The real intentions behind NATO’s invasion of Libya on the pretext of solving humanitarian problems have been clear for long despite the persistent denial by the political forces behind the military campaign there. Nothing can be hidden from the world any more. The fading away of the cacophonous refrain of “Gaddafi must go” notwithstanding, all actions being taken are pinpointed at getting rid of Gaddafi.
As the stalemate persists, NATO has indeed become desperate beyond measure. France has just exposed that desperation by giving us one concrete evidence. Whether prepared for the exposure or not, France has been caught pants down in an underhand move that spells out clearly what the West is doing in Libya.
France has air-dropped weapons to rebels fighting Gaddafi’s troops in Western Libya, the French military has confirmed. Light arms and ammunition were sent to Berber tribal fighters in the Nafusa mountains in early June, it said.
Earlier, a report in Le Figaro newspaper said the arms included rocket launchers and anti-tank missiles. The report in Le Figaro suggested that 40 tons of weapons were sent to western Libya, including “a few light tanks” that were smuggled in across the Tunisian border.
The newspaper also reported that it had seen a confidential defence map showing two makeshift airstrips in rebel-held towns, built to receive small aircraft from the Gulf that can move French arms closer to the front.
The decision to drop arms to the Libyan rebels was reportedly taken following a meeting in mid-April between French President Nicolas Sarkozy and the Chief of Staff of the Libyan rebels, Gen Abdelfatah Younis. France is said to have been concerned at the stalemate in a conflict between the rebels and pro-Gaddafi forces that started in February.
France’s action is not an isolated one. Qatar, which has supported the NATO-led operation in Libya, has been supplying arms to rebels mainly through their eastern stronghold in the city of Benghazi.
But what makes France’s action particularly worrisome is the secrecy surrounding it. France, a leading force in the NATO operation in Libya, did not even inform its allies about the move, according to Le Figaro newspaper.
That underhandedness raises questions: Why did France not inform its allies? Was it because it thought it could outwit its own allies by secretly supplying the weapons to those rebels? What for, anyway, if they are all fighting a common cause—to get Gaddafi out of the way? Or was France selling the weapons to the rebels under a secret deal?
We can tell from the exposure of France’s secret moves that many other acts of chicanery (in violation of UN Resolution 1970 and the Security Council’s Resolution 1973) are being carried out and concealed. For instance, even though Britain and France had announced that they were dispatching experienced military officers to Benghazi to train the rebels in warfare and intelligence-gathering techniques, the United States hasn’t told the world that it had already sent under-cover military operatives and CIA personnel to Libya to do all manner of assignments, including gathering intelligence on the movements and location of Gaddafi, if possible.
These clandestine moves are expected to pave the way for a lightning strike by NATO that will eliminate Gaddafi and his inner-circle henchmen, on the one hand, and facilitate the capture of pro-Gaddafi territories by the rebels. The ramping up of bombing sorties by NATO is heavily influenced by the intelligence given by those operatives on the ground. Even media personnel are being used for gathering intelligence.
Now that France has been exposed, we shouldn’t deceive ourselves any more that the West is in Libya to solve humanitarian problems. The motive is to do all they can to remove Gaddafi from office on behalf of the rebels. I won’t be surprised to learn that some of those fighting alongside the rebels on the ground are troops from NATO countries disguised as rebels.
No amount of official statements clarifying the situation or explaining why the weapons were delivered at all will persuade me that France’s action was aimed at tackling humanitarian problems. The delivery of weapons to the rebels is aimed at helping them improve their fighting skills to counteract the superior firing power of the pro-Gaddafi forces. Certainly, this support has its own implications for the crisis. The humanitarian problems will continue to be created for as long as this kind of support sustains the fighting.
That is why the position of the United States on this clandestine act by France is not only ridiculous but completely falls apart. The US has argued that Resolution 1973 authorizes “all necessary measures” to protect civilians, “notwithstanding” the arms embargo against Libya as specified in resolution 1970.
Who are the civilians to be protected in this war situation, especially in the Nafusa mountains? Those fighting are not civilians in any way. And they know the consequences of their taking up weapons to fight, which means that they shouldn’t expect anything like protection unless the one providing the protection is part of their fighting force—which NATO is!
