BBC BLOGS - Newsnight: From the web team
« Previous | Main | Next »

Wednesday 18 January 2012

Verity Murphy | 13:17 UK time, Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Newsnight's Diplomatic and Defence editor Mark Urban has discovered that the UK's efforts to help topple Colonel Gaddafi were not limited to air strikes.

On the ground - and on the quiet - special forces soldiers were blending in with rebel fighters

Mark has also confirmed the existence of a secret unit within the special forces, E Squadron, which was operating in Libya, facilitating intelligence missions in the highly dangerous environment.

Those with a knowledge of the programme insist "they did a tremendous job" and contributed to the final collapse of the Gaddafi regime.

And Jeremy Paxman has an interview with Abdel Hakim Belhadj, a commander of the rebel forces in Libya widely tipped to run for president, who claims that his arrest in 2004 was part of a joint CIA and MI6 operation which was set up to help Col Muammar Gaddafi round up his enemies.

Also on tonight's show, first Boris Bikes and now Boris Island - London's Mayor received a boost today to his support for a new airport in the Thames Estuary.

The government is to hold a formal consultation on the controversial idea, with a report due to be announced in March.

The plan has been widely attacked, from environmentalists concerned about the impact on the birdlife in the area, to those worried about bird strikes on planes and airport operator BAA which has warned of a detrimental effect on Heathrow's economy.

The issue could also drive a wedge in the coalition as the Lib Dems are reportedly opposed to all airport expansion in the south east of England.

David Grossman will ask if the Thames Hub airport plan has wings, or will it be a damp squib in the drive to increase the UK's passenger capacity. We'll also discuss in the studio.

Also on the programme, the IMF has said it will seek to increase its resources by $500bn £325bn to help stabilise the global economy, and the money could be used to help countries in the eurozone struggling to pay their debts.

Our Economics editor Paul Mason took advantage of the visit of Italy's Prime Minister Mario Monti to London to ask what difference the money could make.


  • Comment number 1.

    Just so long as the developers remove this ship first 'eh? Otherwise the explosion will get rid of the land they are planning to build on.

  • Comment number 2.

    @ Ecolizzy#1 - It's rather alarming that unexploded WW2 bombs (1,400 tons of deadly munitions) have been left in the sea in the first place! Why were they not diffused, since they have been there since 1944? It is amazing that no-one has been hurt by them. It really beggars belief. Perhaps if Boris Island does go ahead, then it will be cleared up. As for the environmentalists, they do realise that more birds die in "environmentally friendly" wind farms by being shredded to pieces by the enormous blades, don't they? By having a new airport, it would take a lot of the pressure and congestion off Heathrow, which is practically at full capacity anyway.

  • Comment number 3.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 4.

    "Mark Urban has discovered that the UK's efforts to help topple Colonel Gaddafi were not limited to air strikes."

    And I wonder who helped the rebels to form a Central Bank and a new oil company in a matter of a few weeks:

    God bless humanitarian intervention.

  • Comment number 5.

    Honk Kong's island airport and Seoul's Incheon island airport have been huge successes in terms of serving their respective cities. There are also the addded benefits of keeping the dangerous jet engine nitrogen oxide emissions well away from the densely populated areas.

    The NOx emissions around Heathrow are already well above EU minimum levels and the airport normally runs at levels well above 90% capacity most of the time. The oxides of nitrogen from engine exhaut gases are responsible for the premature deaths of tens of thousands in the UK alone.

  • Comment number 6.

    From Manston airport to the Ebbsfleet HS1 link takes just over one hour on the M2/A2.

    A high speed rail link between the airport and railway station would take much less time but would this idea even make the consultation plan?

    I doubt it because there is something fundamentally wrong with the way our England is governed.

  • Comment number 7.

    #4 H_P

    This piece by Pepe Escobar is worth reading imo....(so I post it again)

    The Myth of “Isolated” Iran
    Following the Money in the Iran Crisis

  • Comment number 8.

    Much as this blogger respects the NN journalist Mark Urban, I cannot get too interested in what was the very obvious, namely specialist boots-on-the-ground in Libya, heavily integrated with NATO, which leveraged a stalemate into a winning position.

    A more interesting question is why covert action is not currently being undertaken to help the Syrians (FSA), possibly via the conduit of Turkey?

    Well, maybe it is, by definition covert - but plenty of people still seem to be dying there and the regime still appears to be intact.

  • Comment number 9.

    Christian Wolmar @christianwolmar 34m

    My credit card limit cut by 80 percent cos of fraudulently obtained mob phone in my name which led to default notice. Anyone else had this?

    This is probably a stitch up by the Corporates as punishment for him not supporting and even opposing the HS2 plans, its probably how the Banks keep " thought control " over all journalists and other high paid people in key positions like council officers !

  • Comment number 10.

