Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Please Support CounterPunch’s Annual Fund Drive
We don’t run corporate ads. We don’t shake our readers down for money every month or every quarter like some other sites out there. We only ask you once a year, but when we ask we mean it. So, please, help as much as you can. We provide our site for free to all, but the bandwidth we pay to do so doesn’t come cheap. All contributions are tax-deductible.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Libya as Proxy

If the media in the G7 states bothered to report it, they mocked the two visits of the World Chess Federation president Kirsan Ilyumzhinov to Tripoli. Was Qaddafi playing chess while his country burned? Ilyumzhinov is not a chess maestro. From 1993 to 2010, he was the president of Kalmykia, a small republic in the CIS. Ilyumzhinov became head of the Chess Federation in 1995, using that post to bring the championships to the capital of Kalmykia, Elista, several times, as well as once trying to hold it in Baghdad (1996) and once holding it in Tripoli (2004). His chess might not be at the standard of Viswanath Anand or Boris Gelfand, but he is as eccentric as some of the leading chess players (he believes that aliens gifted chess to our planet).

On June 12, Ilyumzhinov was in Tripoli playing Qaddafi. When it became clear that he would win, Ilyumzhinov declared the game a draw. After the trip, Russia’s Africa envoy, Mikhail Mergelov said that he spoke to Ilyumzhinov before his trip, “I advised him to play white and to give Qaddafi to understand that he was nearing an end game.”

Russia often sends mysterious couriers to carry its messages. Ilyumzhinov went to Baghdad shortly before the Gulf War re-opened in 2003, where he met Saddam Hussein’s son Uday. What message did he carry then, and what message will he carry now?

On July 3-4, the Russia-NATO Council met in Sochi, the Black Sea resort. The main item on the agenda was for NATO to smooth Russia’s ruffled feathers. The Council was created in 2002 to make sure that the increased tensions between the two did not detract from Russia’s support of the War on Terror. NATO’s gradual march eastward, attracting former Eastern bloc states into its agenda came just after NATO’s air war in Yugoslavia (1999) and its war in Afghanistan (2001 onward). All this looked to Moscow like encirclement. Bush’s insistence upon missile defense, and the U. S. push to bring NATO into its missile defense plans rattled Moscow. The war over South Ossetia in 2008 allowed Moscow to flex its muscles.

Over the past decade, Russia has moved closer to the new formation that comes out of the Non-Aligned Movement, the G-15 and the India-Brazil-South Africa (IBSA) formation. China joined IBSA to block the new trade rules that would have gone through in Cancun (2003) and to formulate a common agenda at the Copenhagen (2009) meeting on climate. These discussions and the creation of a common platform produced the BRICS formation, which met earlier this year at Hainan, China. Russia, long adrift somewhere between its own Cold War past and Boris Yeltin’s subservience to the U. S., found a new diplomatic purchase with the locomotives of the Global South.

At Hainan, in April, the BRICS powers strongly criticized NATO’s war on Libya, and formulated the principles that would appear in the African Union High Level Ad Hoc Committee on Libya’s  June 15 statement to the UN. BRICS held out for a negotiated settlement. Ruhakana Rugunda, of Uganda, represented the AU at the UN meeting, where he pointedly noted, “It is unwise for certain players to be intoxicated with technological superiority and begin to think they alone can alter the course of human history towards freedom for the whole of mankind. Certainly, no constellation of states should think that they can recreate hegemony over Africa” (Rugunda was the Ugandan representative to the UN, and has now been moved to a domestic cabinet post). The AU told the UN that given its experience in Burundi, in particular, it would be able to handle the negotiation and the transition in Libya.

It was in this context that the Russians involved themselves in the Libyan stalemate, with some chess diplomacy at the same time as they tried to push back in the halls of NATO. At Sochi, Russian president Medvedev invited South African president Jacob Zuma, who has been at the head of the AU’s attempts in Libya, to join the deliberations. Zuma told the NATO chiefs that they had overstepped the UN Resolutions (1970 and 1973), and that the only way forward was negotiations. If the NATO chiefs could pressure the Benghazi Transitional Council to back down from its maximalist position (Qaddafi must go immediately), Zuma suggested, the way could open for peace talks. The NATO chiefs listened to Zuma tell them about the AU’s Framework Agreement on a Political Settlement, and watched Medvedev applaud the AU for its work and offer his support to the Framework and the AU’s Roadmap. Russia and the AU offered to lean on Qaddafi to abide by the terms of the Roadmap, and they wanted NATO to lean on the Transitional Council to do the same.

NATO left Sochi indifferent to Russian concerns over missile defense, with anodyne promises over progress at their next meeting in Chicago. On Libya, there was no progress. Libya is the first battleground of a new “cold war,” this one not between the U. S, and the Russia, but between the G7 (and its military arm, NATO) and the BRICS (who have not much of a military arm). The G7 commands the skies and, increasingly shakily,  the rhetoric of freedom, but it does not have a sustainable economic base and no sense of a political process that does not come with aerial bombardment.

The BRICS failed to gather around their candidate for the IMF post, and so far have failed to articulate an alternative to the deflationary strategies of the international financial organizations. On the politics of economics, in other words, BRICS have been less successful. On the question of international politics, they have been a bother to the G7. On Syria, the BRICS will not allow any strong UN resolution. The grounds are that NATO misused Resolution 1973 on Libya, and it would do the same in Syria (the G7’s case on Syria was made by the French representative to the UN G?rard Araud on June 13 in O Estado de Sao Paulo, to win over the Brazilians away from what the French see as South African obduracy). The BRICS tried to stop Resolution 1973 in the first instance, but Zuma, at that time, buckled after a personal phone call from Obama. His militancy now is perhaps compensation for South Africa ditching the BRICS bloc then.

