Libyan revolution in limbo By Gwynne Dyer - Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Source :

THE Libyan revolution is losing the battle. Qadhafi`s army does not have much logistical capability, but it can get enough fuel and ammunition east along the coast road to attack Benghazi, Libya`s second city, at some point in the next week or so. His army is not well trained and a lot of his troops are foreign mercenaries, but the lightly armed rebels cannot hold out long against tanks, artillery and air strikes.
What happens to the rebels and their families after active resistance is crushed will be much worse. When political prisoners in Abu Salim prison staged a protest at jail conditions in 1996, Qadhafi had 1,200 of them massacred. All the people now fighting him, or helping the Libyan National Council that organises resistance in the east, or just demonstrating against him, will be tracked down by his secret police. They and their families are doomed.
The collapse of the democratic revolution in Libya will also gravely damage the prospects of the `Arab spring` elsewhere. Rulers in other Arab countries where the army is also largely made up of foreign mercenaries (Bahrain and several other Gulf states, for example), will conclude that they can safely kill enough of their own protesters to `restore order`. Condemnation from abroad, including from the Arab League, will not stop Qadhafi. An arms embargo is too slow-acting, as are economic boycotts and freezing Libyan government assets overseas. Qadhafi is fighting for his life, probably literally, and he knows that if he wins, the embargoes, boycotts and asset freezes will eventually be lifted. Libya has oil, after all.
Even the famous `no-fly` zone over Libya (now endorsed by France, Britain and the Arab League) would not stop Qadhafi`s advance. It`s not that destroying or grounding the Libyan air force, which is poorly trained and badly maintained, is a problem.
Neither are Libya`s decrepit, last-generation-but-one surface-to-air defences. It`s just that Qadhafi can win without his air force. Tanks and artillery beat courage and small arms every time.
US Defence Secretary Robert Gates is right to reject the no-fly solution, for two reasons. First, it wouldn`t stop Qadhafi`s advance. Second, if it were done by American and European air forces, it would undermine the Arab sense of ownership of this extraordinary revolt against tyranny. It would be pure gesture politics, to make the onlookers to the tragedy feel better about themselves.
What is actually needed is active military intervention on the ground and in the air by disciplined, well-trained Arab forces, sent by a revolutionary Arab government that is in sympathy with the Libyan rebels. n
Egypt has an open border with the rebel-controlled east of Libya, and just one brigade of its army would be enough to stop Qadhafi`s ground forces in their tracks. The Egyptian air force could easily shoot down any of Qadhafi`s aircraft that dared to take off, especially if it had early warning from European or American AWACS aircraft.

No comments:

Post a Comment