If the leaders of the countries bonded together in the International Coalition that is helping the Benghazi rebels sustain the turmoil in Libya initially thought that eliminating the Gaddafi government would be a cake walk, they had it wrong. Two months after rushing into Libya to enforce the UN Security Council’s Resolution 1973 on a “no-fly zone” and to solve humanitarian problems, efforts at toppling Gaddafi from power have produced nothing but massive destruction of Libyan property and lives.
The campaign is active only in two main senses: its devastation of Libyan infrastructure and human lives that NATO has refused to account for; and the emergence of the National Transitional Council for the rebel leadership to present itself as the “legitimate government of Libya” and to seek financial and material support, further humanitarian and military support, and international diplomatic and political recognition.
The military campaign is still unrelenting because of NATO’s own premeditated actions to reduce Libya to rubble as it pursues a skewed agenda of massive destruction. Daily sorties being launched have reached astronomical levels but the Gaddafi government is still in power—and indicating that it will not collapse soon. So far, none of the Gaddafi government functionaries has followed the bad example set by the former Foreign Minister, Moussa Koussa, to desert; and in rebel-held Benghazi, security concerns have surfaced to suggest that the atmosphere is still tense.
Frustrated by this unexpected resilience on the part of Gaddafi, NATO has now raised its campaign to a frightening level and targeted Gaddafi personally to assassinate. NATO has bombed areas that Gaddafi had been in but he is still in control of his government. The leaders of NATO can’t persuade me that they are not aiming at killing Gaddafi as their final solution to the problem that they have helped to worsen in Libya.
As Jonathan Marcus, the BBC Defence and Diplomatic Correspondent, explains, the going will not be easy for NATO because “almost from the outset, the goal of the operation has been confused.” Nothing can be more apt than this observation, a perspective that is supported by the experts that Marcus spoke to.
Some of them, including America’s leading defence commentators (Professor Tony Cordesman of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington), puts it this way: “The mission can only succeed if Gaddafi and his regime are made the primary target and driven from power.”
Another expert, Andrew Bacevich, Professor of International Relations at Boston University, is even blunter: “NATO has gotten itself into a real pickle.”
DESPERATE POLITICAL AND DIPLOMATIC MANOUEVRES
The pursuit of diplomatic and political recognition for itself as the so-called legitimate government of Libya may suggest that the leaders of the Libyan opposition group are on the way to success in their rebellion. Mahmoud Jibril, president of the Libyan Transitional National Council’s executive bureau, met Britain’s David Cameron last week and proceeded to meet senior US officials and members of Congress on Friday. Although Cameron indicated Britain’s goodwill toward the rebels, he did not say that Britain recognized the TNC as the rebel leadership might be expecting.
BRITISH AND US’ DOUBLE STANDARDS
The US is at it again, this time, revealing its double standards and dashing the hopes of the rebel leaders who entered the White House yesterday, brimming with hope that their National Transitional Council (NTC) would be given a blessing by the US as the legitimate government of Libya.
Mahmoud Jibril, deputy leader of the Benghazi-based National Transitional Council (NTC), met officials at the White House on Friday, including National Security Adviser Tom Donilon; but did not get the nod that the NTC had hoped for. Instead, the US decided to work toward releasing to the rebel movement part of the $30bn frozen Libyan funds in its custody.
On Wednesday, US Senator John Kerry, chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee, said he was drafting legislation at the request of the state department that would hand some of the roughly $30bn (£18.4bn) in Libyan assets frozen in US banks to the Transitional National Council.
Fearing a negative backlash from the American citizenry, Kerry was quick to say that the funds would not come from an American taxpayer “but from Gaddafi himself,” according to the Reuters news agency.
This move may be a smart one to provide financial support but deny the NTC the political nerves it needs to catalyze its rebellion against Muammar al-Gaddafi. It, however, underscores the US and Britain’s own hidden motives for supporting the International Coalition’s activities in Libya. Having already insisted that not until Gaddafi “goes,” NATO would continue its bombardment, why should the US and Britain fail to recognize the TNC to boost its rebellion and bolster morale for the rebels to conclude their campaign of rebellion and assume office in Libya? Something is not adding up well here.
A White House spokesman Jay Carney said on Thursday that recognizing the NTC as the legitimate government of Libya would be “premature.” The US has said it is up to the Libyans to decide their government, not foreign powers. Both the US and Britain have not recognized the NTC as the true government of Libya, which sharply contrasts with what the other partners in the International Coalition (France, Italy, and Qatar) have done. Right at this point, we can see how sly the US and Britain are.
The startk truth is that they are not really interested in any political solution to the Libyan crisis. Or are they just adopting a wait-and-see attitude, wary of what the future may bring? Or that they are just awaiting a more decisive outcome from the continued bombardment by NATO before taking a definitive stand in favour of the rebels?
That is why they are supportive of NATO’s actions, even in Tripoli and Bregga, where no fighting is going on between the pro-Gaddafi forces and the rebels to create any humanitarian problem for the4 International Coalition to solve. The main question now is: What at all is NATO’s overall objective in Libya if not the devastation of the country’s infrastructure and the elimination of Gaddafi to put the rebels in office? That’s their game plan at this stage and rushing to recognize the rebel leadership now may not work well for the US and British interests; hence, the foot-dragging.
Overall, there is no indication that NATO has any other plan to enable it to resolve the crisis and leave Libya in a better shape than what it has been since mid-February when the civilian uprising degenerated into an armed rebellion by the Gaddafi opponents.
Disgrace stares NATO in the face. It is time for common sense to be given a chance. NATO shouldn’t create more problems in Libya and expect to run away from them. Knowing very well that it doesn’t have any exit strategy, it is not too late for it to turn to other less volatile measures to resolve the Libyan crisis. Nothing but political and diplomatic measures will work at this stage. Many avenues still exist for such measures to be used and NATO shouldn’t pretend not to know.
All the faint-hearted attempts to support the Transitional National Council are one-sided measures that will not solve the Libyan problem. It is not too late to return to the African Union’s political road map, which has better options for resolving the crisis than what the rebel Benghazi-based Transitional National Council has produced to favour itself. If Libya is to regain its strength, it must not be left in the care of these rag-tag rebel forces.
By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor