The fight for Libya

The Guardian reports:

There has been much to terrorise the people of Misrata over the past weeks of bloody siege. Tank shells and mortars have fallen at random in the heart of the rebel-held Libyan city, with little warning bar the final whistle of the explosive flying through the air. Muammar Gaddafi’s planes have periodically bombed the revolutionary enclave in the west of the country.

But residents say there has been nothing like the snipers.

“We are afraid even to step into the street any time. You can just be shot. I’ve seen children shot. They come in here with arms and legs destroyed. The snipers know who they are shooting. It’s terror,” said a doctor reached at one of the town’s hospitals who said he wanted to give his name only as Ali because he feared for the safety of his family elsewhere in Libya.

“Before you could go out when they weren’t shelling and bombing. But now you never know. Some of the snipers are not even wearing uniforms.”

The New York Times reports:

Friendly to Iran even as it serves as a base for the American military, Qatar has long had one of the most creative foreign policies in this unstable region. But now, by sending its tiny air force to fly missions over Libya and granting other critical aid to the Libyan rebels in their fight for freedom and democracy, this very rich Persian Gulf emirate is playing a more ambitious and potentially more risky role.

But for an absolute monarchy that was part of an alliance that supported Saudi Arabia’s move into Bahrain to crush democracy protests there, it is also somewhat incongruous.

A week ago, Qatar became the first Arab country to grant political recognition to the Libyan rebels, and its six Mirage fighter jets flying with Western coalition partners are giving the United States and European allies political cover in a region long suspicious of outside intervention.

Qatari officials say they are discussing ways to market Libyan oil from any ports they might hold in the future, to give the rebels crucial financial support, and they are looking for ways to support them with food and medical supplies. Qatar — the home base for the Al Jazeera satellite news channel, which is supported by the Qatari government — is also helping the Libyan opposition create a television station using a French satellite, to offset the state-controlled media.

Experts who follow Qatar say the current policies are consistent with two long-held objectives: to emerge as a world player despite its tiny size, and to play off its stronger neighbors, particularly Saudi Arabia and Iran, to protect its sovereignty and natural gas wealth.

“They are staking a claim to being a leading voice in defining Arab nationalism for Arabs no matter their location,” said Toby Jones, a Rutgers University historian of the modern Middle East. He added that the nation’s leadership was seeking “to step out of the shadow of more powerful regional neighbors like the Saudis and Iranians.”

The New York Times reports:

At least two sons of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi are proposing a resolution to the Libyan conflict that would entail pushing their father aside to make way for a transition to a constitutional democracy under the direction of his son Seif al-Islam el-Qaddafi, a diplomat and a Libyan official briefed on the plan said Sunday.

The rebels challenging Colonel Qaddafi as well as the American and European powers supporting them with air strikes have so far insisted on a more radical break with his 40 years of rule. And it is not clear whether Colonel Qaddafi, 68, has signed on to the reported proposal backed by his sons, Seif and Saadi el-Qaddafi, although one person close to the sons said the father appeared willing to go along.

But the proposal offers a new window into the dynamics of the Qaddafi family at a time when the colonel, who has seven sons, is relying heavily on them. Stripped of one of his closest confidantes by the defection of Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa and isolated by decades of attempted coups and internal purges, he is leaning on his sons as trusted aides and military commanders.

The idea also touches on longstanding differences among his sons. While Seif and Saadi have leaned toward Western-style economic and political openings, Colonel Qaddafi’s sons Khamis and Mutuassim are considered hard-liners. Khamis leads a fearsome militia focused on repressing internal unrest.

Al Jazeera reports:

Clashes have continued between pro-democracy troops and forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan leader, at the key oil town of Brega, with the rebels saying they have taken control of a portion of the town.

On Monday, columns of opposition fighters drove up the main coastal highway, regaining ground they had given up the day before, but the effective use of artillery and landmines by Gaddafi’s troops kept them at bay.

Al Jazeera’s Sue Turton, reporting from the road to the east of Brega, said rebels had spotted trip wires in the sands on either side of the highway and were instructing fellow troops and journalists to stay on the pavement.

Human Rights Watch has reported that Gaddafi’s troops laid anti-tank and anti-personnel mines around Ajdabiya when they controlled the city last week.

The regime’s troops seem better able to hold onto ground than the untrained and undisciplined rebels; they dig entrenchments and have not retreated from Brega, even after another night of coalition air strikes on their positions on Sunday.

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