 6-month investigation into Naseer and the Manchester Arndale Plot (known as Operation Pathway) was blown when the London Metropolitan’s counter-terrorism chief, Bob Quick, inadvertently leaked details of the operation to the press. Documents marked ‘secret’ were photographed in Quick’s hands as he entered 10 Downing Street. With the Operation compromised, Mi5 had to act sooner than planned, and the premature arrest of Naseer and his alleged accomplices, was to play a significant role in the case being dismissed by the Crown Prosecution Service. As with an earlier leak, opposition MPs were quick to point the finger of blame at the then Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith.
And here’s another thing; 2009 just happened to be the year that Manchester LIFG member, Abd al-Baset Azzouz left Britain for the Pakistan-Afghan border. In mid-2011 he is believed to have made his way in Libya to build a team of experienced jihadists in support of al-Qaeda’s objectives in Libya.
Coincidence? Only time will tell. But it is curious to think that the 2009 plot to bomb Manchester came just weeks after a series of visits that Tony Blair made to Gaddafi to negotiate a deal between the Libyan Investment Authority (LIA) and a company run by the Russian oligarch, Oleg Deripaska, a friend of both al-Saif Gaddafi, Nat Rothschild and former Conservative Chancellor, George Osborne.
Jacqui Smith, the British Home Secretary caught up in the collapse of the Manchester Arndale plot, and who removed the control orders on the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group in 2009, subsequently found employment with Roger Usher’s Global Governance Partners who are now assisting former members of the rebel militias in their attempts to build the parliamentary framework around Libya’s GNA. Another of Usher’s aid companies, Adam Smith International handled aid totalling over $1 billion as part of the Temporary Financing Mechanism in Libya in 2011. Today, Adam Smith International is under investigation for unethical practices.
Libya’s Temporary Financing Mechanism, set up by the United Nations to help cover expenses incurred by rebel forces, was itself dogged by accusations of cronyism and malpractice. And it wasn’t just a case of vast sums of money disappearing into the coffers of the revolutionaries. Those managing the Temporary Financial Mechanism were accused of negotiating deals well below the existing exchange value. By the time that the National Transitional Council was formally installed in Tripoli, little remained of Libya’s wealth. Some claimed that it only had $13.5 million in the Central Bank of Libya. Much of the money spent had been derived from plundering Gaddafi’s frozen assets. Arming the rebels had become little more than a loan.
Part II: Shifting the blame and steering discussion
How did the Manchester Arena bomber, Salman Abedi get wrapped up with the Jihadis? Because he was born into radical politics, that’s how. Because he was nursed and instructed by deeply revolutionary narratives from birth, and by a radical fraternity who were in turn groomed and supported by two successive UK Governments. And it’s a cycle of nurture and abuse that looks set to go on and on.
The Libyan Islamic Fighting Group were a rebel outfit, committed to an unusually narrow Islamist cause, but this was a world in which the less-than-narrow policies and intolerance of the West brutally conspired against them. Was Salman an ‘agent of influence’? Did associates and former members of the LIFG and the Saudi-backed Nawasi deliberately lodge Salman in a nationwide ISIS network in an attempt to frame the group? Was the intent to secure funding from the UK Government to drive-out ISIS in Southern Libya? To persuade the UN to step-up their airstrikes?
Given the Nawasi coalition’s current determination to remove ISIS in Libya and our failure to secure the state, it’s certainly possible. Martyrdom takes many forms. His network of friends might support the plan, spinning us various stories that would support his immersion in ISIS, prior warnings, feigned concern and allusive stories about ‘hidden hands‘ – some shadowy agenda mounted by his former British allies to do “something against the Libyan community” and the “youth there”.
And if this wasn’t complex enough, a former officer with Mi6, Sir Mark Allen in May 2017 was facing a sensitive legal challenge by former Libya Islamic Fighting Group leader, Abdelhakim Belhadj, who accused Sir Allen of illegal rendition and torture in 2004. Belhadj was an associate of Salman Abedi’s father, and like his father, he played a key role in the 2011 uprising. He is also became a prominent figure in the country’s democratic transition and the UN-recognised Government of National Accord, currently under the protection of Ramadan Abedi’s Nawasi Brigade.
Were we seeing punishment for past offenses? It’s really very difficult to tell. Especially as some analysts in the US claimed that Belhadj was now aligned with ISIS in Libya’s eastern districts. If this was true, we have an altogether different set of possibilities. And that’s without taking into account the potentially catastrophic series of moves by Russia to back Libya’s eastern potentate, General Khalifa Haftar, General Commander of the Libyan Army and one of the most visible reminders of the old anti-Islamist regime. The Nawasi had already expressed their concern at Soviet involvement after Haftar made a second trip to Russia in November 2016. Even today, how Russia responds to his bid for the leadership largely depends on the Trump Administration, and their willingness to step aside, especially after such pouring such considerable cash and effort into propping up Libya’s existing government.
