The fundamental question concerning the status of the national capital city (Tripoli) is also worth examining within this context of diplomatic recognition for the rebels. Not until the rebels succeed in overrunning the pro-Gaddafi forces to add Tripoli to their prize in this fratricidal war, it will continue to be the hub of the pro-Gaddafi forces and as Libya’s national capital city under Gaddafi’s control. How to divest him of that control will be the next—and the most catastrophic—stage of the ongoing battle.
Tripoli is still the heart of Libya and will be the determining factor in this civil war. Whoever controls it will be the font of authority, which Gaddafi still is. Despite the destruction of over 710 of its strategic installations, it still commands respect as the country’s largest and most populous city.
Even though the rebels function from Benghazi, the second largest city in Libya, they can’t claim to be operating from there in the larger interest of the country. Benghazi is a traditional opposition base and we see it being gradually developed into a capital city for the East that the TNC controls.
I see a replica of Taiwan and North Korea in this battle to prop up East Libya (and its capital city, Benghazi) as a rival political hub to confront the status and tear the country into two to serve different ideological, political, economic, and strategic purposes.
The history books tell us much about how Taiwan evolved and the controversy that still surrounds its relationship with China or why China quickly bares its teeth at countries that make any move to give diplomatic recognition to Taiwan.
Of course, after many years of self-determinism, Taiwan has defied all odds to grow into a politically stable and economic viable country. Its relations seem to be improving in contemporary times; but the fact remains that its separation from mainland China has given the world two countries instead of one. Maybe, what we see surfacing in Libya will follow this line of evolution.
That is why the establishment of offices in Benghazi by the European Union or the request by the rebel leadership to open diplomatic missions in the United States, for instance, is recognizable as part of the efforts to bolster an Eastern Libyan administration, not one that will include the West.
The intricacies of this carving of two parallel administrative units out of Libya is worrisome; and it is so because of the intransigence of the rebels and their backers still bent on deciding the outcome of the stalemated war through the military option while deceiving the world that they have a package of proposals to solve the problem politically.
Or, maybe, the situation will worsen to give the world its first major crisis in this second decade of the 21st century. I say so because the Libyan conflict has attracted divergent responses from the world and is likely to further polarize countries if it persists. We know how China and Russia have criticized the International Coalition (the US and its European and Arab allies) for abusing the UN Security Council’s Resolution 1973 and Russia’s refusal to give diplomatic recognition to the rebels.
We already have the African Union that is opposed to the NATO military campaign even though it doesn’t have the clout to stop it.
In reality, only two African countries out of 53 (The Gambia and Senegal) have so far given diplomatic recognition to the rebels.
The reluctance of the remaining countries to do so suggests that support for the rebels on the continent isn’t easily forthcoming. Indeed, the rebel leaders have been more interested in seeking support from outside the continent, which in itself is questionable.
On a wider scale, the diplomatic recognition being given the rebels raises serious concerns at other levels. Even though Britain expelled the diplomats representing the Gaddafi government and the rebel leadership has put forward Mahmud al-Naku (a writer and journalist bitterly opposed to Gaddafi) as the new Libyan ambassador in London, the dust is still hanging over how Libya should be represented.
It is clear that two different entities are clashing. As the BBC reported, the green flag of the Gaddafi government was still flying outside the Libyan embassy in Knightsbridge on Wednesday afternoon as protesters carrying the red, green and black flag of the rebels gathered outside. Tearing down the green flag of the Gaddafi government is possible but it doesn’t solve the problem for as long as Gaddafi holds on to the nerve-centre of the country.
Again, if the countries that have so far recognized the rebels go ahead to allow the TNC to re-open the Libyan embassies or establish new ones there, they will be narrowing Gaddafi’s sphere of influence but not solving the larger question about whether the rebels can administer the affairs of the entire country with the exclusion of territories under Gaddafi’s rule.
Or, what happens if Gaddafi dies, whether at the hands of his opponents or not. I foresee a dreary future for the country.
The main headache for the International Coalition now is how to get rid of Gaddafi because not until they do so, the threat that they think he poses to them will continue to separate them from reality and wishful thinking. NATO is doing all it can to immobilize his government and is now determined more than ever to do anything to eliminate the Gaddafi menace.
In desperation, NATO has begun bombing installations meant for civil, not military purposes, giving the pro-Gaddafi forces the warning that they risk being targeted if they occupy such structures and use them for military purposes.
From this warning, we can tell that the agenda has been set already. Having already devastated what it calls the command-and-control nodes of the Gaddafi government, NATO will now turn to tracking Gaddafi to any non-military installation and attack him there.
And they will have a ready-made explanation to justify such an action—he was using the non-military installation to promote the fighting, which NATO will quickly rationalize as being part of the mandate with which it has been on the military mission in Libya since March 19. We expect to see more pin-pointed attacks from NATO in this bid.
The reality of the situation is that not until the rebels can divest Gaddafi of control over the major territories still in his hands, any attempt to legitimize their administration is premature.
Fighting is still going on in many parts of the country, especially in the Nafusa Mountains. As the rebels keep their fingers crossed to push further into pro-Gaddafi areas, fear looms large over what will happen if they dare target the cities that still support Gaddafi. Indications are clear that any attempt by the rebels to attack those cities will be fiercely resisted, which will further compound the country’s crisis.
By rushing to put the diplomatic seal on the rebel TNC, the partners in the International Coalition are doing nothing but strengthening the hands of the rebel leadership in its bid to divest Gaddafi of his control over Libya. No matter what the backers of the rebels do, their actions are likely to create more tension and take the ongoing war to a whole different level.
Coupled with the military campaign, the rash decisions being made by the anti-Gaddafi elements may not benefit the country unless the war comes to a quick end in favour of the rebels. If the current stalemate and its consequent frustration for NATO and the rebels are anything to go by at all, I can say with guarded pessimism that no amount of diplomatic coup d’état against Gaddafi will rake in victory for his opponents.
It must be clear to them by now that Gaddafi has refused to hang himself with the long rope that they’ve given him. Instead, he is turning to his vast array of supporters to prepare them for a long-drawn-out war with the rebels. In this context, then, the country stands to suffer immensely. And when the dust settles, Libya will not be the same again.