The conflict in Libya, aka “humanitarian mission” for the coalition forces, is once again the demonstration of arrogance, paternalism, hypocrisy and double standards of the western democracies.
The no fly zone, in force under the UN Security Council Resolution 1973, hides economic and financial interests which have nothing to do with the humanitarian character of the resolution itself. The Libyan conflict, which is now a civil war, is more complex than mass media are showing, and the coalition is de facto at war along with the rebels, or National Council of Libya, against the Gaddafi’s regime.
The war from Tripoli
Gaddafi is in power since 1969, 42 years with an absolute control and does not have a good reputation abroad. In the seventies had some occasional flirts with the Soviet Union then, fearing their involvement in Africa, Gaddafi wrote the Green Book, announcing the Revolution of the Jammariya, or a mix of socialism, Pan-Arabism and capitalism. Supporter of Arab awakening, criticised harshly the Arab League, and the other Arab Leaders for their inactivity on the Palestinian cause; supported and actively pursued terrorism as a way to undermine western interests: along with North Korea, Libya was one of the countries to actively use State Terrorism for international operations. Lockerbie bombing was ordered as revenge against Americans following the humiliation after bombing by Reagan administration in 1986. Intelligence activities were also largely demonstrated during the civil war in Chad and Libyan agents were reportedly being active in the Francophone Africa during seventies and eighties. Well know also the involvement of Libya in the Italian tragedy of Ustica, even though indirectly.
In the light of his own history, we cannot be surprised that Gaddafi has to stay in Tripoli, he has no alternative:
1. No one will offer asylum to a discredited leader because of the damage that could be done to the international reputation
2. He has practically no friends because of his errant foreign policy
Result, Gaddafi has to stay in Libya, die in Libya; this is a truth that the rebels should remember: the ticket for their freedom is the elimination of Gaddafi.
This war, for Gaddafi and his regime, is an internal affair, an insurrection directed by Al Qaida, trying to overthrow its “loved leader”. A part the rhetoric of the regime, behind what many see as a delirium, there is also a veiled truth. The threat of Saif al Gaddafi that the country will be destroyed in a bloody civil war, tribalism and that oil and natural resources are the real interest moving western powers, are not all lies.
The reason why Gaddafi is alive, longest leader serving in the Arab word and Africa, is not only tyranny but also his adaptive policy, his ability in applying the principle divide et impera is demonstrated in how he changed from tradition seen as opposed to progress to wearing himself traditional outfits and rediscovering his Tuareg roots.
He downgraded his army, weakening officials in order to make difficult any military coup, but at the same time keeping it strong enough to guarantee the defence of the country.
His military inventory is quite obsolete, but still able to create damage and victims, as demonstrated every day in the actual conflict.
Libya is now officially split in two: the regime firmly in power at Tripoli, Sirte and the rest of the west, and still able to threat the east controlled by the rebels.
Gaddafi, who the western media call “mad dog” using a famous Reagan remark, knows that the cards is playing are running out and few options are left:
1. Try to stay in power until the end, in the eventuality his army collapses
2. Fight to reach a stalemate that force coalition and rebels to sit at a table to negotiate a deal in his favour.
Whichever will be the outcome, a result will be clear, Libya in the future will not be guided by Gaddafi or his family, whose fate is still uncertain between a forced exile in exchange of peace or death as a martyr. Forget the International Penal Court, even if captured alive, he will be considered too dangerous because the information he may disclose. Will make the Arab awakening a joke compared to the bloodbath that could follow, and the western powers will be in the embarrassing position of confronting their public opinion on delicate episodes of the past, that currently are under secret.
The war from Benghazi
Benghazi and the East of the country are controlled by the rebels and the National Council. This is an heterogeneous group made of the following:
Spontaneous organisations, armed civilians, opposition groups, defective units from the army and ex regime’s figures. This complex composition is the main anxiety for the coalition forces and the future of Libya.
The main doubts are concerning politics, economic and military strategies:
What line will be adopted? Which projects for the State? How to deal with the ex regime’s personalities? How to deal with the rest of the country, the tribes?