If it transpired that former members of the LIFG were had played a part in the 2017 attack at Manchester Arena, then this could very well have played to the Kremlin’s and Haftar’s advantage.
At the Libyan Summit hosted in Vienna in May 2016, General Haftar and the GNA were demanding that the UN Security Council lift the strict, far-reaching arms embargo that was inhibiting their attempts to remove ISIS in the region. According to reports, the Russians are against this move, not least because the Kremlin has been secretly arming Haftar and the GNA covertly through the Libya Shield. As recently as April 2017 Russia’s Envoy to the United Nations, Pyotr Ilyichev argued that the lifting of sanctions in Libya was premature.
Interestingly the former-Chief of General Staff to General Haftar’s Libya Army at this time was another member of the Al-Abedi tribe: Major General Jadalla Al-Abedi. A report from the UK Foreign Affairs Committee in the UK Parliament archives suggests Al-Bedi has been channelling money to the Libya Shield and other Islamist Militias. It is also known that the Al-Abedi tribe has been determined to drive-out ISIS in the East.
A Moment of Hope for Libya
In an article published by The Spectator just one week before the attack in Manchester, Boris Johnson put forward a typically ham-fisted case for the 42-year rule of Gaddafi. That rule was vile and incompetent, he concedes, “but it kept the country together” (Boris Johnson: This is a moment of hope for Libya. We can’t afford to miss it, The Spectator, May 2017).
Johnson’s article had been largely spurred-on by debates led in Parliament by Charlotte Leslie (Bristol MP) and Vice Chairman of the Conservative Middle East Council, Kwasi Kwarteng in October 2016. As a result of these exchanges, CMEC produced a report for the British Foreign Office in March 2017, pushing support for former Gaddafi general, Khalifa Haftar, whose Tobruk-based government in the east of Libya, was now locked in a debilitating stalemate with the rebel-backed GNA in Tripoli. Conservative Middle East Council Vice Chairman, Leo Docherty, Kwasi Kwarteng and a small delegation of CMEC partners had met with Haftar in Al Rajma. The report, entitled, Chaos in the Mediterranean, was based on that meeting and concluded with some key recommendations:
- that the UK should urgently engage with Haftar, that the UK should support the LNA to secure Libya’s borders
- that the UK should reconsider its view of the existing GNA (consisting largely of rebel militias) and acknowledge its limited capacity to deliver any kind of governance or security for Libya
Libya, in the report’s own words, was fast becoming the UK’s number one trading target post-Brexit, and the Libyan rebel government we’d help create, was increasingly surplus to those plans.
“If they can put aside their differences, and stabilise the country, then this place of six million will not only be able to make sensible use of their amazing patrimony of hydrocarbons. They can open up some of the greatest tourist sites in the world, including Leptis Magna — currently too dangerous to visit”This is a moment of hope for Libya. We can’t afford to miss it, Boris Johnson, Spectator, May 12th 2017
The historical indiscretions and alliances of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group also came under considerable scrutiny. The report had been bankrolled by a pool of CMEC’s key financial supporters David Rowland (of Aegis/Gardaworld), Nicholas Soames and Abdul Majid Jafar, CEO of Crescent Petroleum, a UEA-based consortium keen to capitalise on the oil rich terminals in the Haftar-controlled east. That Crescent Petroleum entered an agreement with Russia’s Rosneft for joint expansion in North Africa may also offer a glimpse of the broader commercial logic behind the pursuit of power change in Libya, especially in light of the recent deal negotiated between Rosneft, Haftar and the NOC. If President Trump did cut a deal with Sechin for an estimated 19% stake in Rosneft, as claimed in the infamous Steele Dossier, then it may go some way toward explaining why the White House is now considering ramping up military support in Haftar’s East.
Whilst the fabric of the 2017 discussions between CMEC and the LNA consisted largely of efforts to contain extremism, it was clear that Haftar’s greater concern was his failure to harvest (and retain) the considerable oil revenues being passed from the LNA-controlled oil terminals in the east of the country to the NOC, and the Rothschild-owned Central Bank – 60% of which goes to Tripoli. The article concluded with a quote from Winston Churchill: “I decline utterly to be impartial between the fire brigade and the fire.” It turned out to be an unusually prescient statement in view of the challenges faced by the London Fire Department in North Kensington.
Given the seriously volatile nature of things happening that week in Libya, The Spectator article was about as tactless and provocative as it gets. The Libyan Islamic Fighting Group had been formed specifically for the task of overthrowing Gaddafi and played a central role in UK & US military efforts to topple his oppressive Libyan regime in 2011.
