Monday, 11 July 2011
eMPIRE ADMITS nATO IN COMPLETE DISARRAY AND DIVISIONS WHILE GADAFFI AND LIBYA ON HISTORIC MARCH TO VICTORY AGAINST eMPIRE!
France appeared to be getting cold feet over the Libya mission today as its defence minister said that British and French air attacks on the Gaddafi regime had failed and should cease.
Gerard Longuet said peace talks should start even if Colonel Gaddafi and his family were still in power or sharing power.
David Cameron has insisted that Gaddafi must go, but Mr Longuet claimed he could remain in Libya "in another room of the palace, with another title".
His comments were seen in London as a sign that some French ministers were losing confidence in their ability to break the apparent stalemate between rebels and Libyan government forces.
Mr Longuet said: "We must now sit around a table. We will stop bombing as soon as the Libyans start talking to one another and the military on both sides go back to their bases. They can talk to each other because we've shown there is no solution through force."
British diplomats insisted that Britain still sees no future for Libya with Gaddafi in power. "Our action has saved literally thousands of lives," said an official, who said Gaddafi's secret police would have jailed or murdered thousands if his forces had been allowed to crush rebellions in the key cities of eastern Libya such as Benghazi and Misrata.
French newspaper Le Figaro, which has strong ties to President Nicolas Sarkozy's government, has called for a political settlement.
France today denied being in direct talks with Gaddafi's government, but said it had told Tripoli the Libyan leader must relinquish power. "France wants a political solution, like we have always said," said foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero. "There are no direct negotiations between France and the Gaddafi regime, but we pass messages
Four months ago, when David Cameron led the international call for military intervention in Libya, the general assumption within government circles was that Col Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan dictator, would realise the game was up the moment Nato warplanes began bombing his forces.
It did not seem to matter to Mr Cameron and his principal allies in the anti-Gaddafi campaign that the main purpose of UN Security Council resolution 1973, which provided the legal justification for military action, was to protect anti-Gaddafi rebels from the possibility of being massacred by forces loyal to their leader.
Together with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and US President Barack Obama, Mr Cameron demanded that the military offensive would end only when Gaddafi was removed from power, so confident was he in the operation's likely outcome. At a stroke an operation conceived on the basis of liberal interventionism had been transformed into one determined to achieve regime change.
And it is to this end that Nato has undertaken a sophisticated bombing campaign designed as much to intensify the pressure on Gaddafi's regime to give up its vice-like grip on power as to protect Libya's civilian population. Apart from taking out Gaddafi's air defences and launching thousands of raids against pro-Gaddafi forces, the campaign has increasingly targeted the regime itself, bombing the Libyan dictator's Bab al-Azizia barracks and vital fuel supply lines.
Yet, more than three months into the Nato offensive, Gaddafi remains as resolutely in power in Tripoli today as he was when the first bombs were dropped in March. In recent days, we have seen the extent of the support he continues to enjoy when thousands of his own supporters turned out in Tripoli to hear an address by the Libyan leader.
Meanwhile, Saif al-Islam, his son and heir apparent, appeared on French television to taunt those responsible for prosecuting the Nato offensive. "We will never surrender," he said in an interview. "We will fight. It's our country. To tell my father to leave the country, it's a joke."
While the Gaddafi clan appears to have lost none of its resolve, the same cannot be said for the Nato member states and Arab nations that originally backed the intervention, but are now desperately seeking an exit route. From the start of the military offensive, Nato's operations have been severely hampered by the fact that only half a dozen countries have been prepared to conduct combat operations.
This has meant that the lion's share of the more than 9,000 sorties have been flown by British and French warplanes, with Denmark, Norway, Belgium, Jordan and Qatar also making valuable contributions to the war effort.
But many other Nato nations, particularly Germany, have been unhappy from the outset at the demands made by the likes of Mr Cameron that Gaddafi's removal, rather than the protection of Libyan civilians, is the ultimate goal. They have done their best to frustrate the military operation by refusing to contribute vital equipment, such as tankers used for mid-air refuelling, and regularly objecting to attacks on targets that are not deemed to pose a direct threat to Libya's civilian population.
