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Libya: A horrific scenario - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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“The Arabs are nothing…Screw Arabs and the Arab League!” This was the reaction of Saif al-Islam Gaddafi to the position adopted by the Arab League, endorsing the imposition of a no-fly zone to be applied by the UN Security Council, and the League’s call for the protection of the Libyan people, deeming the Libyan regime to have lost its legitimacy, because of its crimes and violations against its own population. Aside from the insulting language used by Gaddafi’s regime against its own people and against the Arabs, who have sided with the Libyans in the face of these massacres, the regime is placing its hopes on the time factor, and a divide in international stances. Gaddafi hopes to be able to regain control of the majority of cities which he has lost, or at least those near Tripoli in order to protect himself, as well as the oil producing towns, to use as a pressure card and in order to prevent the opposition from benefiting from them.

The horror scenario feared by many, is that Gaddafi, through a policy of bombardment and destruction, will emerge stronger than the popular uprising he is facing. Or he could divide the country by clinging on to power in part, leaving the rest in the hands of the opposition, who would wait for another opportunity where things may change, and they would be able to regain control of other areas. Colonel Gaddafi does not care if he governs a devastated or divided country, just as he does not care about his people being slaughtered, in order to cling onto his position, which he claimed that he would relinquish in the 1970s. If he regained control, revenge would be widespread and he would govern with unprecedented oppression, having realized that the gap has widened between him and large sections of the population. Thus Gaddafi will only be more resolute in his conviction that only force will enable him to retain power.

If there are those who doubt what Gaddafi’s forces can do, they should look again at the scenes broadcast on Libyan television, depicting the city of Zawiya after it had been stormed by the regime forces. These images provide conclusive evidence of the scorched earth policy adopted by Gaddafi’s regime to save itself, and proof that he will not hesitate to exterminate his people, or destroy cities and institutions, in order to cling onto power. The magnitude of the terrible destruction inflicted upon the city was tragic, even the mosque was not safe from Gaddafi’s indiscriminate bombardment. Some graves were flattened to the ground, and many buildings were destroyed, despite the regimes covert attempts to conceal the impact of the bombings and destruction, by draping flags over building facades in the city centre. This is what we were “allowed” to see, and one can only imagine what we have not been allowed to witness in the city, which had its communication networks cut, so the crime could be completed in silence. The calls for help, and the appeals from some residents of Zawiya, who spoke to satellite television channels before communication was cut off after Gaddafi’s troops moved in, paint a distressing picture of the magnitude of horror that they are experiencing. There is no doubt that Gaddafi’s forces will enact terrible revenge upon the populace, in order to implement the Colonel’s pledge to crush what he described as rats and stray dogs.

The priority now is to protect the Libyan people from certain slaughter. The reluctance or hesitation of those offering support [to the Libyan rebels] is neither understandable nor justifiable. Whilst it is true that nobody wants to see foreign troops fighting on the ground in Libya on behalf of the Libyan people, and this stance has been reiterated by the Libyan opposition represented by the National Transitional Council, and endorsed by the Arab states at the Arab League meeting last Saturday. However it is also true that one hopes the Arab countries could unite their ranks and will, in order to create a joint force to send to Libya to impose the no-fly zone, rather than leaving this task to international forces. The Arabs were able, in the 1970s, to form an Arab peacekeeping force, endorsed by the Arab League, which was sent to Lebanon to stop the bloodshed, but today is not like the days of old. The current Arab situation means that even a mere agreement on a statement of support for the Libyan opposition represents a major achievement. As for the dream of achieving a united Arab view to the point of establishing a joint military force, this remains a dream waiting for a better tomorrow.

In light of this situation, and because we cannot stand idly whilst the Libyan people are massacred, we must request a resolution from the UN Security Council. A no-fly zone does not mean widespread military intervention in Libya; there are many military methods and techniques available that can be used to jam the communication systems used by Gaddafi’s forces. Steps can also be taken against command and control systems, and against radars and computers, thus affecting the air and field capacity of the regime forces. It is also possible to help the Libyans by sending military equipment to the rebels, to enable them to confront Gaddafi’s military machine.

The important thing is to save the Libyan people from their leaders, who have lost their minds and are now baring their teeth and declaring their thirst for blood and insistence on clinging to power, even if it means “fighting to the last man, woman, and child.” If Gaddafi succeeds, this will send a message to every dictator facing a revolution at the hands of his own people. The message will be that murder, oppression and massacres are legitimate means to stay in power. If Gaddafi succeeds, then nobody could rule out a “counter revolution” taking place in Egypt, whilst the remnants of the Ben Ali regime in Tunisia would be encouraged by this message to invoke violence, unrest, and chaos. This would be a horrific outcome.

Osman Mirghani

Osman Mirghani

Osman Mirghani is Asharq Al-Awsat's former deputy editor and senior editor-at-large.

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