Yes, Boris recognised that his rule was tyrannical, but his support for the broader mechanisms of the Gaddafi regime leaves little to the imagination. And one can only imagine the sense of betrayal felt by former members of the Manchester Fighting Group; their excruciating servitude under the most vicious of oppressors coddled into an halcyon fantasy by the crassest of Foreign Secretaries.
The hotels are waiting to be filled. The sea is turquoise and lovely and teeming with fresh fish. Libya was once the birthplace of emperors, a bustling centre of the Mediterranean world. It can have a great future. All it takes is political will, and the courage to compromise — Boris Johnson: This is a moment of hope for Libya. We can’t afford to miss it, The Spectator, May 2017
Another key figure in Britain’s swelling support for Haftar was Joseph Walker-Cousins. The Bristol-based Cousins had served as a key adviser to the UK’s special envoy in Benghazi from 2011 to 2012. Like Docherty, Walker-Cousins, a former paratrooper, was a graduate of the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS, University of London), an institution that not only has a reputation for turning out first-class linguists, but is also rumoured to have become a finishing-school students of Mi6 taking up positions in Asia, Africa and the Near and Middle East.
The testimony provided by Walker-Cousins before a UK Select Committee in March 2017 — part of a review on North Africa’s ‘migrant crisis’ — reiterated the key recommendations made by Leo Docherty and the CMEC report, published just a week or so previously. A few days after Walker-Cousin’s debut before the British Select Committee, The Guardian newspaper ran the headline, “1m African migrants may be en route to Europe, says former UK envoy“. The ‘envoy’ the paper was quoting was Walker-Cousins. Not a former envoy at all but an adviser to an envoy. Patrick Wintour of The Guardian also failed to mention that Walker-Cousins was now employed as Middle East Business Development Director at Kellogg Brown and Root – a company who had not only won substantial contracts in Libya post-2011, but were now key members of the Libyan British Business Council (other members also include Petrofac, Adam Smith International, BP, the Libyan Investment Authority, Tatweer Research and Gardaworld).
The Libyan British Business Council is not without a layer or two of mystery either. Intended to promote business relations and commercial activity between the British and Libyan business communities, the organisation has become little more than a lobbying house for whatever eccentric despot is harvesting Libya’s wealth at the time. The Council’s director Lord Trefgarne, a cherished member of the 1980s Thatcher Government, played a pivotal role in the release of Lockerbie bomber, Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi. As the Gaddafi regime collapsed and colossal sums of cash were being liberated from the banks by US and British-backed rebels, it is reported that Tregarne asked the then fugitive, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi to help him recover almost £1 million in fees for services rendered over the al-Megrahi affair. LIBC’s Ambassador, Dominic Asquith eventually took a paid position as senior consultant with Tatweer Research, a Benghazi-based research and development company, specialising in technology and engineering that has conveniently made it onto LIBC’s exclusive council member list. Another of its Directors is Mohamed Fezzani, former Deputy Chief Executive Officer & General Manager at British Arab Commercial Bank Plc and director at the International Libyan Bankers Association.
That LBBC Council Member, Kellogg Brown and Root were also at the centre of a Unaoil investigation launched by the UK’s Serious Fraud Office also escaped Wintour’s attention. The leaked files at the centre of the Unaoil investigation include two Iraqi oil ministers, a fixer linked to Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, senior officials from Libya’s Gaddafi regime, as well as officials in the United Arab Emirates. The Libyan officials named in the leaks were Mustafa Zarti and Benghazi’s Muhannad Alamir who had also acted as agent for Blue Mountain, the grossly inadequate British security firm brought in to guard the US Embassy in Benghazi just weeks before the attack on its embassy staff on September 11th 2012.
Conservative Party donor, Ayman Asfari has also been questioned by the Serious Fraud Office in connection with the Unaoil investigation, although no charges have been brought. The Syrian-exile is chairman of Petrofac who came under investigation by the SFO just 10 days prior to the Manchester Bombing. Asfari and COO Marwan Chedid were arrested and then released without charge. Marwan Chedid has since been suspended by the group. In recent months Petrofac have been looking seriously at Libya as a potential new ‘hotspot’ for oil. Something of an oil race has been developing where Libya is concerned. On May 4th OilPrice.com ran a story which claimed that Petrofac were frontrunners to reap the rewards of a stabilized Libya.
So what are we really getting at here? Well let’s put it this way; given that so many Conservative Party donors have featured so prominently in Libya’s emerging oil-rush, it is plausible that the Conservative Government shifted the direction of the 2017 Manchester bombing onto Isis in a desperate bid to maintain some fragile stability in Libya — and in doing so preserve the deals that might already be in the pipeline?