At the moment they are unified by the Gaddafi figure and desire to end of his authoritarian power, but what next?
The weakness of their firepower, which his often depicted by the media as the main reason of the coalition intervention, is in reality not completely true. They are able to keep Gaddafi forces at stand for several reasons: the army is not unified, there are popular militias, the fact that Libya has undergone from a demonstration against the regime, to revolt, revolution and now civil war, does not allow Gaddafi forces to obtain effective gains as this is not a simple uprising nor a conventional war.
It is also true, however, that the popular soul of the rebel army, is the most disorganised, is the one we can see everyday in the news, creating embarrassing situation for both the more organised army and the coalition forces.
On one side, the ex regime’s figures left quickly their posts to wear the clothes of the pro-democratic activists, creating a parallel government with the oppositions, while the army split, with factions joining the new government as their military wing. On the other side, the popular movement, that started the uprising in February, is fragmented, and their aims and ramifications are still unclear. The risk of an external involvement of groups linked to al Qaida, or external powers hostile to the coalition are not as far from truth as they want us to believe. Even the coalition is now admitting Iran could be behind some of the groups.
The most controversial points concerning the rebel side are the following:
1. The rebels are adopting the old flag of the Idris’ monarchy; the same regime against with a revolution was made in 1969, and now are trying to overthrow a tyranny recalling another oppressive regime.
2. The immigration exodus, if understandable for some section of the population, is also embarrassing in how is weakening the manpower of the rebels. The absence of any rebel avant-garde in the enemy field, is the main reason of their inability to make progress towards Tripoli.
3. There is a psychological, and not only military, dependence from the coalition. Is not clear what deal is behind between the parts and what involves. Libya may risk becoming a sort of protectorate, weak as Afghanistan or Somalia, with a central power isolated in a sea of warlords and rival tribes.
4. NATO air strikes could backfire on a propaganda side, and if civilians or rebels deaths will be linked to the air strikes, the trend could change. The demonstration of this was the recent incident where rebel units were attacked by mistake from coalition forces: whilst the official rebel government adopted an embarrassing silence, supporting the operation; the popular soul of the rebels was angry, accusing NATO forces of deliberately strike at them. Even if this claim may not be true, will show that is not possible to apply a no fly zone to the entire country, attacking targets on the ground, where you are not able to distinguish between pro and anti government forces.
As per Gaddafi, the rebels have now few options left:
1. Kill the leader. If they manage to advance towards Tripoli, and overthrow the regime, the main problem will be: with the active participation of the coalition or only with logistical support? In the first case, after Gaddafi, we will have a protectorate; in the second maybe a new and independent Libya.
2. The military stalemate cannot be broken; the coalition does not reach a deal for a major operation. This will force all the parts to negotiate with Gaddafi, opening the way for the most humiliating and embarrassing of all the solutions and must be avoided at all costs.
The coalition aka The three musketeers: Obama, Cameron and Sarkozy
The no fly zone has several weak points that undermine its effectiveness and generate doubts on its real aims:
1. The protection of civil population through air strikes is generating victims in all side and destroying the country.
2. His covering all the country, on which is practically impossible to distinguish between rebels, civilians, pro Gaddafi forces, especially inside the cities.
3. Is vague is some points and hide the real goal, which is a regime change in violation of the UN Resolution.
4. The coalition is de facto taking side along the rebels in violations of the UN Resolution.
Although the resolution aim is to protect civilians, NATO forces are conducting air strikes on military targets on the grounds, engaged in attacking rebel forces. The equation rebels-civilians is forced in order to legitimise this military adventure.
The thesis supported by the coalition to legitimise the no fly zone , recalling the Iraq example is completely absurd: the no fly zone in Iraq was clearly demarcated and contained a clear geo-ethnic composition of Kurds and Shia population in the North and South of the country. Saddam Hussein armed forces were at war against an international coalition since the start, legitimised by UN resolution and without exceptions.
