Several developments over the past few days have combined to further twist the Libyan conflict out of joint. Any hope that the conflict will be resolved soon through political and diplomatic means is fading fast.
Even before the proposal for a ceasefire agreed on by the Contact Group on Libya last Friday reaches Gaddafi for us to know how his reaction will determine the ebb and flow of events, enough is happening to heighten pessimism. Apprehensions are still on the rise, and it is clear that the Libyan conflict will drag on despite NATO’s continued airstrikes on anything perceived as pro-Gaddafi, be it human beings or military accoutrements.
There seems to be no attempt by the West to separate its military campaign from the so-called political solution that the Contact Group on Libya has set out to impose on Gaddafi. Again, the West seems not to recognize the fact that what is happening in Libya is a political crisis that has degenerated into a civil war—and that by taking sides, it is not helping to solve the problem but to worsen it.
Additionally, the contempt that the West has for Gaddafi, which has largely influenced its attitude toward him, doesn’t seem to be creating any room for involving his government in efforts to resolve the crisis—as if the crisis can be resolved without any input from there. Any move that excludes input from the Gaddafi faction won’t work. And any claim to be tackling the crisis at the political and diplomatic levels flies in the face of the sustained military bombardment by NATO in support of the rebels. In other words, the West’s “political solution” is validated by only the political rhetoric behind it. No conscience!
On the sideline, the United States, which has repeatedly repudiated Gaddafi and given firm indications that it will have nothing to do with him for as long as he hangs on to power seems to be backtracking.
These developments will add a different complexion to the Libyan conflict, and are worth analyzing so that we can place future happenings in the proper context as we continue to monitor events.
THE UNITED STATES’ DOUBLE STANDARDS EXPOSED
The US government said today that it held a day of face-to-face talks with a delegation from Tripoli on Saturday. The meeting was not a negotiation but to demand that Gaddafi step down, which he has repeatedly refused to do, according to a BBC report (July 18, 2011).
“The message was simple and unambiguous—Gaddafi must leave power so that a new political process can begin that reflects the will and aspirations of the Libyan people,” a statement from the US State Department said.
Washington would not say who represented the Libyan side, or where the meeting took place. It said Jeffrey Feltman (the US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs) and the US ambassador to Libya (Gene Cretz) had been involved.
Libyan government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim hailed the talks—which he said took place in neighbouring Tunisia—as an important step in “repairing relations” with the US; but American officials said no further talks were planned “because the message has been delivered.”
We don’t believe the US. Precedent exists to tell us that the US hasn’t been straight in its dealings with those it has considered as either terrorists or enemies and fought for many years. Its backpedalling to engage in peacemaking efforts with the Taliban elements in Afghanistan is too fresh to ignore as a confirmation of the US’ double standards.
Although this meeting might not be the solution to the problem between the US and Gaddafi, it gives us a glimpse into what efforts other than the military option can produce. At least, it suggests that some political and diplomatic face is being put on the approaches toward perceiving the conflict from just one dimension.
We expect the US to see this meeting as a better means of eliciting better responses from Gaddafi than the military campaign can offer.
SOUTH AFRICA’S JACOB ZUMA STANDS TALL
From another angle, the African perspectives on how the conflict should be tackled have once again been highlighted by South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma, whose mediation mission on behalf of the African Union is being thwarted by the NATO military campaign. And Mr. Zuma was at his best on Monday when he told the visiting British Prime Minister, David Cameron, straight to the face that although Libya needs a democratic government, “the Libyan people must decide their own destiny.” It is not the West that should impose anything on the Libyan people.
I agree totally with Mr. Zuma, even though I will continue to blame him and the two others (Nigeria’s Goodluck Jonathan and Gabon’ Bongo) who joined his country to endorse the military campaign against Libya. Without their complicity, the situation would have taken a different turn. But now that he seems to have realized the harm that the military campaign has caused and is adamantly pursuing the African Union’s proposal for solving the problem, he deserves some commendation.
RUSSIA SETS A DIFFERENT TONE, BUT…
Russia seems to be playing a game of hide-and-seek with the world in its attitude to the Libyan crisis. It doesn’t seem to have taken a firm stance for us to know how to appreciate its role. While Russia chose to abstain from voting on the UN Security Council’s Resolution 1973 that authorized the military campaign against Libya, its President (Dmitry Medvedev) went along with leaders of the West to declare Gaddafi as an illegitimate leader who must step down.
Then, Russia began its own move toward solving the crisis at the diplomatic and political levels by interacting at separate times with delegations from the Gaddafi government and the rebel Transitional National Council. Comments after those meetings indicated that Russia’s ambivalent position—unwillingness to commit itself to either party.
Russia has persistently criticized the NATO military campaign as going beyond the UN Security Council’s mandate and stood away from anything being done by the West to intensify pressure on Gaddafi. By refusing to attend the meeting of the Contact Group on Libya in Istanbul last Friday, Russia gave currency to its critical stance. But it can register its opposition more concretely at the UN if it uses its power to get the UN Security Council back to the conference room to reconsider the Libyan campaign.
Then, Russia’s most decisive action came today when it refused to recognize the rebel leadership as the legitimate government of Libya. Its Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, said that such a move would amount to taking sides in a civil war.
This reason given by Russia is indisputable and reflects a high degree of political maturity on the part of the Russian leadership. In its intricately peculiar complication, the Libyan conflict demands a careful analysis and approach in order for it not to degenerate into a long-lasting conflict to add to the existing global crisis situations that armed rebellions and terrorist acts have created.
Sadly, though, the US and other Western and Arab powers didn’t see the conflict at that level and rushed into recognizing one faction (the Libyan opposition) as the country’s “legitimate governing authority.” And they have repeatedly pushed NATO and the rebels on to intensify the war. To deceive the world, they have begun pursuing a “political solution” that is nothing but militaristic in letter and spirit.
NO ROOM FOR POLITICAL SOLUTION WHEN THE FIGHTING CONTINUES
The West is bent on deceiving the world that it is interested in resolving the conflict politically. Everything points to a calculated attempt to sustain the military campaign while hiding their real intentions behind the proposal labelled as a “political solution.”
In pursuit of that agenda, NATO aircraft have been targeting pro-Gaddafi forces near Brega in recent days, reporting hits on armoured vehicles and rocket launchers near the town, according to Reuters news agency. There is no talk of the human beings being killed in such attacks! Such pin-pointed attacks on the pro-Gaddafi forces are meant to pave the way for the rebels to advance on Bregga and capture it. Then, NATO would guide them to other pro-Gaddafi cities to attack.
On a more sinister scale, NATO is telling the world a different story as if we don’t know that its large-scale military campaign against Gaddafi is meant to complement the “political solution” that it is now putting on the table. Early on Sunday, NATO warplanes hit a military storage facility containing tanks, armoured personnel carriers, and ammunition in Tripoli’s eastern outskirts.
In short, many things happening in Libya don’t confirm that the West is interested in any political solution to the conflict. As the fighting continues and NATO supports the rebels to enter pro-Gaddafi territories, the humanitarian crisis that prompted the military campaign, in the first, place will not abate. On that pretext, then, NATO will continue to penetrate deep into peaceful areas and stoke the fire just to find the pretext to target Gaddafi. That’s how the West is bent on prosecuting its agenda in Libya. Its game of duplicity is now at its highest level in Libya. The hostilities can’t be stopped this way.