Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat – The president of the Libyan Constitutional Union, Mohamed Ben Ghalbon, which opposes the Gaddafi regime, has expressed his doubts about the nature of the military operations being carried out by the international coalition forces in Libya. In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Ben Ghalbon said “I fear that the Americans are deliberately giving Gaddafi sufficient time to tighten his grip on all of western Libya, giving him control of a third of Libya, namely the Tripoli region as well as the Fezzan region (which did not rise up against him). This means that Gaddafi is in control of most of Libya’s oil after he recovered Ras Lanuf and Brega [from the rebels].” He added “Cyrenaica has divided itself from him [Gaddafi], with European help, but this region has the least oil wealth and that is why he does not consider it a priority.”
Ben Ghalbon added “God only knows how long this will see Libya divided, during which Brega will require European protection from Gaddafi and his military attempts to regain control of this city. This will leave the US forces free to carry out a number of operations.”
Ben Ghalbon also clarified to Asharq Al-Awsat that when the coalition force imposed the no-fly zone above Libya, after obtaining international and legal approval to do so, they divided the military mission against themselves. This saw, for example, British and French air forces covering eastern Libya, namely Cyrenaica, whilst US air force covered western Libya. Ben Ghalbon stressed that it was the speedy French intervention which broke Gaddafi’s siege of Benghazi. At the time, Benghazi was the last rebel stronghold in Libya, and was surrounded by Gaddafi tanks, and would certainly have fallen to Gaddafi forces had the European air forces not intervened.
Ben Ghalbon told Asharq Al-Awsat “after a few more hours of tank bombardment, the Gaddafi forces could have entered Benghazi, and they would have destroyed the city and hung hundreds of revolutionaries in the city’s public squares, as this is the nature of the Gaddafi regime in dealing with its opponents, and this is what happened in 1976, and 1984. That is until the European intervention prioritized aiding the city [of Benghazi] and saving its inhabitants, putting this above the destruction of Gaddafi’s air defense, and this is something that confirmed the good intentions of the Europeans and the effectiveness of their aid.”
However he added “the situation in the Tripoli region was, and continues to be, different, as the US aircraft and missiles are engaged in targeting air bases under the pretext of disrupting Gaddafi’s air defense, whilst they also struck some insignificant targets in the city of Tripoli, abandoning the towns of Misrata and Zentan to face intensive tank bombardment from the Gaddafi forces…despite the calls from the peoples of these two cities for help.”
Ben Ghalbon told Asharq Al-Awsat that “the entire world was aware what the fate of the rebels in these cities would be if the regime’s forces were able to gain control, however apparently rescuing them was not one of America’s priorities, for they did not turn to this [mission] until after they had completed their objectives and struck Gaddafi’s air defenses.”