Libya: Now Things Get Really Complicated

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August 30, 2011: The rebel NTC (National Transitional Council) has become the de-facto government of Libya. But the country is actually controlled by dozens of separate rebel groups, each offering varying degrees of cooperation with the NTC. Despite that, the NTC has control of most of the oil, and is getting frozen Kaddafi assets (over $100 billion with). So the various rebel factions are making agreements with the NTC, most on the condition that elections for a new government are held soon. It’s also implied that the NTC will have some success in restoring essential services (power, water, sanitation, transportation, security). This the NTC is hustling to do, and today they convinced the Kaddafi era police force in Tripoli to go back to work.

The rebels still have not taken the city of Sirte (Kaddafi’s birthplace and full of people still loyal to him). Tripoli is still full of Kaddafi loyalists. These people are the ones who Kaddafi favored for decades. Because of the oil income (which accounted for half the GDP) Libya was, on paper, well off. But the reality was otherwise. An international ranking of “quality-of-life” (QOL) listed Libya as 70 out of 111 nations. For comparison purposes, note the ranking from 62nd to 83rd place; Bahrain (62nd place), Lithuania, Jamaica, Morocco, Latvia, Oman, Estonia, United Arab Emirates, Libya, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, India, Paraguay, Jordan, Nicaragua, Bangladesh, Albania, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Algeria, Bolivia and Tunisia.

What’s important to note here is that GDP helps, but does not guarantee a higher QOL. Indonesia, just below, Libya, had about a third the GDP per capita of Libya, and much less oil. Jamaica had higher QOL, and a GPD per capita similar to Indonesia (as did many other nations, with Costa Rica, with ten percent less GDP per capita, having a QOL rank of 36).  Libya was in trouble because it was a dictatorship, with Kaddafi and his cronies running a command (they make all the decisions) economy. This does not work, and causes political and economic complaints that grow worse by decade after decade. This brought about the collapse of the communist states in Eastern Europe in the late 1980s (including the Soviet Union.) This economic and political decline caught up with Libya this year.

While the European communist nations did not have armed resistance after their dictatorships fell, this is not the case in Arab nations. Unlike Europe, tribalism is still a strong force in most Arab states. Libya is one of them, and Kaddafi’s tribe (the Kaddafi) has been the center of power in Libya since the late 1960s. But there are over a hundred tribes and major clans in the country, and the Kaddafi tribe (an Arab one, centered on Sirte, and thence south into the desert) is one of the smaller ones. This was complicated by the fact that about 60 percent of the population is Berber (mostly) and Tuareg (nomadic Berbers far to the south). The Berbers have always been hostile to the Arab invaders (represented by Kaddafi and most of the other coastal tribes) for over a thousand years. Kaddafi didn’t trust the Berbers, although he tried to buy off the Tuareg (with mixed success). So Kaddafi’s main supporters are 10-20 percent of the Arab Libyans (less than ten percent of the total population). Many of these Kaddafi supporters are talking tough right now, but few are actually shooting, or planning terror attacks. The rebel leadership is hustling to form a government that will help prevent a guerilla war by those who have lost so much power (political and economic). Everyone knows what happened in Iraq, where the Sunni Arab minority carried out a horrendous terror campaign (mostly against the majority Shia Arabs) in a failed attempt to regain power and prosperity.

Kaddafi has long cultivated the image of himself as a simple man, who often lived in tents and ate traditional nomad fare (dates and camel milk). Since his government fell, rebels have gotten into many formerly tightly guarded areas, and found that Kaddafi actually lived quite luxuriously, as did members of his family and senior members of the government. Kaddafi simply kept all these gated communities a tightly guarded secret. Now people are wondering what other secrets Kaddafi had.

Meanwhile, rebel commanders believe that Kaddafi, two of his sons and some loyal soldiers, are seeking a hideout in the outskirts of Tripoli. Rebel forces are energetically seeking all members of the Kaddafi clan, lest they become a rally point for remaining loyalists.

Rebel forces are finding hundreds of recently killed civilians, many of them apparently rebel fighters who had surrendered. Soldiers and secret police apparently had orders to kill all rebels, including prisoners. Some Kaddafi supporters are still out there killing. Rebels are searching for any artillery or rockets in the hands of Kaddafi loyalists. Some of this stuff is still being fired at roads and rebel held areas. There is still the problem of Kaddafi loyalists wandering around the vast desert interior of Libya.

The U.S. has negotiated a deal that would allow two civilian teams to enter Libya and search for any Kaddafi anti-aircraft weapons (especially portable missiles) that are unaccounted for. The rebels have agreed to secure or destroy anything found. The U.S. is already confident that Kaddafi’s chemical weapons are secure, as well as some other weapons of mass destruction.

August 29, 2011: Rebels are massing forces outside Sirte, the last city that is loyal to the Kaddafis. Sirte (population 100,000) is the controlled by the Kaddafi tribe, but rebels hope to negotiate a surrender. Meanwhile, in Tripoli, rebels are busy searching the many secret compounds and bunkers Kaddafi had built over the decades. They have found much decadence, but no Kaddafis.

 Moamar Kaddafi’s wife, three children and several grandchildren have shown up in Algeria seeking asylum. The new rebel government in Libya demanded that these refugees be returned.

The commander of the government 32nd brigade, Moamar Kaddafi’s bloodthirsty son Khamis, was again reported killed. This time it was by a missile by a British Apache helicopter gunship, some 60 kilometers south of Tripoli. His body was found, identified and buried.

August 26, 2011: Rebel forces in Tripoli agreed to unify under one command (the NTC).

August 25, 2011:  NATO fighter bombers made their last large scale bombing in Tripoli, hitting targets in the last neighborhood held by Kaddafi loyalists. Over the next day, rebel troops went in and cleaned the area out.

August 24, 2011: The NTC has offered a reward of $1.6 million for the capture (or information leading to it) of Moamar Kaddafi (dead or alive.)

 

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