Libyan uprising close to collapse as Gaddafi’s troops near Benghazi

The Guardian reports:

Muammar Gaddafi’s effort to defeat the rebels before international support can come seems to be paying off, with the uprising close to collapse as the US ended weeks of stalling to join Britain and France in supporting a United Nations resolution to impose a no-fly zone over Libya.

A vote is expected this week, but is likely to come too late to support the rebellion. Gaddafi’s troops, backed by air power, moved into the town of Ajdabiya, clearing the way to the rebel stronghold of Benghazi, 90 miles away. Residents of the city were fleeing towards the border with Egypt.

Washington is facing accusations, particularly from the rebels, that delay had given the Libyan leader the space he needed. “They have betrayed us,” Ahmed Malen, one of the revolutionary volunteers pasting anti-Gaddafi posters on walls in Benghazi. “If they kill us all, the west will have blood on its hands. They do not believe in freedom. They are cowards.”

President Barack Obama will face criticism from Democrats as well as Republicans if the rebellion collapses.

France’s foreign minister, Alain Juppé, admitted that a no-fly zone might now be too late. “If we had used military force last week to neutralise some airstrips and the several dozen planes that they have, perhaps the reversal taking place to the detriment of the opposition wouldn’t have happened,” Juppé told Europe-1 radio.

The Obama administration, already fighting two wars, was reluctant to join a third and challenged the value of a no-fly zone. But, after the Arab League countries met and agreed a request on Saturday for a no-fly zone, the US along with Britain, France and Lebanon supported a draft UN resolution to be presented to the UN security council.

Although victory by Gaddafi would make a no-fly zone redundant, the draft resolution also includes measures that would remain in some degree relevant, mainly expanding sanctions, such as stricter enforcement of the arms embargo, freezing the assets of more members of the Gaddafi regime and extending a travel ban, and ordering countries to stop mercenaries flying from their airports to Libya.

A security council source, noting Gaddafi’s advances, said: “Time is of the essence.” But he acknowledged that the security council was slow moving and that while a vote could be held this week, it could spill over into next week. “The negotiations will be tough,” he added.

France’s UN ambassador, Gerard Araud, told reporters: “We are deeply distressed by the fact that things are worsening on the ground, that the Gaddafi forces are moving forward and the council has not yet reacted.”

The US shift comes after securing a promise that Arab countries would contribute forces to policing the no-fly zone. Countries such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan would be asked to provide planes. Washington is worried that a purely western force would be counter-productive, alienating Arab opinion and damaging the changes elsewhere in the Arab world.

But the rate of advance by Gaddafi may make a no-fly zone academic. The street-by-street fighting promised by rebel’s military leader, Abdel Fattah Younis, failed to materialise. Younis was Gaddafi’s interior minister until recently and now has a $4m (£2.48m) bounty on his head.

In an interview with the Italian newspaper Il Giornale, he derided international discussionof a no-fly zone. The Libyan leader told the rebels: “There are only two possibilities: surrender or run away.”

Gaddafi’s seizure of the coastal road at Ajdabiya opens the way not only to Benghazi but to Tobruk and control of Libya’s border with Egypt. The coastal road divides at Ajdabiya, offering Gaddafi’s forces the opportunity to bypass Benghazi to seize towns to the east and then besiege the rebels’ de facto capital from both sides.

Akram Ramadan, a British-born Libyan broadcaster who returned to the UK from Bengazhi this week, said: “Everything is already too late. Whatever they decide, it is a month too late. Libyans are disappointed with the response of the west.”

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13 thoughts on “Libyan uprising close to collapse as Gaddafi’s troops near Benghazi

  1. Colm O' Toole

    Never lose hope in revolutionaries. Benghazi has a population of half a million strong all solidly against Gaddaffi. No expert but can’t imagine taking such a large city will be easy for any unwelcome army.

    A telling statement is “The coastal road divides at Ajdabiya, offering Gaddafi’s forces the opportunity to bypass Benghazi to seize towns to the east and then besiege the rebels’ de facto capital from both sides.”

    Suggests that maybe Gaddaffi is not going to even try Benghazi and instead just place the city in a kind of siege which seems strange considering its the second largest port city in Libya.

    I’m still optimistic that Gaddaffi will go. He has lost his people and while he might win a civil war, he is still going to lose the revolution. Diplomatically isolated, his people against him, no tribes except his own and sanctions. It’s a mess alright and awful news for the revolutionaries but eventually the people will prevail.

  2. dickerson3870

    RE: “Libyan uprising close to collapse as Gaddafi’s troops near Benghazi”
    MY COMMENT: Don’t you just know that the Saudi “royals” are thinking/saying, “Thank Allah for Muammar Gaddafi!”

