Noose tightens on Gaddafi as new Libya takes shape
Rebel forces are now in control of over two thirds of Libya. As the search for Gaddafi intensifies, the world is looking to support and strengthen its fledgling government.
The countdown has begun. If the attack on Gaddafi's stronghold Bani Walid has not already been launched by the time you are reading this, it is only a matter of hours. Last night rebels confirmed they were planning to attack on three fronts.
Will they catch Gaddafi himself? Probably not. Experts think he has already slipped the net but the likelihood is that he will be trapped soon.
Despite the looming attack, rebel forces governed by the internationally recognised National Transitional Council (NTC) are energetically promoting conciliation. They insist they will give Gaddafi a fair trial if he is found.
This is due partly to international pressure. The rebel success is thanks to France and Britain who led the NATO action in February to stop Gaddafi slaughtering Libyan democracy protesters. Now France and Britain are insisting the rebels practice "forgiveness".
The alternative could be a bloody civil war. Lengthy conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have spooked Western powers. They are desperate to avoid a similar nightmare in Libya. As well as the huge expense of the military operation, that would be a political disaster for both French and British governments.
One area with big returns could be oil – the foundation of Libya's economy. Whilst denying rumours that his country will get rights to 35% of Libya's oil, French foreign minister Alain Juppe has said it is 'logical' that France should get a share.
Rebel leaders, too, have suggested that countries who helped most should get a headstart in the scramble for oil.
The UK has additional interests. It wants the return of PC Yvonne Fletcher's killer and the Lockerbie bomber. Both of the suspects are Libyans now living in the country.
But the most important prize for the West is a stable, friendly Libya. As an Arabic country that neighbours Europe, Libya could be an important ally and a potential new front line against Islamist terrorism.
This hope will fail or succeed in the coming months, as the NTC establish a new government and round up Gaddafi and his family.
Britain and France have invested millions – perhaps even billions – in supporting the revolution in Libya. Now that victory is close, is it unreasonable for these powers to expect something in return, whether in oil or anything else?
On the face of it, it seems fair. But there are warnings that true success in Libya is not yet certain. If Libya's many tribes and factions start a new round of fighting against each other, the country could see further civil war. The new rebel government is fragile and will need much more help to establish lasting democracy. Under the circumstances, perhaps Libya's backers should focus more on helping the country to its feet rather than on what they can get in return.
- Does it really matter whether Gaddafi is found or not?
- Is it wrong to be motivated by self-interest when intervening in other countries?
- Design a 'wanted' poster for Gaddafi aimed at persuading his own supporters to hand him over.
- Research the problems other countries – such as Iraq, Egypt and Afghanistan – have faced in the transition to democracy. Write up a five point plan for establishing stability in the streets of Libya .
Some People Say...
“Britain should give up fighting wars and just keep an army to defend itself.”
What do you think?
Q & A
- So where is Gaddafi?
- There are a few possibilities. He just might be holed up in Bani Walid. More likely he is in one of the small desert towns in the vast Libyan portion of the Sahara desert, where many are still loyal to him. He may even have fled out of Libya via underground tunnels.
- Why do parts of Libya still support Gaddafi?
- Libya is diverse country, with many different tribal groups - Bani Walid, for example, is home to the million-strong Warfalla tribe. Gaddafi's own tribe, the Gadadfa, live further south.
- Isn't all that a problem?
- Potentially, yes. If Gaddafi troops remain at large, creating a stable government will be much harder.
- the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. Started in 1949 when 12 western countries signed an agreement to protecting each other's security, NATO has been involved in Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan.
- Islamist terrorism
- attacks carried out in the name of fundamentalist Islam, which supports violent methods to spread Islam into the politics and life of non-Muslim countries.
- in 1988, a flight between London and New York exploded over the town of Lockerbie, killing nearly 300 people. Libyan security minister Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was convicted of the crime and imprisoned, but was released to Libya in 2009 as he was dying of cancer.
- National Transition Council
- made up of the many different groups which rose up against Gaddafi, the NTC is now recognised internationally as Libya's governing body, and is responsible for Libya's movement to democracy.
- Bani Walid
- A city to the north west of Libya, home to the Warfalla tribe and a Gaddafi stronghold.