It is interesting to note that the same Ayman Asfari was accused of funding Syrian revolutionaries, the White Helmets, a group regarded by some to have credible links to al-queda and Isis, but praised by others like Boris Johnson and Hillary Clinton. In 2014 the Assad regime in Syria issued a warrant for the Tory donor’s arrest. The charges related to the funding of terrorism but Asfari maintains his innocence.
This is the story of oil, corruption and the fluid, volatile nature of Western and Russian allegiances in the Maghreb. A tale as devastating as the fire that ripped through Grenfell and sadly, just as inevitable.
Libyan Economy in Crisis – Boris Johnson Leads Talks In Malta and London Autumn 2016
In all fairness, little is being done to unpick a deeply frustrating knot of competing militias. And whilst the United Nations Security Council expressed no fewer than six resolutions in 2016 alone, no fresh assurances have been made to the GNA and no additional measures have been tendered. Each of the six resolutions expressed by the Security Council in 2016 were set-out in a discouraging and frankly robotic fashion: the UN Security Council will continue to support the UNSMIL in seeking a political solution to the problems. They then dutifully reiterated that they will keep pressing on the full implementation of the Libyan Political Agreement. And as a result of this inertia, something of a stalemate has been reached.
Interestingly though, a Libyan Political Dialogue meeting took place in Malta some years ago that promised to loosen that stalemate. The meetings that took place between November 10 and November 11 2016, were follow-up talks to a meeting held in London the previous month featuring then-British Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, United States Secretary of State John Kerry, and a small yet powerful constellation of UAE and Saudi banking representatives. Inevitably talks turned to the protection of the Oil Crescent terminals in the ports along a short strip of coast southwest of Benghazi. Libyan oil interests were being damaged by repeated strikes and seizures by IS militants and rival Islamist militias like the Benghazi defence. By contrast sales of US and Saudi oil soared as a result of the seizures, before tumbling as Libyan production increased. As long as Libyan oil production remained in flux, Libya’s economy, it was feared, would remain in a constant state of crisis.
In May 2017, just two weeks before the Manchester Arena Bombing, Boris Johnson made an unscheduled trip to Tripoli to negotiate plans for a fresh presidential election in March 2018 that would see Haftar and the former Gaddafi army, operating in Libya’s oil rich eastern region, play a more prominent role in the future of Libya. Sir Richard Dearlove, the head of Mi6 under Blair, has long advocated a multi-state solution to Libya’s problems, suggesting that East, West and Central Libya could easily exist in a semi-autonomous manner within the context of more central, federal framework. The response from Islamists in Tripoli was one of horror.
And whether it is a coincidence or not, former leader of the mighty Tripoli Brigade, Mahdi Al-Harati (a possible mentor to London Bridge attacker, Rachid Redouane) was arrested for affray in Malta little more than a month after the meeting took place. The man who played such a central role in the mission to overthrow Gaddafi, claimed he was on a social visit to the area. And in what could be a very significant move it was announced just yesterday that the Dublin-based Al Harati has now been included on a list of Qatar-backed terror suspects provided by Saudi Arabia.
A timely development don’t you think, given the former Mayor of Tripoli’s links to both Manchester’s Rebel Fighters and the Dublin-based London Bridge attacker?
Sir Richard Dearlove – A Spy Comes In From The Cold
But coming back to Sir Richard Dearlove: what role could he have played in all this? The role Dearlove played in Libyan Government with Mi6’s Mark Allen needs little elaboration. After retiring from Mi6 both men were recruited by Monitor Group, a global consultancy firm and tasked with running a two year public relations campaign on behalf of Gaddafi’s Libyan government. The close relationship the two men formed with Musa Kusa, former Intelligence chief to Gaddafi, is now at the heart of extraordinary rendition case being filed against Sir Allen by former Libyan Islamic Fighting Group leader, Abdel Hakim Belhaj (documents retrieved by the Libyan Rebels are alleged to show complicity between Blair’s Labour Government and the release and torture of Belhaj and his wife). Any suffering re-lived as a result of the ongoing legal case must have been doubly compounded when Belhaj learned of UK plans to back Gaddafi’s former General in the presidential elections scheduled for March 2018 and arising from a fairly damning report by the Foreign Affairs Committee into Libya’s collapse in 2011, and the scant evidence there was to suggest it was ever any worse off under Gaddafi. Prime Minister David Cameron’s failure to offer stability and reconstruction after intervention also came in for scathing criticism.
