In a sudden twist of events, France has announced that Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi has given clear indications that he is ready to step down and leave Libya as demanded by his opponents. France’s claim came just before the Friday meeting of the Libya Contact Group (LCG) in Istanbul, Turkey, and formed the basis of deliberations and the outcome, which principally focused on a package of ceasefire proposals to be handed to Gaddafi for compliance.
According to France’s claim, contacts with Gaddafi’s regime indicated that he was ready to step down; thus, the Istanbul meeting focused on the prospect of Gaddafi’s peaceful departure.
Certainly, this claim has not been confirmed by evidence from Gaddafi himself, if his strident political rhetoric in the last few days is to be believed. There is no indication from Tripoli that Gaddafi will indeed step down as alleged by France. So, how else will the Libya Contact Group LCG) tackle the conflict?
The emphasis on Gaddafi’s compliance with the ceasefire raises contentious issues. As the US Foreign Secretary Hillary Clinton categorically blurted out in support of the LCG’s meeting, “The terms of a cease-fire are clear. Gadhafi must stop attacks or the threat of attacks, remove his troops from all of the places they have forcibly entered, and facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance.”
“The terms of a political process that will produce a cease-fire and pave the way to a democratic Libya are also clear. It must involve Gadhafi’s departure and an inclusive effort to build a new constitutional framework that redeems the democratic aspirations of all the Libyan people.”
When they twice impudently rejected the African Union’s proposal for resolving the conflict, NATO and the rebel Transitional National Council (TNC) created the wrong impression about themselves as far as a political solution to the conflict was concerned. What about the Libya Contact Group’s proposal makes it more appealing than that of the African Union (AU) or Gaddafi’s own concession which also includes the condition of a ceasefire to be obeyed by the two warring factions?
Why do the LCG, NATO, and the TNC think that their proposal is better than that of the AU and must, therefore, be accepted and obeyed without question by Gaddafi as a precondition for ending the hostilities and ushering in the new government under the rebel leadership?
A quick comparison of the LCG’s proposal with the AU’s political road map shows a vast difference in language and substance. Even though there is a common provision on a ceasefire, there is a marked difference there too. The LCG’s version is nothing but an ORDER to Gaddafi alone to obey. That order makes it mandatory that Gaddafi must end hostilities and pull his forces out of cities.
Otherwise, the NATO airstrikes will continue. And as a confirmation to actualize this threat, Britain has already dispatched four additional warplanes to beef up the NATO armaments. These aircraft have facilities for effective reconnaissance and are the first reinforcement package from one NATO member. Others are expected to supply other armaments.
While the LCG focuses only on the Gaddafi side to act on the command for a ceasefire, it doesn’t say anything about what NATO and the rebels should do. The LCG’s proposal runs counter to the African Union’s on this score and shows how seriously flawed and limited it is.
Then again, its main point is that Gaddafi must step down and leave Libya. This precondition is not part of the first and revised versions of the AU’s proposal, even though the revised version says that Gaddafi shouldn’t participate in deliberations toward peace making. Gaddafi accepted this version, which is a profound commitment.
The exclusion of Gaddafi means the AU’s proposal also seeks to relegate him to the background as those capable of resolving the conflict engage his representatives and the rebel leadership in talks toward finding a lasting political solution to the crisis.
But NATO and the rebels roundly repudiated the AU’s overtures because they claimed it didn’t explicitly call for Gaddafi to step down as being demanded. Then, to satisfy themselves, the LCG has come out with the proposal that peremptorily instructs Gaddafi to step down and leave Libya or……………
This direct threat won’t soften Gaddafi’s heart. As is to be expected, he has rejected that move to clip his wings. Although the LCG’s proposal for a ceasefire hasn’t yet reached him, we can tell from his recent taunts that he will have none of the LCG’s imposition.
Consequently, the LCG will be further incensed and turn to no other option but the military campaign—but in a renewed form. This time, NATO will disregard all concerns about the impact of its airstrikes on civilian populations in Gaddafi-controlled territories and bomb there with the full force at its disposal. We expect more destruction of Libyan lives and infrastructure in this escapade.
NATO will also specifically target Gaddafi and his inner circle for direct attacks, hoping that their assassination will eliminate or neutralize resistance to the rebel forces’ onslaught. Assassination of Gaddafi can’t be ruled out any more as part of the military campaign at this point.
Other measures aimed at forcing Gaddafi out of the way will include a technological warfare, particularly, to destroy the media that have sustained Gaddafi’s campaign and propaganda. As the LCG meeting concurred, such measures include increasing the pressure on the Libyan regime by means such as constraining government broadcasting. If there is a news blackout to lessen Gaddafi’s influence, the Libyan supporting him will have nothing to cheer about.
International sanctions have also been imposed on Gaddafi and his henchmen and international arrest warrants issued against them. But they are still in command and control of affairs. The international sanctions may hurt Gaddafi’s government, especially now that fuel shortage is its major worry and food prices are rising daily; but it is not certain that such sanctions will weaken Gaddafi.
Additionally, the West will provide all forms of assistance to opponents of Gaddafi in Tripoli and other areas under his control who are operating secretly through cells and using electronic devices for communication to undermine his government. These elements are likely to be supported to incite an uprising against Gaddafi from those cities to sabotage Gaddafi. Any eruption of an anti-Gaddafi uprising will be quickly capitalized upon to deal him the blow that the West has clenched all this while!
We can see, then, that the LCG’s so-called political solution has more of the military bug in it than the element to encourage a peaceful, negotiated settlement in a give-and-take manner. It is heavily weighted against the Gaddafi side and risks outright failure.
In sum, the LCG’s proposal doesn’t say anything about Gaddafi’s fate, assuming that he bites the bait to step down. Even if he decides to accept the proposal to leave office and be replaced by his adversaries to prevent a worsening of the country’s situation, he is still at risk because of the International Criminal Court’s warrant for his arrest.
Will he be careless or stupid enough to jump from the frying pan right into the fire to be consumed? He won’t.
That’s why he will not accept the proposal to step down and expose his underbelly because he knows the danger that awaits him at the next stage. Knowing how cornered he is now, Gaddafi has no other option than to dig in till the end.
I find it preposterous, then, for France to create the impression that he has agreed to step down and leave Libya. Where is he to go? And how free will he be to live his life to underline such a decision to divest himself of all the protection that his being in power has granted him?
It is not as if Gaddafi’s life is better than that of the victims of his oppressive rule. Nor should there be any justification for letting him off the hook if he is the cause of misery to other people. He has to e held liable for consequences of his oppressive rule; but that stewardship must not be accounted for at the expense of the country.
That’s why the West, under the auspices of the Libya Contact Group, must ensure that the political solution that it proposes to resolve the conflict is fair to all the warring factions for them to make concessions toward an amicable solution. The damage being done to Libya in the hunt for one man’s blood must be curtailed!