  3. AMeshiea

    Thats great Colm. How long did Hussein last with sanctions and who do you think will really suffer for them? How many did he netrilize after 1991? An opportunit has been squandered here becuase of the Saudi and Israeli hold on US politics. The US is has deliberately overseen the fall of the revolution. They will now be hated all the more.
    Pathetic.

  4. Colm O' Toole

    “Thats great Colm. How long did Hussein last with sanctions and who do you think will really suffer for them?”

    Yes I was thinking the exact same thing as I was writing the previous comment. Gaddaffi does seem to be going the Saddam Hussein route and hoping that it will work for him as it did with Saddam. But of course the situations are different.

    1) On the sanctions: they are targetting only the Gaddaffi family. We are not talking about sanctions that target the population. What was done in Iraq was economic warfare that killed 500,000 children.

    2) The government structure of Iraq and Libya are almost polar opposites. Saddam’s Baath party was founded on socialist and totalitarian principles (ie big government structures with massive state security) in Iraq you literally had an Orwell like Big Brother monitoring you. This system after 1991 allowed Saddam to remain in power.

    In Libya on the other hand Gaddaffi has gone with a grassroots tribal decentralised structure wrapped up in socialism as well. There is no central state just alot of “popular committees” that run government at a local level. Do you know that in Libya this decentralisation even caused him to dissolve all government departments except the Department of Interior, Foreign Affairs and Defense?

    http://www.carnegieendowment.org/publications/index.cfm?fa=view&id=19968&prog=zgp&proj=zdrl,zme#news

    3) Not only did Saddam have a strong central government to help him maintain power but he also had the support of the 20-25% Sunni population. The 60% Shiites (after siding largely with Iran during the Iran-Iraq war) were fairly apathetic towards politics and looked closer towards Iran for government which did alot of the civil and charity work for the Shiites of Iraq. In Libya Gaddaffi faces a unified people not divided along sectarian lines.

    4) Saddam never faced a full blown revolution. A Kurdish uprising yes. A low level guerrilla war in the Shiite south yes. But never a full blown revolution.

    I think Gaddaffi will try copy Saddam in putting down this rebellion. Fact is Gaddaffi’s power is largely an illusion. In this case the Emporer really has no clothes.

    If you are a President but your people don’t support you and no foreign countries recognise your legitimacy are you really a President outside your own mind?

  5. M. Smith

    Checking in again here I continue to see the pro NFZ crowd refusing to discuss let alone even acknowledge the LONG TERM effects of US-led intervention in Libya. The rich documentary record of what the powerful do and why they do it is simply ignored.
    A reminder to AMeshiea that Daddy Bush and Cheney WANTED to keep Hussein in power after GW I. They were very clear about that. What “opportunity” are you talking about? What is a NFZ? How do you implement it? As even hawks I find deplorable in their previous support for slaughter admit no-fly zones have a terrible record of achieving their desired goals. There continues to be a hysteria that is feeding a cry for a vague and ill-defined use of force by the most dangerous and powerful military machine the world has ever known. And as has been repeatedly asked by many sober analysts – who are we defending and which rulers will follow? Everyone wants Gaddafi gone. But it’s the height of irresponsibility to allow hysteria to cleanse our minds of the awful reality of US militarism and its consequences. Get it through your heads. The US National Security State is not a force for good in the world and certainly not in a region where the corpses of some million or more of its victims lay buried. It’s absurd to insist it can behave in a way contrary to its mission: neutralizing or destroying all opposition to US political/economic control and domination.

  6. Paul Woodward

    Martin Smith — All these dire warnings about the danger posed by the American imperial war machine might seem warranted if it was actually revving away and real preparations were being made for some kind of spectacular intervention. But as far as I can tell, Obama has spent most of the last month sucking his thumb, grateful that Gates said a NFZ would be really really difficult and that Clapper predicted Gaddafi would win anyway. Obama’s only regret now must be that he said Gaddafi must go — but of course he was cautious enough not to set a deadline. No doubt in the coming weeks we’ll witness the big guns being pulled out as the administration tries to bludgeon Tripoli with threatening phrases like “untenable status quo” and “gravely concerned.”

    When the earthquake struck Japan, I imagine the White House let out a big sigh of relief. Now Americans can worry about a radioactive cloud advancing across the Pacific and the media can forget about Libya. Gaddafi can quietly strangle Benghazi and the Saudis can bring stability to the Gulf. No wonder when Hillary arrived in Cairo ready to urge Egyptians to continue along the path to democracy the Jan25 Revolution Youth Coalition told her to piss off.

