New Libya, Welcomed in Mideast, Rejects NATO Bases

Despite the unfinished character of the Libyan Revolution, it is clear that the days of Muammar Qaddafi are numbered. How has this news been received in the rest of the world? There is a lot of hope for Libya as an independent country, yet one friendly with neighbors and new allies. Even those lukewarm about the NATO intervention are now accepting reality. But the new Libya itself is eager to dispel any illusion that it might like a Western military base on its soil.

The Arab League says that it will take up the matter of giving the Transitional National Council Libya’s seat in the organization at its next meeting. The Arab League kicked off the outside intervention by asking the UN Security Council for a resolution authorizing other countries to protect Libya’s protest movement.

Abdel Moneim al-Huweini, the TNC delegate from Libya to the Arab League in Cairo reaffirmed Libya’s commitment to the League, saying,

“Libya is an Arab and Islamic nation before NATO and after NATO . . . the Libyans revolted from the 1970s against Western bases and there will be no non-Libyan bases.” He said the revolutionary government is grateful to NATO for minimizing the death toll in Libya through its air strikes [on attacking Qaddafi forces].

(Huweini was referring to the US Wheelus Air Force base in post- WW II Libya, which the Qaddafi government closed in 1970).

The Saudi-owned Arab News editorialized with guarded optimism about the fall of the old regime. It condemned Qaddafi’s so-called socialist-masses state (it wasn’t actually very socialist toward the end) as an absurdity. It noted with satisfaction that the Transitional National Council will want to be close to those countries that supported it, including Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf, and Western Europe. The editorial applauded that Libyans’ achievement of control over their own destiny. That is, this middle class Saudi newspaper is glad that Saudi Arabia (an oil state with an alliance with the US and the North Atlantic countries) will have a new friend in the region. The editorial hopes for a Libyan democracy, and it is an irony of the Arab Spring that Saudi Arabia, itself an absolute monarchy with some theocratic tendencies, has backed some democratic reform movements purely on pragmatic grounds. It supported the Libyan uprising, and led the charge to take the issue to the United Nations Security Council. It is seen by many as hypocritical, insofar as Riyadh helped the Sunni Bahrain monarchy crush the democracy movement among the majority of Bahrain citizens who are Shiites.

At the opposite side of the sectarian and ideological spectrum, a member of parliament in Iran welcomed the revolution and said that it was an object lesson to the region’s dictators. Mohammad Karamirad said he hoped Libya would become independent, and not bound to foreign patrons. (Iranian politicians have been in the paradoxical position of supporting the revolutionaries but condemning outside assistance to Libya).

The Shiite Party-Militia of southern Lebanon, Hizbullah,, warmly congratulated the Libyan people on the overthrow of Qaddafi, praising “their victory over the rule of the tyrant.” Qaddafi is suspected in the murder and disappearance in summer 1978 of Shiite leader Mousa Sadr.

Also in Lebanon, some took Qaddafi’s overthrow as a harbinger for other regional dictatorships

On Monday, Future bloc MP Khaled Daher demanded that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad “step down and flee” before he met Qaddafi’s fate.

The Future Party of former Lebanese PM Saad Hariri groups most of Lebanon’s Sunni Arabs, and is said to have ties to Saudi Arabia.

Daher’s sentiments were implicitly shared by the foreign minister of Turkey, Ahmet Davutoglu, who told a news conference:

“The change taking place in Libya in compliance with people’s demands, following the one in Egypt and Tunisia, should teach a lesson to everyone… Leaders of other countries must also be aware of the fact that they will be in power as long as they satisfy the demands of the people.” Observers saw his statement as referring to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Davutoglu added, “Today is a historic day for Libya … One of the most important stages to rebuild a new Libya is taking place. This new Libya must be a democratic, free and united one meeting the demands of the people.”

Turkey, as a member of NATO, helped impose a naval blockade on weapons imports to Tripoli, though early on it was more interested in seeking a negotiated settlement than in arranging for a rebel victory. Turkey had expended some diplomatic capital in reestablishing good relations with Qaddafi, and it took time for the Turks to decide that the relationship was over with. Over time, Ankara forged links to the TNC, and last month formally recognized it as the government of Libya.

