The Face of Victory in Tripoli – The Wall Street Journal

The Face of Victory in Tripoli | The Wall Street Journal | Ranj Alaaldin

Yesterday will always be remembered by Libyans as the prelude to the
defeat of their tyrannical dictator. After capturing Zawiyah and
Zlitan, opposition forces made a swift and audacious entry into the
capital city of Tripoli and brought an end to Colonel Moammar
Gadhafi’s 41-year-old dictatorship. With the capture and defeat of
Gadhafi comes victory. Yet the road to success will be a rocky one as
the face of the victory will be defined by the events of the coming

Whether jubilation in Libya will turn into chaos and instability will
depend on two things: the extent to which regime loyalists in Tripoli
launch a fight back and the Transitional National Council’s (TNC)
ability to govern effectively and establish democratic governance.

Since the TNC has so-far faced only pockets of resistance in Tripoli,
it seems like a bloody-showdown has been avoided. But the TNC has yet
to secure the city and the old regime still controls one-fifth of the
capital. Gadhafi has been preparing for this day since the outbreak of
hostilities—this is still his last stand.

Much will depend on whether, and to what extent, regime forces
assimilate themselves into a civilian population of 1.6 million to
recapture Tripoli. As time goes on, the objective may change from
recapturing the city to “resistance,” with the aim of undermining the
authority of the TNC and general stability.

A similar dynamic emerged in the immediate aftermath of the 2003 Iraq
war, when coalition forces faced a potent domestic insurgency
comprised of civilians and former Baath soldiers. The instability in
Iraq was attributed to a power vacuum after the army was disbanded and
the local Sunni Arab population grew marginalized. These sentiments
were compounded by the presence of foreign forces.

By contrast, the Libyan uprising has been continually driven by
Libyans. In fact, most soldiers have defected to the opposition and,
judging by the relative stability in TNC controlled territories, they
are capable of achieving sufficient stability with the support of the
local population. There is a legitimate and indigenous undercurrent to
the Libyan conflict that has carried into Tripoli.

Whether a protracted conflict against regime loyalists is avoided also
depends on the measures the TNC adopts to integrate them and existing
state apparatuses into the new and free Libya.

The TNC’s methods of incorporation will make the difference between an
environment of stable governance and one of warring splinter groups.
Unfortunately, doing so will not be easy. Gadhafi fostered a network
of patronage in the capital which secured the loyalty of certain
segments of the population. As a result, there are many political,
tribal and military circles that had—and still have—a vested interest
in his survival. It remains to be seen how the TNC will engage with
these elements and give them a stake in the future of the country.

And the integration of Gadhafi loyalists is only half of the challenge
the opposition group faces. A democratic outcome and indeed any
amnesty for regime loyalists is dependent on consensus within the TNC.
Doubts about their ability to function as a unified entity deepened
after the death of their army chief Abdel Fatah al-Younes. Although
the removal of his divisive presence helped pave the way for recent
gains, it is much easier to unite in a common cause in the face of a
common enemy. Difficulties will naturally arise when politicians,
either backed up or opposed by powerful and battle-hardened military
men, have to reconcile conflicting ideological and political
ambitions, as well as varying social and tribal affiliations.

Nevertheless, despite skepticism from many critics and regime
apologists alike (like those who called for a cease-fire), the
opposition transformed itself into an effective fighting force.
Against all odds, they are liberating a nation and overthrowing a
brutal dictatorial regime. We should, therefore, give them the benefit
of the doubt as they take on a new set of uncertainties and

Libya’s Unraveling Opposition – The Wall Street Journal

Libya’s Unraveling Opposition | Ranj Alaaldin | The Wall Street Journal

On Thursday events in Libya took a turn for the worse with the killing of opposition army chief Abdel Fatah Younis. Not only have the Libyan rebels lost one of their most experienced military leaders, but the murky circumstances surrounding his death now threaten to provoke a war within rebel-controlled territories—to start another Libyan war before the current one has ended.

For months the presence of competing figures at the helm of the Libyan opposition has risked creating an environment of violence and instability. The rebels’ democratic and accountability deficits have only compounded the situation.

The opposition Interim National Council (INC), which answers to no one, is comprised of an array of secularists, Islamic fundamentalists, technocrats, independents and former regime figures. Younis himself used to be a powerful interior minister under Moammar Gadhafi, until he defected in the aftermath of the February uprising. Similarly, INC leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil was a justice minister under Gadhafi. The nascent council’s diverse makeup means that divisions between its various elements were inevitable—and Younis’s death may be a byproduct of them.

In the months since the Libyan revolution began, these divisions have prompted the rebels’ lackluster army to splinter, creating the potential for rival personal militias. This factionalization has only intensified as the rebels have become more efficient, organized and better-equipped with Western help. As the conflict drags on, still more underestimated or unknown elements are emerging from the woodwork.

It is in this context that we must appraise the death of General Younis. Mr. Jalil’s press conference on Saturday did little to allay concerns about the future of the Libyan opposition. Mr. Jalil revealed only that the INC had called Younis back from the eastern town of Brega to question him over “military affairs,” and that he was killed by armed gangs after he was released. Mr. Jalil failed to provide specifics on where the attack took place, how Younis’s killers were able to gain access to him and, most importantly, why exactly Younis had been summoned by the INC in the first place.