But there are other dimensions to consider. There is little doubting that the attacks in Manchester and on London Bridge brought serious and untold damage to Theresa May’s election campaign, and contributed in no small part to the hung-parliament the British public woke up to on Friday morning. That Sir Richard Dearlove popped up on the eve of the election to to trash the swelling support for Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn by aligning him squarely with the IRA, practically guaranteed a split vote – and it all came courtesy of George Osborne’s old paper, Daily Telegraph. And by Sunday we were looking at demands for the resignation of Theresa May, the death of hard-Brexit and a leadership bid by Boris Johnson. And again, much of the momentum came from Osborne’s Evening Standard (‘Theresa May is a dead woman walking‘, George Osborne, Evening Standard).
Why such hostility from Osborne and other past and present members of Cameron’s Conservative Party? Well the address May made to US Republicans in January won’t have helped. In a seismic shift of policy, the UK’s Prime Minister announced that the UK and America could not return to the “failed” military interventions and foreign policies of the past. “The days of Britain and America intervening in sovereign countries in an attempt to remake the world in our own image” were over, May said.
She also made a direct warning about Vladimir Putin, conceding that although we must ‘engage’ we must also ‘beware’.
There is little denying that that Osborne’s takeover as editor of the Standard, was specifically tasked with destroying May’s premiership, especially given the 65% stake that Moscow’s, Evgeny Lebedev has in the paper. And interestingly it was Evgeny’s father Alexander Lebedev (former Chief Directorate at the KGB) who came out to publicly challenge Steele’s dossier on Trump as a “poorly executed fake” (likely to be only partly true, at best).
During this period, Lebedev’s National Reserve Bank had significant stakes in Russian Oil Giant Gazprom, another company that suffered over sanctions placed on it by the Obama Administration. By October 2018 Italy’s ENI had offered to bring Gazprom into its concessions in Libya in return for some of the Russian giant’s assets. Prior to the overthrow of Gaddafi in 2011, Gazprom were in talks to buy Libya oil and gas exports. The bid was seen by some as a means of gaining leverage over some European states. Libya’s failure to maintain stability of its oil terminals has (until now) inhibited Russian interest.
Was it possible that Sir Richard Dearlove’s Libyan supporters had sought to engineer a climate and situation in which Boris could be elected leader? Were we looking at a possible ‘Borisgate’?
Well, as crazy as it sounds, it’s not implausible.
If you have been an avid reader of spy stories over the past few years you will know that Dearlove has featured in not one but TWO absorbing (and related) espionage capers: the first cantered on an alleged Russian spy programme operating in Cambridge and the second emerged as part of the FBI’s investigation into former Trump advisor, Michael Flynn. Tne FBI and CIA’s interest dates back to February 2014 when Sir Richard Dearlove, then Master of Cambridge’s Pembroke College who was seeking to establish a cross-discipline programme called the Cambridge Security Initiative (CSI) and providing, in its own words, “unique link between the worlds of business, government and academia”. A dinner was hosted by Dearlove and the guest of honour was Michael Flynn, then head of America’s Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and subsequently, National Security Advisor for Donald Trump. It was here that Michael Flynn was introduced to Russian-banker-turned-historian, Svetlana Lokhova. And it is the frienship that ensued that is said to have aroused the interest of US spy chiefs about Mike Flynn.
If Osborne’s Yachtgate capers with Oleg Deripaska and Peter Mandelson back in August 2008 weren’t enough cause for concern, then this should surely pique the interests of our own Security Service, given the shared interests the Russians have in Libya’s General Haftar and the UK General Elections.
And there will be no surprises to learn that Deripaska (who negotiated a £3 billion financing deal the Libyan Investment Authority (LIA) through Blair and JP Morgan) is also a good friend of Osborne chum Nat Rothschild and al-Saif Islam Gaddafi, whose shock release in June 2017, shortly after the Manchester Arena bombing, promised to spearhead a Loyalist revival.
But what would have been in it for Dearlove and the Kremlin?
Back in 2007 both Dearlove and Sir Allen were instrumental in a $900m oil deal that had been struck between BP and the Libyan government. The deal looked set to go ahead right up until Gaddafi’s removal in 2011. Today nothing of that deal remains.
