Summary of proceedings up to date. July 17
NATO’s Debacle in Libya Counterpunch, Alexander Cockburn
After three and a half months of bombing and arms supply to various rebel factions, NATO’s failure in its efforts to promote “regime change” in Libya is now glaring. Obviously NATO’s commanders are still hoping that a lucky bomb may kill Gaddafi, but to date the staying power has been with the Libyan leader, whereas it is the relevant NATO powers who are fighting among themselves.
The reports from Istanbul of the deliberations of NATO’s Contact Group have a surreal quality, as Secretary of State Clinton and British foreign minister Hague gravely re-emphasize their commitment to regime change and the strengthening of ties to the Transitional Council in Benghazi, while the humiliation of the entire NATO expedition is entering the history books as an advertisement of the dangers of political fantasy in the service of “humanitarian interventionism”, appalling intelligence work, illusions about bombing and air power, and some of the worst press coverage in living memory.
Take British prime minister David Cameron. He can thank Rupert Murdoch, even the wretched Andy Coulson for one ironic blessing. His appalling misjudgment and obstinacy in hiring former News of the world editor Coulson has so dominated British headlines these past days that an equally staggering misjudgment in the international theater is escaping well-merited ridicule and rebuke.
When Cameron vied with French president Sarkozy in early March in heading the charge against Qaddafi, no murmur of caution seems to have disturbed the blithe mood of confidence in Downing St. It was as though Blair’s blunders and miscalculations in Iraq, endlessly disinterred in subsequent years, had never been.
Cameron, like Sarkozy, Clinton and Obama presumably had intelligence assessments of the situation in Libya Did any of them say that Gaddafi might be a tougher nut to crack than the presidents of Tunisia or Egypt, might even command some popular support in Tripoli and western Libya, historically at odds with Benghazi and the eastern region? If they did, did they pay any attention? /more
Qaddafi attacks western rebels to improve his bargaining position for ending war DEBKAfile 15 July
Hillary Clinton announced US recognition of the rebel National Transitional Council (TNC) “until a fully representational interim government can be established,” Muammar Qaddafi declared “We aim for victory – not compromise!” and launched his troops on a new operation against rebels in the west. Clinton’s announcement to the 30-nation Libya Contact Group meeting in Istanbul, July 15, offered the key to eventually unlocking more than $34 billion in frozen assets.
debkafile reports: Qaddafi’s latest offensive began as he and his sons engaged in secret talks with the US – through Moscow – and with France and Italy – through Berlin. It was a maneuver to improve his bargaining position in the talks for ending the war against him.
The real business for terminating the war is taking place in that quiet forum, which does not include Britain and NATO, and only reflected in the deliberations of the Istanbul gathering.
Those talks were kicked off by the phone call US President Barak Obama made Thursday, July 14 to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev assigning Moscow the task of negotiating an end to the conflict based on Qaddafi’s consent to step down and hand power to an interim administration in Tripoli.
debkafile’s intelligence sources sum up the situation on the Libyan battlefield on Friday, July 15:
They dismiss the government spokesman’s charge that pro-Qaddafi forces are under rebel and NATO ground, air and naval attack in the eastern oil region of Brega as a red herring to disguise the transfer of an expanded government armored brigade from Brega to fight a separatist insurgency in the western Nafusa Mountains.
They also discount the rebel complaint that with enough arms on the western front they could have been standing now at the gates of Tripoli.
In fact, the rebels have suffered another defeat. The Libyan ruler was only stopped from moving in and taking their last strongholds around the western town of Zintan by fear that NATO would bomb his forces.
That Qaddafi felt able to move a division-sized force from eastern Libya to the west indicates that he no longer fears rebel advances around Brega in the east or Misrata in the west. Neither is he concerned about them capturing Sirte on the road to Tripoli – or even laying this key town to siege. In all the five months of their NATO-backed offensive against the regime, they never came close to that objective.
Qaddafi went on the offensive additionally to show the 30-member Libya Contact Group which army holds the upper hand on the Libyan battlefield and underscore NATO’s failure to turn the tide against him.
In recognition of that reality, the Istanbul meeting was informed by the US Secretary: “The TNC has offered important assurances today, including the promise to pursue a process of democratic reform that is inclusive both geographically and politically.” It will be recognized only “until an interim authority is in place” This means that the TNC was not recognized by the US as Libya’s legitimate government.
The formula specified by Clinton in a prepared statement was based on the understanding previously accepted by Qaddafi and sons as the basis for negotiations during their informal contacts with Washington, Paris and Rome. It is part of a political package that includes “a ceasefire to halt the civil war.”