As is to be expected, swift condemnation has come from the African Union and Russia; but the US chose to support France’s action with the porous argument that the UN Security Council’s Resolution 1973 “allows countries to provide arms to rebels despite an earlier resolution 1970 that imposed an arms embargo on the whole of Libya.
Nothing can be more of a malarkey than this argument by the US. Unless someone wants to suggest that Resolution 1973 nullified Resolution 1970, the US’ argument can’t be less unconscionably misleading. If the UN Resolution 1970 imposed an arms embargo “on the whole of Libya,” why should anybody isolate the rebels to smuggle weapons to? Was the provision of those weapons aimed at solving humanitarian problems or intensifying the fighting?
To all intents and purposes, the rationale behind Resolution 1970 was to limit arms supplies to the Gaddafi government in the hope that it would deplete its existing stock of weapons and become vulnerable. Of course, it would be nonsensical to conclude that Gaddafi would exhaust his country’s arsenal in fighting his opponents. But the arms embargo was meant to restrict his access to weapons.
That being the case, one finds it difficult to understand why France would choose to flout that embargo. But we needn’t think too hard to get the answer. Because the underlying objective of the West’s involvement in the Libyan crisis is to get rid of Gaddafi, they will ensure that they boost the efforts of his opponents by all means possible.
Even though they haven’t been able to fulfill their pledge of providing funds to support the rebel National Transitional Council, they can do other things to undermine Gaddafi; hence, France’s action. Indeed, the hypocrisy of the West cannot be eliminated from anything they do. In one sense, they are against weapons reaching Libya but in the same sense, they are infiltrating there with weapons.
As the AU Commission Chairman (Jean Ping) rightly put it, this underhandedness by France will create more problems for Libya, especially in frustrating the AU’s efforts at resolving the crisis through a peaceful, negotiated settlement. “The risk of civil war, risk of partition of the country, the risk of ‘Somalia-sation’ of the country, risk of having arms everywhere… with terrorism…. These risks will concern the neighbouring countries,” he said in response to the revelation on France’s backhanded action.
The implications of France’s clandestine action to NATO itself is nobody’s concern, even though it will ruffle feathers and go to prove that within NATO circles, there is no clear blueprint for the military campaign apart from the daily sorties and airstrikes against anything considered as pro-Gaddafi. NATO’s own ranks have fault lines and actions of the sort carried out by France will go to further deepen such cracks and create credibility problems. But who cares?
Eventually, public opinion in the NATO countries will soon rise to challenge the military campaign, especially now that it has become clear that more money is being expended than expected without the much-anticipated success being achieved. It is this fear of the stalemate in the fighting that has driven France to do such an act in desperation.
Criticisms coming from Russia are clear that the country is not happy with the turn of events; but this stance of Russia is ineffectual. Not until Russia takes concrete steps to force the UN Security Council back to the conference table to either withdraw Resolution 1973 or clearly spell out what action should be taken by the international community to solve the Libyan problem without this military campaign, whatever it says will be regarded as a mere public relations chore.
The fact is that Russian President, Dmitri Medvedev, has been wavering in his position on the happenings in Libya, giving confusing signals of late that although his country abstained from voting on the UN Security Council’s Resolution 1973, it regarded Gaddafi as an illegitimate leader who must no longer be supported. At least, his latest comments at the G-8 summit painted that picture. For Russia to be taken seriously, it will have to go beyond mere routine rhetoric.
The African Union is also making its voice heard on issues but it lacks the power to influence the international community to implement its political roadmap. Its criticism of France’s clandestine act is good for the record books only. What can the AU do to reverse trends? Nothing, for now!
I will continue to say that the manner in which the West is handling the Libyan crisis is troubling. I can foresee the danger that lies ahead. The indiscriminate putting of dangerous weapons in the hands of a rag-tag mob will create very serious security problems in Libya and the North African region. Already, reports from Libya say that the Gaddafi government itself has so far handed over more than a million weapons to citizens willing to confront the rebel forces.
Putting all manner of weapons in the hands of misguided people whose only motivation for fighting is to either get rid of or defend one man (Gaddafi) is dangerous. Even after Gaddafi is eliminated, the security problem will turn out to be a major headache for those who will become Libya’s new rulers. Is that the legacy that the West is aiming at bequeathing to Libya? Maybe, France knows best!