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Dr Musa A Keilani: World needs to move fast and take immediate action
March 15, 2011
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US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has outraged members of the US Congress by pointing out that the regime of Muammar Qadhafi has every chance to regaining control of Libya in the absence of external military intervention. The comment drew calls for Clapper’s resignation and the White House had to distance itself from his assertion.

Some said Clipper’s comment, made during testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee, damaged efforts to topple Qadhafi.  Well, Clipper was only making a clear and objective assessment of the situation on the ground. It is clear that if the present state of affairs is allowed to continue, then the Qadhafi regime will definitely overpower his challengers through merciless and ruthless use of his military forces.

Clapper said his assessment was based in part on secret intelligence that showed that special military units loyal to the Libyan strongman and equipped with tanks and artillery have been able to maintain and replenish their weapons. Even if Qadhafi doesn’t overpower the rebels, Clapper said, Libya could split into two or three parts in “a Somali-like situation.”

The world has shown itself hapless so far in the face of Qadhafi’s bloody response to calls for his ouster. Thousands have died and many more have been wounded in airstrikes and tankfire he ordered against the dissidents and still the international community has not been able to come up with an effective response to the gross violations of human rights and war crimes committed in Libya just to ensure the survival of the regime.

Qadhafi is indeed living up to his reputation as the “madman” of Africa. Indeed, Africa and the Arab World have for long suffered under Qadhafi’s whimsical behaviour and actions in the last four decades. He never spared any leader who did anything that displeases him. He has even ordered assassination plots against some of them. And so when it comes to Qadhafi, there is not much sympathy left for him in the Arab World. If anything, his brutal crackdown against dissidents has only worsened the Arab public’s attitude towards him.

Anyway that is not the key point here. Clapper’s observation that it would definitely need external military intervention to save the people of Libya from further atrocities by the Qadhafi regime is widely shared around the world.

French President Nicholas Sarkozy has even called for airstrikes against Qadhafi’s forces, but such an operation would definitely need to have a clear and distinct resolution backing it by the UN Security Council.

British Prime Minister James Cameron shares the French approach, but other leaders of the European Union are opposed to the idea. Of course, some members of the EU are more worried about the Libyan crisis spilling into their territories rather than about the brutal suppression of the people of Libya.

The real crisis is the wavering international approach to the bloodshed in Libya. Everyone agrees that something needs to be done, but no one knows what is to be done and how.

Indeed, leaders of the European Union’s member countries said on Friday that Qadhafi must give up power and that they agreed to “examine all necessary options” to protect the civilian population in Libya. However, they could not agree on the proposal for a no-fly zone, which is seen as a pressing need as Qadhafi’s war planes pound rebel fighters. Sarkozy and Cameron had sought the summit to produce a definite military plan to the Libyan rebellion, including the possibility of imposing a no-fly zone over Libya.

However, the final statement of the EU summit on Friday made no reference to the proposal although it said that “in order to protect the civilian population, member states will examine all necessary options, provided that there is a demonstrable need, a clear legal basis and support from the region.”

All these diplomatic jargon does little to help the people of Libya. Of course, on the diplomatic front, EU leaders offered political backing for the Libyan National Council, the interim authority set up by rebels in Benghazi, but did not offer the formal recognition given to the by France. The only agreement that the EU could produce was that Qadhafi must go. One of the new/old concerns of the EU is the African Union’s rejection of external military intervention in Libya. The African leaders’ position is easily understood. Most of them are autocratic rulers and they are worried that they might find themselves in a similar situation to that of Qadhafi. They do not want to set a precedent. That was perhaps why Council President Herman Van Rompuy said leaders hoped to hold a joint summit soon with the Arab League and the African Union.

The bottom line is clear: The world has already delayed action to put an end to the Libyan crisis. It is also clear that the international community would not be able to deal with Qadhafi on a business as usual basis even if he somehow manages to survive the crisis (which is highly unlikely in any event).

The big powers and leaders of the world should practise what they preach about people’s right to self-determination and the right to live in freedom and without fear of oppression and abuse. They have to move fast and take immediate practical action to save the people of Libya. Clearly, there are enough and more strategists and planners around the world to help realise that goal. But they should not waste any time doing something effective and immediate about Qadhafi and Libya.

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