Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Collapse Of Gadhafi’s Jamahiriya Is Upon Us

By Ziad Akl Moussa  

On June 15, the uprising in Libya had lasted fourth months. During that time the people of Libya decided to express their political will in a mass movement demanding regime change.

Libya has set a unique example, an alternative model of conflict not witnessed in any other Arab country, despite similarities in Yemen and Syria.
During this phase peaceful protest turned to violent confrontation and ended in international military action.

Yet Libya’s future remains uncertain. Facts have emerged on the ground: the formation of a National Transitional Council in Benghazi and of new social movements comprised mostly of youth like “Change in Libya;” the amplified activism of the Libyan diaspora in the West.
All this offers indications of what a post-war Libya might look like. However, most future scenarios still depend on Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s strategy, shaped by a mindset that often lacks rationality.

Despite the escalation in military activity by NATO, the operational situation in Libya has been following the same pattern since the no-fly zone was implemented. Aided by NATO strikes, the rebels manage to push back Gadhafi’s forces toward the west. While the rebels either maintain ground or prepare to advance further west, Gadhafi’s forces launch counterattacks to disrupt their organizational efforts and to win time to regroup.
After days of back and forth fighting, Gadhafi’s forces retreat to secure cities closer to Tripoli while the rebels hold the ground they have gained. We’ve seen this pattern in Ajdabiya, then Ras Lanuf and Brega, and now Misrata.

This recurring pattern merits two observations. First, Gadhafi’s military is indeed being weakened, hence faces more difficulties in the confrontation with a civilian army of whose performance is improving. And second, Gadhafi lacks a clear combat strategy; his plan is to cope rather than to initiate.
Politically, the situation has changed since the uprising began. Gadhafi stands minus the political capital he relied upon during the first days of conflict.

The cards the Libyan regime threw on the table, like opening the Libyan coast to illegal immigration, destroying the oil infrastructure and threatening open civil war have become realities the world has to deal with. The regime’s management of this conflict has neutralized whatever political leverage it once possessed.
Gadhafi now is entering a phase of political alienation. Countries like Germany that oppose military operations have recognized the Transitional Council. To shake the remaining pillar of support Gadhafi relies upon, the United States is pushing hard to convince African nations to withdraw their diplomatic missions from Tripoli. Gadhafi today seems to be betting on cards he no longer holds.

He is hoping, through his resilience to reach a stage where European parliaments will no longer sanction expansion of the Libyan war bill.
This is a long shot, considering the difficulties European governments will have to explain that their military has campaign yielded nothing, and given the threat Gadhafi poses to southern European security. Meanwhile, the National Transitional Council is gaining more ground every day and transmitting a message of assurance to those skeptics who fear a Somali model in North Africa once Gadhafi is gone.

As for the Arab world, Libya poses a dilemma. Post-revolutionary governments in Egypt and Tunisia are conservative on Libya.
Both nations are experiencing domestic transition constraining their foreign policies. Yet, despite the lack of a clear official position for or against Gadhafi, their Libyan border policies seem to reflect an adequate degree of objectivity. Egyptian interests in Libya – the Egyptian labor force there, joint economic investments, and border relations concerning drug trafficking and illegal immigration – are best served with Gadhafi out.

The Egyptian public strongly favors the rebels and condemns the Libyan regime’s brutality.
The rest of the Arab world is divided between supporters of the rebels, like the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, and conservatives like Saudi Arabia and Algeria who have a vested interest in the preservation of the Gadhafi regime yet who can’t afford to endorse its actions. In other words, the cost of supporting Gadhafi in the Arab world.

Although the situation in Libya remains complicated, there will be no return to the pre-Feb. 15 situation. The Jamahiriya Gadhafi created is over.
The security apparatus he used to crush political activism has crumbled and the void he worked hard to instill within Libyan politics and society is being filled. The future holds little for Gadhafi’s rule. There are a lot of state-building tasks ahead for Libya.

-This commentary was published in The Daily Star on 22/06/2011
-Ziad Akl Moussa is a researcher at the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo. He specializes in Libyan politics and Egyptian politics and society. This commentary first appeared at, an online newsletter

No comments:

Post a Comment