Sudden victory in Libya 1

Here’s part of a report, with questions, conjectures, and comments, about the Libyan rebels’ capture of Tripoli.

It comes from DebkaFile, an Israeli source.

We can’t know how reliable it is, but the questions it asks are interesting:

Muammar Qaddafi’s regime fell in Tripoli just before midnight Sunday, Aug. 22. The rebels advanced in three columns into the heart of the capital after being dropped by NATO ships and helicopters on the Tripoli coast. Except for pockets, government forces did not resist the rebel advance, which stopped short of the Qaddafi compound of Bab al-Aziziyah.

After one of his sons Saif al Islam was reported to be in rebel hands and another, Mohammad, said to have surrendered, Qaddafi’s voice was heard over state television calling on Libyans to rise up and save Tripoli from “the traitors.” Tripoli is now like Baghdad, he said. For now, his whereabouts are unknown.

Government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim said 1,200 people had been killed in the 12 hours of the rebel push towards the capital. As he spoke, Libyan rebels, backed by NATO, seized control of the capital. After holding out for six months, the Qaddafi regime was to all intents and purposes at an end.

Still to be answered are seven questions raised here by DEBKAfile’s analysts:

1. Where are the six government special divisions whose loyalty to the Libyan ruler and his sons was never in question? None of the 15,000 trained government troops were to be seen in the way of the rebel advance into the capital. The mystery might be accounted for by several scenarios: Either these units broke up and scattered or Qaddafi pulled them back into southern Libya to secure the main oil fields. Or, perhaps, government units are staying out of sight and biding their time in order to turn the tables on the triumphant rebels and trap them in a siege. The Libyan army has used this stratagem before.

2. How did the ragtag, squabbling Libyan rebels who were unable to build a coherent army in six months suddenly turn up in Tripoli Sunday looking like an organized military force and using weapons for which they were not known to have received proper training? Did they secretly harbor a non-Libyan hard core of professional soldiers?

3. What happened to the tribes loyal to Qaddafi? Up until last week, they numbered the three largest tribal grouping in the country. Did they suddenly melt away without warning?

4. Does Qaddafi’s fall in Tripoli mean he has lost control of all other parts of Libya, including his strongholds in the center and south?

5. Can the rebels and NATO claim an undisputed victory? Or might not the Libyan ruler, forewarned of NATO’s plan to topple him by Sept. 1, have decided to dodge a crushing blow, cede Tripoli and retire to the Libyan Desert from which to wage war on the new rulers?

6. Can the heavily divided rebels, consisting of at least three militias, put their differences aside and establish a reasonable administration for governing a city of many millions? Their performance in running the rebel stronghold of Benghazi is not reassuring.

7. DEBKAfile’s military and counter-terror sources suggest a hidden meaning in Qaddafi’s comment that Tripoli is now like Baghdad. Is he preparing to collect his family, escape Tripoli and launch a long and bloody guerrilla war like the one Saddam Hussein’s followers waged after the US invasion of 2003 which opened the door of Iraq to al Qaeda?

If that is Qaddafi’s plan, the rebels and their NATO backers, especially Britain and France, will soon find their victory wiped out by violence similar to – or worse than – the troubles the US-led forces have suffered in Iraq and Afghanistan.

War over, Gaddafi victorious? 0

Is the war of the Western powers against the petty despot of Libya over?

Has the petty despot won?

According to this report at (not always reliable) DebkaFile, it is and he has:

Bar the shouting, the war in Libya virtually ended Thursday morning, July 14, when US President Barack Obama called Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to hand Moscow the lead role in negotiations with Muammar Qaddafi for ending the conflict – provided only that the Libyan ruler steps down in favor of a transitional administration.

The US president thus accepted the Russian-Libyan formula for ending the war over the heads of the NATO chiefs who rejected it when they met Russian leaders at the Black Sea resort of Sochi last week. …

By the time Obama had decided to call Medvedev, individual governments which had spearheaded the anti-Qaddafi campaign were quietly melting away. …

From Saturday, July 9 … NATO discontinued its air strikes against Libyan pro-government targets in Tripoli and other places. The halt though unannounced was nonetheless an admission that 15,000 flight missions and 6,000 bombardments of Qaddafi targets had failed to achieve their object: Col. Qaddafi, without deploying a single fighter jet, firing an anti-air missile or activating terrorist cells in Europe, had waited for NATO to run out of steam and was still in power.

In an overview of the war to British air force commanders Wednesday, July 13, British Defense Secretary Liam Fox remarked that while no one knows when it will end, British ground corps, naval and air forces do not have the means to continue the war. … [He] added that British and European military industries lack the capacity for supporting a war effort that goes beyond a few weeks.

Italy, a key player in NATO’s military effort, last week secretly withdrew its Air Force Garibaldi-551 planes from the campaign – dealing the operation another grave setback. And in the last 10 days, France has also scaled back the military assets it had invested in the fighting after despairing of the anti-Qaddafi rebels based in Benghazi ever making headway against Qaddafi’s forces. First, Paris tried to transfer its backing from Benghazi to the secessionist Berber tribes fighting Qaddafi in Western Libya. On June 30, President Nicolas Sarkozy ordered weapons to be parachuted to the tribal fighters in western Libya, contrary to UN and NATO decisions. But the Berbers preferred to use the French guns for plundering towns and villages instead of fighting government forces.

