The Big Gaddafi has barely left the building – the Bab-al-Aziziyah compound – and the Western vultures are already circling overhead; the scramble is on to seize the “big prize” – Libya’s oil and gas wealth.The Big Gaddafi Asia Times Online, August 20.
Libya is as much a pawn in a serious ideological, geopolitical, geo-economic and geostrategic chessboard as a pedestrian morality play sold as a TV reality show; idealistic “rebels” win against Public Enemy Number One. Once the public enemy was Saddam Hussein, then it was Osama bin Laden, today is Muammar Gaddafi, tomorrow is President Bashar al-Assad in Syria, one day it will be Iran’s President Mahmud Ahmadinejad. The enemy is never the ultra reactionary House of Saud.
How NATO won the war
The spectacular reappearing act of Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Gaddafi notwithstanding, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has virtually won the Libyan civil war (or “kinetic military activity”, according to the White House). The masses of “Libyan people” were spectators at best, or bit part actors in the form of a few thousand “rebels” carrying kalashnikovs.
The top billing was R2P (“responsibility to protect”). From the beginning R2P, manned by France and Britain and backed by the US, magically turned into regime change. That led to the unsung stars in this production being Western and monarchical Arab “advisers”, as in “contractors” or “mercenaries”.
NATO started winning the war by launching Operation Siren at Iftar – the break of the Ramadan fast – last Saturday evening, Libya time. “Siren” was the codename for an invasion of Tripoli. That was NATO’s final – and desperate – power play, after the chaotic “rebels” had gone nowhere after five months of fighting Gaddafi’s forces.
Until then, NATO’s plan A was to try to kill Gaddafi. What R2P cheerleaders – left and right – had dubbed “steady NATO attrition” boiled down to praying for three outcomes; Gaddafi killed, Gaddafi surrenders, Gaddafi flees.
Not that any of this prevented NATO bombs from falling in private homes, universities, hospitals or even close to the Foreign Ministry. Everything – and everyone – was a target.
“Siren” featured a colorful casting of “NATO rebels”, Islamist fanatics, gullible embedded journalists, TV-friendly mobs, and Cyrenaica youth manipulated by opportunist Gaddafi regime defectors eyeing fat checks by oil giants Total and BP.
With “Siren”, NATO came out all guns (literally) blazing; Apache gunships firing nonstop and jets bombing everything in sight. NATO supervised the landing of hundreds of troops from Misrata on the coast east of Tripoli while a NATO warship distributed heavy weapons.
On Sunday alone there may have been 1,300 civilian deaths in Tripoli, and at least 5,000 wounded. The Ministry of Health announced that hospitals were overflowing. Anyone who by that time believed relentless NATO bombing had anything to do with R2P and United Nations Resolution 1973 was living in an intensive care unit.
NATO preceded “Siren” with massive bombing of Zawiya – the key oil-refining city 50 kilometers west of Tripoli. That cut off Tripoli’s fuel supply lines. According to NATO itself, at least half of Libya’s armed forces were “degraded” – Pentagon/NATO speak for killed or seriously wounded. That means tens of thousands of dead people. That also explains the mysterious disappearance of the 65,000 soldiers in charge of defending Tripoli. And it largely explains why the Gaddafi regime, in power for 42 years, then crumbled in roughly 24 hours.
NATO’s Siren call – after 20,000 sorties, and more than 7,500 strikes against ground targets – was only made possible by a crucial decision by the Barack Obama administration in early July, enabling, as reported by The Washington Post, “the sharing of more sensitive materials with NATO, including imagery and signals intercepts that could be provided to British and French special operations troops on the ground in addition to pilots in the air”.
That is, without the Pentagon’s unmatched firepower know-how, satellites and drones, NATO would still be engaged in Operation Quagmire Forever – and the Obama administration would not be able to milk a major victory in this “kinetic” drama.
Who are these people?
Who are these people who suddenly erupted in joy on US and European television screens? After the smiles to the cameras and the Kalashnikovs shooting the skies, get ready for some major fratricidal fireworks.
Ethnic and tribal trouble is bound to explode. Many of the Berbers from the Western mountains, who entered Tripoli from the south this past weekend, are hardcore Salafis. Same with the Muslim Brotherhood/Salafi nebula from Cyrenaica, which has been instructed by US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) boots on the ground. As much as these fundamentalists “used” the Europeans and the Americans to get close to power, they may become a nasty guerrilla force if they are marginalized by the new NATO masters.
