Monday, February 21, 2011

The Situation in Libya

Moammar Gadhafi
I have been trying to get reports on what is happening in Libya to see if our old nemesis, Col. Gadhafi, is going to survive the unrest. Although I initially felt that he had such a strong hold on power, with the strong backing of the military (something Mubarak did not enjoy), I did not think he was in real danger of being deposed. However, based on reports coming out yesterday and today, that assumption may need re-evaluating. Emerging reports indicate that the unrest is spreading to the capital of Tripoli. Heavy gunfire was reported in central Tripoli and in other districts with Al Jazeera reporting 61 people killed in Tripoli on Feb. 21. Other unconfirmed reports say that protesters attacked the headquarters of ‘Al-Jamahiriya Two’ television and Al-Shababia as well as other government buildings in Tripoli overnight. The People’s Conference Centre where the General People’s Congress (parliament) meets when it is in session in Tripoli was set on fire. British Petroleum reportedly said it would evacuate its personnel from Libya and suspend its activities due to massive unrest. Spain’s Foreign Minister Trinidad Jimenez said that the EU member states are coordinating possible evacuations of European nationals from Libya. A Turkish Airlines flight was arranged to evacuate Turkish citizens from Benghazi but was denied the opportunity to land by Libyan authorities and returned to Turkey.

Clashes have been going on between the protesters and military and security forces in mostly eastern cities of the country and in Benghazi in particular, where opposition against Moammar Gadhafi is intense. Signs of protests apparently intensified following a speech made by Ghaddafi’s son Seif al-Islam. Seif al-Islam was attempting to present himself as the new and unsullied face of the regime, reiterating the political, social and economic reforms that he has long advocated were needed to hold Libya’s tribal society together. Though in his speech Seif al-Islam carefully distanced himself from old-regime tactics, protesters in Tripoli reportedly rejected the young Libyan leader and began chanting slogans against Seif al-Islam.

Seif al-Islam implied in his speech that he had the approval of his father and elements within the military, and that the army and national guard would be relied on to crack down on “seditious elements” spreading unrest. However, unconfirmed reports of army defections in Benghazi and Baida in eastern Libya and now spreading unrest to Tripoli is casting some doubt on the regime’s ability to count on the full loyalty and ability of the army to contain the situation. Without full backing of the army, Gadhafi’s days may well be numbered.

Live Long and Prosper...

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