The fairy tale stopped in Tripoli. At first it appeared that Libya’s Moammar Qaddafi would succumb in short order as did the regimes in Tunisia and Egypt. His support appeared to be unraveling as diplomats and high-ranking officers and even Cabinet members scurried to disassociate themselves from the regime that they had long served.
It also seemed that given the enthusiasm for the insurgents, the international rules of the game were being changed. Articles to the tune of “It’s Time to Get over Iraq” appeared in liberal-left journals claiming that military intervention in Libya would not be a bad thing and could save human lives. Even the United Nations belatedly be stirred itself to oust Libya from the Human Rights Council and passed a Security Council resolution subjecting the Qaddafi regime to sanctions with Russia and China agreeing. France, badly burned by its association with the ousted regimes in Tunisia and Egypt, dispatched planes to offer medical supplies to the “liberation forces” in Benghazi. British Prime Minister David Cameron was feverishly planning the establishment of a no-fly zone in Libya that would nullify Qaddafi’s major military advantage.
A different reality soon began setting in. Qaddafi counterattacked and consolidated his hold on the capital, prepared for a protracted civil war. The Russians made it clear via their ambassador to NATO, Dmitri Rogozin, and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, that the no-fly zone will not have the United Nations imprimatur.
Rogozin: “If someone in Washington is seeking a blitzkrieg in Libya, it is a serious mistake, because any use of military force outside the NATO responsibility zone will be considered a violation of international law”.
Russia was still opposed to regime change “A ban on the national air force or civil aviation to fly over their own territory is still a serious interference into the domestic affairs of another country”. Besides, Lavrov claimed that the passing of a sanctions resolution had made no-fly “superfluous”.
If there is no UN sanction and there won’t be because Russia and China will veto such a measure in the Security Council, then France retreats to the position that it adopted prior to the invasion of Iraq. French foreign minister, Alain Juppe, said: ‘Let me put it clearly here: No intervention will happen without a clear UN Security Council mandate.’
And the French foreign minister added an additional warning:”I don’t know what would be the reaction on the Arab street, if Arabs around the Mediterranean saw NATO forces landing on southern Mediterranean territory.”
Former British Conservative, Prime Minister Sir John Major, implored his country to secure a UN mandate. David Cameron’s liberal democratic partners, who have long regarded the Iraq invasion as original sin, scoffed at David Cameron’s proposal for military action.
Given Turkey’s membership in NATO, it will also prove impossible to use NATO as a vehicle for military action. Erdogan opposes sanctions, let alone intervention, saying that “Any type of sanctions or intervention that would punish the Libyan people is unacceptable and would cause massive problems.”
Sanctions take some time to have any effect. The problem in Libya is the here and now. Sanctions did not bring down Saddam Hussein.
Libya’s Qaddafi is also not going to weep about being barred from visiting Western Europe; he probably feels that the worst way to hold on to his regime is to exit the country, even for a shopping spree.
The freezing of ibyan assets abroad represents a problem, but one can be sure that the regime has sufficient stashes that cannot be touched. There are loopholes in the sanctions and plenty of African countries from which Qaddafi has recruited mercenaries or in which he has invested will be happy, for a certain consideration, to serve as conduits for evading the sanctions.
South Africa is prepared to mediate between the sides. Taking into account its record of mediation in Zimbabwe and the Ivory Coast, where autocrats remain in power, Qaddafi can expect to be around for quite some time.
The West, and particularly the United States, is leery of military intervention due to its costs and unpredictable results. However, the alternative is a bloody war of attrition with no guarantee of Qadaffi’s ouster.
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