  7. AMeshiea

    Colm, thanks for your response:

    “1) On the sanctions: they are targetting only the Gaddaffi family. We are not talking about sanctions that target the population. What was done in Iraq was economic warfare that killed 500,000 children. ”

    Not true, its a blanket sanction evidence is our own trade with libya with food stuffs I(we sell food products to Libya). We cannot get banks to transfer payments. In fact my company is the only company other than a greek ship with APC from Israel that have been able to discharge their goods (so much for the arms embargo). Every day a new bank is barred from business and it does not matter what we are selling. As fpor the arms embargo which clearly has not prevented weapons to the regime, the rebels are included in the restrictions so no help there.

    “2) The government structure of Iraq and Libya are almost polar opposites. Saddam’s Baath party was founded on socialist and totalitarian principles (ie big government structures with massive state security) in Iraq you literally had an Orwell like Big Brother monitoring you. This system after 1991 allowed Saddam to remain in power.
    In Libya on the other hand Gaddaffi has gone with a grassroots tribal decentralised structure wrapped up in socialism as well. There is no central state just alot of “popular committees” that run government at a local level. Do you know that in Libya this decentralisation even caused him to dissolve all government departments except the Department of Interior, Foreign Affairs and Defense?”

    No Kaddaffi controls everything using Orwellian double speak which apparently Western analysts have fallen for. This is not tribal. He says the masses have power but the power lies in the ultimate dictator by terrifying everyone through his security forces and inside narks who help to imprison any and all dissent. It is is worse than Saddam, all power is funneled through his “revolutionaries” where families spy on eachother like some Stalinesque nightmare.

    “3) Not only did Saddam have a strong central government to help him maintain power but he also had the support of the 20-25% Sunni population. The 60% Shiites (after siding largely with Iran during the Iran-Iraq war) were fairly apathetic towards politics and looked closer towards Iran for government which did alot of the civil and charity work for the Shiites of Iraq. In Libya Gaddaffi faces a unified people not divided along sectarian lines.”

    Correct!
    BUT there are tribal lines but these are no longer as strong due to urbanization. It is mixed up now. There is still a tribal sensability, but it is now very mixed up and not so clear-cut even though Kadaffi is trying to use these old divisions for his purposes. One proof is that in the Bengazi revolution they have repeatedly said that Tripoli is their capital in a unified Libya. Whatever the history, the mixing and the nationalism that now exists makes it clear tha a dicided Libya pleases no-one inside the country even though many western pundits seem to think it would be just fine.
    There is an opportunity to rid the world of a dictator and a criminal that supports terrorism. Foreign soldiers have never been wanmtyed and the idea that any foreign force could easily jump in is a red herring that is used to scare people away from intervening n the skies. The point is to end the regimes air power. This is not a huge operation. It is being deliberatly inflated to avoid action that will irritate America’s allies in the Kingdom. The sheer numbers of anti-overnment forces along their belief against paid soldiers will win this, all it takes is disabling the air force. I am not sure how may times i have to say this.

    “4) Saddam never faced a full blown revolution. A Kurdish uprising yes. A low level guerrilla war in the Shiite south yes. But never a full blown revolution.
    It was a huge revolt in the south which was exterminated because the saddam forces used helicopters and the US watched, as has been said before it was policy to leave Saddam in power. Is it policy to leave Moammer? It is styarting to look like it.
    I think Gaddaffi will try copy Saddam in putting down this rebellion. Fact is Gaddaffi’s power is largely an illusion. In this case the Emporer really has no clothes. ”

    No he may be naked but he has power which is real and not imaginry western weapons. These are not illusions. At least saddam, was not trying to put his children into his place after he died. At least Saddam actually invested in the prosperity and education and infrastructure of his country. Kaddaffi has done nothing for his people. He has ammassed power and wealth and a vast wardrobe of unfashionable clothing (surely a crime against humanity in and of itself).

    “If you are a President but your people don’t support you and no foreign countries recognise your legitimacy are you really a President outside your own mind?”

    He is not a president he is a despot. That’s why it will take more than words and sanctions to move him. A paltry effort by the Sixth Fleet would end this whole debate. But lets just talk some more….
    There was no fight in Iraq between the people and the despot. The Libyan people came in peace they were slaughtered and took up arms in defence. They/we are asking for help and you think raibows and daffodills will change things?

    I know you mean well and the left of cente always does, but i can’t help but think that, between those that have faith in the inevitability of right over might, and those with the belief that might can only be wrong, the freedom movements will get squashed in-between an ideological pergatory.
    Sometimes forcing the powers that be through moral superiority into doing the minimal they need to do for the good of the rest is better than whining about all the bad things done before.

    The cause of freedom in this world is not helped by a left wing caught up in protesting the last atrocity and, in so doing, paves the way for the next.