One clue may lie in Younis’s fractious relationship with Khalifa Hifter, another opposition military figure and former Gadhafi official. Mr. Hifter went into exile in the U.S. after an ill-fated military adventure in Chad in the late 1980s, and returned to Libya in March.

Younis had been locked in a power struggle with Mr. Hifter since then. Shortly after returning to Libya, the INC put Mr. Hifter in charge of its ground forces. From the start Younis and Mr. Hifter worked in an uncoordinated manner, hampering the rebels’ progress and their slow march toward Tripoli. The relationship between the two became so troublesome that the INC appointed a special watchdog to keep their rivalry at bay.

Mr. Hifter presented a formidable challenge to Younis largely because he had strong backing among the opposition’s military personnel. But Younis also had significant support within the army, meaning the opposition’s forces are now dangerously split.

All this is made worse by the fact that the INC army is not the only organized military force in Libya’s rebel-held territories. Mr. Jalil himself seemed to highlight this on Saturday when he warned armed groups to join the INC or be “crushed.” He may have simply been acknowledging the existence of these groups to bolster his claim that Younis’s death was the work of non-INC gunmen. It is, however, unlikely that an ill-equipped rag-tag gang could have penetrated the sophisticated protection force that surrounded Younis, who traveled in an armored car as part of a multi-vehicle convoy with 30 armed guards.

The controversy now building around Younis’s death could lead to a restructuring of the INC. Ahmed Shebani, head of the Democratic Party that hopes to contest elections in a post-Gadhafi Libya, tells me that “the delicate cards have to be reshuffled, primarily because Younis’s death will cause a credibility problem. The whole issue of the INC as the sole legitimate representative of the Libyan people is now in doubt.”

The concern for both the Libyan rebels and their western backers—who continue to grant the INC increased legitimacy and hundreds of millions of dollars worth of funds—is that forces loyal to Younis will seek revenge for his death. That risk comes not only from within military circles, but also from the rebels’ political leadership and the powerful Obeidi tribe to which Younis belonged.

There is also the possibility that opposition figures themselves will encourage further factionalism and violence as they seek to protect themselves and secure their futures. Younis’ death may be only the beginning of a new period of Libyan instability. Expect worse things to come.

Intensify Attacks in Libya – HuffingtonPost

Intensify Attacks in Libya

France’s admission last week that it has been arming the Libyan opposition was met with intense criticism. The move, logical and appropriate given the inadequacy of air attacks, should be welcomed. Yet, it is still not enough. Nato must now intensify its attacks to finally defeat Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s regime.

Four months after the international community convened to protect the Libyan population, Nato is still yet to utilise its military capacity to full effect. For example, the deployment of attack helicopters last month was supposed to have dramatically tilted the balance in the opposition’s favour and help them build on their progress at the frontline. Attacks, however, have hardly materialised.

It was precisely this dithering in the early stages of the uprising that allowed Gaddafi to regain lost territory from the protesters, consolidate his position and thus remain defiant to this day.

Now, suggestions are that Nato is unwilling to take that extra step. The Economist magazine, for example, says Nato powers hope “the rebels will not capture Tripoli after a headlong advance from the east”, apparently because of the “risks of retribution being inflicted on Gaddafi loyalists” in a rebel advance.

Instead, Nato seeks an implosion of the Gaddafi regime from within, so that the eventual result is a peaceful and negotiated settlement between the regime and the opposition, in the absence of Gaddafi and his sons.

That strategy is flawed for a number of reasons. Firstly, delaying the offensive toward Tripoli will allow Gaddafi to try and consolidate his position, thereby prolonging the conflict and increasing the death toll.

The strategy is also based on hope rather than logic. The only way an implosion of the Gaddafi regime might be provoked is to actually help the opposition embark upon Tripoli and put them in a position to liberate it. In other words, elements within the regime must have a reason to betray Gaddafi. In any case, and thirdly, retribution can and is likely to take place irrespective of whether certain state apparatus’ are kept intact, and there is little the outside world can do about it.

Finally, keeping traditional regime elements intact, in particular the inner circles of Gaddafi and his sons, may end up proving counter-productive. These groups generally tend to be an extension of their masters, rather than independent of them. If left intact, they can continue to undermine any transitional phase and essentially operate to create instability, create a stronghold for themselves in the country and perhaps try and force the return of Gaddafi and/or his sons – with the support of arms and funds from existing external backers.

In other words, a military push toward Tripoli should be promoted and not discouraged. If Nato wants to avoid instability and bloody retribution then it should instead aim to swiftly end the Gaddafi regime and focus efforts on the post-Gaddafi transitional period, with a particular emphasis on representation.

That means ensuring both opposition and regime elements – like the army, police, as well as any key tribes, groups and individuals who are yet to side with the opposition – are given a seat at the roundtable and assured that they have a stake in the new Libya.

Iraq has taught us not to place too much emphasis on Libyan exiles, or those who constitute the core elements of the eastern-based opposition; previously underestimated or unknown elements are likely to emerge from the woodwork. As the conflict drags on, strong personalities are likely to emerge, not least from within the ever-powerful military on both sides. It is during war and conflict that new and powerful leaders are often born.

