Qaddafi facing endgame —and what comes next?

Given that when the Libyan rebellion first broke out, Qaddafi actually tried to play to the West by portraying the rebels as al-Qaeda terrorists—and even claimed the West was supporting him against a jihadist insurgency!—it is a sure sign of his desperation that he is now threatening to dispatch suicide bombers to European capitals in retaliation for the NATO bombardment. “Hundreds of Libyans will martyr in Europe,” Qaddafi said in a defiant speech before thousands of Libyans in Tripoli’s Green Square July 9—the second such comment so far this month. “I told you it is eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth.” The latest threats come as Qaddafi-loyalist forces launched a counterattack on rebels attempting to push toward Tripoli from Misrata, 125 miles to the east. (LAT, July 10)

A surprisingly cogent analysis in Iran’s usually propagandistic Press TV July 7 lays out four possible scenarios for Libya’s near future. The first is the civil war scenario, which foresees a split in the rebel National Transitional Council (NTC) and warns that the 120 tribes in Libya, which “have a long history of seeking revenge against each other,” could be drawn into a cycle of violence as they choose sides.

Next is the police state scenario, which foresees a military coup within the NTC. The analysis notes that some of the NTC’s military commanders—namely Gen. Abdul Fatah Younis, Maj-Gen. Suleiman Mahmoud, Lt-Gen. Khalifa Belqasim Haftar and Brig. Mohammad Najm—were among the the “Free Officers Movement” that led the 1969 coup that brought Qaddafi to power. “The current affairs could tempt some of the members of the military to wrest the power, especially should the current crisis be solved through military means not political ones.”

Third is the grey scenario: “Libya will not transform into a free democracy, nor will it become an absolute dictatorship; and it will experience an extended transitional period. Under such a scenario, the weakness of governmental organizations and financial corruption may draw people toward a ‘just dictator.'” In other words, likely a delayed dictatorship.

And finally, the partition scenario, in which the rebels establish an independent state in the east while Qaddafi continues to hold the west and the interior. “Some point at the Ottoman era when Libya was divided into three regions of Brega in the East, Tripoli in the west, and Fezzan in the south.” (The city of Brega, which has repeatedly changed hands in the current war, today also called Marsa el-Burayqah, is just down the coast from the rebel capital of Benghazi—see map. The eastern region was also known in Ottoman times by its Greek name of Cyrenaica.)

Note that none of these scenarios is very optimistic, and the anonymous writer implies they could be avoided if the crisis is solved “through political means” rather than military. Alas, that currently seems far less likely… South Africa’s Sunday Times on July 9 quotes President Jacob Zuma blasting the NATO intervention as undermining African Union efforts to mediate in the Libyan conflict (while also noting that Pretoria was one of the governments that voted in favor of UN resolution 1973 that authorized the NATO operations). But when asked if Qaddafi could be persuaded to step aside, Zuma could only respond with the slightly equivocal construction: “Knowing him I think we would be able to discuss some things that could perhaps help move towards resolving the problem.”

Meanwhile, following an African Union summit in Equatorial Guinea, the NTC rejected a ceasefire plan drawn up by South Africa, Mauritania, Uganda and Mali that called for a transition to democratic elections and legal reforms.”We do not accept it,” said NTC spokesman Abdelhafed Ghoga, “because the AU document does not include the departure of Qaddafi, his sons and his close circle; we have repeated this demand on more than one occasion.” In more evidence of the split between the African Union and the NTC, the AU also called on member states not to execute the arrest warrant for Qaddafi that has been issued by the International Criminal Court. AU chair Jean Ping additionally protested the French arming of the rebels, warning that it could risk leading to the “Somaliazation of Libya.” (Magharebia, July 4; BBC News, July 2)

See our last post on Libya.

  1. Violent factionalism in Libya rebel leadership?
    It seems that Abdul Fatah Younis (also rendered Abdelfatah Yunis), a Qaddafi defector and military leader of the eastern rebels, was apparently shot dead after he had been arrested by rebel authorities on suspicion that his family continued to maintain ties to the Qaddafi regime. Younis and his two aides, both colonels, were shot before they arrived for questioning, rebel President Mustafa Abdel Jalil said in Benghazi. (Bloomberg, July 28)

  2. Arrest in Gen. Younis assassination
    The Libyan National Transitional Council has formed a committee to probe the assassination of Gen. Abdul Fatah Younis and two of his aides. Ali Tarhouni, a rebel minister, said that a militia leader, who had asked to fetch Younis from the frontline near the oil town of Brega, had been arrested and had confessed that his subordinates carried out the killing. NTC President Mustafa Abdul Jalil, the opposition leader, had called Younes “one of the heroes of the 17th of February revolution.” He did not say Qaddafi’s forces were directly responsible for Younis’ killing, but said Qaddafi is seeking to break the unity of rebel forces. He also issued a stern warning about unaffiliated “armed groups” in rebel-held cities, saying they needed to join the NTC armed forces or risk being arrested. (AlJazeera, July 29)

  3. Purge in Benghazi
    The assassination of Gen. Abdul Fatah Younis seems to have unleashed a purge of suspected Qaddafi agents and sympathizers in Benghazi. At least 63 people have been rounded up by the rebels, following an hours-long battle in the easter city. Rebel leaders said their forces captured the base of the al-Nidaa Brigade, an armed group which had been operating under the opposition’s banner but is apparently now believed to be loyal to Qaddafi.

    AlJazeera reports Aug. 1: “Medics said at least four opposition members and 11 pro-government troops were killed in the clashes. But given the murkiness of the situation, it is unclear exactly what these terms mean. Are the al-Nidaa fighters considered “pro-government troops” even though they are not regular forces? Or is the “government” in question the rebel government in Benghazi?

    Al Jazeera’s Tony Birtley, reporting from Benghazi, said the al-Nidaa Brigade had been operating as a “fifth column” within the opposition ranks.