February 23, 2011

If Gaddafi Vows to Die a Martyr

That the Arab revolution might reach Libya was regarded as out of the range of possible (or desirable) things. And if one leader could survive the storm, it seemed to be Kadhafi, with his broad security apparatus, his elite military units and his own oil wells. At least that’s how we felt until a few days ago.

But with their utter courage the demonstrators in Benghazi, Surt, Misurata, Tubruq, Derna, and Tripoli have taken even this certainty away. And what is more is that these events mark the first time that uprisings roiling the broader Middle East have destabilized a major oil-producing state. Of course, that’s also why Libya holds a different level of interest to the West than Tunisia or even Egypt. This is true above all for Italy, Libya’s former colonial overlord and its top trade partner. Italy has a lot to lose if Gaddafi goes:

"Italy has been worried because the effects would be more direct and immediate than on other countries" if Gathafi is forced to relinquish power, said Ettore Greco, director of the International Affairs Institute in Rome.
The Libyan regime has shut down illegal immigration towards Italy and holds major stakes in Italian companies including the country's top bank UniCredit, industry giant Finmeccanica and first-division football club Juventus.
Italian officials say a pact with Libya on immigration has reduced undocumented arrivals by more than 90 percent and Libya has threatened to lift controls if Europe tries to topple Gathafi.
Italian businesses also have key investments in the North African state, which accounts for 14 percent of the global output of Italian energy giant ENI.
Italy is the biggest exporter to Libya and is also Libya's biggest export market, importing around 23 percent of its oil supplies from Libya.

That explains the reason why Italy—along with Britain, another country with which Libya has a special (business) relationship—is treading cautiously.

However, in general, as a result of the turmoil, crude oil prices are rising to their highest levels in two years: they went up 6% alone yesterday and the Arab revolution could cause them to go a lot higher (by the way, the exodus of international oil firms is an indication of how dramatic things have become in Libya).

That’s what explains why Russian President Dmitry Medvedev predicted “fires for decades and the spread of extremism” in the Arab world if protesters, whom he called “fanatics,” come to power.

Yet the European and American Left are far less cautious and definitely side with the Arab revolution. And to think that Gaddafi, as recalled by the German conservative daily Die Welt, started as an Arab nationalist with a socialist vocabulary, and many leftists honored him (along with the late far-right Austrian nationalist Jörg Haider), into the ‘90s, as an ‘anti-imperialist’ figure. Things change so quickly sometimes…

But this time, unlike in the cases of Tunisia and Egypt, it’s a bit more difficult to disagree. In the light of what “the mad dog” has proven himself to be these days, even the European Union, Obama and the lefties might be right. And perhaps this will be recalled as the beginning of the last act of the Libyan tragedy:

He called on "those who love Muammar Gaddafi" to come out on to the streets, telling them not to be afraid of the "gangs".
"Come out of your homes, attack them in their dens. Withdraw your children from the streets. They are drugging your children, they are making your children drunk and sending them to hell," he said.
He would "cleanse Libya house by house", he said.
"If matters require, we will use force, according to international law and the Libyan constitution," he said, and warned that the country could descend into civil war or be occupied by the US if protests continued.
Anyone who played games with the country's unity would be executed, he said, citing the Chinese authorities' crushing of the student protests in Tiananmen Square as an example of national unity being "worth more than a small number of protesters".

Well, frankly speaking, who in the right mind would miss him? Just let him “die a martyr” if that’s what he wants, and may Allah have mercy on him, because his people won't.


  1. That's a good point, Rob. Hopefully, as The Economist puts it, "for the sake of the global economy and the citizens of Libya, current fears won't amount to much. But rich world leaders need to be talking about what they're prepared to do if political stability undermines global recovery. You don't want to go into a tough situation without a plan."

  2. P.S. I forgot the link to the article I quoted from:

  3. One doubts if Gaddafi vows to die at all. He's hardly a hero, and even less a martyr.

    I wonder if the UN shouldn't offer to act as arbitrators, moderators and observers. A UN force might discourage the unacceptable use of heavy military weapons against the people, save a lot more lives and calm things down a bit.

    At first Gaddafi would probably refuse such an offer, but this would isolate him even more. The UN with the backing of International lawyers could then react with a warning that accusations of crimes against humanity could be drawn up against him and his henchmen. He may then think twice about the wisdom of refusing to accept the presence of UN troops.
    If the UN still have any reason of being and can be regarded as a credible institution, this would be an ideal opportunity to show it, one way or the other.

  4. Gaddafi is a criminal and a dictator who should have been overthrown long ago, had it not been for oil. His time has come to go. Awaaaaaaaaaaaay!!!