The least attention has so far been given to ways in which the people of Tripoli can rise up, so that the journey toward liberation is smoother and avoids a bloody, arguably unavoidable show-down in Tripoli once the opposition gets there.

The regime has a vast network of spies and informants, lurking on the streets and cafes of the capital. There is little that can be done to shut this down. However, what can be done is give Gaddafi more than one battle to fight.

Civil unrest in Tripoli, as a result of fuel and water shortages, combined with opposition advances in areas outside of Tripoli, will be too much to bear for the regime. The aim here is essentially to target the manpower and resources Gaddafi needs to sustain his regime and survive; in other words, shut off the supply lines and make conditions so unbearable and unmanageable that Gaddafi and his inner circle either have the choice of leaving the country or succumbing to defeat as a result of the significant drain on their resources.

It is clear now that the question should no longer be how long the military campaign will go on for but, rather, how long Gaddafi and his regime can survive. The West has another two months until its current mandate for air attacks expires. But it cannot afford to wait; Gaddafi recognises the impossibility of winning this conflict military, so he hopes Nato’s resolve for carrying on will end.

In other words, Gaddafi believes he can wait it out, divide the coalition and force the international community to settle for the prized ceasefire lifeline. He should be given no such opportunity. It is the regime that has its days numbered. Once the international community accepts and capitalises on this by expanding and intensifying its attacks, then the sooner it and the Libyan people will achieve the end-game of liberation.

Libya is not ready for a political solution – The Guardian

Libya is not ready for a political solution | Ranj Alaaldin |

Muammar Gaddafi’s foreign minister is in Tunisia today to discuss a possible settlement to the ongoing conflict in Libya. A settlement should be welcomed, but it has to begin with the departure of Gaddafi and his inner circle from Libya.

The problem is that there can be no way forward with Gaddafi still in place – which is why South African president Jacob Zuma has already failed twice to end the conflict through a political settlement. There have been similar difficulties in Yemen where Arab Gulf states have sought – and so far failed – to implement a “transition” plan that does not require President Saleh’s immediate resignation.

A recent proposal relating to Libya from the International Crisis Group suffers from the same flaw. The ICG envisages a two-phase road to peace where, firstly, peacekeeping forces are deployed so as to facilitate talks and allow for humanitarian assistance and, secondly, where a mutual declaration of a ceasefire leads to negotiations between the regime and the opposition Interim National Council (INC).

The ICG argues that preserving Gaddafi and his inner circle is necessary, to ensure there is someone with the authority to deliver a ceasefire. The problem, however, is what to do if Gaddafi proves unable or unwilling to deliver a ceasefire. The ICG’s extensive report has no suggestions for dealing with this rather likely eventuality.

The ICG seems to want to keep Gaddafi, to avoid “political chaos and collapse into a kind of warlordism”. But that would only happen if the entire political and security apparatus in the country were disbanded, as in post-2003 Iraq. There is nothing to suggest that the INC, once in power, would embark upon such a course.

Another report, from the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), calls for a transitional “face-saving process” that would see Gaddafi hand power over to one of his sons, who would then hand power over to a regime insider, who would then establish an interim “unity” government with loyalist representation.

Unlike the ICG, RUSI at least maintains the option to resume hostilities and enforce resolution 1973 should the regime fail to abide by any settlement terms. However, once military operations are halted it is going to be extremely difficult to restart them.

If this “face-saving” approach were adopted, the debate would switch from a simple issue of whether Gaddafi should go to the never-ending question of whether Gaddafi has had enough time to comply. The problem is principally one of determining when and whether a brutal, authoritarian regime has failed to keep its promises. Halting overt military action by the regime is only one part of the problem.

No international peacekeeping force will be able to shut down Gaddafi’s secret police, who are likely to continue their killings and torture in prison cells and far-flung compounds that the outside world will never know about.

Nor would the international community be in a position to do much about the repression of opponents and the detention of hundreds if not thousands of Free Libya activists, journalists and human-rights defenders.

In other words, a policing role will not be feasible or sustainable. But there is something abhorrent about encouraging power-sharing between a dictator and a democratic, revolutionary force just when the former, an established force for instability that has proven it cannot be trusted, is gradually being defeated by the military, and while defections from inside the regime are continuing.

It is vitally important that any ceasefire or political settlement gives no reason for Gaddafi to believe the international resolve for defeating him is diminishing. Equally, there must be no reason for the people of Libya to fear that the vicious dictator will ever be in a position to exact revenge upon them.

Nato’s strategy in Libya is working – talks with Gaddafi won’t – Guardian

Nato’s strategy in Libya is working – talks with Gaddafi won’t | Ranj Alaaldin | Guardian

On Monday, the South African president, Jacob Zuma, once again went to Tripoli in an attempt to broker a peace deal between Colonel Muammar Gaddafi and the opposition forces. As expected, he failed.

But mediation or ceasefire initiatives such as South Africa’s, and others encouraged elsewhere, have something wrong with them: they offer Gaddafi a lifeline at a point when he is facing an increase in defections and significant opposition progress on the battlefield, and when he is becoming increasingly isolated internationally – as shown last week when Russia shifted its position by calling on him to stand down.

It is clear that the west, in the form of the Nato-led coalition, has a strategy in Libya and it is working. It should be left alone.

