Monday, March 07, 2011

Libya Descends Into Civil War

Mumar Khadafi continues to try and put down the insurrection against his regime with force and the opposition has also used force to hold territories it has liberated from the regime in Tripoli. Khadafi's loyalists have resorted to airstrikes as its ground actions have not been wholly successful at thwarting the rebel groups from gaining and maintaining ground as the noose slowly begins to encircle the capital of Tripoli.

Airstrikes have forced the rebel groups to pull back from Ras Lanuf, which is a key oil depot, and significant casualties were reported.

The situation can be considered a civil war for intents and purposes, which is what I've been calling it for the past week as the rebel groups continue to hold much of the territory in the Eastern half of the country and Khadafi has a tenuous hold on the capital and its environs.

The rebel groups are attempting to rearm and sustain their efforts against Khadafi, and there have also been reports that Egyptians have crossed into Libya to aid the rebel groups.

There is fighting throughout the country, although the focus is along the coastal cities where the majority of the population is situated and which are key transit points.

There was heavy fighting in Zawiya, and the civilian population is getting hammered by the Khadafi loyalists, often with sniper fire:

Khadafi's forces continue holding three Dutch airmen, and rebel groups note that the military efforts by NATO countries to rescue their citizens can be used as propaganda that plays into Khadafi's hands by seizing it as evidence of a Western conspiracy to overthrow his regime.

A British special forces team (SAS) was released by opposition groups after being briefly detained.
Earlier, two sources close to the Libyan opposition told CNN that negotiations between senior British officials and senior opposition leaders in Libya were under way to secure the release of the eight British special forces troops.

The Sunday Times of London reported that the unit of "up to eight men" was being held after "a secret mission to put British diplomats in touch with leading opponents of Moammar Gadhafi ended in humiliation."

British Prime Minister David Cameron said last week his government wanted to contact the opposition to find out who they were and what they wanted.

The newspaper said opposition figures were angry about the "intervention" of special forces troops and "ordered the soldiers to be locked up on a military base."

In an interview with the BBC, British Defense Secretary Liam Fox -- in response to a question -- said there was no plan to use British land forces on the ground in Libya.
The NY Times has a good feature showing the progress of fighting through the country, and notes that the rebel groups are closing in on Khadafi's home town of Surt. I would expect Khadafi to try and hold Surt at all costs, but Khadafi isn't just fighting the rebels, he's fighting reality.

He continues to claim that his countrymen love him and that the opposition isn't nearly as strong as they appear to be. His is a cult of personality that is going to come crashing down on him and his loyalists:
But accuracy and logic have never been the tenets of Colonel Qaddafi’s governing philosophy, and their absence is especially conspicuous now, as rebels pose the greatest challenge to his four decades of enigmatic rule.

Not a day passes in Tripoli without some improbable claim by Colonel Qaddafi or the top officials around him: there are no rebels or protesters in Libya; the people who are demonstrating have been drugged by Al Qaeda; no shots have been fired to suppress dissent. In an interview broadcast on Monday with the France 24 , Col. Qaddafi called his country a partner of the West in combating Al Qaeda, insisting that loyalist forces were confronting “small groupings” and “sleeper cells” of terrorists.

He put the death toll on both sides at “some hundreds,” disputing estimates that the tally ran to several thousand.

A segment of the Libyan population appears to admire his defiant promotion of his world view, and confusion and obfuscation help explain how he keeps his rivals off balance.

Foreign news organizations were reporting, based on firsthand observations, that rebel forces were under fire but remained in control of the eastern half of the country, as well as many pockets in the west. The government’s main victory over the weekend appeared to be driving the rebels from the town of Bin Jawwad, which they had taken Saturday night. And both sides continued to prepare for a decisive battle in the Qaddafi stronghold of Surt.

But many Tripoli residents seemed happy to ignore such reports on Sunday and chose to accept Colonel Qaddafi’s narrative — that his loyalists were at the gates of the rebels’ headquarters in the eastern city of Benghazi, or were in control of it already, or had captured the rebels’ top leader.

For more than four hours, Qaddafi supporters fired triumphant bursts of machine gun fire into the air from cars and among crowds in the downtown area. As many as 2,000 of them waved bright green flags and bandannas — and, in many cases, guns — as they rallied in Green Square, and several hundred of the pro-Qaddafi demonstrators were still at it at sunset.

Many of the people in Green Square lashed out at the Arabic news channels Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya, calling them liars that had confused and inflamed Libya’s young people. The crowd’s fist-pumping ardor was a testament to the strength of the mythology of epic heroism that Colonel Qaddafi has instilled since he seized power at the age of 27.

He did it in part by making sure that his was virtually the only voice in public life. News reports try not to refer to other top government officials, or even soccer players, by name, ensuring that Colonel Qaddafi is virtually the only public figure in Libya.

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