Libyan Uprisings Give Obama Much to Ponder Over
On Sunday, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s son, Saif al-Islam, said that his father’s regime would fight to the last bullet. On Monday, with the death toll well above 200, the Gaddafi regime was accused of genocide by the Libyan ambassador to the UN. The clashes between those in favor of regime and those against gives the US every right to fear the escalation into an all-out civil war.
The military has turned on its people. Recent reports indicate that air force jets were ordered to bomb military bases and rebel hideouts. Other reports suggest that in the early hours of Tuesday morning the military forces in Tripoli – at least those still faithful to the leader – were ordered to shoot protesters on sight. Foreign diplomats and ambassadors in the capital are resigning in a rapid rate, and global oil companies are also fleeing. Gaddafi’s diplomatic corps is also splitting as the colonel’s 41-year reign looks to be crumbling to an end.
Justice Minister Mustafa Abduljelil resigned over the use of military force against the people on Monday. Libyan Ambassador to the UN Ibrahim Dabbashi told reporters that that Gaddafi was guilty of sparking “genocide,” accusing his leader of committing “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity” against the Libyan people.
In Washington, Libyan ambassador Ali Aujali formally broke ties with Gaddafi stating that he must stand down. Speaking to Al-Jazeera, Aujali said,”I decided with my staff today that we have to condemn what’s happening in our country. We are one people and one country.”
This poses two different sets of conundrums for the Obama administration. First, what can the US do about the escalation of violence and the possible outset of a civil war? Aujali stated that he wants to see the US and other international powers do their part in halting the violence. However, US officials, speaking on Monday, stated that the US doesn’t have “significant influence over the events, given the regime seems willing to do anything to survive.” This, despite more than a decade of outreach to Gaddafi.
The other question is what the framework would look like in a post-Gaddafi Libya. As the colonel’s control deteriorates, it is becoming more palpable that there is no group or individual in a position to take charge.
The system of rule created by Gaddafi, known as Jamahiriya, or rule by the masses, is highly decentralized. Special committees form a complex hierarchical system, but eventually every decision comes down to Gaddafi and his premier aides. But in a country of such profound tribal divisions, fragmentation is seen as huge risk to country’s unity.
Throughout his tenure, Gaddafi has excluded the east of the country from oil revenues, despite most of the oil being based on that side. Disparity could see leaders in the east demand greater control of oil assets in a post-Gaddafi government. Failure to obtain this could see eastern cities call for autonomy, or even independence from Tripoli.
The WikiLeaks dispatches revealed US fears that Gaddafi’s neglect of the desert region could lead to a rising popularity of Al Qaeda and its affiliates such the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, who it is feared could benefit from any power vacuum.
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