[This is the headline over an article in today's edition of The Herald by David Pratt, foreign editor of the Sunday Herald. It reads in part:]
Over the years, our dealings with Libya have never been known for their transparency.
At Colonel Gaddafi’s big tent meetings all kinds of deals in the desert were done. (...)
Two questions immediately spring to mind about which Prime Minister David Cameron and Foreign Secretary William Hague need to come clean. The first is what is the nature of our relationship with the Libyan rebels? Just who, if anyone, are we cosying up to in Benghazi, and to what ends militarily and politically?
The second question to concerns the truth about Libya and the 1988 Lockerbie bombing. Part emissary, part defector [RB: see yesterday's blog post], the arrival in Britain over the last few days of Libyan Foreign Minister, Moussa Koussa, like some latter-day Rudolph Hess, is the perfect opportunity to glean information from the inside track of Gaddafi’s dictatorship. Like Hess in May 1941, Koussa in March 2011 came to the UK of his own volition. Unlike Hess, he didn’t crash land in an Eaglesham field, but touched down in a British military transport plane at Farnborough airport in an operation conducted by British MI6 intelligence officials.
At the risk of drawing too many parallels with his historical Nazi predecessor, it’s still fair to say that Koussa, like Hess, knows where the skeletons are buried. Tall, silver-haired and imposing, Koussa has the physical presence and demeanour of a great white shark. Koussa, too, has a reputation for calculated ruthlessness. Let’s not forget that this is the man who advocated killing Libyan dissidents on British soil and expressed his admiration for the IRA. In the 1980s when Lockerbie horrified us all, Koussa was a leading member of the Libyan Bureau for External Security (the Mathaba). Later in 1995 a British intelligence dossier described him as the chief of the “principal intelligence institution in Libya, which has been responsible for supporting terrorist organisations and for perpetrating state-sponsored acts of terrorism”.
Few are in any doubt that Koussa knows as much as there is to know about Libya’s regime, its links to terrorists worldwide and the Lockerbie bombing. Political shark as he is, clearly the Tripoli pond was getting a tad uncomfortable – hence his move to British shores. Yesterday, William Hague was at pains to point out that there will be no immunity from justice for Koussa, should he be found – as many claim – to have helped plan the Lockerbie atrocity.
Call me cynical, but it wouldn’t be the first time that a deal of dubious sorts has been done between the British Government and officials from the Libyan regime. By the very nature of his work Koussa for years has been in close contact with British intelligence, and in the seclusion of some safehouse during his debriefing, who can say what kind of you-scratch-my-back-deal might be struck, allowing him to slip the net of prosecution, despite what Mr Hague says?
What if, for example, Koussa simply offered up some tasty morsel of intelligence that would help put the final nail in Gaddafi’s coffin in exchange for some quiet, discreet retirement opportunity in a post-regime Libya. (...)
The only problem in the Libyan context is that any new government in Tripoli comprising leaders from the country’s rebel movement might have something to say about Koussa’s continued presence in the country. If there was one thing that struck me while in the uprising’s stronghold of Benghazi recently, it was the rebels’ complete determination to make sure that should their revolution be victorious, they would hold Gaddafi’s henchmen fully to account. One can only hope that the British Government remains as true to its word in Koussa’s case. (...)
Yesterday, Jim Swire, who lost his daughter Flora in the Lockerbie atrocity, described Moussa Koussa’s recent defection as a “great day” for families of the bombing’s victims. Dr Swire is right when he says: “This is a guy who knows everything”. And for that very reason it’s now up to the British Government to make sure a crucial opportunity is not squandered, and that if Mr Moussa Koussa really wants the benefit of sanctuary in the UK then he must once and for all put the record straight on any role Libya may have had in Lockerbie.
For too long now British policy regarding Libya has been shrouded in half-truths and riddled with hypocrisy. Now is the moment when that must change.If deals are being done over Libya, just for once I’d like to know what they consist of, in whose name they are being pursued, and to what ends.