    #2 Yup it is dangerous Mistress, but no one seems to worry too much. At the time 1000 of tons of bombs were taken off, but it became too dangerous to continue, it's monitered every year. The hull of the ship could split in two completely, and release the bombs. I often look at the view in that link, there is a large exclusion zone around it, but looking at how ships are driven these days, who knows someone will probably drive through the area and set it off. I'm hoping the explosive is degenarating and doesn't go up, (would it go up if wet and in the sand?!) if it did Minster on Sheppey would be blown away, along with a lot of other damage around Sheppey and the area.

    But there's plenty of other things in the area to worry. There's the huge chimney of the Kingsnorth power station, not to mention the new gas power station nearby about to be built. And I believe there's also a massive LPG storage place on Grain, so plenty of hazards.

    And there will always be the problem of sea rising, and flooding. It will need something like the Thames barrier built around it to stop that, even the current barrier is close to be being breached, so something pretty big. They seem to have forgotton this land was under the sea in 1953, that was low pressure and a very high tide, conditions that can happen at any time, and can't be controlled. And of course the whole area is sand, gravel and mud, can you imagine building on that, it will need billions of tons of concrete.

    Then there is the problem of birdstrike, ruddy great birds, all the way from the arctic overwinter in the area. Probably around half a million, I often see a flock of a thousand brent geese, they could mangle an engine or two!

  • Comment number 11.

    Oh I forgot to mention, lots of planes stacking, there's been a heavy thick sea fog all day today, I'd love to land in that!

  • Comment number 12.

    #6 Yes John that is the obviouse answer to anyone who lives in East Kent, there is very high unemployment in Thanet so would supply plenty of new jobs, but no, they don't want to develope it.

    They've even build a brand new dual carriageway in the area. And huge housing estates and shoping complex.

    There's only a small problem on the horizon, lack of food for england. It's good food growing land, thousands of acres of it, that are now under concrete, but never mind we can starve.

  • Comment number 13.

    8. At 15:37 18th Jan 2012, JohnConstable

    'My investigations into that covert effort reveal a story of practically-minded people trying to get on with the job, while all the time facing political and legal constraints imposed from London.'

    My recollections were that a a bunch of folk were trying to get on with a tricky job, whilst at the same time a bunch of media were rushing around trying to scoop each other on what they were up to, much possibly emulating alleged noble bomb fuse timing 'reporters' during the Falklands.

    But OK, let's call this latest 'discovering'.

  • Comment number 14.

  • Comment number 15.

  • Comment number 16.

    :o) I look forward to Jeremy's interview with Abdel Hakim Belhadj tonight!

  • Comment number 17.

    RAF Northolt is mere minutes away from Heathrow - only 8.8 miles by road - why not build a rapid transit line from Heathrow to Northolt and use it as the third runway for Heathrow for domestic flights? They fly BAe 146 RAF medium airliners from there already, as well as trooper flights.

    Boris's Island is mad, given the weather, the hazards and the rising sea level -and the only cost for Northolt would be for a short tunnel and a few departure/arrival buildings and no more lost farmland & demolished communities. Transferring the cost of running Northolt from an airbase to an airport would save the MoD vast sums every year, but keep it still useable by the RAF.


  • Comment number 18.

    Boris spent £6,000 per bike of our money on his crackpot bike scheme, they cost even more with the "sponsorship" deals. You can get a bike in Halfords for fifty quid so that is the scale of his ineptitude and arrogance in that he thinks he knows how to spend our money better than we do. If he's let loose on an airport he'll probably drive us into bankruptcy in a matter of months. Typical useless politician who thinks he knows best.

    I see he's currently trying to bankrupt small businesses with his low emissions zone, more taxes, regulations and fines from him, plus he's increased the congestion charge by 25%. It's worse than under Livingstone.

  • Comment number 19.

    I'm with Stewart on the Libyan debate. I love the way that Ramdani agreed that Gadaffi was a tyrant, and was glad he was overthrown, yet is moaning about minor technicalities!

  • Comment number 20.

    Rory Stewart is a Bilderberg agent

  • Comment number 21.

    Outstanding interview by Jeremy with Belhadj. Stewart is correct - if true, it is a disgrace. Perhaps it's a case of backing the wrong horse :(
    Besides, hindsight is always 20/20......

  • Comment number 22.

  • Comment number 23.

  • Comment number 24.

    :p "the problem is we don't believe a word you say" Jeremy to Huppert
    "you guys haven't got the guts to make a decision" Jeremy to Huppert

    Moulton is correct, we do need to improve infrastructure. It's quite shocking that there are only 3 hubs for planes from China, whereas Germany has 15........

  • Comment number 25.

    Julian Huppert just said that we (the taxpayer) are investing more in rail than at any point since the Victorian age. £1.4 billion. We were being told a few weeks ago that we must face massive increases in the price of our season tickets because the traveller must pay for investment rather than the taxpayer. Someone is being economical with the truth. Huge bonuses all round at the train companies no doubt.

  • Comment number 26.

