The “enlightened” West has just sent a message to the rebelling Libyan people; Muammar Gaddafi’s forces will have to dissolve you into a sea of blood before we decide to do anything. And even if we do, it may be too late. Sorry.
As for the African king of kings, he just had to slightly step on the gas to overtake those stone pillars of bureaucratic inertia – the United Nations, the European Union, the Arab League; now he’s on a roll, after Ajdabiya has practically fallen, only 150 kilometers away from Benghazi along a virtually empty desert road. Liberated eastern Libya is sheikh, rattled and rolled.
Gaddafi called the West’s bluff – and he’s winning. He laughed on the abject Anglo-French failure to impose a no-fly zone (not that he cared; he prefers to use heavy artillery and tanks). He saw the White House’s inertia as the House of Saud savagely preempted last Friday’s “Day of Rage.” He registered the White House silence as Saudi Arabia invaded Bahrain on Monday.
He noticed how, for Washington, regime change is unthinkable in both Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. And as much as the West wants regime change in Libya, he concluded, they won’t risk anything to accomplish it. He might have glanced at the Economist Intelligence Unit democracy index and noticed that Libya ranks 158th, and Saudi Arabia 160th. We’re equals – he must have thought; we both have oil; and we won’t go down.
In both Libya and Bahrain the great 2011 Arab revolt seems to have reached the red line. Regime change stops here – with the House of Saud ranked at the top of the Arab dictatorial pyramid, followed by its minions, the Gulf kingdoms and sheikhdoms.
The cherry in the hypocrisy cake is that last week Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) foreign ministers declared that Gaddafi’s regime had become “illegitimate”. They called on the Arab League to “shoulder its responsibilities in taking necessary measures to stop the bloodshed” – even as Bahrain’s repression machine had already shot unarmed civilians and Saudi Arabia’s had threatened to do the same.
And don’t expect Qatar’s al-Jazeera to the rescue; it is favorably covering the Saudi invasion of Bahrain, after largely ignoring weeks of protests. Call it the GCC’s esprit de corps. Bahrain’s King Hamad al-Khalifa has declared a three-month state of emergency – which apologists insist is not martial law – and authorized the head of his armed forces to do whatever it takes to quell the protests, as in killing his own people.
Watch the red lines
Gaddafi’s military officers also saw which way the repressive desert winds would continue to blow; heavy bombing and heavy shelling would take them to the (recaptured) promised land. For his part, top rebel military commander General Abdel Fattah Younis, Gaddafi’s former interior minister who now has a $4 million bounty on his head, had betted the farm on his sapper teams locating Gaddafi’s tank and artillery positions, and then going for sabotage. It didn’t work. He drew the red line in Adjabiya; the line fell in just one day. He’s only left with desperate street-by-street fighting – but Gaddafi won’t commit troops; his strategy is bombing and shelling to kingdom come.
The Battle of Benghazi will be the rebels’ last stand. As the seaside road splits at Ajdabiya, the Gaddafi machine will bypass Benghazi, seize towns to the east, near the Egyptian border, and then lay siege to Benghazi from both sides. Appalling bloodshed looms.
History may soon prove that the White House actually barred the Anglo-French double bill – explicitly – from doing anything about Libya. Gaddafi was a “terrorist”, then “our bastard”, now a “thug”, but he is a thug Washington knows. Since the beginning Washington feared an Islamist-tinged post-Gaddafi. It’s irrelevant that the Benghazi provisional government has revealed itself to be tribal and nationalist. Gaddafi cannily insisted on an al-Qaeda-conducted rebellion because he knew that would stick – as it did.
And the West won’t even get the oil in the end. Gaddafi has just told German TV that Western corporations – unless they are German (because the country was against a no-fly zone) – can kiss goodbye to Libya’s energy bonanza; “We do not trust their firms, they have conspired against us … Our oil contracts are going to Russian, Chinese and Indian firms.” In other words: BRICS members.
In fairness, US President Barack Obama could not but act as a mummy. After the preemptive, unilateral, Bush/neo-cons hegemonic orgy, he could not afford another imperialist US invasion of a Muslim nation. Especially as the White House must have noticed how the US’s moral capital in the Arab world is virtually zero.
Moreover, the White House knew China – not to mention fellow BRICS members – was and remains against any intervention. China holds enormous interests in Africa and does not want to rock the boat. And to top it off, with a trillion-dollar deficit, you can’t exactly afford to splurge on no-fly zones; your cash-strapped voters believe they should the object of humanitarian rescue, not distant Libyans.
The outlook is grim. There won’t be regime change. Instead, there will be a tsunami of blood. The US cavalry won’t come to the rescue. And we will all duly watch it on al-Jazeera like silent sheep.