(This development is the sequel to debkafile’s earlier story of July 14, 2011)
Libyan fighters killed trying to retake Brega Al Jazeera 16 July
A Libyan medical official says 10 opposition fighters have been killed and 172 more wounded in an attack on a strategic eastern oil town controlled by forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan leader. Mohammed Idris said on Saturday that fighters entered the frontline town of Brega the night before and that government shelling and land mines killed the men. He also said opposition forces had captured four government soldiers. Brega, nestled at the southeastern tip of the Gulf of Sirte, has changed hands multiple times during Libya’s civil war, which soon will enter its fifth month. It was unclear whether any other government troops were killed and whether the fighting had advanced the opposition frontline. “We are told that the bulk of the opposition fighters are some 20km outside of Brega, kept at bay with Grad rockets fired by Gaddafi’s fighters,” Al Jazeera’s Anita McNaught, reporting from rebel-held Benghazi, said.
Brega’s vast oil refinery and storage facilities could provide fuel and a much-needed income stream for the rebels. A victory would also provide a major boost for rebel morale, which has been sagging amid months of stalemate.
Heavy clashes also broke out on Saturday at the frontline in the Western Mountains town of Bir Ghanam. Anti-Gaddafi fighters hold the high ground on the outskirts of the town, their closest position to Tripoli, just 80km away. But the civil war has fallen into a stalemate, with the opposition forces unable to make significant advances, even while NATO bombs Gaddafi’s troops under a UN mandate to protect civilians. /more
Is Debkafile right? The coalition/NATO may have run out of bombs and money for them but the US has a carrier with an invasion force parked at Italy, the Frenchman Juppe is straining at the bit and the bank clerks in the UK will do whatever they are told. So an invasion is certainly a strong possibility. Depending on how the battle goes against French special forces (and a few mercs and tribesmen) in the mountains south of Tripoli the government forces will either consolidate and reinforce positions at Brega or proceed to Benghazi.
How is an invasion likely to proceed? The government has armed its citizens. Tribes from both sides of the conflict are almost unanimously against boots on the ground. Invading a country where almost the entire population is hostile is just the kind of adventure we could expect from Cameron, Hague and Fox. High cost in life and money, low return.
The uprising was not spontaneous, France shipped arms to the insurgents before the event. Cameron lied. The evidence was falsified, a video purporting to be a protest against Gaddafi had been edited, possibly by Qatari Al Jazeera. When the full video is seen it is clearly a pro Gaddafi rally. The insurgency comprises elements of terrorist organisations such as GIA and AQIM who are thought to be mainly responsible for the atrocities seen since the start of the conflict. It also includes fighters that had recently been shooting at allied soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, probably Pakistan too.
The facade reason for the intervention was to protect civilians. Rasmussen, the local head of NATO is being tried in absentia in Tripoli for killing (so far) 1108 and injuring 4500. What actually transpired was that NATO performed and is performing as the insurgency airforce. As far as the forbidden boots on the ground goes, information suggests that the main body of the insurgency is made up of French, Qatari, British and US forces and mercenaries such as Blackwater with Libyans being in the minority, dragged along to legitimise the coup attempt.
This action is one of the most contemptible of recent times with deceit, murder and mayhem being the stock in trade of NATO and the coalition. The UN has been shown to be a whore. The real reasons for the intervention are many. Oil, replacement of the state bank with a cartel central bank (theft of their gold) and avoidance of a supported African currency, Goldman Sachs and Sarkozy have big legal problems with Libya that victory for NATO would cause to disappear, strategic location for Africom and Israel (the latter has already signed a 30 year lease with the NTC) and then there is access to the Libyan multi billions that the NTC would quite happily sign over. The vast reservoirs of water underneath the country are not to be discounted and are included under “strategic”. Arms sales must also be included, the embargo has been a popular joke amongst dealers.
The African Union is so disgusted with the UN that it is to form its own, independent of bank cartels. Clinton et al dismissed it to a nonentity position by forming the Libya contact group of 30 (out of 180) countries.
I hope an invasion takes place. It would guarantee the disintegration of the insurgency. Perhaps in that event Rasmussen could be seconded to be Libyan premier.
Addendum. NATO gave Tripoli 30 humanitarian aid bombs last night. The reasons are thought to be 2. The disinfo put out about Gaddafi intending to blow up the capital was put out by the CIA. NATO was “taking out” Gaddafi’s ability to blow the place up – by blowing it up, go figure. The other reason is that Rasmussen is pissed off that he’s being tried for bombing civilians.See my.telegraph.co.uk/clothcap/clothcap/163