Three key components have comprised this strategy, the explicit objective of which has been to end Gaddafi’s reign of terror and the heart of which has been to ensure the Libyan uprising remains a Libyan-dominated enterprise, and not a western one.

First, western military strategy has, at the outset, been to hit Gaddafi, give the opposition a chance to progress and then hit the regime harder where progress was insufficient. As part of this effort, rather than utilise its military capacity to full effect, Nato has limited its engagement to a gradual process of intensification, an approach that ensures progress – and, indeed, western involvement – depends on the efforts of Libyans on the ground.

For example, since the start of its operations in Libya three months ago, the west has resisted repeated opposition demands for attack helicopters. I was witness to these desperate calls in Benghazi when, in a meeting, one senior opposition official called on the British envoy to Benghazi, Christopher Prentice, to deploy attack helicopters that could accurately and effectively attack regime targets.

Three months later, and after massive civilian casualties in besieged Misrata and other towns and cities in western Libya, the west has only just decided to deploy these helicopters, but at a point when a more organised and effective opposition army has made good progress and is now capable of making further progress on the battlefield.

Alongside training and advising opposition forces, the third key and under-appreciated part of this strategy of gradual military intensification has been the encouragement of political and military defections and, therefore, the crumbling of the regime from within. It is working.

The latest high-profile defection to further demoralise the regime was that of Shukri Ghanem, the regime’s oil minister and former prime minister. He was followed by the defection of eight Libyan army officers, including five generals, who were part of a wider group of 120 military personnel that defected in recent days.

Nato must as a result continue its job and work in tandem with and at the behest of the Libyan revolutionaries. In fact, it will do well to consider formulating its current strategy into a benchmark for future military engagements – a strategy based not just on working in partnership with indigenous populations in the fight against dictatorship but also, first, their own capacity to fight and, second, efforts to train and possibly arm them when necessary.

Conversely, calls for a peaceful settlement with Gaddafi and his inner circle, made simplistically without any serious effort to define its terms, make no helpful contribution. The most a ceasefire proposal can call for is a transitional, face-saving process that brings Gaddafi and/or one of his sons, along with the opposition, into a power-sharing arrangement that, at best and at some point, leads to elections.

As well as the array of problems likely to follow – including Gaddafi using the opportunity to reorganise himself and consolidate his position, as well as the bloodbath that will ensue in prison cells and far-flung compounds that the west will never know about – any such proposal would require mediation and monitoring by outsiders in the form of the UN and potentially the African Union. It would also require a sizeable ground force to ensure both sides commit to the ceasefire and that there is an effective keeping of the peace.

That, however, would diverge from the lessons learned from post-conflict management in Iraq: any peace proposal that operates around conditions laid down by outsiders, and not Libyans, will be tantamount to an international trusteeship that will open up a Pandora’s box of problems.

For example, proponents of a negotiated ceasefire do not explain how regime loyalists should be dealt with as part of their grand plans or, more problematic still, what “monitors” would do if loyalists or anti-regime opposition forces are hunted down and killed systematically in a manner similar to post-2003 Iraq. It is these realities that have to be considered when making calls for a ceasefire, which is right in principle but reckless in practice.

Nato should stick to its strategy, one that will eventually encourage other hardline regime elements to force Gaddafi and his sons out or, alternatively, force Gaddafi to accept that he is fighting a losing battle and flee the country – but only once the opposition comes knocking on the doors of Tripoli.

It is toward this objective that Nato and the international community should aim, since it is only once the opposition is on the brink of embarking upon and liberating Tripoli that the Gaddafis and their inner circle will accept their fate could be determined by their enemies. Either way, it is Libyans who must choose how this conflict will end.

Misrata is under siege (written from Benghazi) – Daily Telegraph

Misrata is under siege | Daily Telegraph | Ranj Alaaldin

Colonel Gaddafi recognises the significance of Misrata, and it is time the international community did the same, writes Ranj Alaaldin from Benghazi.

A medieval siege is taking place in Misrata. Colonel Gaddafi, just two
months on from the 17th February Libyan uprising, has clung on to
power and defied all the odds against him.

Now the Colonel is deploying what one former British military officer
described to me here in Benghazi as tactics of terror against the
civilian population in Misrata: besiege the city with long-range
missiles and artillery shelling, destroy and demoralise the opposition
in the process, and you eventually take the city.

Misrata is home to nearly 500,000 Libyans and is Libya’s third largest
city. It is a vital strategic target for the opposition, and indeed
for Gaddafi himself, positioned as it is at the gateway to Tripoli.

In other words, take Misrata and you take the country. The Colonel
thus recognises that the stakes are high, and it is time the
international community did the same.

NATO forces have a challenging task ahead of them. Gaddafi is astutely
destroying Misrata by avoiding the amassing of his forces in a way
that makes them vulnerable to allied air attacks. His long-range
weapons, which the rebels do not have, suffice for now: more than 50
civilians are killed every day, and there is no escape for the
population since Misrata is surrounded on three sides by Gaddafi’s
forces, and the sea.

Misrata’s predicament is further complicated by the type of weapons
Gaddafi’s forces are deploying. These include Grad surface-to-surface
missiles as well as cluster shells which have been banned by most
governments. The multiple “bomblets” from these shells are designed to
kill and injure groups of massed troops or, in this instance, a highly
vulnerable and largely unarmed civilian population.

