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Endgame In Libya – OpEd

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The international community is beginning to talk about what Libya could look like once Muammar Qaddafi is gone, the assumption being that the days of the Libyan leader are numbered. Perhaps so. NATO has extended its air operations for another 90 days. NATO allies have pledged to stay in Libya for as long as it takes. Attack helicopters have gone into action and command centers in Tripoli have been pounded. The circle around Qaddafi is crumbling as generals and civilian officials alike are defecting in growing numbers.

To garner extra fire power, NATO’s secretary-general as well as the US and British defense chiefs are urging allies that have taken secondary roles to start doing their bit. For its part, the International Contact Group on Libya, which includes all the countries participating in the NATO-led campaign targeting Qaddafi’s regime, is discussing a range of issues, including an arms embargo and the authorization, according to UN Resolution 1973, of airstrikes on Qaddafi’s ground forces and a no-fly zone.

The anger may rise to boiling point in the zengas, or alleyways, of Libyan cities still largely loyal to Qaddafi, including the capital Tripoli, but the odds are so overwhelming against Qaddafi that President Barack Obama, who can make beautifully barren speeches, says in more straightforward language that he thought it was “just a matter of time before Qaddafi goes.”

However, to those who want to see Qaddafi fall, they might also consider that Libya might fall apart. Perhaps they should exclude the military solution and pursue an exit for Qaddafi that would allow an immediate cease-fire and political transition. A first step that should be agreed on is a UN-observed cease-fire in conjunction with an end to the siege imposed on several Libyan cities. Once this is achieved, humanitarian organizations should be allowed immediate access. Then there should begin a transitional phase to a new regime that corresponds to the demands of the Libyan people for democracy and development. Any transitional phase would have to be managed by representatives of all the Libyan people across the country, including of all the tribes. The details of a proposed truce, however, are not easy to agree on among the parties. And any deal would amount to an admission of guilt by Qaddafi, something he is averse to. But if sufficient guarantees are provided for all concerned, it might be doable.

Meanwhile, the rebels should be focusing on a peaceful transition if their plan for a post-Qaddafi Libya is to metamorphose into reality. And if Libya is to avoid political paralysis in the post-Qaddafi period, it needs to get beyond the cult of personality that Qaddafi so famously represented. No one has the right to shape Libya’s future except for Libyans. The end of Qaddafi will not be the end of the story, of course. We know less about the rebels than we would like. And nation building could well lead to a government that is less friendly than what would have been liked. But whatever the end scenario, Qaddafi knows by now full well that he has no place in future plans for Libya. The longer it takes the Libyan ruler to accept this fact, and to act upon it, the harder he makes it for himself and his country to find an exit.

Arab News

Arab News is Saudi Arabia's first English-language newspaper. It was founded in 1975 by Hisham and Mohammed Ali Hafiz. Today, it is one of 29 publications produced by Saudi Research & Publishing Company (SRPC), a subsidiary of Saudi Research & Marketing Group (SRMG).

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