ISSN 2330-717X

Who Benefits From Time Factor In Libya? – OpEd

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By Mohyeddin Sajedi

The repeated swapping of cities between Libyan revolutionaries and Muammar Gaddafi’s forces shows that neither side is capable of ending the conflict and achieving decisive victory.

This is why the international alliance has placed arming the revolutionaries on its agenda.

The revolutionaries’ westward march and taking control of Misratah, Ras Lanuf, Brega and Ajdabiya –cities all located east of the Libyan capital, Tripoli — was met with counterattacks by Gaddafi forces’ counterattacks and most of these cities, with the exception of Ajdabiya — the city in which the French minister met with a member of the Libyan National Council — slipped out of the hands of the revolutionaries.

NATO warplane
NATO warplane

The revolutionaries’ failure to maintain authority over the regions under their control increases their dependence on foreign forces.

It appears that the international alliance has managed to impose a no-fly zone over Libya and neutralize the country’s anti-aircraft fire. French fighter jets have focused their attacks on air bases and the army columns on the ground. The US army fires Tomahawk missiles and targets areas in Tripoli. Disabling Libya’s air defense systems enables the US army to deploy unmanned aircraft to attack the Libyan army and Gaddafi positions.

The international alliance’s aerial intervention, which was formally handed over to NATO this week, paralyzed Libya’s Air Force but has had no effect on the ground forces. Therefore, arming the revolutionary forces has become more important. Russia and China have already opposed the move and consider it in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1973. There is still no consensus amongst the Western governments on how to arm the Libyan rebels.

The big problem is that the revolutionary forces are not organized militia units that have commanders and ranks. And apart from a number of army defectors, most of the revolutionaries are anti-Gaddafi youth and civilians and a number of them are armed Islamists who have previously fought Gaddafi and are taking advantage of the current chaos to regroup. Gaddafi managed to eliminate some of these individuals who have links to al-Qaeda or share its organizational attitude.

To this end, the US government has dispatched field evaluation units from its spy agency, the CIA, to the ground to assess the situation. The US and its allies are worried that Western weapons will fall into the hands of forces that might used it against the West or give them to aggressive governments in future similar to what happened with US Stinger missiles that were given to the Afghan Mujahedeen to use to drive out former Soviet forces.

The revolutionaries and the Western alliance as well as the Gaddafi regime are all pinning their hopes on the time factor. Gaddafi hopes that he can use a long drawn out war to prove the pointlessness of war and turn foreign intervention in Libya into an international issue. He has taken an interesting initiative and designated the former Nicaraguan foreign minister, who is a priest, as his UN representative.

Even though the US and the West are concerned that the continuation of war in Libya will force them to bear the burden of another Iraq and Afghanistan, they have hope that by continued airstrikes and further isolation of Gaddafi they can cause his supporters to abandon him.

The defection of Moussa Koussa, Libya’s foreign minister who sought refuge in England after fleeing via Tunisia, is a painful blow for Gaddafi.

There have also been rumors about the defection of the head of Libya’s security organization. These two were considered Gaddafi’s confidants and have important information about the country’s status quo, its forces and the Lockerbie, etc. This is why the British foreign secretary has declared that Moussa Koussa does not have diplomatic immunity.

For Washington, as stated by President Barack Obama in his latest speech, safeguarding US interests in Libya and the Middle East is of great importance. Many analysts believe they are right to accuse the US and the West of entering the war with Muammar Gaddafi in order to maintain the flow of Libyan oil. If not why is there no military incursion in Yemen or why do they support or keep silent on the invasion of Bahrain by cooperation council forces?

Revolutionary forces in Libya say that foreign oil tankers drop anchor in Ras Lanuf and purchase oil from the Gaddafi government. They consider this as being in violation of the siege on Gaddafi and the ban on aiding him.

Nevertheless, aside from the thorny issue of oil which in the Middle East and the Arab world is considered one of the reasons behind conspiracies, coups and regime change, the question is will the Gaddafi regime have a future in North Africa and southern Europe?

This regime is a much-hated existence that stands no chance of survival. However, just as Western alliance airstrikes have failed to end the war, Libya’s oil power and the greed of Western and Asian customers may keep certain hopes alive for Gaddafi.

Arming the revolutionaries in Libya would mean prolonging the war and ground operations which the Western alliance is reluctant for. It remains to be see which side will benefit from the passage of time.

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