The only way out of Misrata is by sea, a time-consuming option and
sometimes nearly impossible because of the NATO enforced blockade of
the Libyan coastline.

This means two military options are on the table if Misrata is to be
saved. The first involves intensifying the air campaign. Opposition
officials here in Benghazi are bemoaning NATO operations and deriding
them as token and ineffective attacks. They complain that despite
giving NATO coordinates for enemy targets, NATO planes are either
flying over them or missing the targets deliberately; a Misrata source
who travels back and forth from the city to Benghazi by sea told me
that NATO planes could be heard flying above the city, but no air
strikes were reported.

Sources connected to NATO have indicated that logistical and
operational restrictions, as well as humanitarian concerns, make it
impossible to fully destroy regime targets from the air. First, there
are not many NATO planes flying these missions and their stockpiles of
precision weapons are running low, while there is apprehension toward
engaging targets in built-up, urban areas.

In other words, NATO does not have the capacity nor – according to the
opposition – the will to enforce the terms of UNSCR 1973 and protect
the civilian population in Libya.

Having said this, there is nothing preventing NATO from making the
effort to organise itself and work in cooperation with US forces,
which do have the precision weapons and the technical know how to use
them effectively as was demonstrated when Benghazi was saved from a
counter-attack by Gaddafi’s forces last month largely through American
firepower. For the opposition, the US cannot intervene again soon
enough, but there is no indication that this option is being

Alternatively, if it chooses to accept the above reality, the West can
supply the opposition with much-needed heavier weapons, including
anti-tank missiles and the wherewithal needed to take on the extensive
number of regime snipers positioned inside Misrata’s populated
buildings. The problem here is one of time, a commodity which is in
very short supply in this beleaguered city.

The international community must move beyond its current intransigence and save

Misrata, in order to spare the population from Gaddafi’s tanks and
missiles. Beyond humanitarian issues – the reason, after all, for
UNSCR 1973 in the first place – the fall of Misrata would effectively
partition Libya.

If Misrata is taken from the opposition, then the other opposition
controlled towns in the west, including Zintan, Nalut and Yifrayn can
be expected to fall almost immediately. The much feared west-east
divide will then essentially be cemented and pose a series of
potentially insurmountable problems for both the Benghazi-based
Transitional National Council (TNC) and NATO to deal with, including,
firstly, how to build the East into an autonomous and functioning
region and, secondly, how to maintain a policing role in the east for
an indeterminate period of time, as Gaddafi tries to retake lost

Libyans are starting to believe that partition is in fact the endgame
the West is aiming for, and this is an outcome which both the TNC and
the population in the east at large do not accept.

Whilst there may be no such intention on Nato’s part, suggestions to
the contrary are not being translated into action. Time, however, is
of the essence. On-the-ground developments in Misrata, as well as
opposition and rebel sources, suggest it is only a matter of time
before Misrata falls.

Libya: time to decide

Libya: time to decide | openDemocracy | Ranj Alaaldin

Providing air support and arms for the Libyan opposition is necessary if stalemate and partition are to be avoided, argues Ranj Alaaldin

Libya’s opposition forces still need outside help. After making rapid progress and re-capturing the eastern strategic towns of Ajdabiya and Ras Lanuf over the weekend they are, once again, on the retreat and yesterday lost the oil-town of Ras Lanuf to Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s regime loyalists.

Having gathered in London on Tuesday the time has now come for the dithering members of the allied forces and the broader international community to decide which side of the fence they sit on: either replace the certainty of tyranny with the uncertain politics of a post-Gaddafi Libya or prolong Gaddafi’s grip on power and face a set of dangerous and potentially insurmountable consequences.

The dithering over these two choices will allow Gaddafi to consolidate his position, regain the momentum and pursue brutal retribution; it will also provide for what many states regard as the worst possible outcome: the partitioning of Libya. Turkey and others in the Arab world have, in particular, been vocal with their concerns toward the actual or de-facto partitioning of Libya. Yet, their refusal to accept the reality on the ground and the need for the West to go all the way ensures their concerns will soon be realised.

If Libya is to avoid partition and if civilian populations are to be protected, then coalition forces must act toward an objective that guarantees them both: the removal of Gaddafi and his regime. This does not mean it has to actually target Gaddafi, his family or other regime loyalists, not least those within the security establishment, but it does mean the other less costly and politically sensitive option has to be pursued and that is the arming of the rebels combined with continued airsupport for the rebels as they advance to the west.

Anything less will either, firstly, allow Gaddafi to regroup, bide his time and then take the rebels and international forces back to square one and on the retreat – or, secondly, pave the way for a protracted conflict dominated by tit-for-tat infantry clashes, ambushes and, in essence, the feared West-East divide that lies around the corner.

Of course, the West can choose to carry on in its current form and hope that it can still achieve its objectives. That is, continue to enforce the no-fly zone, as well as the no-drive zone (though Nato is still indecisive even about this as it takes control of operations) and prevent Gaddafi’s jets and tanks from advancing toward the East. In theory, this ensures the rebels are protected from any major regime advances toward their strongholds; it is also pursuant to the strict interpretation of the terms of Security Council Resolution 1973, making it politically appealing.