China, which had called for a ceasefire last March (which would have left Qaddafi with half the country), changed its stance. Ma Zhaoxu, spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said, “We have noticed recent changes in the Libyan situation and we respect the Libyan people’s choice.” China is Libya’s biggest oil customer in Asia and probably would like to make oil investments in the new Libya. Likely, however, it will be frozen out in favor of countries that more warmly supported the Benghazi revolutionaries.

Posted in Libya | 34 Responses | Print |

34 Responses

  1. As the facts are made known the next few weeks and months, we’ll hear how the US had much to do with this American war. NATO bombings, American intelligence and tactical guidance, funding from the West. There may not have been any American troops on the ground but this was an American war, fought on behalf of the super-national firms, which wanted access to Libya’s sweet crude, water and Gaddafi’s gold. Gaddafi had approached many states about the gold dinar currency in recent years but it never caught on.

    It’s sad to read the blogosphere. Obama supporters imagine Obama skipped around the Middle East, basket of Freedom seeds in hand, and scattered the dormant democracies which germinated from the sunshine of his magical speeches. The actual total of casualties will of course be downplayed. We know that Westerners don’t care about Muslims.

    The Saudis are a vulgar lot. They sold out the Muslim and Arab people by dealing with American and British companies in the 1930s. American and British statesmen and businessmen have played off the internal dramas of the Saud family and leadership, in order to favor or manipulate one middle east leader or another. The Wahhabism of the sauds, their personal greed and hypocrisy, have led them to selling oil to entities that have nothing but contempt for the inhabitants of the middle east and their rulers. The fossil fuels will eventually undo the biosphere, but not before enriching the few at the expense of the many in the short run.

    • “The Saudis are a vulgar lot. They sold out the Muslim and Arab people by dealing with American and British companies in the 1930s.”

      Oh, now there’s a clever thought. Apparently the poster of the above-cited quote wanted the Saudis to remain in their bedouin tents, with Ibn Saud carrying the entire Saudi treasury in trunks on camels. I love the way some people want to keep traditional societies freeze-dried in amber and prevent them from entering the modern world, which, of course, requires commercial contracts with states and companies.

    • We know that Westerners don’t care about Muslims.

      Well, we know that you don’t care about the Muslims in Benghazi and Misurata.

  2. Because the victims were Libyans, and the perpetrators were Libyans it surely follows that any war crimes trials must be carried out by Libyans in Libya.

    Perhaps Turkey, as the former colonial power in Libya, is best placed to help Libya make the transition to democracy.

  3. Very insightful article on this vital issue. I hope we do not have the same arrogant attitude we had in Iraq of installing leaders we want and ignoring the wishes of the people. Look at what it brought us.

  4. “China is Libya’s biggest oil customer in Asia and probably would like to make oil investments in the new Libya. Likely, however, it will be frozen out in favor of countries that more warmly supported the Benghazi revolutionaries.”

    Yeah, but oil played no part in the West’s decision to replace the Libyan regime. Uh huh. Har dee har har. That’s rich.


    link to

    “China’s largest oil and gas producer has shut down six major projects in war-torn Libya, Syria and other restive nations because of political instability, state media said Tuesday.

    The decision came as Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi’s regime appeared close to collapse after rebels took over the capital Tripoli, and as other countries in the Middle East and Africa experienced bouts of unrest.”

    None of those people who got buried or burned or blasted to death died to make things freer in Libya. They died so Libyan sweet crude keeps flowing north and west, rather than east. Might they end up freer as a happenstance? Who knows. War is never a solution, Dr. Cole. It is the admission that we have stopped looking for a solution.

    • If oil was the main issue “the West” should have helped the lunatic slaughter the Libyans – supplied him with weapons and Intel – since France and Italy and other EU countries already were buying the major part of the Libyan oil.
      No the value of democracies developing in the middle east with wich EU can have friendly relations will in itself be worth much more than what could come for oil deals.
      EU sees that possibility in these Arab uprisings – a way out of the “our son of a bitch” situation without getting hostile extremist regimes all over the southern Mediterranean region.

    • I agree that war is never a solution, but Libya made its own decision. I hope we can change things in the US and UK non-violently.

    • So having been shut out of Libya, the Chinese will dig a little more deeply into the THREE TRILLION DOLLARS of foreign currency they’re sitting on to bid up the price of oil on the open market, and we will all have to pay it.

      See how markets work?

