Where is Libya's way out of crisis?

Military operations against Libya launched by multinational forces have lasted one month and pro- and anti-government forces in the country are still locked in their prolonged seesaw war. Where Libya will go and how to get out of the crisis has been the major concern of the international community and the Libyans themselves.

On March 19, France, Britain and the United States took the lead in launching airstrikes on Libya, attacking forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi with missiles and bombs after the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya in a bid to protect civilians in the North African country.

However, more and more countries, organizations and political parties are raising questions about the motives, methods and the results of Western powers' military actions. Many political analysts and experts believe that the military action, or military action alone, only worsens, rather than improve the humanitarian situation there.

Motives of Military Action Questioned

Some analysts believed that Western countries may have their own agenda other than enforcing a no-fly zone and protect Libyan civilians.

Some Sudanese analysts said economic and political interests were behind the Western intervention and that protests in Libya had become a tool for western interests.

Sudanese political analyst Abdullatif Haj Hussein told Xinhua that the intervention was made "under the pretext of implementing the U.N. resolution."

"We have learnt from Iraq and Afghanistan's experience that foreign intervention is associated, to a great extent, with political and economic interests," he said.

Libya's oil constitutes "two thirds of the needs of some of the countries participating in the imposition of the no-fly zone over Libya" and "these countries are seeking to secure their oil interests in Libya", Haj Hussein said.

"The ambitions of the big powers have played a key role in changing the path of the Libyan protest and it is now clear that there are big countries seeking to draw a new map for north Africa and the southern Mediterranean. The Libyan event has availed a great opportunity for implementing this plan," he noted.

Sudanese political analyst Abdul-Rahim Al-Sunny said that the main objective behind the foreign intervention "is to divide Libya into two parts -- east and west" and bring the country back to "a historical era that existed before the rule of King Al-Sanousi."

"The current war in Libya serves the Western economy because the big powers sell arms on one part and invest on the other," he said.

It is in the West's interest "to prolong the conflict in Libya for as long as possible" and they are seemingly not keen "on overthrowing Gaddafi."

Western countries are afraid that the Islamists would control Libya if Gaddafi is overthrown, said Al-Sunny.

These experts said that the importance of the Libyan oil does not lie in its quantity but in its quality. Libya produces 2 million barrels of oil per day and it is planning to increase its daily output to 3 million barrels in the coming years. Meanwhile, the oil companies in Libya discovered 24 new oil sites last year.

Military Intervention Will not Solve Crisis

Many countries and international and regional stakeplayers, including the African Union, have expressed their opposition to any military intervention to solve the current crisis in the country and stressed that military intervention can only worsen the humanitarian situation there. This view was shared many political scholars and experts.

The foreign military intervention will not solve the current crisis in Libya, but worsen the situation with the risk of dividing the country as the conflict lingers on, said Ahmed Adhimi, an Algerian professor at Algiers University.

The change in the course of action in the Libyan revolt shows that the conflict may last longer, and even lead to the split of the country into two parts, with the west controlled by Gaddafi and the east led by the National Transitional Council (TNC) representing the rebels, Adhimi added.

In fact, the Libyan opposition had criticized NATO for acting too slowly and ineffectively in its military strike.

Emphasizing that NATO has taken full responsibility for the military intervention in Libya now, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen argued that the international community and NATO had to act in Libya with the support of the international community, including authorization by UN Security Council Resolution 1973.

NATO's military action in Libya currently includes three key aspects - policing the arms embargo, patrolling the no-fly zone and protecting civilians from attack. It has three key objectives -- stopping all attacks and the threat of attacks against civilians and civilian populated areas, seeing a "credible and verifiable" withdrawal of all the government's forces back to their bases, and forcing the Libyan government to allow "immediate, full, safe and unhindered" humanitarian assistance to all the people of Libya.

Handicapped by a shortage of heavy weapons and experienced soldiers, rebels can hardly win the battle without outside support. They were cornered in eastern Libya by advancing pro-Gaddafi forces before multinational forces started airstrikes.

Vittorio Emanuele Parsi, an Italian professor of international relations at the Catholic University of Milan, attributed NATO's ineffective military action to the marginal role played by the United States which has more advanced weapons that other NATO members do not have.

Western countries are considering stepping up their military intervention in Libya, including sending ground troops to escort humanitarian aid convoys as well as military officers to support rebels, although the Libyan government firmly rebuffed it.

French military officers reportedly have arrived in Benghazi, rebels' stronghold in eastern Libya. Other European countries such as Austria have said they will send their military officers there.

Parsi said that Western powers are determined to win in this conflict because any other solution would make them lose credibility, and leave them vulnerable "in front of the entire world."

Political Means Key to Ending Crisis

As Western countries are planning a greater military intervention in Libya, voices for political solutions are also rising. Some officials and analysts said that political means is key to end the conflict in the country.

Jean Ping, chairperson of the African Union (AU) Commission, said in Washington on Wednesday that the AU has never favored a military solution to the crisis in Libya.

"Since the beginning, we thought that the situation in Libya should be solved in a political way, and our roadmap is clear enough concerning the solution in Libya," he said.

He noted that since the Libya Contact Group met last week in Qatar's capital of Doha, the AU has observed that "we're moved now from the military activities to a search of a political solution to Libya."

Signs of brokering a peace deal between rebels and pro-Gaddafi forces remained absent and a political solution is needed, said Bruce Jones, director and senior fellow of New York University's Center on International Cooperation, adding there is a room for political solutions in Libya.

When meeting with NATO's foreign ministers in Berlin, Germany, last week, NATO chief Rasmussen said that military power alone cannot provide the solution to this crisis.

The alliance is composed of 14 out of 28 members actively participating - joined by other nations like Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Sweden.

The Arab League supported U.N. Resolution 1973 last month -- authorizing a no-fly zone over Libya to protect civilians -- but would not go any further, said Omar Turbi, expert on U.S.-Libya relations.

People have rising skepticism on foreign intervention after the West failed in post-war reconstruction of Iraq and Afghanistan. Still, Libyan rebels can benefit from a diplomatic resolution in terms of "power sharing in a country that's still standing, rather than taking all power in a collapsed state," Jones said.

Any political solution should be controlled by the Libyan people themselves, Turbi added.

Rasmussen acknowledged last Friday that ultimately there is no "purely military solution" to the crisis in Libya and that is why the international community is urgently seeking a political settlement.

"It is never easy to forge a broad-based agreement to take military action," he said.

[Source: Xinhua, Beijing, 21Apr11]

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