The uncertainty that stems from this policy, however, comes from the possibility that it will merely provide for a stalemate whereby neither the regime nor the rebels are able to make any significant progress. It provides, in essence, for a policing role that divides the West from the East and one that requires months, possibly years, of commitment, which is by no means guaranteed given the fissures already apparent within the coalition. Even if Western forces were able to commit to continue such measures, Gaddafi will, over time, successfully penetrate the sensitive political and diplomatic dynamics of his enemies. In other words, a Western policing role is not guaranteed to be sustainable.

Additionally, Gaddafi will resort to other effective tactics like the deployment of paramilitary forces – disguised as civilians or otherwise – to infiltrate opposition-controlled territory, undermine the opposition and its own internal problems and kill significant opposition leaders. Even if it takes years, gaps will, over time, appear for Gaddafi to exploit with the aim of destabilising and retaking the East.

Further, this scenario gives Gaddafi legitimacy; it will encourage other despots to suppress dissent in a similar fashion and leaves a problem that will fester and require the West to come back to in the future. It is for these reasons that Nato member Turkey’s offer to mediate a ceasefire is counter-intuitive to the extreme, not least since Gaddafi himself has crushed any real chances of having a genuine ceasefire as a result of his devious and disingenuous actions.

This is why arming the rebels is both feasible and effective. Opposition forces are, currently, too weak to be able to force Gaddafi from power. The West may pin its hopes on a mass defection within the army and an uprising in Tripoli but it has become clear that this is no longer likely. Gaddafi still has enough hard currency and sits on enough resources to maintain his network of patronage in Tripoli, buy the loyalty of the military, tribal leaders and so intimidate the people into submission.

This is not to suggest that progress by the opposition does not have the potential to encourage others to join their ranks. But the hesitant and still undecided segments within Libya must be convinced that the opposition is in fact the winning horse; for that to happen, the opposition must first look like one.

Coalition governments have so far resisted the politically charged and opportunistic demands to define what the so-called end-game will be, this is wise since it is difficult to predict exactly how things will develop and astute since Gaddafi should not be given any glimpse of what allied plans are. It is necessary though to prepare for the various potential scenarios that could unfold over the coming weeks but, more importantly, it is better to avoid half-thought out measures, like Turkey’s offer on Sunday to broker a ceasefire or giving Gaddafi the option to leave Libya (which only offers him a lifeline). These weaken the resolve of the coalition, shows weakness on the part of allied forces and send all the wrong signals to a regime that has already defied the odds against it.

Libya Transitional Council produces eight-point plan

The interim national council, formed by opposition groups in Libya, has said it will hold free and fair elections and draft a national constitution. Here is its eight-point plan in full.

The interim national council hereby presents its vision for rebuilding the democratic state of Libya. This vision responds to the needs and aspirations of our people, while incorporating the historical changes brought about by the 17 February revolution.

We have learnt from the struggles of our past during the dark days of dictatorship that there is no alternative to building a free and democratic society and ensuring the supremacy of international humanitarian law and human rights declarations. This can only be achieved through dialogue, tolerance, co-operation, national cohesiveness and the active participation of all citizens. As we are familiar with being ruled by the authoritarian dictatorship of one man, the political authority that we seek must represent the free will of the people, without exclusion or suppression of any voice.

The lessons of our past will outline our social contract through the need to respect the interests of all groups and classes that comprise the fabric of our society and not compromise the interests of one at the expense of the other. It is this social contract that must lead us to a civil society that recognises intellectual and political pluralism and allows for the peaceful transfer of power through legal institutions and ballot boxes; in accordance with a national constitution crafted by the people and endorsed in a referendum.

To that end, we will outline our aspirations for a modern, free and united state, following the defeat of the illegal Gaddafi regime. The interim national council will be guided by the following in our continuing march to freedom, through espousing the principles of political democracy. We recognise without reservation our obligation to:

1. Draft a national constitution that clearly defines its nature, essence and purpose and establishes legal, political, civil, legislative, executive and judicial institutions. The constitution will also clarify the rights and obligations of citizens in a transparent manner, thus separating and balancing the three branches of legislative, executive and judicial powers.

2. Form political organisations and civil institutions including the formation of political parties, popular organisations, unions, societies and other civil and peaceful associations.

3. Maintain a constitutional civil and free state by upholding intellectual and political pluralism and the peaceful transfer of power, opening the way for genuine political participation, without discrimination.

4. Guarantee every Libyan citizen, of statutory age, the right to vote in free and fair parliamentary and presidential elections, as well as the right to run for office.

5. Guarantee and respect the freedom of expression through media, peaceful protests, demonstrations and sit-ins and other means of communication, in accordance with the constitution and its laws in a way that protects public security and social peace.

6. A state that draws strength from our strong religious beliefs in peace, truth, justice and equality.

7. Political democracy and the values of social justice, which include:

a. The nation’s economy to be used for the benefit of the Libyan people by creating effective economic institutions in order to eradicate poverty and unemployment – working towards a healthy society, a green environment and a prosperous economy.

b. The development of genuine economic partnerships between a strong and productive public sector, a free private sector and a supportive and effective civil society, which overstands corruption and waste.

c. Support the use of science and technology for the betterment of society, through investments in education, research and development, thus enabling the encouragement of an innovative culture and enhancing the spirit of creativity. Focus on emphasising individual rights in a way that guarantees social freedoms that were denied to the Libyan people during the rule of dictatorship. In addition to building efficient public and private institutions and funds for social care, integration and solidarity, the state will guarantee the rights and empowerment of women in all legal, political, economic and cultural spheres.

d. A constitutional civil state which respects the sanctity of religious doctrine and condemns intolerance, extremism and violence that are manufactured by certain political, social or economic interests. The state to which we aspire will denounce violence, terrorism, intolerance and cultural isolation; while respecting human rights, rules and principles of citizenship and the rights of minorities and those most vulnerable. Every individual will enjoy the full rights of citizenship, regardless of colour, gender, ethnicity or social status.