    Newsnights Verity wrote:

    "...On the ground - and on the quiet - special forces soldiers were blending in with rebel fighters"

    I always rate the work of Mark Urban but tonights report ain't new news, although it was interesting enough. A little pudgy fella from Austin Texas with a radio talk show and a megaphone was telling his listeners and viewers more or less the same thing as what we were told this evening on newsnight, the only difference was the BBC had good footage to go with the report; the Texan fella only had guest's, albeit well informed guests. What I heard tonight I also heard last springtime.

    By the way, if your gonna have air strikes in a region such as Libya, boots on the ground is relatively easy ..and a given, for all the obvious reasons.
    The woman guest was about right in what she said. The only thing she failed to mention was the west strong desire (the UK Govt) that Gaddafi must not get captured and put on trial for fear of what he may disclose...he must have a sticky end, and so it was. We are well practiced at arranging these kinda things are we not.

  • Comment number 27.

    #23 Mistress wrote:

    "Moulton is correct, we do need to improve infrastructure. It's quite shocking that there are only 3 hubs for planes from China, whereas Germany has 15........"

    Why might you think that is?

    Can you think of any obvious similarities between Germany and China?

    Might it be related to manufacturing?

    The UK USED to be a great manufacturing nation as well!

    When and why did that UK's manufacturing heretige change....who was responsible for our switch from manufacturing to services ? It happened at around the early part of the c20th.

    Why don't those involved in the service industries like getting their hands dirty?

    It's not just a class thing!

  • Comment number 28.

    If the consultation process over Boris Island is as valid as the consultation over HS2 then anyone affected, don't waste your time.

    Government consultations are just window dressing to make us all feel we're part of a democratic process.

    And like fools we continue to fall for it.

    Decisions are made where the power is. Not by the prols.

    Get back to the fields!

  • Comment number 29.

    When a no news story is turned into a main news story…now why might that be?

    Iranian actress banned from homeland after naked magazine shoot

    Note the feminine angle in this.

  • Comment number 30.

    "Mark has also confirmed the existence of a secret unit within the special forces, E Squadron, which was operating in Libya.."

    UK inquiry into rendition and torture collusion scrapped

    “Comedy is tragedy plus time." (Carol Burnett)

  • Comment number 31.

  • Comment number 32.

  • Comment number 33.


    What is the point of the inquiry ?

    There are always allegations.

    They are always denied.

    They always turn out to be true.

  • Comment number 34.

    SYRIA: British Special Forces, CIA and MI6 Supporting Armed Insurgency. NATO Intervention Contemplated

  • Comment number 35.

    All paid into the mouths of the very same bankers who cooked Greece's books to get them into the Eurozone currency
    Goldman Sachs is like the car manufacturer who owns the repair shops - it cornered every end of the market

    - GS stampeded the EU into this single currency nonsense (earning massive great fees for itself during the set up),
    - GS charged Greece a load of money to cook its books so that it would qualify,
    - GS made a shedload more money by then speculating against the Euro-zone
    - GS then charges the EU a load more money for sorting out the bail outs, the EFSF and so on
    - GS even appointed several of its own people (Monti, Draghi, Papademos) to run things (it's even worse in the USA - Tim Geithner springs to mind).

    So GS had every interest in launching an inherently unstable currency, in the same way as a monopoly car manufacturer who owns all the repair workshops would have an interest in making unreliable cars.

    Maybe these bankers do deserve their huge bonuses.

  • Comment number 36.

    The brightest and the best

    M16 operations often seems followed by the word 'fiasco'? So one should be very concerned about their reckless shinning eyed tub thumping about iran.

    Uk manufacturing

    according to information i received its cheaper to send uk reclaimed timber to china have it made in to furniture and sent back to the uk to sell. the guy said it was 25% of the cost than having it made in the uk. he also said anyway he couldn't find uk staff because few want to work and those that did didn't have the skills.

    Bird fascists

    the birders have monopolised the local nature reserve and filled it full of fish eating birds then they wonder why there is no fish left in the ponds. the birders are the worst eco fascists.

    nice to see boris in a hoodie

  • Comment number 37.

    I am all for investing in new airport infrastructure. Every time I fly via Heathrow, there is a usual 30 minutes delay on takeoff, sometimes even longer. Having said that, I loved the new Terminal 5 during my last visit; the ambiance is modern and welcoming, although I was not too hot on the dodgy airport shuttle bus and crowded boarding gates serving three different airline destinations at the same time.

    However I'm not convinced by Boris' choice of location. I can see how Thames Estuary's vicinity to London can be a convenience of sort. However if I were a businesswoman, wouldn't I want to invest and build factory in the North where the cost base is lower and the regional workforce still possess the knowledge and expertise of the country's former manufacturing heartland? Manchester already has its own airport. I presume expanding the current facility would cost a lot less than building new runways on a bird island. Just a thought. ^^

  • Comment number 38.

    a new yacht....why not....God bless the Squire and all his relations....and keep us in our humble stations...God bless her........


BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.