Sunday, 6 March 2011

Gaddafi Spin Continues ...

Celebrations are reported to have broken out when Libyan television reported that the towns of Misurata, Ras Lanuf, Tobruk and Az Zawiyah have been retaken by Gaddafi forces. Libyan television also reported that Gaddafi forces were marching on Benghazi. Yet reports from within these towns deny that this is the case. However, there is on-the-ground reporting from a reporter and informant in Ras Lanuf and MIsurata (respectively) that these towns are still under anti-Gaddafi control.  It may be that the celebrations in Tripoli are an orchestrated morale boost, designed to ensure that residents in Tripoli remain firmly under the grip of Gaddafi forces.

Indeed, if Gaddafi forces are moving towards Benghazi it is because his hand has been forced. Rebel forces from Benghazi were advancing towards Tripoli and had taken the town of Ras Lanuf, in preparation for an attempt to get through the Sirte Basin, which is Gaddafi's birthplace. When I last checked anti-Gaddafi forces have claimed that they have moved further westward, having taken the towns of Bin Jawad and al-Nawfaliyeh, exerting further pressure on Gaddafi.  It seems that Gaddafi has essentially been forced into taking action to stop this advane, yet my suspicion is that the advance on Tripoli will continue.

In the gulf war, Saddam and his cronies were claiming victory even as foreign troops were surrounding the capital. Until the end, they were still hoping to raise morale amongst their troops, hoping for a turnaround, a rope-a-dope. But it never came. For the Gaddafi regime to be claiming victories that do not seem to have actually occurred is probably not new to Libyans, yet psychological warfare is probably the only line of defence he has left. According to Tarek Yousef of Dubai University, Libya is in danger of falling into a protracted, low frequency war, which will ultimately result in the factionalisation of the country, fulfilling the prophecies that Saif El Islam Gaddafi was at pains to explain would be the ultimate fate of Libya in his initial interview - a self-fulfilled prophecy in the making.

Yet if Gaddafi forces manage to take control of cities that have fallen to anti-Gaddafi forces, it is also conceivable that armed resistance from civilian protestors and defected army members will continue as urban guerilla conflicts break out in cities, resulting in a total breakdown and failure of the Libyan state itself. Desperate requests have been issued for the enforcement of a no-fly zone over Libya. The National Libyan Council has been formed in Benghazi, in order to forge a politically representative body for the anti-Gaddafi protesters - in order to consolidate anti-Gaddafi support and prevent the fragmentation of the opposition. The ability of this representative body to garner support throughout the country will no doubt be key in ensuring that a national revolution is achieved through the efforts to depose the Gaddafi regime. However, the international community has to lend its support to this newly formed council by recognising the body and by enforcing a no-fly zone over Libya. Otherwise, we run the danger of watching another long and bloody civil war unfold in Libya that will take years to quell, if that is indeed ever achieved once fragmentation has reached a tipping point. 

But for now, there is unity in the anti-Gaddafi camps, and there is speculation that even the basin of Sirte has tribes and tribal leaders that are willing to turn against Gaddafi. Once the anti-Gaddafi forces have passed through Sirte the advance on the capital will be inevitable, yet what remains is for recognition and support to follow from the international community, and for a no-fly zone to be enforced over Libya, so that Gaddafi's forces are restricted to on-the-ground fighting where there will no doubt be even more defections to the opposition. It is easier to dispatch two war-planes into the war zone than to maintain supply lines and command lines to hundreds of troops. The no fly zone needs to be put in place now, and the UN needs to take the steps that are required to reach this decision, and soon. 

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