8. Build a democratic Libya whose international and regional relationships will be based upon:

a. The embodiment of democratic values and institutions which respects its neighbours, builds partnerships and recognises the independence and sovereignty of other nations. The state will also seek to enhance regional integration and international co-operation through its participation with members of the international community in achieving international peace and security.

b. A state which will uphold the values of international justice, citizenship, the respect of international humanitarian law and human rights declarations, as well as condemning authoritarian and despotic regimes. The interests and rights of foreign nationals and companies will be protected. Immigration, residency and citizenship will be managed by government institutions, respecting the principles and rights of political asylum and public liberties.

c. A state which will join the international community in rejecting and denouncing racism, discrimination and terrorism while strongly supporting peace, democracy and freedom.

More from the Sunday Times on Libya’s tribes

Urban life and intermarriage undermine the colonel’s base

The Gadaffi regime took journalists to Warfalla stronghold to demonstrate the people’s continued support, but tribal loyalty may no longer hold sway In a desperate bid to parade local support, Colonel Gadaffi’s regime last week took foreign journalists to Bani Walid, about 100 miles southeast of Tripoli, writes Richard Woods.

The town, a stronghold of the Warfalla tribe, had been seized by protesters in the early days of the uprising and rebels had sprayed graffiti on buildings. One had urged: “Kill Gadaffi.” The regime hoped to demonstrate that its inhabitants had seen the error of their ways.

The graffiti had been erased, and in a hotel Dr Mbrak Ibrahim, a British-educated engineer, spoke fervently of his admiration for the dictator. “Without Gadaffi I would never have been able to travel to England for my education,” he enthused, displaying a photograph of Tony Blair and Gadaffi on his mobile phone.

He rejected any suggestion that the Warfalla people had ever turned against Gadaffi. “There was never any problem here,” he said.

Other men in the town expressed similar sentiments. The propaganda was blunt — it’s likely that the men had been coerced or bribed into supporting Gadaffi — but raised complex questions. Are tribal loyalties going to play a key role in the struggle for power? Can Gadaffi buy or extort tribal allegiance to bolster his position?

A host of tribes populate Libya’s turbulent history. In the east, the Sa’adi tribes supported the rule of Gadaffi’s predecessor, King Idris. When Idris was overthrown in 1969, the Sa’adi tribes’ power diminished.

In their place came Gadaffi and his relatively small tribe — the Gadadaffa in central Libya — who sought support from two larger groups, the Warfalla in the west and the Megaraha in the south.

To consolidate his grip on power, Gadaffi gave key posts to members of his family and tribe, and to allies such as Abdullah al-Sanussi, a member of the Megaraha who became the head of Gadaffi’s security organisations.

Given such a background, tribes might seem to hold vital influence. Proponents of this view note that early in the uprising one Warfalla leader told Al Jazeera TV : “We tell the brother Gadaffi, well, he is no longer a brother. We tell him to leave the country.”

Another member of the tribe anonymously told a US reporter: “The Warfalla, like their brethren the Zinata [another tribe], are boiling. The only reason we have not seen them participate in combat is lack of weapons.They are simply outgunned.”

Ranj Alaaldin, senior analyst at the Next Century Foundation and Middle East expert at the London School of Economics, argues that Gadaffi’s own actions indicate the continuing importance of tribes.

“He has made every effort to offer them economic privileges and coerce them into supporting the regime. Having said that, not all the tribes are cohesive.”

That lack of cohesion, argue other experts, means the overall conflict is not going to divide along tribal lines. Some members of the Warfalla, for example, are in Benghazi, siding with the rebels, whose newly appointed leader is Mahmoud Jibril.

Over the past century, including the 42 years of Gadaffi’s rule, much has changed in Libya’s tribal landscape. Dr Richard Barltrop, a Middle East expert with Oxford Analytica, a consultancy group, plays down the tribal influence. “People have exaggerated the degree to which Gadaffi’s rule has depended on controlling support of particular tribes,” he said.

“Foreign analysts reach much too readily for tribe as a determining factor. The reality is that if you talk to Libyans, they will say, yes, tribes matter and people have affiliations, but it’s not much different from other countries.”

Barltrop points out that more than 85% of Libya’s 6m people now live in urban areas; intermarriage between members of different tribes has been going on for decades; and education has proceeded apace. The result: tribal influence is waning.

“The reality now is that there has been great urbanisation and intermixing,” said Barltrop, who noted that similar tribal divisions existed in Egypt but had played little part in the revolution there.

Sir Richard Dalton, a former ambassador to Libya, agrees. “I found that Libyans made up their own minds about issues rather than thinking of them along tribal lines,” he said.

