Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Gaddafi may fall to the weapon of oil | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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More than a hundred days have passed since fighting in Libya broke out between Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s forces and those revolting against him. Today the picture is clearer; Gaddafi may still be standing on his feet but he is suffering losses every day, and his reign is almost certainly coming to an end. The only question is when?

Two developments are significant in this battle. The first is that almost all of Gaddafi’s key allies have abandoned him, and the second is that Gaddafi’s forces may surrender, not because of a lack of money, men, or arms, but because the rebels are attacking Gaddafi’s oil supplies, and the people of Tripoli are now being forced to resort to using bicycles because of the lack of petrol. Thus Gaddafi may fall to the weapons of oil and diplomacy.

The Russians previously announced that they would not give up on Gaddafi, yet since then it is clear that they have indeed abandoned him. It was clear to everybody that the equation had changed when the Germans changed their stance and sent a [diplomatic] delegation to the rebel capital, Benghazi.

It has been said that a Russian solution still exists, which would see Gaddafi relinquishing power without leaving Libya, and instead being transferred to a safe location of his choice within the country. This [solution] would also see the Libyan people holding a general election to choose an alternative ruler. It appears that Gaddafi has not rejected this idea out of hand, and it could be acceptable to the rebels so long as the only alternative is a destructive and costly war. However this may be a trick by the Colonel to buy more time, whilst the allies [NATO forces] are complaining about their financial losses [in Libya]. Indeed Colonel Gaddafi now finds himself in an extremely difficult situation, as he may lose the war due to the weapon of oil being turned against him, something he never envisaged.

Ironically, Gaddafi may be defeated by the same oil which he used to threaten his opponents throughout his reign. He has smuggled large quantities of arms into the country, and possesses modern military technology obtained prior to the revolution, whilst still retaining an adequate financial budget that allows him to buy political allies and additional mercenaries, yet despite all this he might lose [the conflict with the rebels]. It seems that the rebel military strategists have decided to weaken Gaddafi’s forces by targeting oil sources and storage installations. Today the price of a gallon of gasoline in Tripoli is fifty times more expensive than what the rebels pay in Benghazi.

Since the beginning of the uprising, Gaddafi has always had the option to flee the country with his children, leaving to live in Uganda or Russia; however this is something that he has always rejected. This was followed by a second alternative to divide the country between the East [held by the rebels], and the West [held by Gaddafi], but this was something that the rebels rejected in turn.

Following this the Russians, surprisingly, entered mediation, taking over after the President of South Africa failed to help the two sides reach a peaceful solution. The Russians are closer to the Colonel, and if Colonel Gaddafi does intend to step down he will not grant his concession to South Africa, but rather to those who he believes can get him something in return.