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Old Friday, April 15, 2011
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Post The changing endgame in Libya — I

The changing endgame in Libya — I

By Najmuddin A Shaikh(The writer was foreign secretary from 1994-97 and also served as Pakistan’s ambassador to Iran (1992-94) and the US (1990-91))

Within the last week, it seems clear that the situation in Libya has moved not towards a stalemate, between equally matched warring Libyan factions, but towards an impasse sustained by Nato forces. The counteroffensive launched by Qaddafi’s forces would have allowed them to take all of eastern Libya, including Benghazi, were it not for the devastating attacks by American AC-130 gunships and the anti-tank Warthogs or A-10s. By Nato’s estimate, more than one-third of Qaddafi’s forces have been destroyed, but this is not enough to erode the advantage that the better equipped and better financed Qaddafi forces have on the ground.

While Nato commanders are putting up a brave face, maintaining that they have achieved the same rate of sorties that were flown when the Americans were in command, the British and French foreign ministers are both calling for more intense action by Nato. Britain has provided an additional four aircraft and is urging that other members should allow their aircraft to participate in assault operations, rather than confining their activities to the enforcement of the no-fly zone, which is what most of the other participants, including the UAE, are now doing. There are also calls for the Americans to make their assault aircraft available once again for operations. So far, the Americans have been non-committal. A US State Department spokesman said, “We have every confidence in Nato’s ability to carry out the tasks of enforcing the arms embargo as well as the no-fly zone and the protection of civilians in Libya”. In response to further questions, he implied that the Americans had no intention of enlarging their role and that, in their view, Operation United Protector had met the requirements of the UN Security Council Resolution 1973. In these circumstances, the Qaddafi forces will continue to have the military edge.

The only western city in which the rebels maintain a foothold is Misrata and there the siege by Qaddafi’s forces is intensifying. The Turks and the International Organisation for Migration have already sent out ships to carry food supplies to Misrata and to evacuate the wounded. How far the humanitarian situation is deteriorating could be gauged from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s warning at the Libyan Contact Group meeting in Doha on April 13 that, at the present rate 3.6 million, or more than half of the Libyan population, would need humanitarian assistance.

It was, therefore, understandable that British Foreign Secretary William Hague called for an immediate ceasefire, which would mean a halt to the attacks on rebel-held towns as a condition for stopping Nato attacks on Qaddafi’s forces. The Doha meeting also called for the immediate establishment of a ceasefire and a complete end to violence and, while it reiterated the call for Qaddafi’s departure, it was suggested that this could be a demand to be addressed later.

Nobody at this meeting seemed to disagree with the bluntly stated position of Nato Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen or, significantly, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, that there was no military solution and that a political solution had to be found. At the same time, there was a reiteration of the view that there could be no negotiations with Qaddafi. The information minister of the Transitional National Council, Mahmoud Shamam, maintained that “Qaddafi is facing charges of crimes against humanity and the entire international community is calling for him to step down, so how can we negotiate with him?”

Source: Endgame
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Old Saturday, April 16, 2011
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Post The changing endgame in Libya — Part II

The changing endgame in Libya — Part II


By Najmuddin A Shaikh

Nobody at the Libyan Contact Group meeting in Doha on April 13, seemed to recognise the manifest contradiction between wanting a political solution and the refusal to negotiate with Qaddafi who, whatever the methods employed, continues to hold on to significant levers of power in Tripoli and perhaps much of western Libya. British Foreign Secretary William Hague said at the Doha conference that “the writing is on the wall for the Qaddafi regime”. But if the regime has its back to the wall, it has little incentive to read the writing on the wall or to act on it. Western nations may suggest that they are taking this position to support what the Transitional National Council (TNC) wants but it was notable that, in rejecting the African Union’s proposals for a negotiated settlement, the TNC first emphasised that Qaddafi continued to attack the rebels while these peace overtures were being made and only secondarily mentioned that negotiations with Qaddafi were not possible.

I don’t think that if the Nato countries or the Arab League were to favour a negotiated settlement with Qaddafi, entailing safe passage out of Libya for him and his family, the TNC would object. After all, the TNC and all of Libya’s well-wishers want the carnage to end, want the daily exodus to be stopped and want to ensure that more than half the Libyan population does not become dependent on humanitarian assistance. Qaddafi would not be the first to be offered such terms. After all, Idi Amin of Uganda was allowed to seek asylum in Saudi Arabia even though his crimes against humanity dwarfed those of Qaddafi.

Such a negotiation is important also from another perspective. What happened in Doha suggests that the TNC will be allowed to draw upon Libya’s frozen assets to buy not only humanitarian supplies but also weapons for their ragtag army, the command of which is being disputed between Younis, Qaddafi’s erstwhile interior minister and Hiftar, a former Qaddafi colleague who defected 24 years ago and having lived in the United States has now come back with CIA blessings, some say, to assume command. The TNC will become more and more dependent on western support in the civil war that is now being waged and more and more inclined, therefore, to take orders with regard to Libya’s resources based primarily in eastern Libya from the West and, perhaps, its oil companies.

This is not what the Libyan uprising was about. This is not what the Arab League wanted when it provided the crucial support that allowed passage of UN Security Council Resolutions 1970 and 1973. It is time for the Arab League to say that a negotiated exit for Qaddafi be found along the lines that the Gulf Cooperation Council is trying to negotiate in Yemen for President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s exit. This is a duty they owe to the Libyan people.
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