True, specific subjects fired up tribal passions, such as the case of the Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi. When Gadaffi surrendered Megrahi to justice, his tribe, the Megaraha, were furious.

However, Dalton said: “I have spoken to many Libyans about this and they say tribal loyalty is now not a huge component.” Instead, what counted in Gadaffi’s regime was “fear and money”.

Can such forces be beaten by hopes of democracy? Last week Abdul Salam, a journalist in Tripoli, suggested they could. “The tribes play only a limited role,” he said. “First and foremost we are Libyan.”

The Economist magazine debate on Western interventionism

The Economist magazine debates whether the West should keep out of the Arab world’s revolutions, expert insight from Ranj Alaaldin, Senior analyst, Next Century Foundation

Click here for the debate in full

The revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa necessitate a re-examining of the way in which we approach and engage with this debate on interventionism. The revolutions, and protests in general, have been wholly indigenous and executed with the active support of the vast majority of citizens in the states in which they took place and continue to take place. They are, therefore, unprecedented and consequently require us to reassess our position in these unique circumstances, just as much as the Arab people have dramatically changed and re-examined their position in the balance of power between state and citizen.

Both participants provide traditional perspectives that have shaped the debate on Western involvement in the affairs of the Arab world. They are representative of a much broader audience currently engaged in the debate unfolding here. Sir Menzies Campbell is right to point out that we share the same principles and objectives as the people of the region and that this, combined with our experiences in the nation-building process, should compel us to assist our counterparts in the Arab world. Nevertheless, as As’ad AbuKhalil points out, our track record in this endeavour has not been consistent and the people we seek to assist have generally regarded our intentions with suspicion.

I propose here a different perspective that bridges the two. The West can and must intervene in the Arab revolutions not necessarily with the aim of implementing and forcing through revolution, reform or regime change, but, rather, to ensure that their proponents and architects, the Arab people themselves, are protected from being maimed and massacred by governments that have the capacity and willingness to indiscriminately and brutally suppress legitimate demands for freedom and human rights.

The democratisation protests in the Arab world can be divided into three groups: first, those that can lead, and have led, to revolution through relatively peaceful means; second, those that are unlikely to lead to revolution without some form of violence or violent uprising; third, those that are more likely to lead to reform, rather than revolution.

These scenarios do, of course, have the potential to morph into one or the other. The West must, consequently, measure its response according to how things stand and develop on the ground. To adopt a single position and approach would be counter-intuitive, reckless and morally reprehensible.

Western intervention in any instance can be peaceful and/or forceful; and both can have the same capacity to positively influence and assist.

In Egypt, for example, Western inaction ensured the revolution remained indigenous and, therefore, impossible to undermine by the Egyptian regime and other anti-revolutionary state and non-state actors, both within and beyond Egypt. At the same time, and in line with the objective outlined above, it was Western action behind the scenes, diplomatically and in the form of leverage over the Egyptian military, that ensured the revolution was achieved peacefully. Contrary to expectations, including my own, former president Hosni Mubarak, even with his back to the wall, was unable to reverse his misfortune by viciously clamping down on the protests. The West’s role is often understated in this context; it was not the most crucial element but it was, nevertheless, crucial in saving lives and facilitating the revolutionary process.

Unlike the Egyptians, the Libyans have not been so lucky. Muammar Qaddafi will not crumble under international pressure. Unlike Mr Mubarak, Mr Qaddafi is not willing to maintain ties with the West at the expense of his own survival; there is no red line for the dictator and everything and everyone were and remain dispensable. Hence, what started off as a movement on the ground that later turned into a violent uprising that looked set to defeat Mr Qaddafi, without outside assistance, became an enterprise that, but for Western involvement, would have led to the massacre of tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of Libyans.

Western military intervention, had, therefore, become a necessity in Libya and returned the momentum to opposition forces. Yet it was a necessity dictated by the Arab people themselves with indifference to the involvement of the UN and the ineffective Arab League. For once, the moral imperative to act has been determined not by Western policymakers, Western adventurists or non-representative Arab leaders, but by the Arab people.

It is on this basis that the Libyan crisis and the Arab people have set a precedent and a firm basis on which military intervention is necessary, right and should be welcomed. That precedent provides as follows: that military intervention should take place first, where there is a possibility that thousands are at risk of being killed; second, where the target regime has no intention of ceasing violence and heeding the demands of the people; and third, where the people of the target country itself demand it, though this may not always be easy to ascertain.

These conditions are not so much centred on whether we should militarily intervene but, rather, when to militarily intervene. What form this military intervention should take—for example, whether we should enforce a no-fly zone or commit ground troops—depends on the circumstances of the day and the capabilities of the opposition forces themselves. This may at times prove challenging, particularly when considered within politically restrictive parameters, but the revolutions and protests so far have made this a relatively straightforward task.

Nor are these conditions for intervention unique, given previous calls throughout history for Western military intervention by the oppressed. But what makes circumstances different this time round is that the call for intervention by the people of the region is combined with a broad-based, concerted and active effort, by the same people, to unite and act against dictatorship. It is against this backdrop that our approach to military intervention and, as I have outlined above, intervention in general, must be re-examined.

The people of the Arab world have, so far, largely determined whether we should intervene in the revolutions and what form this intervention should take, as they take hold of their destiny. We should stick by them.