The Battle for Libya
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|Juda S. Engelmayer||February 21st 2011|
Cutting Edge Contributor
Moammar Qaddafi’s son Seif al-Islam proclaimed that his father remained in charge and has the army’s support. He said that they will “fight until the last man, the last woman, the last bullet.” During the first comments following six days of demonstrations, he acknowledged that the Libyan army made mistakes during protests because troops were not prepared to battle demonstrators. Juda S. Engelmayer
After 41 years of authoritarian rule, Moammar Qaddafi has been frustrated by the wave of unrest that is sweeping the country, with mass demonstrations in the capitol city, Tripoli and Benghazi, the second-largest city, Qaddafi’s son said “There has to be a firm stand…This is not the Tunisian or Egyptian army,” as he threatened to “eradicate the pockets of sedition.”
Unlike the revolt in Egypt and Tunisia, Libya has answered the demonstrators with deadly force, and al-Islam says that the government will prevail. Since the protests began, more than 200 people have been killed; something that Western nations and human rights groups have been watching carefully. "The United States is gravely concerned with disturbing reports and images coming out of Libya," State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said in a statement Sunday.
Acknowledging that protesters have seized control of some military bases and tanks, al-Islam warned that the protesters were risking a civil war that could burn through Libya’s wealth. In his speech al-Islam used the argument of money and suggested that poverty will ensue should the revolt continue. Yet, prior to the unrest the unemployment rate was 30 percent and housing is in short supply. In the eastern part of the country, poverty is much worse. Al-Islam also threatened that the country would resort to “colonial” rule, with "Americans and European fleets coming your way and they will occupy you.” He claimed that Libyan exiles “living comfortably” in the west wanted to come back and rule the country. Prince Idris al-Senussi, an exiled Libyan opposition leader was on CNN Sunday praising the people of Libya for their valiant protest.
In a further setback for Qaddafi, a key Libyan tribe and government ally turned against him, and Libya's permanent representative to the Arab League, Abdel Moneim al-Honi, said he has joined the revolution in protest Qaddafi’s decision to fire on demonstrators and killing many of them. To combat the flow of information, just as in Egypt, the Internet has been shut down, and international calls cannot be made, and the standard move blocking journalists from covering the news. Eyewitnesses able to sneak cell phone calls have been calling international news organizations informing that protesters were fighting back forcefully and not giving up.
Since 2003, Qaddafi had been trying to bring his country out of international isolation and abandoned his program for weapons of mass destruction, renounced terrorism and compensated victims of the April 5, 1986 bombing of La Belle disco in Berlin that killed two US servicemen and a Turkish woman, and the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, that killed 270 people. The efforts of the British government to help Libya open up, which is presumed to have led to the release of the Pam Am bombing mastermind Abdelbaset al-Megrah after only serving 8½ years, is a source of contention between the U.S. and the U.K..
Those moves, however, opened the door for warmer relations with the West and the lifting of U.N. and U.S. sanctions. Yet, the bloody response to this protests is causing a strain in the relationship between Libya and western nations that have been working to include the oil rich state among “friendly” nations. Seif al-Islam warns the west to stay out of the conflict and claimed that once they squash the rebellion, the nations that supported the people's protest will regret it.
Within hours after al-Islam's broadcast, protesters stormed the broadcasting stations in Tripoli and set government buildings on fire. Ali Gebril, a Libyan-American with family living in several cities of Libya is expecting the people to prevail. When asked if he expected the revolution to free Libya he said, “I have no doubt about it.”