Now the simmering tensions that have severely hampered the effectiveness of the Nato mission have broken into the open with Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian prime minister, claiming he was against the operation from the start. "I am against this intervention, which will end in a way that no one knows," he said.
Mr Berlusconi's comments are highly significant, as Nato is relying heavily on Italy's cooperation to maintain its air operations against Libya. Nato's operational headquarters is in Naples, while most of the combat missions are flown from air bases in southern Italy. Italian officials have already indicated that they do not want a further 90-day extension of Nato's deadline for military operations, which is due to expire in late September.
But by far the greatest threat to Nato's hopes of achieving a decisive breakthrough in the Libyan campaign is the onset of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which begins in three weeks' time. During Ramadan, Muslims are obliged to observe a rigorous fast during the hours of daylight and to spend much of their spare time in prayer. When the feast falls at the height of an Arabian summer, it not uncommon for most countries to come to a complete standstill.
Political concerns over repeating the mistakes of the Iraq war have meant that none of the politicians leading the Libyan campaign is prepared to commit ground troops. As a result, this has meant Nato relying increasingly on Libya's anti-Gaddafi rebels to complete the task of removing the dictator from power. But Nato officials are now concerned that the rebel offensive will effectively grind to a halt at the end of the month as fasting rebel fighters will be in no position to launch a major offensive.
Senior Nato officers are also concerned about the negative impact that continued military action by non-Muslim countries against a Muslim nation will have on Arab support. Amr Moussa, the head of the Arab League who was an enthusiastic supporter of military intervention, has since voiced his objections to attempts to remove Gaddafi. The continuation of hostilities during Ramadan will only serve to harden Arab opposition to the war.
The approach of Ramadan has certainly brought an unwelcome dose of reality to many in the British Government who, so far as I can tell, have assumed that so long as Nato maintains the pressure on Gaddafi, the Libyan dictator will simply lose heart and renounce power. In the past few weeks, I have asked several senior Cabinet ministers how, precisely, they intend to achieve their objective of overthrowing Gaddafi's regime. And on each occasion I have been blithely assured that the pressure on him will become so intense that he will have no alternative other than to stand down.
But, with time now of the essence, there is suddenly a realisation that, unless there is a dramatic breakthrough in the coming weeks, it is a distinct possibility that the conflict will end with the country divided and Gaddafi still clinging to power, albeit to a fraction of the vast country he governed at the start of the year. To prevent such a disastrous outcome, an air of desperation is entering the contribution made by those countries, such as Britain and France, that have committed themselves to regime change in Tripoli.
Last week, the French government confirmed that it had started dropping arms supplies to Libyan rebel groups. Assault rifles, machine guns and rocket launchers were dropped earlier this month, and the French newspaper Le Figaro has suggested that Milan anti-tank missiles have also been supplied to the rebels. Britain, meanwhile, continues to send a steady stream of military "advisers" (many of them SAS veterans) to help the rebels become a more effective fighting outfit. The only problem with this dramatic escalation in European support for the rebels is that it is contrary to UN resolutions on Libya, which include an arms embargo that is supposed to apply to all sides. If Europe is prepared to arm the anti-Gaddafi rebels, then what is to stop Gaddafi's regime receiving arms from its allies in Africa and elsewhere? Nor is it by any means certain that the rebels have the same objectives as their Western backers.
Recent Western intelligence assessments of the rebels have concluded that groups operating in Misurata have a very different agenda from factions operating in Benghazi. Local tribes are also more concerned with defending their own territory than occupying the territory of other tribes. Thus there is no shortage of rebel fighters willing to defend Benghazi, but they become more reluctant to fight when asked to move out of their own territory and advance on Tripoli.
These tensions broke to the surface when the National Transitional Council suggested it was prepared to open negotiations with Gaddafi to end the fighting. Their comments were quickly rejected by William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, who insisted there could be no settlement that allows Gaddafi to remain in power. But, with the clock ticking, and with no prospect of a decisive breakthrough in sight, Gaddafi's survival remains a distinct possibility, which was not the outcome Mr Cameron hoped for when he first embarked on his risky gamble in the Libyan desert.