Cameron: I’m not angry with Obama, in Libya, everyone takes responsibility
David Cameron today denied he was ‘angry’ with Barack Obama after he was rebuked by the President for becoming ‘distracted’ as Libya descended into chaos.
In a magazine interview, Mr Obama said Libya was a ‘s*** show’ after he left Europe to take the lead in an intervention to stop Colonel Gaddafi slaughtering his people in retaliation to protests.
Mr Cameron told the Independent on Sunday there was a ‘real problem’ in the Libyan aftermath.
But he said ‘everyone has to take responsibility’ for the failure to stop the north African nation slipping into chaos, becoming a gateway for the migrant crisis and foothold for ISIS on Europe’s doorstep.
Rebutting Mr Obama’s claim, the Prime Minister said: ‘In my defence, I would say we piled in with aid; we helped to train Libyan defence forces; we got the Libyan prime minister to the G8; we set up international meetings to help support him; we went to the UN to pass resolutions to help the new government.’
He added: ‘The truth is the Libyan political factions have not been able to agree on unity and the disbanding of militias and all the things necessary to build a functioning state, so everyone has to take their responsibilities.’
The remarkable insight into the US President’s critical view of Mr Cameron’s foreign policy revealed Mr Obama believed Britain and France were too happy to rely on the US to deal with conflicts on Europe’s doorstep.
And he warned Mr Cameron last summer that the ‘special relationship’ between Britain and America would be lost if he refused to commit the UK to spending the Nato target of 2 per cent of GDP on defence.
In an in-depth interview with The Atlantic magazine, Mr Obama said he wanted Mr Cameron and the then French President Nicolas Sarkozy to take charge of the campaign to oust Libyan dictator Colonel Gaddafi in the spring of 2011 instead of relying on the US acting ‘unilaterally’.
He wanted the two countries to break their habit of ‘pushing us to act but then showing an unwillingness to put any skin in the game’.
He even went as far as describing the likes of Britain and France as ‘free riders,’ adding later that he had told Mr Cameron that ‘free riders aggravate me’ when he had told the PM: ‘You have to pay your fair share’.
In a damning assessment of Mr Cameron’s record in Libya, Mr Obama said bluntly that the intervention ‘didn’t work’ and had left the country a ‘s*** show’.
Mr Obama said he had more faith in the Europeans but admitted it had been a mistake to trust Mr Cameron and Mr Sarkozy.
When I go back and I ask myself what went wrong, there’s room for criticism, because I had more faith in the Europeans, given Libya’s proximity, being invested in the follow-up,’ Mr Obama said.
He revealed his irritation as he said Mr Cameron became ‘distracted by a range of other things’ in the aftermath of the Libya campaign, while the French president was ousted a year.
Explaining why he wanted Europe to play the lead in Libya, Mr Obama said: ‘Sometimes we’re going to get what we want precisely because we are sharing in the agenda.
‘The irony is that it was precisely in order to prevent the Europeans and the Arab states from holding our coats while we did all the fighting that we, by design, insisted.’
He added: ‘It was part of the anti–free rider campaign.’
In the interview, Mr Obama also cited Britain as a ‘major factor’ in his decision not to enforce the ‘red line’ on the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime.
The President called off at the last minute a planned attack in response to the gassing as he decided to refer the issue to a vote in Congress.
Mr Obama said: ‘We had UN inspectors on the ground who were completing their work, and we could not risk taking a shot while they were there.
‘A second major factor was the failure of Cameron to obtain the consent of his parliament.’