By Aaron Klein
Here’s to wishful thinking.
During the height of the revolution in Libya, longtime Clinton confidante Sidney Blumenthal sent Hillary Clinton an email resurrecting what he referred to as a “big idea” for the country and the region once Moammar Gadhafi exited the scene.
Drawing on a concept from a research scholar at New York University as well as a French proposal from 2008 that was largely abandoned, Blumenthal told Clinton the Libya revolution as well as insurgencies brewing at the time in Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco could be used to create a “Union of the Mediterranean” – with the U.S. playing a critical role.
The proposal was contained in a March 17, 2011, email sent from Blumenthal to Clinton and released Monday by the House Select Committee on Benghazi. KleinOnline conducted a thorough review of the 170 pages of newly released Blumenthal emails.
The prospective Mediterranean Union, Blumenthal explained to Clinton, can “begin with initial economic links, much like the EU began with a coal and steel accord and then unfold into many other areas.”
Blumenthal envisioned that this new union “recasts the war on terrorism; isolates those Arab states that remain authoritarian repressive regimes without imposing punitive measures; gives the U.S. a hand in reform and development in Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Libya, etc.; and offers a new incentive into the Mideast peace process (such as it is.)”
Blumenthal’s email was sent the same day the United Nations Security Council imposed a “no-fly zone” ban on all flights in the country’s airspace as part of tighter sanctions on the Gadhafi regime and its supporters.
Instead of enacting Blumenthal’s game plan, the U.S. largely retreated from Libya and the country has since been embroiled in a bitter ongoing civil conflict between rival organizations seeking to control.
The internationally recognized government of the “Council of Deputies” controls some territory while the Islamic State, the terror group Ansar al-Sharia, and a Muslim Brotherhood-aligned organization fight for influence.
In his email, Blumenthal sent Clinton a short article by Mustapha Tlili, founder and director of the NYU Center for Dialogues, calling for a Mediterranean Union to serve as the framework for a new moral vibrancy in the Middle East, North Africa and beyond.
Wrote Tlili: “Mediterranean union could be a framework for a new moral vibrancy, informed by the same universal values that mobilized the young in Tunisia, Egypt, and beyond – freedom, individual responsibility and accountability, transparency, tolerance, solidarity with the weak and oppressed, justice, gender equality, and other fundamental human and democratic rights.”
Tlili drew from a 2008 French proposal also entitled the Union for the Mediterranean, UfM, that aimed to promote regional cooperation and shared values.
That proposal was supposed to be a partnership between 43 countries from Europe and the Mediterranean Basin, including 28 member states of the European Union and 15 Mediterranean partner countries from North Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Europe.