Monday, August 22, 2011

Gaddafi's Goin' Down

The Arab Spring rolls on as the list of authoritarian rulers in the Middle East gets shorter.   Less than a week after we see pictures of Hosni Mubarak standing trial in Egypt and Bashir al-Assad channeling Mad Magazine's Alfred E. Neuman as calls for him to step down and end his family's 40 year rule of Syria get louder, there was stunning news coming out of Libya.

Muammar Gaddafi has ruled Libya since he and a group of military officers led a September 1, 1969 coup d'etat that toppled King Idris I and set up an authoritarian regime.  After the people power led revolutions in neighboring Tunisia and Egypt toppled long time leaders of those countries, the Libyan people rose up in revolt starting on February 17.   A National Transitional Council was organized on February 26 to organize the anti-Gaddafi resistance and govern the areas under rebel control with France becoming the first nation to recognize it as the legitimate Libyan government on March 10.   That list of countries recognizing the Libyan Republic is now up to 32 nations.

On March 17 the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1973 on a 10-0 vote with five abstentions that set up the legal basis for international military intervention in the Libyan civil war.  It established the no-fly zone, demanded an immediate cease fire, and to use all means necessary short of foreign military occupation to protect civilians. 

Two days later the NATO air attacks began supplemented with with Tomahawk cruise missile strikes from US naval ships to secure the no fly zone

After six months of inconclusive fighting, things have been breaking the rebels way on the battlefield.

The Libyan rebels while dealing with dissension in their ranks, have expanded control from Benghazi, the eastern sectors of the country and the Nifusa mountains, broke a siege of the western rebel held city of Misrata, and captured Zawiyah which contains a critical oil refinery.    

It's why the speedy dash the Libyan rebel forces conducted into Tripoli was such a surprise.  Quickly advancing 20 miles under cover of NATO airstrikes, they captured the base of the elite Khamis Brigade commanded by Gaddafi's son, surrounded the key Mitiga airbase and pushed into the capitol city meeting little resistance while doing so   They captured Martyr's Square and allegedly two of Gaddafi's sons in the process.

As to the whereabouts of Muammar Gaddafi, he's suspected to be holed up in his sprawling Bab al-Aziziya compound surrounded by loyalist troops.

Of course the National Transition Council wants him taken alive, and that might not be what Gaddafi wants to happen seeing that he's facing international indictments and a potential trial for crimes against humanity.

But it looks like the Libyan civil war has reached a decisive turning point, and i's going to be an interesting few days to see how the endgame plays out.   

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