On Monday, July 11, after that experience, Defense Secretary Gerard Longuet said it was time for talks to begin between Qaddafi and the rebels. Paris, he said, had asked the two sides to begin negotiations.

This was backhanded confirmation of the claim Qaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam made to the French media that his father was engaged in contacts for ending the war through emissaries who met with President Sarkozy.

While Minister Longuet said the Libyan ruler cannot stay in power, he refrained from demanding his ouster by force or his expulsion from the country. This formula therefore came close to Qaddafi’s terms for ending the war. …

It also knocks over the international war crimes tribunal’s demand to extradite Qaddafi and his sons as war criminals.

Instead of sitting in the dock of the world court, they will now take their seats at the negotiating table for a deal one of whose objects will be to rescue NATO from the humiliation of defeat at war.

In an article at Front Page, Stephen Brown confirms that NATO is stopping the air strikes and seeking to negotiate an end to the war :

In a major shift in its position on the war in Libya, France has announced it wants the rebels to begin direct negotiations with representatives of Muammar Gaddafi. NATO has been trying for more than three months to depose the Libyan leader in an air campaign, led by France, which has cost tens of millions of dollars and caused fractures in the alliance.

In a strong indication of mounting frustration over NATO’s lack of success from the air and the rebels’ slow progress on the ground, France’s defence minister, Gerard Longuet, said last Sunday on French television that NATO had “stopped the hand that was striking” against the insurgents and “now was the time to sit down at the negotiating table.

“We have asked them to speak to each other,” said Longuet, whose government was the most ardent supporter of military action three months ago and was the first to launch air strikes.

But the biggest surprise in Longuet’s television appearance came when he said the bombs would stop falling as soon as negotiations begin, indicating NATO will cease all military operations. Which means that Gaddafi, against all expectations, will survive. Forcing Gaddafi to leave had always been a main goal of the military campaign Great Britain and France have been spearheading.

“We will stop the bombing as soon as the Libyans start talking to one another and the military on both sides go back to their bases,” said Longuet. “They can talk to each other because we’ve shown there is no solution through force.”

Which is another way of saying, ‘We’ve lost, he’s won”.

Up until now, the rebels have refused to negotiate with the Libyan government until Gaddafi stepped down. France says it still wants Gaddafi out but obviously now believes NATO’s bombing campaign will not achieve this goal and is too expensive to maintain, so a diplomatic solution is now necessary. …

Gaddafi, Longuet said … could “remain in Libya ‘in another room of the palace, with another title’.”

France’s two main NATO allies, Great Britain and America, were both quick to respond to Longuet’s announcement, indicating their displeasure as well as a possible breach opening up in the alliance.

But this Washington Post report paints a somewhat different picture, of the rebels preparing for the aftermath of their victory, and the US already recognizing their leaders as the legitimate “governing authority” of Libya – though conceding that Gaddafi is still in power:

The United States granted Libyan rebel leaders full diplomatic recognition as the governing authority of Libya on Friday, a move that could give the cash-strapped rebels access to more than $30 billion in frozen assets that once belonged to Moammar Gaddafi. …

The U.S. announcement was accompanied by an agreement among all of the countries taking part in a meeting of 30 Western and Arab nations to similarly recognize the rebel council after five months of fighting that has failed to oust Gaddafi. …

A meeting at which, it seems, Hillary Clinton was thoroughly taken in by the rebels (no surprise):

The rebels’ Transitional National Council “has offered important assurances today, including the promise to pursue a process of democratic reform that is inclusive both geographically and politically,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in an explanation of the decision to other foreign ministers. …

For weeks, U.S. officials have stopped short of official diplomatic recognition because of concerns about whether a post-Gaddafi government set up by rebel leaders would be truly inclusive politically and geographically.

The United States and other foreign powers have worried that the oil-rich country could become embroiled in tribal conflicts or ethnic tensions once Gaddafi is no longer in power.

The United States changed its position after hearing a presentation in Turkey by Mahmoud Jibril, the transitional council’s foreign affairs representative, who described the rebels’ plans for governing a post-Gaddafi Libya.

According to Libyan council members, the plan includes having the rebels, now based in the eastern city of Benghazi, reach out …

Ah, “reach out” –  favorite expression of the Obama administration …

to other regions of Libya not currently represented on the council. Together, they would form an interim government to rule in Gaddafi’s place and then guide the country through democratic reforms and, ultimately, the election of a new government.

Oh, yeah. Who can doubt that’s what they’ll do? The Berbers will promise never again to plunder those towns and villages. Scout’s honor.

But if the reports by DebkFile and Stephen Brown are right, the rebellion is over, and the rebels may as well give up.

We’ll soon know. If Gaddafi has the last laugh, the world will hear it.