      And if we conspire against China too much, China finally stops propping up the dollar at the detriment of the yuan, letting the latter appreciate and thus buy more oil while impoverished Americans can no longer afford the Chinese crap they buy to make ends meet.

      China already owns our asses, don’t you get it? They’ve already won, in human terms. Their big enemy is the strain they had to place on the planet in order to rapidly overcome American domination.

    • So the theory here is that the western powers couldn’t have motivated by human rights concerns in March, because the TNC decided in August that it would favor the nations that aided it, rather than those that did not?

      If some countries that were motivated by human rights concerns had intervened, therefore, the TNC would have totally not favored them in post-war oil deals.

      Are you sure you want to stick with this argument?

      • Joe: there is no unified rebel political organization. You can have anti-West/US entities in the coalition. That doesn’t mean that in the post war mixup, those elements who do the West’s bidding won’t dominate. Just you watch, buddy. You completely underestimate how deep we have our greedy fingers in that multi-layered pie.

        Super 390: if it were only that simple. You forget that having our foot on the production throttle, even third hand behind the scenes, puts China in a more vulnerable strategic position. If war comes with China, and given what you say about them owning us, our econ situation and the way bankers think about money vs. human life, it’s a lot easier to cut them off by having a puppet turn off the spigot than bombing a whole ‘nother nations’ facilities and tankers, no? We’re gearing up for a major war, dude. ANd keeping China out of it while we take down Iran and Syria, and maybe Pakistan, is top priority.

        Joe, Pt. II: I’m not following you. What I can’t buy for a heartbeat is the concept that the flinty hearted fucks that run our military industrial banking complex, who only understand fear, raw power and money, would make any investment of time/money/military for any interests but their own. Just won’t believe it and, I gotta say, given this last century or so, I gotta wonder about the people who do.

        But, who really knows the motivations of anyone or anything? I just judge actions. And dropping bombs and missiles is not the action of a moral person. Sorry, just isn’t.

  5. The statement about bases can’t be a surprise to anyone who has been paying attention to the facts of this operation. Heck, the UN Resolution explicitly forbade a foreign occupation.

    If NATO was looking for bases, they wouldn’t have agreed so readily to keeping out ground forces. In the case of the US, we absolutely insisted on there being no ground forces.

    • If NATO was looking for bases, they wouldn’t have agreed so readily to keeping out ground forces. In the case of the US, we absolutely insisted on there being no ground forces.

      As I understand it, the resolution would only forbid boots on the ground during the lifetime of the resolution. If we managed to arm and support a rebel leadership sufficiently sympathetic to our post-revolution goals, there’s nothing to stop the new and sympathetic Libyan government we helped install inviting us in.

      I hope to god they say no to having our bases there.

      • there’s nothing to stop the new and sympathetic Libyan government we helped install inviting us in

        If a post-revolutionary government, after the war is over and it’s no longer fighting for its life, decides that they want to invite the US in, that’s rather a different matter than American troops entering the country to wage war and then staying.

  6. Well, whatever the ideological justifications for Gaddhafi’s overthrow, every person in the world should rest a bit less comfortable about the ramifications of NATO’s intervention. The next time a power decides to help topple a government, it will be just that little bit harder to urge respect for international law. The Libyan intervention may have been expedient, but the West can now no longer credibly act as guarantors for the project that was set in motion by Grotius.

    • The next time a power decides to help topple a government,</i?

      So now we're just writing the Libyan people and their uprising out of this story, eh?

      it will be just that little bit harder to urge respect for international law.

      The UN Resolution doesn’t make it even the slightest bit harder to argue for international law. It makes it easier.

  7. The Financial Times has featured an editorial penned by Council on Foreign Relations president Richard Haas titled, “Libya Now Needs Boots on the Ground,”

    • Richard Haas has been abjectly wrong about Libya from day one. His solution to the uprising was to partition the country.

    • Since the beginning of the war almost every military expert have claimed that the lunatic could not be stopped or defeated without ground troops…and the number of people who were convinced that NATO were working on making an “excuse” to invade were also quite high.
      But judging from how things have been in the eastern part, since the lunatic lost control there, it seems that the Libyans are capable of avoiding chaos.

    • You know what comes with American boots?

      Al Qaeda, launching a murder spree to turn the country into a disaster area just to screw with us.

