Sometimes, I miss Tony Blair.
Say what you like about the man – and there is quite a lot to say about him – but he and his government had precisely zero interest in letting the Lockerbie bomber walk free under the open sky. Even if doing so might have meant holding up an important oil deal:
During Blair’s 2007 visit, BP signed its exploration deal with Libya’s National Oil Corporation. “This is a welcome return to the country and represents a significant opportunity for both BP and Libya to deliver our long-term growth aspirations,” said Tony Hayward, BP group chief executive, who signed the contract with Blair looking on.
The prisoner transfer agreement — and specifically the fate of Megrahi — were inextricably linked with the BP deal. Six months after Blair’s trip, and with Gordon Brown in No 10, the Libyans were frustrated that the prisoner transfer agreement had not even been drafted. The BP contract was also waiting to be ratified.
The key reason for the delay in the prisoner transfer agreement was Megrahi. Lord Falconer, who was Blair’s justice secretary, had told the Scottish government in a letter on June 22, 2007 that “any prisoner transfer agreement with Libya could not cover al-Megrahi”.
(H/T AoSHQ) The Brown government (which took power five days later) was… somewhat easier to persuade. While they attempted to take the same line that Blair did, the Libyans were able to get them to back off on keeping Megrahi from even being considered for prisoner transfer; and shortly thereafter, BP got its contract.
Mind you, this was all two years ago; and technically none of this should have anything to do with the Scottish government’s decision to release Megrahi on compassionate grounds. Still – ‘Start as you mean to go on,’ as the British themselves say. The Libyans walked away from this one knowing that they could profitably push back on the Brown government on issues involving the Lockerbie bomber; and now the issue’s closed, because Megrahi’s back in Libya and Gadaffi doesn’t particularly care what Brown thinks about things. And if you’re wondering why they waited two years… well. Gadaffi cared a great deal about what George W. Bush thought about things.
This new guy in the Oval Office? Eh. not so much.
Crossposted to Moe Lane.