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.

August 13, 2018
Michael Colby
Migrant Injustice: Ben & Jerry’s Farmworker Exploitation
John Davis
California: Waging War on Wildfire
Alex Strauss
Chasing Shadows: Socialism Won’t Go Away Because It is Capitalism’s Antithesis 
Kathy Kelly
U.S. is Complicit in Child Slaughter in Yemen
Fran Shor
The Distemper of White Spite
Chad Hanson
We Know How to Protect Homes From Wildfires. Logging Isn’t the Way to Do It
Faisal Khan
Nawaz Sharif: Has Pakistan’s Houdini Finally Met his End?
Binoy Kampmark
Trump Versus Journalism: the Travails of Fourth Estate
Wim Laven
Honestly Looking at Family Values
Fred Gardner
Exploiting Styron’s Ghost
Dean Baker
Fact-Checking the Fact-Checker on Medicare-for-All
Weekend Edition
August 10, 2018
Friday - Sunday
David Price
Militarizing Space: Starship Troopers, Same As It Ever Was
Andrew Levine
No Attack on Iran, Yet
Melvin Goodman
The CIA’s Double Standard Revisited
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: The Grifter’s Lament
Aidan O'Brien
In Italy, There are 12,000 American Soldiers and 500,000 African Refugees: Connect the Dots 
Robert Fantina
Pity the Democrats and Republicans
Ishmael Reed
Am I More Nordic Than Members of the Alt Right?
Kristine Mattis
Dying of Consumption While Guzzling Snake Oil: a Realist’s Perspective on the Environmental Crisis
James Munson
The Upside of Defeat
Brian Cloughley
Pentagon Spending Funds the Politicians
Pavel Kozhevnikov
Cold War in the Sauna: Notes From a Russian American
Marilyn Garson
If the Gaza Blockade is Bad, Does That Make Hamas Good?
Sean Posey
Declinism Rising: An Interview with Morris Berman  
Jack Dresser
America’s Secret War on Yemen
Howard Lisnoff
The Use and Misuse of Charity: the Luck of the Draw in a Predatory System
Louis Proyect
In the Spirit of the Departed Munsees
Binoy Kampmark
Banning Alex Jones and Infowars
Mundher Al Adhami
On the Iraqi Protests, Now in Their Second Month 
Jeff Mackler
Nicaragua: Dynamics of an Interrupted Revolution
Robert Hunziker
Peter Wadhams, Professor Emeritus, Ocean Physics
David Macaray
Missouri Stands Tall on the Labor Front
Thomas Knapp
I Didn’t Join Facebook to “Feel Safe”
John Carroll Md
Are Haitian Doctors Burned Out?
Kim Ives
Who is Jean-Henry Céant, Haiti’s New Prime Minister Nominee?
Ted Rall
Corporate Democrats Would Rather Lose Than Include Progressives
Matthew Stevenson
Going Home Again to Trump’s America: the New York Emirate on a Bike
Manuel García, Jr.
Guesstimating Our Own Götterdämmerung
Basav Sen
Want to Create More Jobs? Reduce Fossil Fuel Use
Kent Paterson
The Great Crisis of Albuquerque
Yolanda Parker
I Grew Up in the Segregated South, For Me Supreme Court Rulings are Personal
John W. Whitehead
Institutionalizing Intolerance
Larry Checco
No More Whining on the Yacht
Dean Baker
Trump Derangement Syndrome at the NYT
Colin Todhunter
India: The State of Independence
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail