« Defra Questions sees MPs discussing putting Chris Huhne out of a job, how to deal with urban foxes and whether the state should buy British | Main | David Cameron tells the Commons that UK forces are being deployed to enforce the UN Resolution in Libya and that MPs will have a debate on the deployment next week »

Richard Ottaway expresses his concern that a no-fly zone will result in stalemate and that we therefore need a Plan B in Libya

By Jonathan Isaby

Richard Ottaway Yesterday saw a general debate in the Commons on North Africa and the Middle East.

Conservative MP and Foreign Affairs Select Committee chairman Richard Ottaway wished the Government well in its effort to get last night's UN resolution so that there was a clear legal basis to proceed.

He noted that the Prime Minister had set out three conditions that would have to be met before he would support a no-fly zone, before going on to say:

"Yesterday, the Government added a fourth condition: the national interest. In the Foreign Affairs Committee yesterday I asked the Foreign Secretary how he would reply to a request from a country such as Ivory Coast, where genocide was going on, or Burma or Somalia-there are plenty of places with internal conflict. He replied that that has to be judged on a case-by-case basis, and that is under the national interest. If we intervene in Libya, will that set a precedent that will be relied on by those countries?

"That means, in effect, that we are picking our countries. Let us be clear exactly what that means. It is a reincarnation of the Chicago doctrine introduced by Tony Blair 12 years ago. It is worth reading the speech that he made in April 2009 in Chicago, 10 years after his original speech in Chicago. He said that it "argued strongly for an active and engaged foreign policy, not a reactive or isolationist one: better to intervene than to leave well alone. Be bold, adventurous even in what we can achieve."

"That is a pretty gung-ho approach. I am not saying that the current Government are being gung-ho, but it is a warning about how we could get carried away unless we sit back, are rational and address the need for a clear legal basis.

"We then have the problem of what will happen if another Arab state behaves in the same way as Libya does. We have seen what is going on in Bahrain, with the state of emergency. We all heard reports on the radio this morning of protesters being killed. We cannot intervene in every case. We could end up with a very awkward situation where one Arab country provides aircraft to help police the no-fly zone and then ends up attacking its own people. Then what is our national interest?"

He then expressed his concern that the Government needed to have a Plan B as a no-fly zone in Libya "is most likely to end up with a stalemate":

"I would add a fifth condition. If this does not succeed, we must have a strategy. There has to be a plan B. Where is exactly is this leading? My hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Bob Stewart) has great experience of the no-fly zone in Bosnia, and there was a no-fly zone in Iraq. In both cases, we had to put in ground troops to seal the deal and finish the job. A no-fly zone in Libya is most likely to end up with a stalemate in which the rebels cannot lose and Gaddafi cannot win."

"If we want to get rid of Colonel Gaddafi, we will have to use ground troops, so I would like the Minister to answer the question, what is our commitment on ground troops? Would we be prepared to use them to finish the job? What is the Government's attitude to the use of warships? The war is being conducted along a coastal strip. At the end of the day, if we commit to a no-fly zone, we have to be prepared to finish the job and to put troops in on the ground, otherwise we should not start. That is why I am concerned about where this is all leading."

"The Prime Minister posed a question to people such as myself, who have their reservations about a no-fly zone, when he said on Monday: "'Do we want a situation where a failed pariah state festers on Europe's southern border, potentially threatening our security, pushing people across the Mediterranean and creating a more dangerous and uncertain world for Britain and for all our allies as well as for the people of Libya?'"

"That is a very good question, and it deserves an answer. My answer is, we have had this pariah state for 42 years, and we have lived with it: we have put up with it; we had to bomb it once; we had Lockerbie; and we are still here and it is still there."


You must be logged in using Intense Debate, Wordpress, Twitter or Facebook to comment.