Why is Qatar so Active in Libya?

Story Transcript

PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay in Washington. Welcome back to our series on class, Gulf Cooperation Council, and what’s happening throughout the Middle East. In Libya the fighting continues. There seems to be a move towards partition, although the rebels in Benghazi in other words say they’re against partition, and Gaddafi’s–certainly is against partition. But it seems to be heading that way, ’cause the stalemate on the ground continues. In the Libyan story, much of which has been covered by Al Jazeera, is Qatar, the Gulf Cooperation Council, who’s been amongst the most active players in advocating a no-fly zone, advocating intervention. And in terms of the Arab League, it was really the Gulf Cooperation Council that led the drive towards the Arab League endorsing the intervention. So now joining us to talk further about Gulf Cooperation politics, and this time focusing a little more on Libya, is Adam Hanieh. Adam is a lecturer in development studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, and his upcoming book is Capitalism and Class in the Gulf Arab States. Thanks for joining us, Adam.

ADAM HANIEH, AUTHOR: Thank you, Paul.

JAY: So let’s pick that up. Why did the Gulf Cooperation Council states lead the charge on Libya?

HANIEH: More generally, I think it’s important to see the GCC has played quite a critical role throughout all of these uprisings. It’s–really has coordinated very closely with the United States, NATO, and Europe around response to the uprisings from December 2010, when the uprisings first began in Tunisia. So I think the Libyan example is another further step in this example of very close cooperation. Now, as you said, Qatar in particular has been playing a particularly prominent role in the Libyan example. There have been reports coming out over the last few days that Qatar has been sending arms to the rebels in Benghazi. There’s also a summit that happened over the last few days in Doha in Qatar, which was attended by the British, by the Americans, and looking at some kind of more prominent recognition of the Benghazi Interim National Council as an official government of Libya. So, yeah, absolutely Qatar has been a key player in this. The other very important thing to understand is Qatar is now playing the role of exporting and marketing oil from Libya through the rebel-held territories in Benghazi. So every step of the way, if you like, Qatar has been playing that role and working closely with NATO and the United States in coordinating [crosstalk]

JAY: So why? I mean, it’s not like Qatar needs to get hold of or will have long-term control, one would think, of the oil coming out of Benghazi. They’re sitting on, you know, rivers and oceans of natural gas and oil. This is, I would think, more a geopolitical play. But what’s the play?

HANIEH: Well, absolutely. This is not an attempt by Qatar to dominate Libya at all. But this is really part and parcel of what the US (through NATO) and the other European states have attempted to do across the broader Middle East, which is to weaken control and divert, if you like, the uprisings themselves. [incompr.] Qatar, Qatar’s foreign policy cannot be seen in separation from these broader US- and NATO-led goals. Qatar and the rest of the GCC work hand-in-hand with what the United States and NATO see and intend to see as an outcome in the Middle East.

JAY: So do you see these, first of all, these uprisings–some pundits and analysts are portraying this as kind of US-inspired, that this is all part of a prearranged plan for specifically to bring down Gaddafi. Or is this sort of a people’s uprising they saw coming and are now doing everything they can to control the outcome of?

HANIEH: Well, the first point I’d like to–I think needs to be made is that we have to reject, I think, out of hand any suggestion that the uprisings that have occurred across the Arab world were led or promoted by the United States. They were genuine popular uprisings, particularly in the cases of Egypt and Tunisia. And they caught the United States by surprise, and the United States has tried to step in and really mold the outcome to their interests. In the end it became clear that these uprisings were moving ahead. In the case of Libya, I do think there’s no question that the Libyan uprising was a popular movement against Gaddafi, who is a dictator just as Mubarak and Ben Ali in Tunisia were dictators. So there’s no question that initially the popular uprisings was a popular uprising in Libya. What I think has happened over the last month or so is that the United States and Europe has essentially, for a few weeks, stood aside and allowed Gaddafi to really weaken and attempt to destroy the popular content of the uprising. So what has happened over the first few weeks of the uprising is that Gaddafi went in quite strongly, military [incompr.] military sense against the rebels. And what that led to is that over time the rebels themselves became much more put in a corner, if you like. And at this point they asked for US and NATO support. And, unfortunately, I think what that has done is has lessened the popular content of the uprising itself. Some of the figures that we see at the head of the rebel–particularly the head of the rebel military, the head of the rebel governments themselves, I don’t think reflect the popular character [crosstalk]