Although the UN Security Council voted in favour of the resolution 1973, Russia and China abstained, generating the following:
1. The resolution obtained votes only from the powers actually involved in the war.
2. Russia and China do not support resolutions which can affect internal affairs. However, to defend their international image, the abstention is an easy way to achieve the result without being accused of being insensitive. Their position is to let the others paying the consequences of their choices and not to interfere until they are seeing their interests under threat (Chechnya, Ossetia, North Korea, and Taiwan).
The coalition itself is far from being monolithic: UK and France were the great sponsor of this no fly zone, bringing along the reluctant Americans. However, whilst British and French now want a major involvement, alluding to a possible ground attack, the Americans are far from accepting it, as well Italy, Germany and Arab countries. Italy has been very cautious from the start, clearly making everybody aware the risks related to a massive immigration influx. At the time the Italians were accused for being over cautious, or no interested in the affairs of their ex colony. But when appeared clear that these millions of refugees could reach France and UK, the cracks start to appear and now they do not want to offer assistance to the Italian government.
The real positions:
UK and France are still dreaming of past imperial glories, and are pushing for a war that in reality are not able to sustain without the logistical and military American support. Financially, politically and militarily they have no chances: whilst Cameron is cutting the budget of defence, military personnel is made redundant and the austerity with its savage cuts is affecting British taxpayers, he wants a war. But how, with what and where is the money to sustain this effort?
Obama made all his presidential campaign based on the promise of no further involvement of the United States and his personnel in another military operation in the ground. Now he may risk doing the exact opposite, giving way for the republicans to cheer.
The reality is that all the powers involved have a common reason to be at war: Gaddafi. It is not only oil or the economy but also revenge, close the past, relegate the “mad dog” to the obituary of the dictatorship.
Another example that shows ambiguity and double standards of this resolution is the following:
What about Gaza Strip? Israel targets indiscriminately Palestinian Territories for decades, killing civilians as a response of Hamas attacks. In this case the rebels are terrorists, the equation rebel-civilian cannot be applied, and therefore Israel is not killing civilians but terrorists.
Where is the no fly zone? The Arab League, that we can define only as a lucrative organisation, made by hypocrites and Arab only by name, support the coalition. Where is the Arab League to help their Palestinian brothers? At home counting the million of dollar made exporting oil.
Bahrain, Yemen, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Jordan, etc are all countries far away from our concept of democracy, whose leaders are rais, kings or even sultans completely out of history, where in some cases the Shari ‘a is applied, and women are stoned. Demonstrations in these countries have been held and many people have been shot dead by security forces. Although our media reported on these killings, no one even proposed an intervention; at exception of Syria, no one ever accused Bahrain or answerer to this question:
“King Saud declared that eventual demonstrations will be dealt with extreme force”, what does he means? If his security forces open fire on civilians, will the UN enforce a no fly zone? The silence of the international diplomacy can be heard as a loud NO in the conscience of millions of Arab ready to take the streets.
At the moment the air strikes are not giving the results that everyone was expecting, and the solution now whispered will be to arm the rebels or the direct intervention. The first solution should have been taken into account since the start; has been practised all along the years of the Cold War, but now they want us to believe that are not able to do it or do not know how to bend around the resolution. An indirect support for the rebels is the right solution: this is war of liberation that Libyan people should conduct by themselves, shaping their own future. Freedom cannot be achieved with help from other countries; if you do, they will ask a price. The involvement of external powers is dangerous, and will undermine your independence as Machiavelli states in the Prince.
When this war will be over, Libya will be left into pieces, devoured by feuds between tribes, leaders and ex regime’s figures with possible scenarios:
Freed from Gaddafi tyranny, with a puppet government dependent from external power now reclaiming their favour; or freed from Gaddafi, with a government elected by Libyans, made of Libyans, and with the people now reclaim something back for their freedom.
The second scenario is what I sincerely hope, Libyans wants and can and must achieve; the first scenario would be again another shameful page in the huge encyclopaedia of the foolishness of the democratic powers, paving the way for resentments and future wars.