Forward to 2017 and the Kremlin in making significant in-roads with General Haftar. In February of this year it was reported that Russia’s Russia’s Rosneft had struck an oil deal, with the state-owned Libyan oil giant National Oil Production (NOC) and Haftar was now determined to ramp-up production in the East. Given that an increase in Libyan production sees a fall in sales of US and Saudi oil, something of a power-struggle over Haftar had begun. And whilst the the European Union hoped to persuade Haftar to accept a power share with the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) set up in December 2015, Russia was supporting his bid to seize overall military power. In Europe this was never seen as a viable option for lasting peace, but the Trump Administration was beginning to show signs of offering its support alongside Russia. As The Guardian reported in February, “European diplomats fear that that (Haftar) could join what has been described as Vladimir Putin’s axis of secular authoritarians in the Middle East.” (EU reaches out to Russia to broker deal with Libyan general Haftar, The Guardian, Feb 2017)
And it wasn’t just Putin we hadto worry about. British spy Christopher Steele, whose now infamous Steele Dossier blew the lid on Trump’s kinky sex antics in Moscow, suggested subsequently that Putin had offered Trump the brokerage on 19% of Rosneft in return for lifting the sanctions placed on Russia and Rosneft Chairman Igor Sechin by Obama administration in 2014. The meeting is said to have taken place in July 2016 and is alleged to have featured Trump’s then Foreign Policy Adviser, Carter Page and Rosneft Executive Chairman Igor Sechin.
To the best of my knowledge the claims remain unverified, but it is curious to learn that Steele, a confirmed Socialist, is another prominent figure on the Cambridge University alumni and headed the Russia Desk at Mi6 under Sir Richard Dearlove. Interestingly, Jonathan Winer, US special envoy for Libya, was one several who came forward to endorse Steele publicly.
As it is, something of a proxy war came into play around the subsidy rights and pipelines that Libya boasted. British Defense Minister Michael Fallon was pretty blunt when it came to a Russian-Haftar alliance telling Kremlin representatives at the Munich Security Conference in February 2017 that Russia was being belligerent in testing the fragile NATO alliance over Libya. UK oil giant BP, on whose behalf Dearlove and Allen successfully negotiated a deal with Libya’s Gaddafi between 2007 and 2010, were among other competitors.
And just in case we were in any doubt about the role that Trump and Rosneft might have played in any future regime change in Libya, we learn that Trump had nominated another Rosneft stakeholder, Christopher Wray, as new head of the FBI. Wray’s law firm — King & Spalding — represents not only Rosneft but Gazprom, two of the largest state-controlled oil companies in Russia.
Wray’s law firm, King & Spalding were replaced in April 2016 by Curtis, Mallet-Prevost to explore the legal basis for releasing of Gaddafi’s frozen assets but their interests in Libya go all the way back to 2011 (Crisis in Libya: What Legal Options are Available to Oil and Gas Companies, King & Spalding 2011).
The estimated $160 billion in LIA frozen assets was being fought over by two main rivals factions: General Haftar in the East and Ali Shamekh, who headed-up the Libyan Investment Authority. Ali Shamekh claimed much of the frozen funds could have played a significant role in energy and power generation, including oil and gas. This would have been backed by a UK office staffed by Libyan and British experts, with the aim of enlarging Libya’s investments in Britain and using the office as a platform to encourage international investors to look at Libya.
Another man that Trump was tipping to replace Comey at the FBI was Joe Lieberman, the ex-Senator and Democrat who had defied all expectations in his support for the much-loathed President. When Lieberman abandoned his Senate post in 2013 he immediately took up with law firm, Kasowitz Benson Torres, whose senior partner, Marc Kasowitz, Trump had chosen as Defense Attorney in the FBI’s Russian Probe.
In 2013, Kasowitz and Lieberman signed up as foreign agents for Basit Igtet, a Libyan businessman and activist who was seeking office in Haftar’s oil-rich East. At this time, Igtet’s wife played a role at the US-Libya Chamber of Commerce and claimed a personal familiarity with John Kerry. The Coexistence Agreement that Libya’s Haftar signed in June 2016 was proposed and conceived by Igtet. Igtet’s current bid for President only looked set to be thwarted by his relationship with fellow Benghazi native, Ahmed Abu Khattala, the Benghazi militant charged by the US Justice Department for his involvement in the attack in Benghazi in 2012 that killed US Ambassador Christopher Stevens (it might also be noted that Igtet has partnered Richard H Griffiths of super lobbyists, Squire Patton Boggs in the Canadian Libyan Chamber of Commerce. Griffiths is now based in the UK).
Anyone familiar with Trump’s sport and leisure enterprises may recall that Trump previously approached Gaddafi about the building of a ‘super resort’ on Libya’s Mediterranean coastline. That Basit Igtet has similarly been pushing super-resort interests with Athal Hospitality may give us some indication of the direction his cooperation with Trump might take.
So what else may be in it for Putin? Well not only would it strengthen Russia’s position as a key international player, siding with Haftar is also likely to blow apart the UN’s 2015 Libyan reconciliation effort and its supporting architecture, the Nato alliance. In this respect Libya presents little more than a blast hole, and Trump the stick of dynamite they’ll wedge it into. And this is clearly the long-term objective.
