Monday, 25 April 2011

Gaddafi clings on but time is not on his side

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Whilst there appears to be a military stalemate in Libya after the rapid flowing back and forth of the front line in the centre of Libya’s coastline, Gaddafi can hardly be pleased with the current situation.
He has lost around 50% of his territory and even cities close to his heartlands near Tripoli such as Misrata are still refusing to surrender. Even though, he has massacred civilians through bombing campaigns and snipers the Rebels have still held the city. But it is a bloody, vicious campaign that he wages to cling on to power.
A baby being treated for shrapnel wounds in Misrata, 18 April 2010
Gaddafi's forces continue to kill civilians in Misrata
His forces continue to suffer from regular attacks from NATO aircraft and now drones which will further reduce his ability to wage war on civilians. However, in spite of his restricted ability to wage war he can count on loyal tribal support from perhaps one third of those in the West of Libya. His military tactics have adapted to hide hardware and use plain clothes fighting forces and pickup trucks (like the rebels use) in order to fight.
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Rebel Army
What are the options of the rebels and the West implementing the UN Resolution 1973?
1. A ceasefire in which stability is returned to the country through a withdrawal of Gaddafi’s military from in and around urban areas (a return to barracks) and a line drawn between west and east. However, what happens to areas such as Misrata in the west? It pre-supposes that either Gaddafi himself or his sons will return control in the west. Perhaps a puppet figure will be proposed in the west deemed more acceptable to the west. Yet such a compromise will be highly unsatisfactory and the partition could only be a temporary solution to end the death and destruction. No doubt there will be a zealous back lash in the west against all those who dared to oppose Gaddafi. Thousands will be massacred by him if he or his family remain in power (overtly or covertly).
2. The Rebels are provided with much better training and weaponry and assisted through surveillance and intelligence in outmanoeuvring Gaddafi and rolling his forces back to Tripoli. This will take a more professional and better armed Rebel Army able to outfight Gaddafi’s troops. Make no mistake the further West the Rebels move the harder it will be unless the military defect and turn on Gaddafi. It is possible that if the Rebels were clearly in the ascendancy and Gaddafi was dead or injured or incapacitated the military would end the war. There are few willing to seriously continue if Gaddafi is out of the picture.
3. A military coup inside Tripoli overthrows Gaddafi. This is unlikely at present but it is likely that many military commanders fear arrest, prosecution for aiding and abetting Gaddafi’s murderous regime. Some will be genuinely supportive of democracy and just need the opportunity to defect. If a critical number came together and co-ordinated with NATO and the Rebels a quick end to the fighting can ensue and Gaddafi could be arrested to face charges of crimes against humanity.
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Predator drones now used against Gaddafi
Short of Option 1 being imposed or Option 3 suddenly happening then Option 2 should mean that NATO and the Rebel National Transitional Council improve the quality and calibre of the Rebel Army.
1. Provide modern arms through places such as Egypt and by sea to the Rebel Army under the observation of NATO military advisors who can assess and assist the use of such weapons. They can also report back any abuses or selling on of weapons. Step up the training of the Rebels to turn them into a modern professional army capable of defeating Gaddafi’s forces on the battlefield. 
2. Allow an International Brigade to be equipped and can travel to Libya to fight alongside the Rebels. This will allow a potent addition to the fighting ability of the Libyan Rebels. It would need to fall within the overall Rebel command structure.
3. Provide modern communications equipment (with training in its use) to be sent to the Rebels to speed up secure communications.
4. Allow Special Forces to identify targets including snipers and other forces targeting civilians.
5. Protect areas such as Misrata through airlifts (like in Berlin in 1948-49) to ensure the population receive basic food and medical supplies.
6. It is very important that the International Criminal Court indicts Gaddafi as soon as possible based on overwhelming evidence of crimes against humanity. With that indictment it allows a genuine and legal attempt to remove him from power and avoids the dangerous and at times illegal threats of some Western leaders calling for regime change. After taking the moral high ground by asserting through the UN a legal resolution for military action, it would be foolhardy to throw away that position by trying to simply kill Gaddafi and not have a legal mandate (or a very shaky one).
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Gaddafi’s forces are demoralised and only holding territory due to the amateur nature of the Rebel forces. Gaddafi can be defeated through a determined effort to step up the war against this fascist dictator. He must go and he will go.