5 April 2012, 19:10

Libyan scenario for Syria?

Libyan scenario for Syria?

The recent statement of the Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov on the inability of NATO and its allies to replace Gaddafi’s regime in Libya with a viable modern state gets some worrisome confirmations every day.

The recent statement of the Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov on the inability of NATO and its allies to replace Gaddafi’s regime in Libya with a viable modern state gets some worrisome confirmations every day. A military coup in Mali, another African country, where the black African majority is facing a rebellion of the local Tuareg minority with simultaneous attacks from the aggressive Islamist group named Al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb (AQMI), was another ominous sign of the destabilization in the region. It is a commonly held opinion of a number of experts in Algeria, Morocco, France and other countries that the events in Mali were a consequence of Colonel Gaddafi’s violent removal from power in 2011, in which NATO members and Persian Gulf monarchies took part. During his recent visit to Baku, Sergei Lavrov let it be understood that he shared that opinion.

“The people, who abused the UN Security Council’s mandate, who defeated Gaddafi’s army killing dozens of civilians in the process of doing this, these people left in Libya something that cannot really be called a state,” Lavrov said in Baku. Lavrov added that the Libyan tragedy, whose damage to civilians still needs to be assessed and investigated, is far from over. “Right now the state of Mali is being destroyed,” Lavrov said.

There are surprisingly few reports in the Western press on the dangerous instability in Libya and the military action in Mali, which indeed was a direct consequence of the West-supported eviction of Tuaregs from Libya. The anti-Gaddafi rebels summarily suspected Tuaregs of helping the government forces, so they did short work of them after Mr. Gaddafi’s defeat. So, the lack of interest that the Western media showed for their fate was particularly strange after many months of hysteric reports demonizing Gaddafi and predicting an eventual massacre which Gaddafi’s forces might presumably have inflicted on the Libyan opposition in Benghazi. This media circus served to justify the Western intervention and stopped immediately after the insurgents took over Tripoli. The massacre inflicted on Gaddafi’s supporters in the city of Syrt, Gaddafi’s stronghold, which lost up to 30 percent of its population, was not presumed, but quite real. However, only the French daily Le Figaro dwelled on the plight of the victims.

On Monday, another show of force which even the Western media could not ignore left at least 22 people in an area west of Tripoli, where Berber fighters from a town of Zuwarah clashed with their neighbors from the mostly Arab town of Ragdalein. Similar clashes had been recorded earlier in a Libyan desert oasis of Sabha, where at least 150 people were killed.

“Hopes in the Western press for a glorious end to the war in Libya, which were widespread in the wake of Mr. Gaddafi’s killing in the end of 2011, were somewhat shortsighted,” said Nikolai Surkov, an analyst on Middle east politics writing for Moscow-based Nezavisimaya Gazeta. “The war in fact goes on – without Gaddafi.” 

The refusal of the new Libyan authorities to hand Gaddafi’s son Seif al-Islam to international justice in the Hague and the recently started trial in Tripoli of 20 Ukrainian citizens accused of doing “hardware repairs” for Gaddafi’s forces do not make the humanitarian credentials of Libya’s new masters any better. In fact, the amount of violence in the country forced even the liberal New York Times had to admit that  Libya’s ruling Transitional National Council “was weak and disorganized.” 

As for Mali, another terrible revelation of the New York Times to the Western public is that fighting in this country and its recent coup (“a major blow to democracy in Africa”)  “are among the unexpected consequences of the fall of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya.” So much for the months-in-a-row media chatter about the Western intervention in Libya being a boon to Africa’s democracy.

If Mr. Lavrov’s pessimism proves to be right on Libya, there is no reason not to expect him to be wrong on Syria, where the events are developing according to the Libyan scenario.  Michel Kilo, a respected Syrian human rights activist and opposition leader, recently blasted the penchant of the Istanbul-based Syrian National Council and its Western “friends” for the military solution to the problem and their ties to militant Islamists inside and outside Syria. He also urged the West to cooperate with other Syrian opposition groups, not just with the SNC. Right now only Russia is inviting these groups to Moscow and taking their ideas seriously. In Mr. Kilo’s opinion, it is high time for all Syrian opposition groups to cooperate with Russia

In April, Michel Kilo is planning to convene a founding session of his organization, Democratic Forum of Syria, in Cairo, Egypt. Now there are two alternatives open for the Western press: we shall either hear less from the “Friends of Syria” or we shall not hear at all from Mr. Kilo and his Democratic Forum. The latter option, unfortunately, has a much bigger chance to be chosen.

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