By Anisa Abd el Fattah
There are two revolutions vying for power in Libya. One is the historic green revolution of Moammar Qaddafi, the leader of Libya who came to power through a bloodless coup in 1962, and the other is the popular revolution which began in February 2011 as a call by the people of Libya for political reforms, that resulted in a call for regime change.
The competition between the two is complicated by the US and Europe’s desire to capitalize on the present unrest in Libya and to use it as an opportunity to possibly occupy Libya with the hope of owning and controlling Libya’s oil. A UN resolution, calling for a no fly zone over Libya, unleashed Western allied troops to initiate what almost immediately turned into an all-out war on Qaddafi’s army of mercenaries, and equipment such as tanks and fighter jets. The mercenaries had been provided by other Arab and African governments who united behind Qaddafi to put down the popular Libyan revolution with brutal violence, resulting in the armed conflict we see today.
Following Hosni Mubarak’s removal from office in Egypt, many in the world wondered which Muslim majority Arab country would be next to experience a popular revolution. People suspected that there would be other revolutions in the region, since it had been made clear by protesters that their actions were based upon a common situation, shared by many of the citizens of the Arab Muslim world. It didn’t seem possible that only one group or population of people would throw of the shackles of repressive and violent governments, while others in close proximity would resign themselves to the status quo. Also, since both Egypt and Tunisia had accomplished regime change without taking up arms against their government, it made it that much easier for the average person to imagine that they could do the same.'
Shortly after the people of Libya began their peaceful protest, they came under attack by the Qaddafi regime. It was reported that those attacking the Libyan people were mercenaries from African countries, who had been recruited and facilitated by countries such as Algeria and even Syria. In one incident, a Libyan plane was shot down by revolutionaries and the pilot was carrying Syrian identification.
After several military and diplomatic defections, the Libyan people who are now referred to as the rebels, made many gains against the regime, capturing the eastern provinces, and moving towards the capital Tripoli with the intent to perhaps pressure Qaddafi into surrendering power and going into exile, thereby ending the initial stage of the revolution, which is to force the presiding regime from power. There were several moves taken by Qaddafi that stalled this process and put Libya on track for not only regime change, but also for possible invasion by a NATO led coalition of western powers, including France, the US, Britain, Canada and some countries from the Netherlands.
As the revolutionaries began to gain control over more and more of Libya’s villages in route to Tripoli, it was reported that Moammar Qaddafi’s son Saif Al Islam, sent an emissary to Israel to ask for assistance. Reportedly, Israel agreed to send military advisors and also some special troops to assist Qaddafi in his bid to put down the revolution. Later, it was reported that Qaddafi had sent emissaries to the European capitals, seeking military assistance, including weaponry. Shortly after those reports surfaced, videos were placed on youtube showing that Israeli manufactured weapons had been provided to Qaddafi, along with troops and military advisers.
Today we learned that the US and NATO are considering a ground invasion of Libya, and that US President Barack Obama has sanctioned the use of drones in Libya.
Those of us who watched closely the US led invasion of Iraq and all of the preparation that went into that invasion, see very stark similarities between that run up to an all-out invasion, war and occupation, and the present situation in Libya.
Prior to the invasion of Iraq there was a call to intervene on behalf of Kurds and Shia supposedly suffering tremendously under a barbaric Hussein regime that had gone so far as to use chemical weapons against its own people. No one bothered to mention that the Hussein had been given biological weapons by the US. When that failed to get as much support for war as was hoped, “the weapons of mass destruction in the hands of an unpredictable tyrant” did the job. With no real proof that Huseein had nuclear or biological or chemical weapons program of any type, an invasion of Iraq took place, resulting the deaths of more than 4 million people, and no weapons of mass destruction, as they came to be called, were ever found. Those who had argued that coalition forces would be treated and liberators of the oppressed peoples of Iraq, and who had said that it would be a quick regime change and a cake walk were all proven wrong. Iraq became a 7 year war of attrition that has left nothing but death and destruction in its wake.
Today we see the same tactics and rhetoric being employed to justify an invasion of Libya. Qaddafi like Hussein before him is being portrayed in the media as a madman who is holding the world’s economies hostage to threats of destroying oil refineries and refusing to pump oil, thereby driving up the cost of oil. He has been charged with carrying out massacres against his own people and using banned weapons against them such as cluster bombs. He is being called insane and delusional due to his insistence that Libyans have been exposed to water containing hallucinogens and other drugs. He claimed that Al Qadea was attempting to establish an Islamic Republic Libya and that threatened to fight against this effort to his last drop of blood. Hussien rejected the Western accusation that Al Qadea terrorist were operating in Iraq, and that they had any relationship with the government or people of Iraq. So in this respect, the two men differed. Hussein did everything in his power to protect Iraq from being a target in the so called war on terrorism, while Qaddafi seems to have said everything he could to make sure that Libya would become a casualty of the West’s war on Islam carried out under the banner of war on terrorism. The two men also enjoyed varying degrees of popular admiration and respect among Muslims and Arabs due to their supposed support for the Palestinian people and their struggle to end the illegal Israeli occupation of their lands.
