Endgame in Libya

The Arab Awakening so passionately projected by the Western media, together with euphoric forecasts of a dawn of democracy and birth of a new Middle East, has to date failed to find any direction or destination, despite the lapse of four months. Chaos, confusion and uncertainty continue to prevail in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain and Yemen, which have gone through this tumultuous transition.

Libya is a case in itself. In the flush of excitement, the violent protests in eastern Libya in mid-February were seized upon by the West to get rid of Qaddafi. President Mubarak was forced by popular uprising to step down on February 11 at the intervention of the Egyptian army but without external interference, after three weeks of massive demonstrations which resulted in the loss of 846 lives.

The uprising against Col Qaddafi erupted on February 17 and, within a week, France and Britain began to talk of “horrific crimes” by the Qaddafi forces against the rebels. The media reported 400 dead and 2,000 wounded by March 2. The Western powers decided that it was “time for Qaddafi to go.” French president Sarkozy extended recognition to the rebels’ National Council and the UK, Italy and France moved unilaterally to establish a no-fly zone in Libya in support of the rebels.

The UN was manipulated and the Security Council passed Resolution 1973 on February 27 imposing sanctions and authorising “all necessary measures” to protect civilians. Thus, in the name of a “humanitarian mission,” the Western powers began pounding Libyan air defences and Col Qaddafi’s command headquarters, leading to many civilian casualties. Russia, China, India and other countries that had abstained on the Security Council resolution protested against the indiscriminate bombing, stating that air strikes exceeded the mandate of the UN resolution. They asked for an immediate ceasefire.

The Arab League, which had earlier favoured the no-fly zone, endorsed the call: “What we want is the protection of civilians, and not bombardment of more civilians.” Despite growing international criticism, the air strikes, which are patently beyond the UN resolution, have continued unabated.

All this brings out the reality that behind the facade of a “humanitarian mission,” the Western powers’ real objectives are regime-change, division of Libya and control of its oil resources. The situation in Libya is, by any definition, a civil war situation. The Qaddafi government is engaged in putting down an armed insurrection. There are no lofty goals of democracy, human rights, or human freedom that the Western media credits the opposition with. Neither is there any evidence of “violence on a horrific scale” that President Obama mentioned in his speeches, invoking “US moral responsibility.”

In a grotesque distortion of facts, Obama held the high moral ground, declaring that “some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries. The US is different, and as president, I refuse to wait for the images of slaughter and mass graves before taking action.” These words have a familiar ring and are reminiscent of Bush’s statement about WMDs in Iraq and the imperative need to destroy Saddam in the interest of global peace and security.

We all know how deception and deliberate lies were employed in aggression against Iraq. The present war against Col Qaddafi is also justified on vastly inflated claims of his barbaric and brutal action against the rebels. The mask of humanitarian mission has been blown over. The removal of Qaddafi is the official objective. “Qaddafi and his regime have completely lost legitimacy and will be held for their action,” declared the final statement of the London Conference on Libya on March 29.

Moreover, Nato’s military intervention has to date failed to halt the fighting or force Qaddafi’s forces into submission. The rejection by the West of the cease fire by Qaddafi on March 22 and of the peace plan by the African Union exposes the mala fide intentions of the West. The African Union rightly accused Western nations of undermining efforts to find a home-grown solution to the Libyan conflict, “specifically the timely implementation of the AU roadmap in a way that is fully consistent with and complementary to the UNSC resolution.”

It has been six week since Nato launched air strikes in Libya, and despite heavy bombardment and open support to the rebels, the coalition has failed to make any significant gain. The stalemate may continue much longer than anticipated and may bring more destruction.

From the beginning of the Libyan crisis, it has been obvious that Western intervention has been inspired and driven by a pathological hatred of Qaddafi. Now the scope has been further extended beyond regime-change. The target now is Qaddafi himself, as is evident from the attacks on his residence that killed his 29-year-old son Saif-al-Arab and three grandchildren. In 1986, US jets had attacked Tripoli and killed Qaddafi’s little daughter.

The conflict is likely to turn into a prolonged and bloody stalemate. There is no evidence that Qaddafi’s grip on the situation has been weakened. The situation in Libya never presented any threat to the national interests of the Nato powers or the US. It has been a naked demonstration of gunboat diplomacy, aimed at securing the oil resources of Libya.

The Western adventure in Libya has dangerous manifestations. It is unfortunate that the Arab World has quietly watched the aggression and allowed itself to become complicit. Crown Prince Hassan of Jordan’s assertion that the invasion of Libya is justified under the resolution of the 2005 UN General Assembly that acknowledges a “responsibility to protect population from genocide, war crimes, ethnic-cleansing and crimes against humanity,” is totally disingenuous. None of the above mentioned threats exist in the Libyan situation.

Pakistan’s official reaction calling for a “peaceful political solution to be evolved by the Libyan people themselves in the spirit of mutual accommodation and national reconciliation” represents the most appropriate solution. Regrettably, however, none of the Muslim nations or organisations such as the OIC and the Arab League have taken the initiative seeking a negotiated political settlement. To their eternal shame, these nations have watched the events as indifferent bystanders, not realising that the Nato invasion constitutes a most dangerous precedent and invoking the “responsibility to protect” could pose serious threats to their integrity and sovereignty in the not-too-distant future. Syria may perhaps be the next victim.

One final thought for serious reflection: A North Korean statement held that Libya’s dismantling of its nuclear weapons programme made it vulnerable to Western military intervention. Libya was duped in 2003 when it abandoned its major weapons programme in exchange for promises of aid and lifting of sanctions. North Korea believes that the West’s offer was “an invasion tactic to disarm the country. The Libyan crisis is teaching the international community a grave lesson.” Is it not?

[Source: By Tayyab Siddiqui, The News International, Islamabad, 19May11]

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