FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Tide Turns to Qaddafi?

Acall for action from the Arab League sounds like a contradiction in terms, given the 22-member organization’s reputation for ineffectiveness.

Its request for the UN Security Council to impose a no-fly zone over Libya may come too little, too late for the Libyan rebels whose military weakness has been underlined in the past few days by defeats in the east and west of the country.

For the first time, Colonel Muammar Qaddafi is beginning to look as if he may survive and even crush the rebellion against him that seemed close to victory two weeks ago. A no-fly zone, even if was imposed, would be unlikely at this stage to stop his counter-attacks, which depend more on tanks and artillery than airpower.

Such a no-fly zone is, in any case, far from being inevitable since the US may not support such a resolution at the Security Council. When the idea was first mooted, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said setting up such a zone would in practice be the opening act of a war because the US would have to attack Libyan air defenses. To turn the tide in the fighting, the US and its allies would probably have to do a lot more, such as using its planes to prevent the pro-Qaddafi units advancing on Benghazi.

The Libyan government has also had some luck in that the Japanese earthquake has shifted international media attention away from Libya for the first time in three weeks. Political pressure against Qaddafi and in favor of the rebels is likely to subside once it is no longer in the spotlight. If, however, his forces engage in well-publicized massacres in recaptured towns, then he might, once again, risk international intervention.

The first military successes of the regime are also serving to underline that the rebel leadership, supposedly grouped in the National Transition Council, has remained fragmented and unable to weld enthusiastic but untrained volunteers into an effective military force. The loss of Zawiya, west of Tripoli, and the oil ports of Ras Lanuf and Brega to the south of Benghazi, show that lightly armed militia face inevitable defeat when assaulted by armor backed by artillery.

It remains a mystery of the uprising why the estimated 6,000 troops, whose defection led to the rebels seizing eastern Libya, have not been seen in the front line. Their commanders are not united and appear to be hedging their bets by staying out of the fighting.

Much will depend on whether or not pro-Qaddafi troops can keep up the momentum of their initial advance and move on Benghazi. If they do, then events may outpace action by the US, Nato and European leaders. If, on the other hand, the rebels hold on to the east of Libya, then the broadly-based but confused international backing for them may jell and lead to action.

The significance of the move by the Arab League is that it gives US or Nato a cloak of Arab support and intervention will not look like a rerun of Iraq. It underlines the degree to which Qaddafi is isolated internationally, though he will present a no fly-zone or any other action against him, as an imperialist venture to be resisted.

The lesson of the Libyan rebellion so far is that both Qaddafi and his enemies command few forces they can wholly rely on. It will not take much to tip the balance, but a no-fly zone may no longer be enough to save the rebels.

PATRICK COCKBURN is the author of “Muqtada: Muqtada Al-Sadr, the Shia Revival, and the Struggle for Iraq

 

 

 

More articles by:

Patrick Cockburn is the author of  The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution.

Weekend Edition
May 25, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
A Major Win for Trump’s War Cabinet
Andrew Levine
Could Anything Cause the GOP to Dump Trump?
Pete Tucker
Is the Washington Post Soft on Amazon?
Conn Hallinan
Iran: Sanctions & War
Jeffrey St. Clair
Out of Space: John McCain, Telescopes and the Desecration of Mount Graham
John Laforge
Senate Puts CIA Back on Torture Track
David Rosen
Santa Fe High School Shooting: an Incel Killing?
Gary Leupp
Pompeo’s Iran Speech and the 21 Demands
Jonathan Power
Bang, Bang to Trump
Robert Fisk
You Can’t Commit Genocide Without the Help of Local People
Brian Cloughley
Washington’s Provocations in the South China Sea
Louis Proyect
Requiem for a Mountain Lion
Robert Fantina
The U.S. and Israel: a Match Made in Hell
Kevin Martin
The Libya Model: It’s Not Always All About Trump
Susie Day
Trump, the NYPD and the People We Call “Animals”
Pepe Escobar
How Iran Will Respond to Trump
Sarah Anderson
When CEO’s Earn 5,000 Times as Much as a Company’s Workers
Ralph Nader
Audit the Outlaw Military Budget Draining America’s Necessities
Chris Wright
The Significance of Karl Marx
David Schultz
Indict or Not: the Choice Mueller May Have to Make and Which is Worse for Trump
George Payne
The NFL Moves to Silence Voices of Dissent
Razan Azzarkani
America’s Treatment of Palestinians Has Grown Horrendously Cruel
Katalina Khoury
The Need to Evaluate the Human Constructs Enabling Palestinian Genocide
George Ochenski
Tillerson, the Truth and Ryan Zinke’s Interior Department
Jill Richardson
Our Immigration Debate Needs a Lot More Humanity
Martha Rosenberg
Once Again a Slaughterhouse Raid Turns Up Abuses
Judith Deutsch
Pension Systems and the Deadly Hand of the Market
Shamus Cooke
Oregon’s Poor People’s Campaign and DSA Partner Against State Democrats
Thomas Barker
Only a Mass Struggle From Below Can End the Bloodshed in Palestine
Binoy Kampmark
Australia’s China Syndrome
Missy Comley Beattie
Say “I Love You”
Ron Jacobs
A Photographic Revenge
Saurav Sarkar
War and Moral Injury
Clark T. Scott
The Shell Game and “The Bank Dick”
Seth Sandronsky
The State of Worker Safety in America
Thomas Knapp
Making Gridlock Great Again
Manuel E. Yepe
The US Will Have to Ask for Forgiveness
Laura Finley
Stop Blaming Women and Girls for Men’s Violence Against Them
Rob Okun
Raising Boys to Love and Care, Not to Kill
Christopher Brauchli
What Conflicts of Interest?
Winslow Myers
Real Security
George Wuerthner
Happy Talk About Weeds
Abel Cohen
Give the People What They Want: Shame
David Yearsley
King Arthur in Berlin
Douglas Valentine
Memorial Day
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail