Free Libya plans Tripoli Uprising as Doha Conference Urges More Help to Civilians

Al-Sharq al-Awsat reports in Arabic that the Transitional National Council in Benghazi says that it has a network of cells in Tripoli and plans to launch an uprising in the capital. A Tripoli resident who talked to the newspaper by phone said that most people in Tripoli feel as though they have been taken hostage by Qaddafi’s goons, and that if they had the opportunity they would rise up against him, as the people in Eastern Libya had already done. Pro-TNC sources say that the demonstrations in favor of Qaddafi in the center of the capital are staged and unrepresentative.

The pan-Arab daily also reports Free Libya sources as saying that their allies in the west have repelled attacks by pro-Qaddafi forces in the al-Jabal al-Gharbi region of the West, on the cities of Yafran, Nalut and Zintan, which are in the hands of Free Libya partisans. The latter forced the Tripoli brigades to retreat, captured some of their vehicles, and left them exposed in the desert, where NATO aircraft struck at them.

Nations supporting United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973 on protecting Libya’s population from massacre met in Doha on Wednesday and concluded that more efforts are needed to ensure that protection. Reuters says for the first time this Libya Contact Group forcefully called for Qaddafi to step down and recognized instead the Transitional National Council in Benghazi as legitimate, calling for it to be given more aid. They affirmed that Qaddafi has lost the legitimacy to rule. As a result, Benghazi will likely be provided with an infusion of cash, possibly including funds belonging to the Libyan government which have been frozen in NATO countries. Qatar’s crown prince pointed out that the humanitarian crisis in Libya is not a natural catastrophe but derives from political decisions made by Qaddafi, and said the time had come to arm the Free Libyan Army. Italy concurred.

Aljazeeera English has video::

In the meantime, the pro-TNC cities had some better news on Wednesday, as they pushed pro-Qaddafi attackers back from the downtown area in Misrata, and those in the besieged city of Zintan attacked the enemy position on a hill nearby. Qaddafi had massed tanks outside both western cities and made an attempt to invade and reduce them, as he had Zawiya and Zuara on the western cost. NATO airstrikes on the tanks and other heavy weaponry and on government weapons depots have slowed or stopped the deadly advance of Qaddafi in Misrata and Zintan. While the action has saved hundreds or thousands of lives, it has not stopped the bombardment of civilians or halted the siege of the two urban areas. Qaddafi has cut off water, food and medicine to Misrata in hopes of forcing it to surrender to him. These measures, applied to a civilian population area for purposes, are a crime against humanity.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, in the meantime, said that a humanitarian crisis looms in Libya. Nearly half a million Libyans have been made refugees by the regime’s attacks on urban areas already, and over time over half of Libya’s 6.5 million people may need urgent humanitarian aid if the fighting continues.

The World Food Program also warned that the fighting and turmoil are preventing food supplies from being replenished inside Libya, and that there is a pressing need for food aid to be delivered to Tobruk, Benghazi and Misrata, which are open ports.

As a result of the forward-leaning predominance of opinion that came out of Doha, Britain and France agreed to step up their air strikes on Muammar Qaddafi’s heavy weaponry and weapons depots. On Wednesday, NATO aircraft hit targets at Misrata, Sirte and Aziziya, including a government arms depot.

23 Responses

  1. The hypocrisy of this ‘humanitarian’ intervention is rather brazen. They choose to hold the meeting in Qatar of all places?!?! An absolute monarchy where political parties are illegal. I’m surprised that Mr Cole would bother to reference Qatar’s crown prince when it comes to humanitarian matters. Perhaps if the crown prince cared about humanitarian issues Qatar would not be famous for its use of slave labourers and sexual slaves.

    Who is attending this meeting? None other than Moussa Koussa, former head if Libya’s intelligence agency. Obviously Koussa has great respect for human rights……

    Also the coalition is not as stable as Mr Cole indicates.

    “France and Britain openly called on the alliance and its partners to intensify air strikes on Libyan government troops to protect civilians, prompting an unusual public retort from NATO’s command that it was carrying out the military operation under the terms of the United Nations Security Council resolution that authorised force.” The Age

    Finally, I would be interested to hear how bombing Sirte is legal under UNSCR 1973? Surely Qaddafi isn’t threatening to massacre the civilians of his home town?

    • Well, you’ve convinced me. We should have let 100,000 people die in Benghazi, because the govenrment of Qatar doesn’t meet your standards.

        • Joe:

          I haven’t seen the UN claim that 100,000 would have died. Usually when someone asks for a source online, they mean they want a link, not just your statement that the UN said this. I just did a google search using the terms “UN Libya Benghazi 100,000″. No results backing your claims. But many results saying there were between 40,000 & 100,000 refugees, mostly Tunisian and African, “many fearing death at the hands of Libyan rebels who think they are mercenaries, according to a U.N. report on Wednesday.” Source

        • The UN resolution, authorizing force to protect the civilian population as the pro-Gadaffi forces closed in on Benghazi, while the sponsoring countries put forward that estimate, is evidence enough.

          Far more important than merely issuing a statement with a number in it, the UN actually took action, the most significant action they can take – the authorization of military force against a member-state, in response to the extraordinary threat to the civilians of Benghazi.

          FYI, I didn’t bother to read your off-topic link, because I don’t intend to allow you to change the subject. Although it is interesting to see which side you’ve taken.

    • Guy,
      Absolutely agree.
      Seems so out of character of Juan Cole, I must have missed something apart from the earliest moment of a revolt against a dictator a la Tunis & best of all the Tahrir Square events which were a joy for all of us.
      As for freezing $billions: Iraqi funds were conveniently held in a NY Bank!That’s how the Swiss get fat from all the dosh being kept “safe” for miscreants from around the world. Quis custodiet custodes!

  2. “As a result, Benghazi will likely be provided with an infusion of cash, possibly including funds belonging to the Libyan government which have been frozen in NATO countries.”

    Providing the rebels with Libyan Government funds held by NATO countries is wishful thinking. Those funds belong to the Libyan Government. The rebels have no official standing, are not recognized as the Government of Libya, and thus for NATO to release the funds to the rebels would be an unlawful act on the part of NATO countries. The funds will be held by NATO countries unless and until a Government that is in control of Libya and recognized by NATO countries is installed.

  3. Everyone would prefer a short, decisive war. But I think this may be something like the American revolution. The rebels had to spend 4 years or so just learning how to fight.

  4. Juan,

    What are your thoughts on BRIC opposition to the Libyan operation, which you favor?

  5. So, are in favor of NATO ‘boots on the ground’ yet, professor Cole?

  6. Any “informed” comment, Juan?

    “Human Rights Watch has released data on Misurata, the next-biggest city in Libya and scene of protracted fighting, revealing that Moammar Khadafy is not deliberately massacring civilians but rather narrowly targeting the armed rebels who fight against his government.

    Misurata’s population is roughly 400,000. In nearly two months of war, only 257 people — including combatants — have died there. Of the 949 wounded, only 22 — less than 3 percent — are women. If Khadafy were indiscriminately targeting civilians, women would comprise about half the casualties.

    Obama insisted that prospects were grim without intervention. “If we waited one more day, Benghazi . . . could suffer a massacre that would have reverberated across the region and stained the conscience of the world.’’ Thus, the president concluded, “preventing genocide’’ justified US military action.

    But intervention did not prevent genocide, because no such bloodbath was in the offing. To the contrary, by emboldening rebellion, US interference has prolonged Libya’s civil war and the resultant suffering of innocents.”

    link to boston.com

    • Gaddafi wasn’t “narrowly targeting” them until NATO stepped in:

      link to democracynow.org

      By the way, what do you call starving a whole city: rebels, civilians, everyone? Is that “narrowly targeting” rebel fighters?

      From Juan’s post above, just in case you didn’t read it:

      In the meantime, the pro-TNC cities had some better news on Wednesday, as they pushed pro-Qaddafi attackers back from the downtown area in Misrata, and those in the besieged city of Zintan attacked the enemy position on a hill nearby. Qaddafi had massed tanks outside both western cities and made an attempt to invade and reduce them, as he had Zawiya and Zuara on the western cost. NATO airstrikes on the tanks and other heavy weaponry and on government weapons depots have slowed or stopped the deadly advance of Qaddafi in Misrata and Zintan. While the action has saved hundreds or thousands of lives, it has not stopped the bombardment of civilians or halted the siege of the two urban areas. Qaddafi has cut off water, food and medicine to Misrata in hopes of forcing it to surrender to him. These measures, applied to a civilian population area for purposes, are a crime against humanity.

      UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, in the meantime, said that a humanitarian crisis looms in Libya. Nearly half a million Libyans have been made refugees by the regime’s attacks on urban areas already, and over time over half of Libya’s 6.5 million people may need urgent humanitarian aid if the fighting continues.

      • Not sure what your point is?

        Again:

        “Misurata’s population is roughly 400,000. In nearly two months of war, only 257 people — including combatants — have died there. Of the 949 wounded, only 22 — less than 3 percent — are women. If Khadafy were indiscriminately targeting civilians, women would comprise about half the casualties.”

        I followed your link, assuming it would refute the claim, instead it stated:

        “Fighting between pro- and anti-Gaddafi forces appears to be the most intense in al-Zawiyah, 30 miles west of the capital. Clashes have also been reported in other parts of the country, including in Misurata, Libya’s third-largest city.”

        “Some rights officials estimate the death toll could be as high as 2,000.” (Is this estimate what you wanted me to read?!?)

        “Democracy Now! correspondent Anjali Kamat traveled to Al Bayda in eastern Libya yesterday.”

        “And even though it’s been a week since the battle, there’s still dozens of critically wounded patients inside this hospital. These are mostly young men between the ages of 15 and 30. ” (This seems to support the claim that rebels and NOT civilians were being targeted)

        So are you arguing that more than 257 people died in Misurata? Or because you claim he wasn’t “narrowly targeting” them, that the figure of “Of the 949 wounded, only 22 — less than 3 percent — are women” is incorrect?

        If this is your argument, please provide a citation with different figures.

        As for your citation of what Juan wrote, all of this happened after NATO/US bombing, not prior, and Obama did not claim he was preventing a siege (like he supports in Gaza) but a massacre of civilians (although he did state “Supplies of food and fuel were choked off. Water for hundreds of thousands of people in Misurata was shut off.”). And yes, I would agree that any act of collective punishment is a war crime (one the US commits all too often). But is that what we are discussing here? I thought it was that Khadafy was indiscriminately targeting civilians with heavy weaponry.

        Obama claimed that “At this point, the United States and the world faced a choice. Gadhafi declared he would show “no mercy” to his own people. He compared them to rats, and threatened to go door to door to inflict punishment. In the past, we have seen him hang civilians in the streets, and kill over a thousand people in a single day. Now we saw regime forces on the outskirts of the city. We knew that if we wanted — if we waited one more day, Benghazi, a city nearly the size of Charlotte, could suffer a massacre that would have reverberated across the region and stained the conscience of the world.”

        “We struck regime forces approaching Benghazi to save that city and the people within it. We hit Gadhafi’s troops in neighboring Ajdabiya, allowing the opposition to drive them out. We hit Gadhafi’s air defenses, which paved the way for a no-fly zone. We targeted tanks and military assets that had been choking off towns and cities, and we cut off much of their source of supply. And tonight, I can report that we have stopped Gadhafi’s deadly advance.”

        However, if you read the link I provided, it stated that:

        “Nor did Khadafy ever threaten civilian massacre in Benghazi, as Obama alleged. The “no mercy’’ warning, of March 17, targeted rebels only, as reported by The New York Times, which noted that Libya’s leader promised amnesty for those “who throw their weapons away.’’ Khadafy even offered the rebels an escape route and open border to Egypt, to avoid a fight “to the bitter end.’’

        If bloodbath was unlikely, how did this notion propel US intervention? The actual prospect in Benghazi was the final defeat of the rebels. To avoid this fate, they desperately concocted an impending genocide to rally international support for “humanitarian’’ intervention that would save their rebellion.”

        So, what I would like you to respond to, is where is the evidence that a bloodbath against civilians was imminent? Why, for example, are you simply dismissing the offer of amnesty to rebels for disarm? Is such an offer really showing “no mercy”?

        Qaddafi also stated “We have left the way open to them,” he said. “Escape. Let those who escape go forever.” He pledged that “whoever hands over his weapons, stays at home without any weapons, whatever he did previously, he will be pardoned, protected.”

        As to why we are discussing the lack of a civilian massacre in Misurata, it’s because it provided an example of what Qaddafi was attempting in Bengazi:

        “Musa Ibrahim, a spokesman for the Qaddafi government, confirmed that its forces were preparing to take Misurata just as they did Zawiya, another western town that had been held by the rebels.

        “It starts in the beginning by surrounding the city,” he said, “then moving slowly to avoid casualties.” Rebels in Zawiyah described heavy casualties — at least dozens — during the Qaddafi forces’ siege of that city.

        “It should be finished up tomorrow if not today,” Mr. Ibrahim added.

        Rebels in Misurata said that Qaddafi forces had so far appeared to hold back, though electricity, water and telecommunications remained severed a day after fighters held the town against an onslaught of tank and artillery fire. ”

        link to nytimes.com

        Paul Miller, an assistant professor at National Defense University who served on the National Security Council under Bush and Obama. “The Rwandan genocide was targeted against an entire, clearly defined ethnic group,” he wrote on the Foreign Policy website. “The Libyan civil war is between a tyrant and his cronies on one side, and a collection of tribes, movements, and ideologists (including Islamists) on the other. …The first is murder, the second is war.”

        Do you disagree?

        • Wingbat,
          Damn that is a good post. It just breaks the bones of the pro western intervention movement. I do not see how anyone can read your post and not start to have doubts about the idea that the West should have any part in the movement to overthrow Quaddafi.
          I myself wish that I could support both sides in the Lybian Civil War. I can certianly understand if poorly trained men in their teens and twenties, an age in which men should not have to worry about anything other than their love life, are risking their lives against forces with much more heavy weaponery, these men much surely have some deep political grievences.
          Yet Quddafi has a record of decades of struggle against western imperialism which can not be ignored. I therefore must come down on his side until such time as I believe that the rebel forces are led by Marxist oriented leaders.
          Quaddafi is often deamonized in the western press. Support for this that or the other political movements in other countries, or the Berlin Disco bombing. This comming from institutions who do not demonize those who overthrew Allende and even tried to overthrow an elected Australian Prime Minister. Quaddafis crimes are trivial in comparison with the CIAs and the US governments.

        • I think her point is that you are posting false, misleading, dishonest information, and that in point of fact, Human Rights Watch says exactly the opposite of what you claim. From Human Rights Watch itself, and not somebody spinning HRW without actually quoting them:

          Government forces loyal to the Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi, have fired cluster munitions into residential areas in the western city of Misrata, posing a grave risk to civilians, Human Rights Watch said today.

          Human Rights Watch observed at least three cluster munitions explode over the el-Shawahda neighborhood in Misrata on the night of April 14, 2011. Researchers inspected the remnants of a cluster submunition and interviewed witnesses to two other apparent cluster munition strikes.

          “It’s appalling that Libya is using this weapon, especially in a residential area,” said Steve Goose, arms division director at Human Rights Watch. “They pose a huge risk to civilians, both during attacks because of their indiscriminate nature and afterward because of the still-dangerous unexploded duds scattered about.”

          “Libya needs to halt the use of these weapons immediately, and take all steps to ensure that civilians are protected from the deadly remnants they have left behind,” Goose said.

          The area where Human Rights Watch witnessed the use of cluster munitions is about 1 kilometer from the front line between rebels and government forces. The submunitions appear to have landed about 300 meters from Misrata hospital. Human Rights Watch could not inspect the impact sites due to security concerns.’

          Perhaps you can explain to us how the use of cluster munitions in residential areas a kilometer away from the lines, but a block away from a hospital, is “carefully targeted.”