Back to the Conservative Middle East Council
So the question remains; did the ‘Crisis in the Mediterrean‘ report by published by the Conservative Middle East Council in March 2017 recommending a shift in policy in favour of Haftar trigger the sequence of events that resulted in the Manchester Bombing? Well if recent claims are true and the Abedi brothers were also considering targeting Libyan Prime Minister Serraj, British Ambassador Peter Millet and Martin Kobler, Head of the UN Support Mission, then yes, it’s plausible it played a part. Political assassinations of this kind are not a typical characteristic of Isis — certainly not in the West and the official recognition of General Haftar as ‘Army Chief’ on May 9th and announced in a joint statement by Kobler and Mohammed Siyala during a press conference in Algiers may have also tipped the scales. The real mitigating factor, however, is likely to have been the secretive trip made by Boris Johnson to Libya on Thursday May 4th, just one day after the historic meet between Haftar and Serraj in the UAE, a meet that many analysts feared would completely derail the fragile peace process.
Was his lightning trip to Libya really planned in advance as Boris suggested? Or was it a last-minute response to an emerging and unmanageable crisis taking root among the various (and unruly) GNA militias? The press mentioned that the trip had been planned in advance but had been ‘kept under wraps’ as result of enormous security risks. If that is so, then wouldn’t it have been safer and more practical for Johnson to have attended the ‘historic’ UAE summit between Haftar and Serraj on May 3rd?
The correction to The Guardian’s report on the Johnson trip provides an unusually candid insight. The note at the bottom of the article reads simply:
“This article has been amended to make clear Boris Johnson only met Fayez al-Serraj, and not Khalifa Haftar” — Boris Johnson throws weight behind Libya peace process, The Guardian, May 4th
Whatever the exact nature of these visits, the CMEC is by is no means the only Tory lobby that has been gently but no less purposely shaping the direction of UK policy in Libya and the wider world. And it’s for this very reason that it might be worth pausing a moment to review the fairly intricate web of links between the CMEC, Blair Associates and Jonathan Powell’s CforC Ltd (now operating as Inter Mediate).
Founded several years ago by ex-Foreign Office and Mi6 operative, Christopher James, CforC, like the deeply mysterious Hakluyt, focused on resolving problems and building dialogues in some of the world’s most conflict-prone regions. As was the case with Tony Blair Associates (who Powell also worked for) CforC’s focus for a time was Central Asia. Countries with pitiful human rights records (but plenty in the way of cash) like Tajikistan and Kazachstan and a bevy of other post-Soviet ‘stans’ were being imaginatively resold as tourist destinations and attractive investment centres. And playing a minor, but no less imaginative role in these efforts, was Steppe Magazine.
According to its website, Steppe Magazine was the “ultimate guide for anybody travelling to or interested in learning more about Central Asia.” It covered art, it covered history, it covered Kazachsta’s gorgeous, rugged mountain-scapes and its ‘totes amazeballs’ nightlife. What it didn’t cover were the notorious abuses and indiscretions of its tyrannical (and terminal) President, Nursultan Nazarbayev. Interestingly the magazine’s founder was Lucy Kelaart – wife of CMEC’s Leo Docherty. Her partner in the venture was Summer Coish, a young, intrepid Bostonian, currently providing solutions in the Oil & and Gas sectors at Kiron Global Strategies in Washington DC alongside UN Development manager, Mohammad Kalabani. A colourful adventurer and ‘development’ expert, Coish had spent several years in Afghanistan working for USAID. Precisely how or why this came about isn’t exactly clear, but it’s here that she joined Obama’s Special Envoy for Afghanistan, Richard Holbrooke and US Ambassador Karl Eikenberry in their various (and lamentably unsuccessful) ‘nation building’ activities.
It was here in Afghanistan that Summer was introduced to Lucy Docherty’s sister Thierry Kelaart, who working at this time for another charity-based nation-builder, the Turquoise Mountain Foundation. The Turquoise Mountain Foundation was and remains a Prince of Wales-funded project, founded by Sir William Patey, former-British Ambassador to Afghanistan and by now a permanent (and surprisingly levelheaded fixture) at CMEC roundtables. More intriguing perhaps, is the role played by its director, Khalid Said, son of CMEC donor Rosemary Said and Tony Blair associate, Wafic Said, the Syrian-Saudi billionaire so wonderfully enmeshed in all those BAE, Oil and Libyan Tourism scandals.
At Turquoise Mountain Foundation, Thierry worked alongside Rory Stewart, currently serving the May government as Minister of State at the Department for International Development and one-time tutor to Princes William and Harry. Thierry is also a good friend of Kate Middleton. In fact it’s probably fair to speculate that her relationship with CforC and Leo’s eventual tenure at CMEC, may have arisen as a result of their mutual friend, Sebastian Roberts, a Sandhurst mentor to William and currently director at Inter Mediate/CforC.
