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Gaddafi has also constantly stated he will not seek refuge abroad. The Libyan dictator fears that he and his sons may be turned over to the International Criminal Court (ICC), which has indicted them for war crimes. Interestingly, a Venezuelan envoy has been reported in Tunisia where a special United Nations diplomat arrived on Monday to meet with representatives of both sides of the Libyan conflict. It was rumoured in April that Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez, a Gaddafi friend, had offered the Libyan leader asylum, although the offer was denied.
But the UN envoy’s meeting with the rebel representatives over a “peaceful transition” in Libya may not have gone well. One rebel delegate was reported to have thrown his shoe, a sign of “deep disdain,” regarding the proposal. As the rebels’ battlefield victories and confidence grow, for some of them their willingness to make a deal has probably decreased.
But the rebels admit they are not strong enough yet to capture Tripoli. They are hoping their victories and the city’s encirclement will spark an uprising that will overthrow the regime. But that appears unlikely with the secret police system and informer network Gaddafi has established over his 40-year rule.
The rebels are also well aware that Gaddafi may still have nasty surprises in store for them. His forces launched their first Scud missile against Brega recently, although no damage was done. Some have understood the Scud’s launching as a sign of Gaddafi’s growing desperation; but it also may be a warning. Perhaps the greatest fear now should be Gaddafi using a weapon of mass destruction, like poison gas, against the rebels, something a ruthless dictator like him with nothing to lose and a family to protect just might do.
One military analyst states that with his recent defeats Gaddafi has to worry about his forces’ dropping morale. Will encirclement see a collapse in fighting spirit, or at least a rise in the number of desertions, or will his army’s core units made up primarily of his own tribe and the ones that support him, which NATO has been targeting, continue their determined resistance? NATO air strikes are also responsible for this loss of morale among pro-Gaddafi forces. Its warplanes have been targeting those core units, some of which Gaddafi’s sons command. They have also been targeting Gaddafi himself but without success so far.
NATO is allowing food and medicine into Tripoli, and Gaddafi appears to have an abundance of cash and munitions, which he had been stockpiling for a rainy day, such as he is now experiencing. While defections of high-ranking officials still continue, the most recent being that of security officer Nassr al-Mabrouk Abdullah, who flew with nine members of his family to Cairo on Monday, Gaddafi’s core of tribal and military supporters appear intact. Abdullah’s defection with his family may be due to that fear of tribal revenge, since he is said to have “blood on his hands” from interrogating rebels.
While the rebels admit Gaddafi has put forward proposals to stop the bloodshed, they still insist he and his sons must step down. But since Gaddafi refuses to do so for reasons already discussed, expect him to fight it out and turn Tripoli into a Stalingrad or Berlin in 1945, if Tripoli is attacked. Without a doubt, as was stated in one German newspaper, Gaddafi would be willing to stage an Arab “Gotterdammerung,” if his downfall appears likely. Like Hitler, if he can’t win, then everyone is going to lose.
In the end, however, if the war continues, it is inevitable Gaddafi will fall, after which NATO’s greatest fear is that Libya will sink down into a chaos of tribal violence. This is a strong possibility, as the recent assassination of the rebels’ military leader, Abdul Younis, stirred fears of tribal conflict and indicated the rebels are united only in their desire to get rid of Gaddafi.
The Libyan leader’s eventual defeat may only represent the end of the first phase of a multi-phase war in which tribe may fight tribe over the oil facilities, which are already severely damaged, to control the billions in revenues. And those tribes who lose would become proficient saboteurs of the oil fields. So despite rebel victories like Zawiya, Gharyan and eventually Tripoli, Libya may yet turn into NATO’s biggest defeat.
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