News Analysis: Libya crisis sees no quick end with both sides plunging in finance, military hardship
Laaska News June 2,2011
by Li Zhihui
BENGHAZI, Libya, June 2 (Xinhua) — The embattled Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi is determined to cling to power, but the West- backed opposition who gains momentum from NATO’s extension of air war is still turning a deaf ear to no peace deal unless it is based on Gaddafi’s departure.
While western leaders are emphasizing that Gaddafi’s days are numbered, a Wednesday statement of African Union (AU) Commission head Jean Ping raises a ray of hope for the Gaddafi regime whose space in the international community has been squeezed by the opposition.
Ping told the European Union in Brussels that the African bloc supports Russia’s mediation of the Libyan crisis but insisted that Africa should play a major role in finding a resolution by diplomacy, not war.
Libya’s opposition has successfully gained recognition from major countries including France, Italy and Qatar and the Gaddafi government is mainly turning to AU which has been calling for an end to the NATO strikes.
The wide gap among parties of the crisis seems to remain for an unpredictably long time to swamp the north African country with the people suffering shortages of fuel, food and medicine.
The continuing NATO air strikes, the shift of position of world powers such as Russia, and the military actions in the battlefields are removing the chances of Gaddafi to stay in power, said Fathi Ali, a professor with Research and Consultation Center at Garyounis University in the opposition bastion Benghazi.
But the situation now is very dynamic since the financial and military power of the opposition is still too weak to bring a quick end to the Libyan strongman’s 42-year-rule, he said.
The warfare, now in its fourth month, has damaged the nation’s ability to refine fuel and forced foreign workers to flee the violence. Both the rebels controlling the east Libya and the Gaddafi government gripping Tripoli face paralyzing economy and shortages of supplies.
It seems Gaddafi’s assets are still enough to afford his resistance against the opposition for another several months, but a senior United Nations aid official said shortages of food and medicine in Tripoli had amounted to a “time bomb,” and it is reported to be only be a matter of weeks before food stocks reached a critical level if the fighting continues.
While on the other side, the opposition is seeing worse situation — its treasury running out of money. The current security in eastern Libya cannot allow the resumption of the oil export which the country’s revenue depends on.
The lifeline for the opposition is largely guaranteed by Gulf states such as Qatar and Kuwait, while some countries who pledged to offer aid are slow to take the action.
Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said his government plans to unfreeze the huge frozen assets of the Gaddafi regime to support the opposition, but the difficulties of the legal procedures will not be overcome soon.
“I have lost my job after the foreign company I worked with closed and my children have to stay at home since schools are shut down,” said a 40-year-old engineer.”How can I support my family if the war continues?”
Military deadlock is also not easy to break despite minor advances by the opposition forces in the besieged Misrata and west mountains.
Britain and France are ready to support opposition forces with attack helicopters, and Britain is even mulling sending “bunker- buster” weapons which are believed to target underground shelters where Gaddafi and his family might be hiding. Besides, NATO has decided it will extend its mission in Libya for 90 days.
But Gaddafi has lasted far longer than Western officials had expected, and capturing the capital Tripoli remains a mission impossible for the rebels up to now.
The political structure in the opposition’s National Transitional Council is emerging, with posts ranging from foreign affairs, defense, finance to agriculture and reconstruction, but it is far from comprehensive. A car bomb that hit a VIP hotel in Benghazi Tuesday has revealed the fragility of the security in the opposition stronghold. Although there has been no information about the cause of the incident, the rebels widely believe the bomb was a threatening message from the people loyal to Gaddafi.
Facing apparent disadvantage in arms and soldier training, the opposition stands firm to reject any ground operation of the coalition in Libya, fearing the foreign intervention could lead to the crisis like in Afghanistan.
“People want a free and independent Libya without oppression from the government, let alone the suppression from foreign powers, ” said Garyounis professor Ali.
Fighting between the better-trained Gaddafi troops and ill- equipped young men from the rebel is continuing around areas of Brega and Misrata. In the west mountains, according to the UN refugee agency, more than 61,000 people have been driven to Tunisia to flee the war.
“Without NATO air support, we cannot win the war, but sooner or later we will move to Tripoli,” said a veteran soldier training young volunteers in Benghazi. “Whether it is one year or 10 years, we will fight.”