Although specialising in development and negotiation in Central Asia, CforC did send a small delegation to Libya ahead of the 2011 revolution. According to a press sheet at the time, the trip had been arranged in association with the Libyan British Business Council. JP Morgan’s Gerald Pane and Toufic Sarah also went along the ride. The company’s interest in this pre-revolution period was to help build investment strategies and ‘sustainable and profitable business’ in what the press-sheet would wryly describe as ‘challenging markets’. CforC’s Jonathan Powell, Blair’s most senior adviser during all his time in office, eventually landed a more central role in Libyan affairs in some three years later, when Prime Minister David Cameron appointed Powell as its special envoy. His job — to build bridges between the rival warring factions that were tearing the country apart.
And whilst there is nothing tremendously sinister about any of this, it’s clear that Britain’s cold commercial objectives are routinely humanitarianized for the sake of often sceptical public consumption. It also suggests that the power of the old school tie beats strongly in the hearts of Britain’s buoyant political class. One thing is certainly clear; whilst the tragic cycles of conflict may be viewed with pity and horror by the vast majority of the decent British public, to the likes of Gardaworld, CforC and Blair Associates they are lucrative stock options, often superseding the need for justice.
A Problem Shared Is Still A Problem
But let’s look at it another way. Let’s not put the blame squarely in the camp of the rebels and these desperately complex attempts to lock and unlock the UN Armoury.
Salman Abedi, the Manchester Arena Bomber, was the son of a man whose group was placed on a UN and US Terror List in 2006 under Blair’s New Labour Government, and removed from that same list by the UN and Conservative Government in 2011, with the approval of the then Home Secretary, Theresa May. And for what? So the same group could storm into Libya and remove Gaddafi on our behalf. And when we had what we wanted we discarded them.
Was the Conservative Government likely to blame the group given the fallout that there would be politically? And would the Labour Party, given the no less significant role Tony Blair, David Milliband and Jacqui Smith played in the 2009 decision by High Court of England and Wales to remove their terror status, be brave enough to address any of those ’embarrassing conversations’ about collusion and complicity likely to have been raised as a result?
The United Nations and the European Union had played a no less critical role. It was a EU Rights Committee that finally removed the names of Abdelrazag Elsharif Elosta, Abdulbasit Abdulrahim and Maftah Mohamed from the sanctions list in 22 December 2010, and the Manchester ‘entities’ used as fronts by the group in Manchester in September that same year 2. The ‘delisting procedures’ that characterize the removal of sanctions on these people are a complex affair. But as unpleasant as it is to swallow, it was the abstruse (yet just) mechanisms of the Human Rights system that ultimately gave the LIFG the green light to travel to Libya, even if it was the British Home Office and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office under Blair that provided the legal basis.
Whether or not there was ever a mass amnesty awarded to the group by the Conservative Government in 2011, it is still fair to say that very effort was being made by Mi5 to put as much space between the Arena bombing and the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group as possible. And much of the spade work on this may have already been done by Salman Abedi himself, who may well have embedded himself quite deeply into the network of his father’s enemies in the most duplicitous and most appalling way possible.
Are we likely to see the arrest of anyone over the age of 50? Not if the UK Government and Libya’s GNA-controlled RADA can help it. Anything that ties this back to our old Rebel allies is likely to remain a secret.
At time of writing RADA (special forces within Libya’s Interior Ministry) are backing the UK line that Salman Abedi was radicalised on the Internet in Britain, and not by the coterie of LIFG figures associated with his father. But maybe this is to be expected as Ramadan Abedi has been working alongside RADA security officers for the best part of six years. Admitting that the threat comes from within the GNA, or from within the broader framework of RADA itself, whether by collusion or division, would have a catastrophic impact on relations with Britain and be a public relations disaster.
Inevitably the UK Government and Mi5 will shift the focus of discussion onto ‘correctable’ procedural failures. But this isn’t what we need. What we need is for the UK Government to stop meddling in foreign affairs that are too complex and too fast-changing to dominate for long. They need to cease trying to manage and contain chaotic domestic threats they have recklessly co-funded just to satisfy the transitory needs of national and global economics. It’s the only real way of avoiding the slag heaps of collapsed hopes and frustrated dreams that topple centre-stage from the margins and flatten the lives of innocents. And given that I seem to be taking an unexpected lyrical turn, I’ll let F. Scott Fitzgerald have the final word:
This is a valley of ashes – a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens where ashes take the forms of houses and chimneys and rising smoke and finally, with a transcendent effort, of men who move dimly and already crumbling through the powdery air – The Great Gatsby