JAY: Yeah, it’s a very bizarre collection of people who were–up until two months ago were working hand-in-glove with Gaddafi, or this guy that comes from Virginia that seems to have all the CIA connections, although he’s complaining–and this kind of jives with what you’re saying. Hefter or Hifter, depending on how you pronounce it–apparently there are two ways to pronounce it, which is why I keep saying it that way–that Hifter apparently is complaining now that after being told by the CIA he’s going to get all this support when he went back to Libya can’t get any weapons or any real support. So at the top of the rebellion seems to be a very strange hybrid leadership.

HANIEH: Absolutely. I mean, you have Hefter. You also have ex-Gaddafi people very, very close to Gaddafi who have moved on from the Interior Ministry–former interior minister, who is now speaking for the Interim National Council. So these kind of figures I really do think indicate that the uprising itself has lost its largely popular character. And the question of NATO intervention in Libya I think has become quite clearly an attempt to put NATO’s stamp, and particularly the United States’ stamp, on the endgame that occurs. This is where I think the role of the GCC very much fits in with what the US and NATO intend to see in Libya.

JAY: Because through the Gulf Cooperation Council they get to do this, but with an Arab face. And, of course, not saying Gulf Cooperation Council doesn’t have its own interests here, ’cause they’re far from puppets, those guys.

HANIEH: Well, absolutely. But, I mean, we can see this throughout the–. I’m sure once the full story of these uprisings come out, we’ll see the extent of coordination, collaboration between the US and European governments and the GCC states. Maybe we’ll see some WikiLeaks in the future looking at–I’m sure there are some very fascinating cables that have been sent between the states in the Gulf and the US and European governments over the last few months.

JAY: So the system of states, mostly dictatorships in–dictatorships in alliance with the US, their raison d’etre, the mission here, is to make sure this popular uprising doesn’t get out of control and turn into a more fundamental class struggle. Or, of course, it is a more fundamental class struggle. But the question is: can they contain it? And sort of as Sarah Palin might say, how’s that working for you? How is it working for them? Are they going to be able to contain this?

HANIEH: Well, I think here we need to come back to the struggles that happened in Tunisia and Egypt and realize that–as you were saying earlier, that although they no longer appear on the front pages of the newspapers in the United States and elsewhere, but these struggles continue to be ongoing. We see very heightened levels of mobilization, we see strikes, we see new political organizations forming. And the revolutions have not been decided in these two countries. What is important to understand is that the Egyptian and Tunisian cases in particular are not just struggles against their own governments; they are also a struggle against the system of states that exists across the Middle East as a whole. Particularly, they are struggles against the type of governments that we see in the Gulf and the whole system of foreign interests in the Middle East that are articulated through these Gulf regimes. As these struggles move forward, I think, in Egypt and Tunisia–and I certainly hope that they continue to do so–we are going to see, I think, this system of states being pushed back. And particularly I hope to see the GCC and its fundamental role in this system challenged in a much more fundamental way.

JAY: And of course I’m wrapping up here. A big–one of the players in all of this is Israel. It’s not a member of the GCC, but the GCC gets along with Israel very well, and that’s something US does not want to see change. Thanks very much for joining us, Adam.

HANIEH: Thank you, Paul.

JAY: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network. And don’t forget the donate button here, ’cause if you don’t do that, we can’t do this.

End of Transcript

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