Ilyumzhinov, now more openly Russia’s envoy to Libya, arrived in Tripoli over the weekend. He met with Qaddafi’s son Muhammed, who is actually a good chess player and heads the official chess federation. Ilyumzhinov was told that Qaddafi plans to die on Libyan soil, although a senior Russian official told Kommersant that Qaddafi has hinted that he would give up power “in exchange for security guarantees.” He won’t leave prior to negotiations, however, and the Benghazi leadership won’t talk unless he leaves: that is the main stalemate. Benghazi reflects NATO’s view. The BRICS are no longer invested in Qaddafi’s maintenance (you don’t hear “brother leader” in the AU meetings any longer). They simply want to find a rational way to end the conflict. The Libyan war is no longer about Libya alone, nor about the Arab Spring. It is a test case for the transition from the “American Century” to the era of the South’s locomotives. The U. S. and the G7 will not allow for a graceful transition. History will judge them poorly for their stubbornness.

Vijay will be speaking tonight in Boston on Arab Spring-Libyan Winter. Click here for details.

Vijay Prashad is the George and Martha Kellner Chair of South Asian History and Director of International Studies at Trinity College, Hartford, CT His most recent book, The Darker Nations: A People’s History of the Third World, won the Muzaffar Ahmad Book Prize for 2009. The Swedish and French editions are just out. CounterPunchers in the Boston area can hear Prashad live  here on July 7. He can be reached at: vijay.prashad@trincoll.edu

 

 

 

 

 

More articles by:

Vijay Prashad’s most recent book is No Free Left: The Futures of Indian Communism (New Delhi: LeftWord Books, 2015).

October 16, 2018
Gregory Elich
Diplomatic Deadlock: Can U.S.-North Korea Diplomacy Survive Maximum Pressure?
Rob Seimetz
Talking About Death While In Decadence
Kent Paterson
Fifty Years of Mexican October
Robert Fantina
Trump, Iran and Sanctions
Greg Macdougall
Indigenous Suicide in Canada
Kenneth Surin
On Reading the Diaries of Tony Benn, Britain’s Greatest Labour Politician
Andrew Bacevich
Unsolicited Advice for an Undeclared Presidential Candidate: a Letter to Elizabeth Warren
Thomas Knapp
Facebook Meddles in the 2018 Midterm Elections
Muhammad Othman
Khashoggi and Demetracopoulos
Gerry Brown
Lies, Damn Lies & Statistics: How the US Weaponizes Them to Accuse  China of Debt Trap Diplomacy
Christian Ingo Lenz Dunker – Peter Lehman
The Brazilian Presidential Elections and “The Rules of The Game”
Robert Fisk
What a Forgotten Shipwreck in the Irish Sea Can Tell Us About Brexit
Martin Billheimer
Here Cochise Everywhere
David Swanson
Humanitarian Bombs
Dean Baker
The Federal Reserve is Not a Church
October 15, 2018
Rob Urie
Climate Crisis is Upon Us
Conn Hallinan
Syria’s Chessboard
Patrick Cockburn
The Saudi Atrocities in Yemen are a Worse Story Than the Disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi
Sheldon Richman
Trump’s Middle East Delusions Persist
Justin T. McPhee
Uberrima Fides? Witness K, East Timor and the Economy of Espionage
Tom Gill
Spain’s Left Turn?
Jeff Cohen
Few Democrats Offer Alternatives to War-Weary Voters
Dean Baker
Corporate Debt Scares
Gary Leupp
The Khashoggi Affair and and the Anti-Iran Axis
Russell Mokhiber
Sarah Chayes Calls on West Virginians to Write In No More Manchins
Clark T. Scott
Acclimated Behaviorisms
Kary Love
Evolution of Religion
Colin Todhunter
From GM Potatoes to Glyphosate: Regulatory Delinquency and Toxic Agriculture
Binoy Kampmark
Evacuating Nauru: Médecins Sans Frontières and Australia’s Refugee Dilemma
Marvin Kitman
The Kitman Plan for Peace in the Middle East: Two Proposals
Weekend Edition
October 12, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Becky Grant
My History with Alexander Cockburn and The Financial Future of CounterPunch
Paul Street
For Popular Sovereignty, Beyond Absurdity
Nick Pemberton
The Colonial Pantsuit: What We Didn’t Want to Know About Africa
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Summer of No Return
Jeff Halper
Choices Made: From Zionist Settler Colonialism to Decolonization
Gary Leupp
The Khashoggi Incident: Trump’s Special Relationship With the Saudi Monarchy
Andrew Levine
Democrats: Boost, Knock, Enthuse
Barbara Kantz
The Deportation Crisis: Report From Long Island
Doug Johnson
Nate Silver and 538’s Measurable 3.5% Democratic Bias and the 2018 House Race
Gwen Carr
This Stops Today: Seeking Justice for My Son Eric Garner
Robert Hunziker
Peak Carbon Emissions By 2020, or Else!
Arshad Khan
Is There Hope on a World Warming at 1.5 Degrees Celsius?
David Rosen
Packing the Supreme Court in the 21stCentury
Brian Cloughley
Trump’s Threats of Death and Destruction
Joel A. Harrison
The Case for a Non-Profit Single-Payer Healthcare System
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail