Is It Time To Intervene?

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Western leaders and media have been unanimous in their denunciation of Gaddafi but there’s little agreement about what steps should be taken to quell the violence in Libya. And the further you stray from English language media, the more discord emerges. Charles McPhedran writes a regular media review column for NM which looks at what the commentariat beyond the Anglosphere is saying.

The dead in Libya now number approximately 6000, according to Libyan League of Human Rights. Italian Amnesty’s spokesman, Riccardo Noury, says the dead in the north African nation can "no longer be counted."

"Gaddafi has compared the situation [in Libya]to the one in China during the Tiananmen crisis, which leads me to say … that the number of injured and dead over the last few weeks in Libya have exceeded many those in Tiananmen" Noiury told Rome’s la Republicca on Sunday.

As battles continued in western and central Libya on Sunday, Gaddafi’s political strategy became clearer. The Libyan leader is trying to speak from both sides of his mouth, with one message aimed at the rest of the world — and a different message at Libyans.

His message for his own people is nothing if not retro-chic, reports a correspondent of Italian paper il Manifesto in Tripoli, who says that Gaddafi told a hastily thrown together Congress of the People held in the Libyan capital this week that Libya was the victim of a Western and Islamist "conspiracy". Although he personally had been made a "target," the West actually wants to target the "dignity and honour" of the Libyan people, continued Gaddafi.

This is because Gaddafi regards himself as the embodiment of his nation says il Manifesto; his people are obliged to call him the "Guide" of the Libyan nation. The paper continues that for Gaddafi, he "is Libya," and it is he who has made Italy and the other ex-colonial powers "bow down".

Meanwhile, even as he plays the third world anti-colonialist at home, Gaddafi wants to present himself abroad as a loyal agent in the war against terror. In an interview granted to French paper le Journal du Dimanche, Gaddafi warns that if he loses his battle with protestors, Europeans will have "Bin Laden at your doors." Attempting to frighten the JDD’s reporter, Gaddafi adds: "there’ll be an Islamic Jihad across the Mediterranean Ocean from you; they’ll attack the 6th American fleet" stationed in southern Italy.

In an essay accompanying the interview, the JDD’s Laurent Valdiguié attempts to characterise the mood in Gaddafi’s tent. The French journalist recounts that while Gaddafi continues to blithely reel off bizarre claims about drug-pushing Islamists with "aplomb," his entourage are "worried" about him. "Outside [Tripoli], the revolt continues to heave," one confidant told Valdiguié. "The people don’t want him anymore in Cyrenica, it would take a miracle for things to return to normal."

Gaddafi’s attempts to scare European powers into supporting him indicates he is concerned about the lack of international support for his government. After the UN Security Council voted last week that Gaddafi should be tried for his crimes against his population, the Libyan leader has few friends left abroad.

The colonel has managed to irritate or worry just about every world power with his apparent provocation of militia attacks on migrant-workers; his closure of Libya’s western borders, and kidnappings of foreigners. On Sunday, Dutch newspaper NRC quoted Gaddafi describing the jailing of three Dutch pilots sent to rescue Dutch workers from the town of Sirte as "normal".

However, the Libyan leader does have some mates left — Hugo Chavez’s Latin American bloc remains a staunch supporter of a man they see as a comrade. Caracas’ El Universal, traditionally closer to Chavez’s opposition than to his government, says the Venezuelan leader wants Jimmy Carter to lead a mediation mission to Tripoli.

The daily reports that Chavez has echoed some of Gaddafi’s own statements, criticising several European nations (including the UK and Switzerland) who’ve seized accounts belonging to the Libyan dictator. "They say that the accounts belong to Gaddafi, but they actually belong to the Libya, they’re the funds of Libya," Chavez says.

Meanwhile the TV news network set up by Chavez, Telesur, has been even more staunchly pro-Gaddafi than their boss himself. For example, Telesur trumpeted the celebrations in Tripoli at the alleged recapture of several cities by Gaddafi’s forces over the weekend, reports which were disputed by protestors. The network cites prominently a guy who seems to be the colonel’s biggest fan: "no one else compares with Muammar," trills the supporter, apparently a Moroccan living in Libya for 20 years.

Chavez warned on the weekend about the "danger" of a Western military intervention in Libya. His forecast is reflected in the Boliviarian bloc’s official communication, relayed yesterday by Venezuelan state radio, which thunders darkly of attempts to "utilise the tragic present situation in a sensationalist and opportunist way to justify a war [waged for]energy resources … to satisfy the voracious needs of the capitalist system".

Even as Chavez warns of an intervention in the Libya, signs have emerged that Europe continues to contemplate a limited intervention in the country. The Neue Zürchner Zeitung in Switzerland says France has little will to send in troops, but may assist in the implementation of a no-fly zone if Gaddafi continues to bomb protesters. However, Paris remains worried that any such action might "produce reactions in Libya and other parts of the Arab that don’t fit into the the current picture of an Arab Spring," says the Zurich paper.

The German Social Democrats seem to generally share the French position: prominent European parliamentary representative Martin Schulz told Der Spiegel that an intervention could be contemplated if certain criteria were met: the Arab League, the African Union and UN Security Council would have to okay the mission, for any unilateral intervention "could strengthen Gaddafi".

Elsewhere in the Middle East, a reminder that military interventions to bring "democracy" haven’t always worked out for the best. Berliner leftist weekly Jungle World reports on demonstrations in the Kurdish region of Iraq, once seen as a model for stability in the nation. After party militia guarding the Kurdish Democratic Party’s headquarters in Suleymaniah shot demonstrators who had wanted an end to government corruption, daily demonstrations spread across Kurdish Iraq. There’s now fears of a civil war between the major two parties in the region.

The violent reaction of the party militias seem to have triggered an uncontrollable explosion of popular anger in Kurdish Iraq, says Jungle World: "the use of deadly violence appears to be the most fail-proof recipe for turning protests seeking reforms into revolts potentially ending in the overthrow of the government."

 

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