UN decision on Libya: Endgame for Qaddafi?
The immediate hope is that the threat alone of international action in Libya will slow Qaddafi down – and perhaps cause some of his supporters to back the rebels instead.
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“We need to take a breath, to give the international community time to line up its communications with us, and get better control of our own forces,” says one adviser to the transitional government. “The international community has said it’s going to stop Qaddafi, not that it’s going to remove him from power.”Skip to next paragraph
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Shelling and attacks continue
Qaddafi’s moves in the coming days will likely determine the extent of international action. But in the hours around the UN resolution, there was a string of conflicting threats, promises, and claims from the government that made it difficult to parse his immediate intentions.
On Thursday, Libya’s Defense Ministry promised acts of terrorism on civilian and military shipping in the Mediterranean if the UN decided to act. Qaddafi himself promised “no mercy” for the rebels in Benghazi, describing them as foreigners and traitors.
Within hours of the UN announcement, Qaddafi resumed shelling the western town of Misratah, one of the last rebel holdouts near Tripoli. The next morning, residents of Ajdabiya – the eastern town whose siege galvanized the international community into action – said they were once more under attack.
On Friday, Moussa Koussa, Libya’s foreign minister and longtime spy chief, who is probably Qaddafi’s most influential adviser outside his family, said Libya was declaring an immediate cease-fire in compliance with the UN resolution.
But even as Mr. Koussa – a regime “fixer” who has often acted as a go-between for Qaddafi with the US and Europe – insisted that the government had the utmost respect for human rights and protecting civilians, residents of Misratah and Ajdabiya said assaults on civilian neighborhoods continued.
Koussa also criticized the UN decision and its “strange ... use of military power.”
“This goes clearly against the UN Charter,” he said.
'This is the endgame for Muammar Qaddafi'
Security Council members were divided on whether to approve a no-fly zone, let alone the more robust mandate for intervention that was ultimately approved by a vote of 10-0, with abstentions by Russia, China, India, Brazil, and Germany. Western powers are leery of another Middle East conflict, particularly after the bloodshed in Iraq after the US-led invasion of that country in 2003.
“No one is talking about ... boots on the ground,” said British Prime Minister David Cameron.
The Arab League, a strong opponent of the Iraq war, also came out in favor of action to stop Qaddafi.
Even among regional dictators, Qaddafi is unpopular. Neighboring Egypt has long had tense relations with Qaddafi, and rebels in Benghazi say the country had begun to allow small arms shipments to flow through its territory to the uprising.
“I was on the way to pick up some guns in Egypt when the UN voted,” says an elderly doctor who’s working with the rebels. “I turned my car around and came straight back to Benghazi. It looks like we have far more powerful help now.”
Qaddafi, too, is feeling the combined power of the Arab world and multinational sanctions, says Professor Sullivan. “I think this is the end game for Muammar Qaddafi.”