      Introducing American troops into Libya is last thing the country’s long-term stability needs.

  8. If the new government can continue to resist Western pressure, surely we have achieved the best possible outcome: a Libya free of its wretched dictator, but also as free as possible from domination by our centres of power.

    Richard Haas is an imperialistic maggot.

    Like many Lefties who supported the original resolution to protect civilians, I groaned at my own naivety as our bombing campaign moved into regime-change mode, and as stories about rebel-leadership meetings with Western officials surfaced. I don’t want to see Libya made into another one of our oil-rich client states–who does?

    I’m sure Libyan oil and gas is the primary reason why we were so eager to get involved–noble pretext notwithstanding–and why people like Haas want boots on the ground. The Chinese are naturally concerned about Western domination. There is, however, nothing inevitable about upsetting the Chinese by having their Libyan oil dry up–that really would make resolutions in similar scenarios impossible to get–something that would also be sad as I thought the Chinese showed great faith by not vetoing Western-led military involvement in one of their major oil suppliers.

    And there’s also nothing inevitable about us dominating post-revolution Libya. Iraqis managed to resist total post-war domination by the US, so why not Libyans?

    Anyway… Well done, Libyans!

    • You know, the rebels were always going to sell oil. They helped fund the revolution that way. Why shouldn’t they meet with oil companies?

    • your characterization of Haas as an imperialist is absurd. I haven’t agreed with him on Libya, but he is a very moderate sort, and his desire for boots-on-the-ground is a possibly misguided desire to maintain order.

      your oil-grab theories are idiotic. Do you think we intend to steal their oil? If all we cared about was the flow of oil, then backing Gadaffy would have been the preferred route.

      • Ignoring the inflammatory language, I’d reply that it would have been politically impossible (Lockerbie, for starters) for us to openly back Qaddafi against his own population. Can you imagine us backing Assad now, for example? My understanding is that something like 90% of Syrian oil comes to us in the EU, and you’ve seen how slow we’ve been to really criticise Assad. Contrast that with the way we jumped on Qaddafi.

        Contrast it also with the foot-dragging, equivocal backing given to the Egyptian revolution, and the non-action against our oil-rich client states in the Middle East, and it beggars belief that in Libya alone we were motivated by an unblemished desire to see a people free of its dictator.

        Qaddafi needed stopping, and the bulk of the population appeared to want him stopped, which is why I was happy to back the restricted mandate of Resolution 1973; but I didn’t doubt, once we breached the terms of the resolution, that 1973 was simply a cynical way in for us to dominate Libyan oil and gas, with bonuses like bases.

      • The Iraqi government, as it and the political situation existed in 2007, could not have endured without the support of the U.S.

        However, the promise and reality of the withdrawal of U.S. troops was a major development in Iraqi politics. It has strengthened the government’s credibility and convinced large segments of the opposition to pursue politics instead of armed struggles against the government.

        So, I’m hopeful.

  9. NATO will demand its pound of flesh. Further, the inevitably capitalist TNC government will now need to pick up where Ghadaffi left off, and begin the dirty business of repression of the Libyan people. For that they will be even further indebted to NATO for “special forces” assistance on how to conduct that repression. That will be the mode of any NATO “occupation”.

    Or do you really think that NATO would permit a revolution to proceed to the end in such a oil rentier state?

    • I think the new, democratic government of Libya is going to sell all the oil it can, for all the money it can get, to those countries that protected the people of Libya from Gadhafi and made his overthrow possible.

      I don’t think the NATO countries’ interests in Libyan oil require any repression at all.

  10. Which other “democratic reform movements” has Saudi Arabia supported, Juan? In Yemen, unabashed and continuing support for Saleh. In Lebanon, support for the decidedly sectarian and undemocratic Mustaqbal Hariri cultists. In Egypt, unflinching support for Mubarak. Bolstering the monarchy in Jordan. And of course the jackbooted thuggery in Bahrain. I simply don’t see any justification for this statement at all. And why don’t we explore some of the pragmatic reasons for Saudi support of the purportedly democratic (you don’t know that and neither does anyone else) rebellion in Libya?

    • Actually Saudis are trying to ease Saleh out. And they are supporting reformists in Syria. Saudis are pragmatists and are perfectly capable of supporting democratic movements if they think the outcome will favor their interests.

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