A large Benghazi-based “revolution” sold to the West as a popular movement was always a myth. Only two months ago the armed “revolutionaries” barely numbered 1,000. NATO’s solution was to build a mercenary army – including all sorts of unsavory types, from former Colombian death squad members to recruiters from Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), who pinched scores of unemployed Tunisians and tribals disgruntled with Tripoli. All these on top of the CIA mercenary squad – Salafis in Benghazi and Derna – and the House of Saud squad – the Muslim Brotherhood gang.
It’s hard not to be reminded of the UCK drug gang in Kosovo – the war NATO “won” in the Balkans. Or of the Pakistanis and Saudis, with US backing, arming the “freedom fighters” of Afghanistan in the 1980s.
Then there’s the dodgy, Benghazi-based, Transitional National Council (TNC)’s cast of characters.
The leader, Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, Gaddafi’s justice minister from 2007 until his resignation on February 26, studied sharia and civil law at the University of Libya. That might entitle him to cross rhetorical swords with the Islamic fundamentalists in Benghazi, al-Baida and Delna – but he could use his knowledge to press their interests in a new power-sharing arrangement.
As for Mahmoud Jibril, the chairman of the council’s executive board, he studied at Cairo University and then the University of Pittsburgh. He’s the key Qatari connection – having been involved in asset management for Sheikha Mozah, the ultra high-profile wife of the emir of Qatar.
There’s also the son of the last monarch of Libya, King Idris, deposed by Gaddafi 42 years ago (with no bloodshed); the House of Saud would love a new monarchy in northern Africa. And the son of Omar Mukhtar, the hero of the resistance against Italian colonialism – a more secular figure.
The new Iraq?
Yet to believe that NATO would win the war and let the “rebels” control power is a joke. Reuters has already reported that a “bridging force” of around 1,000 soldiers from Qatar, the Emirates and Jordan will arrive in Tripoli to act as police. And the Pentagon is already spinning that the US military will be on the ground to “help to secure the weapons”. A nice touch that already implies who’s going to be really in charge; the “humanitarian” neo-colonialists plus their Arab minions.
Abdel Fatah Younis, the “rebel” commander killed by the rebels themselves, was a French intelligence asset. He was killed by the Muslim Brotherhood faction – just when the Great Arab Liberator Sarkozy was trying to negotiate an endgame with Saif al-Islam, Gaddafi’s London School of Economics son now back from the dead.
So the big winners in the end are London, Washington, the House of Saud and the Qataris (they sent jets and “advisers”, they are already handling the oil sales). With a special mention for the compound Pentagon/NATO – considering that Africom will finally set up its first African base in the Mediterranean, and NATO is one step closer to declaring the Mediterranean “a NATO lake”.
Islamism? Tribalism? These may be Libya’s lesser ills compared to a new fantasyland open to neo-liberalism. There are few doubts the new Western masters won’t try to revive a friendlier version of Iraq’s nefarious, rapacious Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), turning Libya into a hardcore neo-liberal dream of 100% ownership of Libyan assets, total repatriation of profits, Western corporations with the same legal standing of local firms, foreign banks buying local banks and very low income and corporate taxes.
Meanwhile, the deep fracture between the center (Tripoli) and the periphery for the control of energy resources will fester. BP, Total, Exxon, all Western oil giants will be gratefully rewarded by the transitional council – to the detriment of Chinese, Russian and Indian companies. NATO troops on the ground will certainly help to keep the council on message.
Oil executives estimate it will take at least a year to get oil production back to pre-civil war levels of 1.6 million barrels per day, but say annual earnings from oil could reap Tripoli’s new rulers some US$50 billion annually. Most estimates place oil reserves at 46.4 billion barrels, 3% of the world’s reserves and worth some $3.9 trillion at today’s oil price. Known gas reserves stand at some 5 trillion cubic feet.
Thus in the end R2P wins. Humanitarian imperialism wins. The Arab monarchies win. NATO as global Robocop wins. The Pentagon wins. But even that is not enough for the usual imperial suspects – already calling for the deployment of a “stabilization force”. And all this while lost-the-plot progressives in assorted latitudes continue to hail the Holy Alliance of Western neocolonialism, ultra-reactionary Arab monarchies and hardcore Salafis.
It ain’t over till the fat Arab lady sings. Anyway, on to the next stop; Damascus.