It would obviously be problematic to transfer power in Libya as it was done in Egypt. Therefore, the country can expect to take either the hard “Iraq” or soft “Sudan” option.
In either case, however, there will be far-reaching consequences for the entire continent.
Virtual Islamists and the “Egyptian” option
Of course, Muammar Gadhafi would like to “rein in” the rebellious masses to the fullest extent possible and disperse the protesters by the radical use of force, as Uzbek leader Islam Karimov did in Andijan in 2005.
Despite official Tripoli’s bravado, however, this approach is obviously becoming less likely each day because the regime has missed its moment and therefore lost the strategic initiative.
Gadhafi and his inner circle are hurrying to justify their actions by citing the need to fight al-Qaeda and its followers in the Maghreb countries, hoping thereby that Brussels and Washington will understand their use of force.
One example of that was the statement by Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kaim that al-Qaeda had proclaimed an Islamic emirate in the city of Derna in eastern Libya. He named several other cities in chaos that al-Qaeda could exploit also.
Nevertheless, the likelihood of Libya becoming an Islamist country is low because Gadhafi’s secular regime has actually seen to it that Libya today is not deeply religious.
However, the level of violence and hatred in the country has reached a point where anyone could take advantage of the situation to seize power.
For the West, therefore, the so-called Egyptian option would seem to be the best choice for resolving the situation under the current circumstances, with the most objectionable people removed from leadership along with Gadhafi and the military taking power into its hands.
Both Brussels and Washington would find that option acceptable primarily for economic reasons; we will return to that later.
However, Libya is not Egypt.
The Libyan army’s reputation among the populace is significantly lower than that of the Egyptian army, and the army itself is actually divided along clan lines.
There is also a danger that the “Iraq” scenario will come into play, ushering in clan hostility and permanent instability.
Revenge by the Cyrenaicans and the Iraq option?
Italy—the colonial power that previously held sway over Libya—left behind a serious “land mine” when it pulled out. The country consists of three provinces with little in common—Cyrenaica in the east with its capital at Benghazi (the Cyrenaican Arabs comprise about 27% of India’s total population); Tripolitania in the west with its center in the present-day capital, Tripoli (the so-called “Libyan Arabs” make up 33% of Libya’s population); and Fezzan in the south with its center at Al-Sabha.
In essence, all of Libya’s modern history has been a struggle between the Cyrenaicans and the Tripolitans for control of the country. The military revolution of 1969 could best be described as revenge by Tripolitania against Cyrenaica (the latter was the historic homeland of the Senussi clan, which gave Libya a royal dynasty that ruled from 1951 to 1969).
Incidentally, it is entirely possible, inter alia, that after Gadhafi is overthrown heirs of Libya’s last king, Idris I, who is currently living in Washington, will return.
It is revealing that the flags flying over Benghazi and other cities where the rebels are victorious are not green but tricolors—the country’s flag before 1969 revolution.
We should also mention that it is in Benghazi that former Justice Minister Mustafa Abdul Jalil has begun forming an interim government that is supposed to function for no more than three months, after which elections for the office of head of state are to be held.
According to Jalil, the decision to form a transition government was made at a special joint meeting of members of the local people’s councils in the eastern part of the country, which is controlled by rebel forces. It is assumed that the government will include both military and civilian members.
Although the former justice minister emphasized that the interim government will keep Libya together as a unified whole and Tripoli would remain the country’s capital, the future of the country will be far from idyllic.
The likelihood that the “Iraq” scenario will unfold is increasing each day as the number of casualties grows and hatred between the clans increases as a result.
And that presents a serious threat to economic interests, especially those of Western countries.
After all, oil imports from Libya meet 51% of Italy’s needs, 13% of Germany’s and 5% of France’s. On the whole, they satisfy 10% of the European Union’s total demand.
A “Sudan-style” solution?
Experts believe that the abrupt drop in oil production could raise oil prices to $220 per barrel, which would cause a powerful “oil shock.”
And it will be bad for everyone if the riots spread to Saudi Arabia—one of the world’s main oil exporters.
Therefore, the powers that be are very interested in ending this extremely dangerous threat as soon as possible.
By the way, it is significant that UN Security Council resolution No. 1970, which imposed various sanctions on Libya, did not address Libyan oil exports.
Should the situation between Libya’s clans grow worse—which is predictable in view of the unavoidable collisions that will occur in the post-revolutionary struggle for Gadhafi’s legacy—it is obvious that a “plan B,” or a Sudan scenario, could be put into effect; and Libya could be “amicably” divided into two parts through a referendum.
That idea has already been surfaced in the media by the Arab analyst Mahmoud Haidar. In an article on the Azerbaijani Trend News Agency’s website, Haidar says that despite the fact that the United States and leading EU countries supported the Libyan people from the beginning of the demonstrations, they are extremely interested in splitting Libya, because that would enable them to take over the country and thus get full control of its oil and gas fields.
Since Sudan’s referendum, the “peaceful divorce” scenario has become more popular in international affairs on the African continent.
However, we should not get carried away by that idea. In the first place, we do not yet know how the “pilot project”—self-determination for Southern Sudan—will turn out. And second, division of Libya could cause the continent to explode, especially neighboring countries where tribes will abruptly begin to demand independence.
Indeed, the current borders in Africa are a legacy of colonial conquests that are becoming less and less consistent with the ambitions of many tribes and peoples on the continent.
Source: New Eastern Outlook