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The so-called Libya contact group – that euphemism defining the minute Western/Gulf emirates “coalition of the willing” – meets in Doha, Qatar, ahead of a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) ministerial meetings in Berlin, amid an atmosphere of downright farce.
Former Libyan foreign minister and current defector to Britain Moussa Koussa is a stalwart of the Qatar meeting, trying to convince the “rebels” of the Interim National Council (INC) that the only possible solution for the moment implies Colonel Muammar Gaddafi remaining in power.
That also happens to be exactly what mediator Turkey is saying. No wonder the “rebels” and their sponsors – the dashing Arab liberator Anglo-French couple President Nicolas Sarkozy and Prime Minister David Cameron – are fuming, and puzzled.
The head of the African Union (AU) mission to Libya, South African President Jacob Zuma – whose country is the only member of the BRICS group that supported United Nations Security Council resolution 1973 (Brazil, Russia, India and China abstained) – was convinced that Gaddafi had embraced the AU road map, which started with a ceasefire. But there has been no ceasefire so far. The wall of mistrust between Gaddafi and the rebels/NATO tandem has reached Himalayan proportions. NATO secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen keeps stressing Gaddafi “does not keep his promises”. Gaddafi is not fool enough to stop fighting while NATO may keep on bombing.
As for the United States, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton – who along with her Amazon warriors, envoy to the UN Susan Rice and National Security Council aide Samantha Power, forced this sorry adventure on a reluctant White House – now also stress a ceasefire (but always with inbuilt “regime change”).
It’s quite useful to compare the AU approach – developed by South Africa, Uganda, Mali, Mauritania and Congo-Brazzaville – with NATO’s. Once there’s a ceasefire respected by both sides, there’s the establishment of humanitarian corridors; civilians, local and foreigners (especially African migrant workers) can be protected; and a national political dialogue may start, meeting “the legitimate aspirations of the Libyan people for democracy.”
The INC is in no position to dictate its terms to Gaddafi. There’s certainly a risk of a ceasefire reached after the current stalemate crystallizing a balkanization of Libya – east and west. But virtually no Libyans seem to want to embrace that possibility. The AU is simply being pragmatic. Libya – along with Algeria, Egypt, Nigeria and South Africa – finances 75% of the AU budget.
Gaddafi is friendly with the majority of the 53-member AU; Mauritania, Mali and Congo-Brazzaville, for instance, benefited from a lot of Libyan investment (in fact, no less than 31 African countries did).
On top of it the mediators are Africans – not neo-colonial Europeans. South Africa’s Zuma would be the first to viscerally repudiate an Anglo-French-dominated Libya. There was ample suspicion about Zuma’s motives when South Africa voted for UN resolution 1973. Anyway, the fact is now Zuma says what the top four BRICS plus Germany were saying before the vote; this Anglo-French-drafted resolution is open-ended. And it opens the door to the West just deposing any African leader they fancy, whenever they want it.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has also been instrumental in this mediation. He considers Gaddafi a true nationalist – and as most of his African peers, not to mention in the Middle East and across the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in the developing world, they all favor nationalists compared to foreign puppets a la INC.
The AU mediation finally shatters the myth of the “international community” fighting the same old demonized “evil dictator” figure in Libya. Unless one considers the “international community” as comprised of seven members among the 28-member NATO (France, Britain, Belgium, Denmark, Norway, Canada and the US), plus those two paragons of democracy in the Persian Gulf, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
“Regime change” (which is not part of the UN resolution) does have support; but only in Washington, London, Paris and Benghazi.
Now compare the realism of the AU position – similar to Turkey’s – with the pathetic squabbling between the Anglo-French and NATO. London and Paris want NATO to go on a mad bombing spree – as if NATO bombs could be programmed to only decimate pro-Gaddafi Libyans.
Coming from two political midgets such as British Foreign Secretary William Hague and French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, that’s no surprise. For its part, NATO’s Brigadier-General Mark van Uhm tried to spin it in Brussels, warning – correctly – that Gaddafi’s forces adapted to the air strikes by favoring “hit-and-run tactics by motorized columns of pickup trucks to wear out opposition forces psychologically rather than gain ground.”
So NATO acknowledges it just can’t shock and awe the enemy without provoking a genocide. And the grown ups in the picture are the Africans – who have come up with a plausible endgame. Only Paris, Rome and Doha have recognized the INC as the de facto Libyan government (can’t resist the comparison with Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the UAE being the only ones to recognize the Taliban.)
It’s telling that Washington at least has been more realistic. Now it’s up to the Central Intelligence Agency-infested, opportunist-laden, marginally al-Qaeda-linked “rebels”, and their Anglo-French sponsors, to wake up and smell the Arabica coffee.