Time to go, Muammar
By JACQUES NERIAH
Gaddafi should learn from the fate of several of his counterparts in the region and step down immediately.
Almost three months have elapsed since the start of the insurgency against
Muammar Gaddafi’s four decades of rule. As a result:
1. Libya is divided into
two areas which roughly correspond to the division established by the Ottoman
Empire – the Vilayet of Tripoli and the Vilayet of Cyrenaica in the east. The
civil war has devastated the infrastructure of the state, as well as its oil
2. The rebellion has slashed oil production by almost 90%. The
OPEC quota system has been weakened by the need to replace Libya’s lost
contribution, and in its last meeting no agreement was reached on that issue,
causing a rise in the price of oil.
3. NATO forces are fighting an air
campaign in support of the rebels that has intensified since the beginning of
June with more attacks on Gaddafi’s compound in Tripoli. A dramatic threshold
has been crossed with the involvement of helicopter gunships against Gaddafi
4. For the second time since the end of the colonial era (the
first time was against Saddam Hussein in Iraq), foreign powers are using their
armies to intervene in Arab politics and replace an Arab ruler because of his
ruthless crackdown on opposition, and in order to bring a dramatic “long and
complex” transition to democracy as described by NATO Secretary- General Anders
In this context, the question is, how far will the NATO
alliance go against Gaddafi? Will they be satisfied with his voluntary exit, or
will they persist until he is brought to justice, either by Libya’s next rulers
or before the International Criminal Court in the Hague? Gaddafi should probably
look around at the fate of other Arab rulers who used to be his colleagues:
Saddam Hussein chose to fight instead of finding refuge in a friendly safe
haven. As a result, he was caught by American troops, tried by an Iraqi court
for crimes against his own people, and hanged.
Zine El-Abdine Ben Ali
chose to fly to Saudi Arabia, where he will probably live under confinement
until the end of his days.
Former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak is now
being tried before judges appointed by his own previous army colleagues, who
chose at the height of the crisis to send him to the presidential retreat in
Sharm e-Sheikh because he did not want to leave the country. Mubarak, who is
probably suffering from a terminal illness, had asked to die within Egypt’s
sovereign borders, and was probably promised immunity in order to convince him
to step down and delegate his powers to the supreme council of the armed forces.
He will probably die in jail.
Yemen President Ali Abdullah Saleh left his
country (temporarily) for Saudi Arabia to get medical care after being injured
by a mortar that fell in his courtyard and caused severe burns on more than 40
percent of his body. Saleh will likely remain in Saudi Arabia.
Bashar Assad is fighting for his regime and his life. Rumors about his wife and
family having found refuge in the UK have been denied. The crisis is still
brewing, with no end in sight.
MOREOVER, GADDAFI must carefully weigh
Leon Panetta’s remarks during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed
Services Committee. The Director of the Central Intelligence agency and
President Barack Obama’s nominee to succeed Robert Gates as secretary of defense
said it was important to push Gaddafi from power: “If Gaddafi stays, I think it
sends a terrible signal to these other countries” – referring to other Arab
countries facing popular uprisings.
In view of the above, news has leaked
that Gaddafi’s son Seif El-Islam has approached the rebels in the past few days
to negotiate his father’s exit from power. Gaddafi seems to have signaled that
he would prefer remaining in a remote Libyan village for life, but the rebels
have flatly refused his proposal; they can’t afford the security forces that
would be needed to prevent his assassination.
Instead, South Africa and
Senegal have been singled out as countries that might offer him a safe haven,
but the Libyan leader may also find refuge in about a dozen African states, such
as Zimbabwe, where he has investments and protection from war-crimes
Turkey and South Africa are reportedly working on a
At this time, clashes between insurgents and Gaddafi loyalists
are focused in Misrata, but the assessment is that rebel troops will reach
Tripoli within a few weeks, so Gaddafi’s days in power are
Gaddafi must be aware of the developments around him. Even
though eccentric and at times described as irrational, he must understand that
now is the time to go.
The writer is a Mideast political analyst and a
former diplomatic adviser to the late Yitzhak Rabin.