British Foreign Secretary William Hague today said: “What happens to Gaddafi is ultimately a question for the Libyans.”
Hague echoes the same about-face that’s been voiced in the last week through many NATO capitals, starting with Paris, then followed by Rome, Washington and now Britain.
It’s no coincidence that these countries are speaking from the same script. It’s also no coincidence that Hague’s words are almost verbatim what last week South African President Jacob Zuma said while standing next to British Prime Minister David Cameron, who was visiting South Africa.
Also no coincidence that in an interview published in The Wall Street Journal yesterday, Mustafa al-Jalil, the leader of the “rebels” and al-Gaddafi’s former justice minister, told The Journal that the “rebels” were willing to allow al-Gaddafi and his family to live in Libya. They would have to surrender all power and Benghazi was to determine the conditions under which they would be monitored. Astute observer can tell that Jalil, who hasn’t condemned “rebel” atrocities, including the ethnic cleansing of Misurata’s Black Libyans reported in The Journal on June 21, isn’t in a position to determine al-Gaddafi’s future. Otherwise, he would have been conducting the interview with The Journal in Tripoli.
Also news last week of Benghazi seizing the oil town of Brega and reports of “rebel” plans to launch major offensives throughout Libya rang a bit hollow. The “rebels” months ago previously seized Brega and marched to the outskirts of Sirte, al-Quthafi’s stronghold. That advance resulted in a “rebel” rout pushing most fighters back to Benghazi. It’s hard to imagine a different outcome. That’s how the current stalemate developed. Last week’s reported offensives seemed designed for public relations to give the sense that the rebels are still a military threat to Tripoli but have decided to become reasonable; this braces their supporters for a deal when it become inevitable.
Neither side is in a position to prevail militarily. What’s more, global sentiment is hardening against NATO’s bombings which have also claimed hundreds of civilian lives, according to the authorities.
It was France’s Nicholas Sarkozy who has been most biligerent and warlike all along; boasting of getting al-Gaddafi out of the country either on a “third class” or “first class” ticket, depending on how quickly he stepped down. So intoxicated with a sense of global importance was Sarkozy. He clearly has no sympathy for the blood of innocent Libyans so long as his Napoleonic-complex for conquest and domination –to relive 19th century French imperialism– were satisfied.
Finally, U.S. domestic considerations prompted the about-turn. Washington is in the throes of a deficit and debt-ceiling-increase crises and President Obama doesn’t want to hear anything about Libya right now. He has enough problems dealing with Republicans and more pressing threats posed by the GOP than from al-Gaddafi. It’s Republicans who are pushing the U.S. economy on the brink of major disaster and damaging the country’s credit worthiness by refusing to strike a deal.
The U.S. pays three-quarters of NATO’s bills and without American full engagement the NATO Libya mission ends. President Obama also doesn’t want a volatile Libya issue to drag well into U.S. presidential election season. What’s more, the war is overwhelmingly opposed by African Americans, a very critical component of the U.S. electorate. A major protest March is planned for Harlem on August 13, in which Nation of Islam minister Louis Farrakhan is scheduled to speak.
This new sobering in Washington means that NATO may finally be paying attention to the African Union Proposal which has been aggressively pushed by President Zuma, in the last few months, including with his visits to Tripoli and recently to Russia.
So the Libyan conflict could have been resolved months ago when the African Union first made its serious peace proposal; the plan was rejected or ignored by Washington, London and Paris–the true muscles and masterminds behind the “rebels.”
The AU Plan calls for: an internationally monitored and verified ceasefire; creation of relief coridoors to assist all victims of the conflict; negotiations for a new constitution and; democratic national elections in which every Libyan would be eligible to participate.
Hopefully President Obama and Prime Minister Cameron will this time keep a leash on Sarkozy and allow the AU plan to take hold.