Libyan Rebels in Retreat

by KIM SENGUPTA

Fresh diplomatic efforts are under way to try to end Libya’s bloody civil war, with the UN special envoy flying to Tripoli to hold talks after Britain followed France in accepting that Muammar Gaddafi cannot be bombed into exile.

The change of stance by the two most active countries in the international coalition is an acceptance of realities on the ground. Despite more than four months of sustained air strikes by Nato, the rebels have failed to secure any military advantage. Colonel Gaddafi has survived what observers perceive as attempts to eliminate him and, despite the defection of a number of senior commanders, there is no sign that he will be dethroned in a palace coup.

The regime controls around 20 per cent more territory than it did in the immediate aftermath of the uprising on 17 February.

The main obstacle to a ceasefire, so far, has been the insistence of the opposition and their Western backers that Colonel Gaddafi and his family must leave Libya. But earlier this month Mustafa Abdul Jalil, the leader of the Transitional National Council, stated that the dictator can remain in the country if he gives up the reins of power.

The French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, had wanted to declare victory in a Bastille Day speech on 14 July. Soon after this date, the country’s Defence and Foreign Ministers pressed the case for a negotiated settlement.

The UK, which appeared to have been taken by surprise at the French volte-face, tried to maintain a tough line. But that has also changed in the last 48 hours, with first Downing Street and then the Foreign Secretary William Hague saying that Colonel Gaddafi may after all be allowed to remain in his homeland. Mr Hague said the UK would support whatever agreement was reached by the two sides in Libya.

Many senior British military officers have been less than enthusiastic about the Libyan mission, questioning its direction, and privately complaining that it is a distraction from unfinished business in Afghanistan. David Cameron’s attempts to censure commanders who have raised concerns about fighting two wars while resources are being cut back has also led to growing dissatisfaction.

The UN envoy to Libya, Abdul Elah al-Khatib, had met opposition leaders in Benghazi before flying to Tripoli.

Meanwhile, the Libyan regime, which had offered an unconditional ceasefire a month ago, with senior members indicating that Colonel Gaddafi would be eased out, appears to have hardened its position, with officials maintaining that Nato bombing must stop before any talks can be held and demanding the release of Libyan assets frozen by the international community.

It remains unclear how a peace deal would be policed. Nato countries are adamant that they do not want to put boots on the ground, while Alain Le Roy, the UN’s head of peacekeeping operations, has stated that the organisation only has limited manpower. The rebel administration is wary of involving African Union forces, holding that many of the governments of member states were clients of the Gaddafi regime.

* The Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, who was released from prison in Scotland almost two years ago in the expectation that he would die within three months, has attended a pro-Gaddafi rally in Libya.

Megrahi was seen in a wheelchair in Libyan state television footage said to have been broadcast live. A presenter introduced him and said the conviction for blowing Pan Am Flight 103 out of the sky over Lockerbie in 1988 was a "conspiracy". He served eight years of a 27-year sentence for the attack, which killed 270 people.

Kim Sengupta writes for the Independent, where this dispatch originally appeared.

 

 

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
Weekend Edition
August 28-30, 2015
Jeffrey St. Clair
Long Time Coming, Long Time Gone
Mike Whitney
Looting Made Easy: the $2 Trillion Buyback Binge
Randy Blazak
Donald Trump is the New Face of White Supremacy
Alan Nasser
The Myth of the Middle Class: Have Most Americans Always Been Poor?
Rob Urie
Wall Street and the Cycle of Crises
Andrew Levine
Viva Trump?
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
Behind the Congressional Disagreements Over the Iran Nuclear Deal
Lawrence Ware – Marcus T. McCullough
I Won’t Say Amen: Three Black Christian Clichés That Must Go
Evan Jones
Zionism in Britain: a Neglected Chronicle
John Wight
Learning About the Migration Crisis From Ancient Rome
Andre Vltchek
Lebanon – What if it Fell?
Charles Pierson
How the US and the WTO Crushed India’s Subsidies for Solar Energy
Robert Fantina
Hillary Clinton, Palestine and the Long View
Ben Burgis
Gore Vidal Was Right: What Best of Enemies Leaves Out
Suzanne Gordon
How Vets May Suffer From McCain’s Latest Captivity
Robert Sandels - Nelson P. Valdés
The Cuban Adjustment Act: the Other Immigration Mess
Uri Avnery
The Molten Three: Israel’s Aborted Strike on Iran
John Stanton
Israel’s JINSA Earns Return on Investment: 190 Americans Admirals and Generals Oppose Iran Deal
Bill Yousman
The Fire This Time: Ta-Nehisi Coates’s “Between the World and Me”
Scott Parkin
Katrina Plus Ten: Climate Justice in Action
Michael Welton
The Conversable World: Finding a Compass in Post-9/11 Times
Brian Cloughley
Don’t be Black in America
Kent Paterson
In Search of the Great New Mexico Chile Pepper in a Post-NAFTA Era
Binoy Kampmark
Live Death on Air: The Killings at WDBJ
Gui Rochat
The Guise of American Democracy
Emma Scully
Vultures Over Puerto Rico: the Financial Implications of Dependency
Chuck Churchill
Is “White Skin Privilege” the Key to Understanding Racism?
Kathleen Wallace
The Id(iots) Emerge
Andrew Stewart
Zionist Hip-Hop: a Critical Look at Matisyahu
Gregg Shotwell
The Fate of the UAW: Study, Aim, Fire
Halyna Mokrushyna
Decentralization Reform in Ukraine
Norman Pollack
World Capitalism, a Basket Case: A Layman’s View
Sarah Lazare
Listening to Iraq
John Laforge
NSP/Xcel Energy Falsified Welding Test Documents on Rad Waste Casks
Wendell G Bradley
Drilling for Wattenberg Oil is Not Profitable
Joy First
Wisconsin Walk for Peace and Justice: Nine Arrested at Volk Field
Mel Gurtov
China’s Insecurity
Mateo Pimentel
An Operator’s Guide to Trump’s Racism
Yves Engler
Harper Conservatives and Abuse of Power
Michael Dickinson
Police Guns of Brixton: Another Unarmed Black Shot by London Cops
Ron Jacobs
Daydream Sunset: a Playlist
Charles R. Larson
The Beginning of the Poppy Wars: Amitav Ghosh’s “Flood of Fire”
David Yearsley
A Rising Star Over a Dark Forest
August 27, 2015
Sam Husseini
Foreign Policy, Sanders-Style: Backing Saudi Intervention
Brad Evans – Henry A. Giroux
Self-Plagiarism and the Politics of Character Assassination: the Case of Zygmunt Bauman