Along with similarities in the rhetoric employed by the Western powers to justify war on Libya, there are also some pretty glaring military similarities.
Prior to the actual invasion and subsequent war in Iraq, the US had established a no fly zone over Iraq and imposed economic and military sanctions. This prevented Iraq from being able to purchase weapons, or to purchase foods, etc. thereby creating a humanitarian crisis which became the cause for UN intervention, and programs on the ground, which translates very often into intelligence gathering. The US also routinely targeted Iraq for attacks, bringing down its jets, destroying military installations and destroying its radar and other defense mechanisms. This all served to make the invasion very easy since there was no radar, very few fighter jets to mount counter attacks, and the people had been physically weakened and morally broken by years of economic sanctions and a previously devastating war known as Desert Storm that was also substantiated by false information and false claims against Iraq related to an Iraqi military invasion of disputed land claimed by both Iraq and Kuwait, that had been tacitly approved by the US.
Now Libya has been prepared for invasion. Under the dame guise of providing humanitarian assistance a no fly zone has been established and Libya’s military weakened. It is important to note the military is only being weakened and not destroyed. This was the same with the Iraqi military. Even after the invasion, Iraq’s military did not really engage the coalition forces on the ground, and were in fact allowed to disband, carrying their weapons with them. Why is this important? It is important since later, after the invasion was complete and the occupation underway, the war of attrition that was to take place in Iraq along with the destruction of Iraq’s infrastructure, was carried to a great extent as internecine violence, carried out as a sectarian war, Sunni against Shia, and led by guess who? Al Qadea…of course. At least for a time, it seems that Iraq’s military was transformed into Al Qadea just long enough to kill enough Iraqis, Sunni and Shia, while creating a competition for US approval and also for money being doled out by the US military on the ground to buy loyalty from various tribes and factions that created political paralysis in the country that prevented the formation of an independent and fully representative and legitimate Iraqi government.
Looking now at the situation as it develops in Libya, we can see that Libya is possibly being prepared for a similar experience. The UN passed a resolution calling for the establishment of a no fly zone and arms embargo. The UN has followed up with a call for UN sponsored humanitarian projects to assist refugees. Libya’s army is being weakened and not destroyed, while its ability to strike back at coalition forces has been eliminated. Again the coalition forces have positioned themselves politically and militarily as being on the side of the people, but in respect to Libya, they are pretending to be neutral in respect to regime change. They did learn a few lessons from their experience in Iraq that they want to avoid in Libya. The UN’s refusal to recognize an interim Libyan government shows that they are waiting to see who will prevail before offering fealty to any potential leader.
If these observations are indications of what is to be expected in Libya, they suggest that we will see a coalition invasion and occupation. We are also likely to see the war between the Qaddafi faction and the opposition get more intense as coalition forces on the ground play both sides, one against another, creating civil war and chaos that will result in UN intervention that will put UN peacekeepers on the ground and the country split between East and West, just as Somalia, Sudan, Iraq and Palestine have been divided, with the oil and resource rich territory being where the Western support will be found. Whichever faction is able to capture and hold the oil rich regions that will be the faction, who in the end will enjoy Western support. If the Western powers decide that they can work with Saif Al Islam, there is also a chance that they will eliminate his father and put him in power, and utilize the Libyan army, what is left of it, along with more AU mercenaries to eliminate the opposition and to kill the rebels and those who supported the opposition.
The only way to avoid this scenario is for a fourth player to enter. It was Edmund Burke in his brilliant writings on the French Revolution (Reflections on the French Revolution) who made the brilliant observation, that whenever two powers become locked in conflict, and a third player enters the situation, all power will devolve into the hands of the third player, which is in this instance and all of the war on terrorism situations, is a US led coalition of Western powers. Since the two opposing factions are not going to reconcile and unite against the coalition, sparing Libya an Iraqi like experience, another interest must be identified and allowed to operate. In my opinion, that fourth interest will be the Islamic movement.
Should Islamic movement leaders recognize the strategic importance of Libya and come to understand how the fall of Libya into the hands of a US/Israeli puppet such as Saif Al Islam Qaddafi and NATO would destabilize the region while strengthening Israel, they will enter this situation and change the dynamic completely.