  8. Christopher Hoare

    AMeshiea, thank you for your enlightening contribution. The whole world loses because Israeli and Saudi interests coincide here and self determination in the Arab world suffers another setback.
    The establishment of a “Responsibility to Protect” consensus is even more important today — let us at least push that forward with the sacrifice of the Libyans in mind. A small international force, powerful enough to have intervened in Ruanda, in Bosnia, in Tripoli when the first crimes against humanity became evident would save more lives than all the hot air blown in the world’s capitals combined. It would clearly need to be established and deployed by a sub-agency not subject to UN Security Council veto. It would also need to be independent of the villains hiding behind the curtain of legitimacy that cause the major part of the world’s suffering today.

  9. M. Smith

    AMeshia,

    “Forcing the powers that be through moral superiority….”
    How do you propose to “force” the US Military establishment to do something not in its perceived (loads of instances when that perception was false) interest? You’re talking in vague platitudes.
    “….into doing the minimal they need to do for the good of the rest is better than whining about all the bad things done before.”
    I suppose you’re suggesting like Obama we look forward not backward? Nobody’s “whining.” I am voicing rational concerns based on -I’ll say it again so please make note of it- the nature of power and the behavior of the US in the region and world since its project of empire built on the slave trade and genocide began.
    “They/we are asking for help and you think raibows and daffodills will change things?”
    This is an emotional response to a sober argument. It completely distorts the case against the use of US force in Libya. You refuse to lay out a specific plan that can even reasonably hope to have the desired outcome. Are you not paying attention to the very strong arguments by hawks regarding the fact that a NFZ does not take away his artillery and tanks and soldiers and mercenaries? You are merely jumping up and down and waving your arms demanding some ill defined use of extreme violence by the world’s supreme serial invader. You are overcome with emotion and not making sense. US action will be terrible for the rebels and the region and the world in the LONG run. As I’ve said before in this space the “humanitarian” NFZ and bombing of Serbia was the foundation for the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan which cost the lives of roughly a million people. Connect the dots!
    “The cause of freedom in this world is not helped by a left wing caught up in protesting the last atrocity and, in so doing, paves the way for the next.”
    I don’t even know what this statement means. More vague nonsense. “Never mind the atrocities, do something!!!!” This kind of nonsense is irrational and dangerous. The argument backed up by mountains of documentary evidence is that “humanitarian interventions” or the latest crock they’re feed us “Responsibility To Protect” are rhetorical cover given for the mass killing of innocent people by Western powers. In the unlikely event that US force in Libya is used resulting in some kind of clean magical outcome that conforms to your hallucinations I’d like to know what you’re going to tell the victims of the next US attack undertaken with the “good intervention” in Libya used as cover. A simple cost/benefit analysis of innocent people killed over time is something I don’t hear you contemplating. You just want action now, damn all the evidence of how this will only sacrifice more lives now and in the future.

  10. M. Smith

    Christopher Hoare continues to ignore me. I have written in some detail on this site why R2P is a bogus doctrine cooked up by western powers to serve their interests.
    I’ll ask you again Mr. Hoare. Would R2P, were it in effect, have been used to save the thousands of people in Iraq who were being murdered by Saddam when he was a client of the US? Or would it have been triggered against US/Coalition forces when they took over from Saddam and started killing Iraqis in numbers that make your favorite boogey man Milosevic look like a piker? How about Gaza? Lebanon? Yes or no Mr. Hoare. Afghanistan? Ten years of killing boys while they’re collecting firewood enough to get your beloved R2P put into action? Turkey’s Kurds? Colombia? East Timor? How about Southeast Asia during the US reign of terror? Oh I know Pol Pot would have felt R2P’s wrath but how about LBJ and Nixon? Kissinger in the dock?
    You owe it to the people you’re trying to convince of this perversion of justice some basic honesty.
    I also have not seen your response to my correction of your distorted version of the Rwanda killings. Perhaps I missed it. Have you taken up my suggestion and taken a gander at the record of your hero Paul Kagame in the DRC? Have your read the 545 page UN Report (released Oct 2010 after delay) on the killings in the region during the 90’s and to whom much of the blame is attributed? Is there not one single white face involved with the slaughters in Africa? No Israelis? No western mineral/oil/gas/diamond interested parties? How’s your cell phone working these days. That coltan sure comes in hand don’t it? AFRICOM? We’re there to fight terrorists are we? No financial stake in the region?
    Please Mr. Hoare. I beg you to get off the R2P horse and get down in the mud and face the facts of who does most of the killing in this world. Or you can continue wallowing in blissful ignorance (or willful blindness) but please save us the lectures. Lives are at stake.

  11. M. Smith

    Paul,

    It looks that way to me as well. And I’m sure I don’t have to tell you I’m relieved.

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