        • joe from Lowell:

          Please cite anything you feel was false. If you find my argument flawed, I welcome any specific critique or correction. But I can’t respond to such vague accusations that I am attempting to be “misleading” or “dishonest”. That seems like a baseless personal attack, not a counter-point.

          With regard to Qaddafi’s use of cluster bombs, or as Obama’s Secretary of Defense Robert Gates calls them “legitimate weapons with clear military utility”, you are citing information from April 14 (post NATO bombing). I was citing information from March with regard to the prediction of an imminent massacre in Bengazi.

          Are you suggesting that Qaddafi’s current use of (3) cluster bombs is evidence that he intended to go “door to door inflicting punishment” on the civilians of Bengazi?

          I am unaware of any reports of the use of cluster bombs prior to the NATO campaign. Are you aware of any evidence of this?

          As Qaddafi has now begun using cluster bombs, and I would not describe that as “carefully targeted” anymore than when the US or Israel uses the same weapons. But the hypocrisy of the US being outraged by the use of cluster bombs is utterly astounding.

          Setting that aside, I agree that the use cluster bombs by any army is a valid objection. But, if we aren’t going to dismiss claims of civilians killed by Qaddafi’s forces, then we also shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss claims of civilians killed by NATO forces. For both sides, independent sources are having difficulty verifying the precise number of casualties (and the circumstances surrounding them) due to the ongoing nature of the conflict.

          In my view, we have simply taken sides in a civil war. There is no telling at this point how far things might spin out of control. If we are basing our predictions on past atrocities, then I expect there will be further acts of deplorable violence committed by both sides. Much like with Saddam, I won’t deny that Qaddafi is a bourgeois tyrant, a thug, and a murder. But I don’t recall Qaddafi having ever committed a war crimes near the scale of the Vietnam War or the Iraq War. In other words, on what basis can US claim moral superiority to Qaddafi with regard to protecting civilians or respecting international law?

          Obviously, if the use of (3) cluster bombs in populated areas is what warrants this US/NATO military campaign, wouldn’t the first logical step have been for the US to ban the use and manufacturing of cluster bombs before bombing Libya?

          As Steve Goose, arms division director at Human Rights Watch said: “If it is unacceptable for foreign militaries to use these weapons, why would it be acceptable for the US military to use them?”

          “Cluster Bomb Ban Goes International Without U.S.”

          link to firedoglake.com

        • “Please cite anything you feel was false.”

          Happily: “Moammar Khadafy is not deliberately massacring civilians but rather narrowly targeting the armed rebels who fight against his government.”

          False, as the actual Human Rights Watch report definitively demonstrates.

          Unless you’d care to take me up on my offer to explain how the use of cluster munitions a kilometer away from the fighting, but a block away from a hospital in the midst of a an urban neighborhood, is “narrowly targeting the armed rebels.”

          “With regard to Qaddafi’s use of cluster bombs, or as Obama’s Secretary of Defense Robert Gates calls them….”

          Kindly stop changing the subject when faced with inconvenient facts. This is a thread about the war in Libya. Thanks.

  7. It’s heartbreaking how the people of Libya are suffering, and how everyday the death toll rises. To the victims, it doesn’t really matter who started it first. Punishment and retaliation will not bring back the dead.

    The most humanitarian thing to do is to stop the violence. How can deaths be minimized? It can be done if rebels negotiated with Qaddafi for power sharing, or for expansion of civil rights, rather than demanding that he step down: Obviously, Qaddafi will not step down, and so the fighting will continue. Alternatively, the rebels can unilaterally end the rebellion and melt into the population or go into exile. Some of them will be hunted down and killed by Qaddafi, but by putting an end to civil war they will have avoided far greater bloodshed.

    • You seem to have forgotten that this episode goes back further than the beginning of open warfare, and that in fact, the protesters did attempt to use peaceful means, and did not initially demand Gadaffi step down.

      He responded with artillery, tanks, and air strikes on the crowds of protesters.

      Since the beginning of the violence predated the global community’s intervention, it’s most likely that it would extend beyond it as well.

  8. We can support an intervention we think will save lives and at the same time point out the crimes of those coming to the rescue. Being hypocritical is better than being consistently wrong.

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