Gaddafi's Removal Is Not Easy

Libyan rebels scatter in the oil town of Brega on March 13 after a facility was attacked.

After the fall of Tunisia and Egypt, it seemed that the Libyan strongman Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, faced with huge public anger, would soon be forced to step down. Iran and many European countries were named as potential refuge for Gaddafi. Reports abounded that Gaddafi put a proposal before the rebels that he was ready to leave the country, provided no harm be done to him or his family and all his property and gold remain with him. But the reliability of such reports becomes questionable when either Gaddafi or his son is seen on TV saying, "I am Libya. I will fight, and I will die here." Gaddafi claims that only he can bind together the nation, which consists of numerous tribes, and that if he lost the grip over the country, it would break down. He quotes Bosnia in this regard. 

No doubt there is huge public outcry in Libya against Gaddafi. Reasons are the same as in Tunisia and Egypt: poverty, unemployment, corruption, inflation and despotism. Although, being a major oil exporter, Libya is economically better placed than its neighboring counterparts. Another major difference between Egypt and Libya is that while Hosni Mubarak of Egypt had the support of the United States, Gaddafi is not that "lucky." He bluntly criticizes the American policies. The United States cannot tolerate such a ruler of an oil-rich nation for long and is supportive of the rebellion against Gaddafi.

U.S. President Barack Obama is very much concerned that Gaddafi is using his army, air force and mercenaries to crush the rebels. While the United States is trying to establish a no-fly zone over Libya, at the same time it wants NATO to militarily interfere. Obama said recently that Brussels is weighing the military options. Even though instituting a no-fly zone was broached by the United States, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has now left this matter to the U.N. Security Council.

Gaddafi is using air raids to attack the protesters. More than a thousand people are feared dead in clashes between the rebels and pro-Gaddafi forces. If Libya is declared a no-fly zone, no plane would be permitted to fly over it, not even that of the Libyan Air Force. And if any plane is found violating the no-fly zone, international forces shall have the right to act against it. The UNSC is entitled to decide over any kind of interference in Libya.

The question pertains to the transparency of U.S. policy vis-à-vis Libya. There are many monarchies and dictatorships that enjoy warm relationship with the United States. Many U.S. allies face poverty, corruption and despotism that is similar to that of Libya. The United States is understandably very hesitant to intervene in another country in the greater Middle East, as it has its hands full already with Iraq and Afghanistan.

Reports alternately suggest the strengthening of the rebels and pro-Gaddafi forces. All people of Libya are not against Gaddafi per se. At many places, common people can be seen supporting the forces. The army has taken back the hold of many areas earlier "liberated" by the opposition. Cities like Zawiya and Ras Lanuf, which were under the control of the rebels, are now back with the pro-Gaddafi camp.

Dethroning Gaddafi is not easy. But many countries like France seem more impulsive than the opposition to remove Gaddafi. This is the reason France has become the first country to formally recognize the opposition Libyan National Council. Though the European Union doesn't support Sarkozy's haste, it is in favor of working in tandem with the Arab League to resolve the crisis.

Notwithstanding the above situation, Libya is facing the threat of an impending civil war. More than 300,000 people have become homeless. The United Nations has appealed to collect $1.6 million for the rehabilitation of displaced people. Despite this, Col. Gaddafi's hold on power doesn't may not loosen anytime soon. Even though Obama favors action by NATO, Obama's Director of National Intelligence General James Clapper believes that the victory of the rebels is unlikely. He says that Gaddafi would "win" because his soldiers are professional, well trained and well equipped. Additionally, many countries including Russia, China and Iran have warned against any uncalled interference. These are factors that are still allowing Gaddafi to cling to power.