Is Iraq model for Libya?

In some of the worst political violence since the fall of Moammar Qaddafi two months ago, a gun battle broke out in Tripoli Oct. 14 between supporters and opponents of the ousted dictator. The Washington Post says “truckloads of revolutionary gunmen clutching automatic rifles roared off to the Tripoli neighborhood of Abu Salim after reports emerged of a group of armed people there waving the green flag of Gaddafi’s government.” In the ambiguity of this lengthy transition period, it is necessary to glean from context which side are the “revolutionaries.” (It’s almost as bad as the lack of any consistency in the spelling of “Qaddafi.”) There were no reports of casualties, but Col. Ahmed Bani, spokesman for Libya’s new Defense Ministry, said: “Qaddafi’s still alive, so the world is still in danger.” Note the implicit play to aid from Western imperialism—Qaddafi is not just a risk to Libyans, but to “the world” (read: the West), as if he were Saddam Hussein. Never mind that for nearly the past 10 years, the West had been happy to embrace the despot as a GWOT ally and proxy.

NTC forces (the correct term to avoid ambiguity) have meanwhile launched what they hope will be a final offensive for Qaddafi’s hometown of Sirte, where a lengthy siege, air-strikes and street battles have caused much of the populace to flee. NTC hopes for a popular uprising against the Qaddafi-loyalist defenders have been frustrated, and areas of the town are in flames. NTC forces are using tank and mortar assaults against the remaining Qaddafi-loyalist strongholds. NATO air-strikes on targets in Sirte continue, with fleeing residents charging high civilian casualties. A battle is also raging for the other remaining town held by Qaddafi-loyalists, Bani Walid. (Oman Tribune, Ennahar Online, Algeria, Oct. 14; Reuters’ Africa News blog, Oct. 12)

In a telling episode, TNC Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril visited Baghdad last week to meet with his Iraqi counterpart Nouri al-Maliki. AP informs us that a spokesman for the Iraqi leader said (apparently without irony): “Al-Maliki expressed Iraq’s readiness to support Libya especially because there are similarities between the Iraqi and Libyan experiences, where the two countries got rid of dictatorships.” He somehow forgot to mention the shared experience of Western aerial bombardment.

See our last posts on Libya, North Africa and the Arab revolutions.

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