Libya: The real war starts now



By Pepe Escobar

Enough about The Big G’s downfall. Now comes the real nitty-gritty; Afghanistan 2.0, Iraq 2.0, or a mix of both.
The “NATO rebels” have always made sure they don’t want foreign occupation. But the North Atlantic Treaty Organization – which made the victory possible – can’t control Libya without boots on the ground. So multiple scenarios are now being gamed in NATO’s headquarters in Mons, Belgium – under a United Nations velvet cushion.
According to already leaked plans, sooner or later there may be troops from Persian Gulf monarchies and friendly allies such as Jordan and especially NATO member Turkey, also very keen to bag large commercial contracts. Hardly any African nations will
be part of it – Libya now having being “relocated” to Arabia.
The Transitional National Council (TNC) will go for it – or forced to go for it – if, or when, Libya spirals into chaos. Still it will be an extremely hard sell – as the wildly disparate factions of “NATO rebels” are frantically consolidating their fiefdoms, and getting ready to turn on each other.
There’s no evidence so far the TNC – apart from genuflecting in the altar of NATO member nations – has any clue about managing a complex political landscape inside Libya.
Guns and no roses
Everyone in Libya is now virtually armed to its teeth. The economy is paralyzed. A nasty catfight over who will control Libya’s unfrozen billions of dollars is already on.

The Obeidi tribe is furious with the TNC as there’s been no investigation over who killed rebel army commander Abdul Fattah Younis on July 29. The tribals have already threatened to exact justice with their own hands.

Chief suspect in the killing is the Abu Ubaidah bin Jarrah brigade – a hardcore Islamic fundamentalist militia that has rejected NATO intervention and refused to fight under the TNC, branding both TNC and NATO as “infidels”.

Then there’s the drenched-in-oil question; When will the Libya Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG)-al-Qaeda nebula organize their own putsch to take out the TNC?

All over Tripoli, there are graphic echoes of militia hell in Iraq. Former US Central Intelligence Agency asset and former “war on terror” detainee, General Abdelhakim Belhaj – issued from the Derna circle, the ground zero of Islamic fundamentalism in Libya – is the leader of the brand new Tripoli Military Council.

Accusations have already been hurled by other militias that he did not fight for the “liberation” of Tripoli so he must go – whether or not the TNC says so. This essentially means that the LIFG-al-Qaeda nebula sooner or later may be fighting an arm of the upcoming guerrilla war – against the TNC, other militias, or both.

In Tripoli, rebels from Zintan, in the western mountains, control the airport. The central bank, Tripoli’s port and the Prime Minister’s office are being controlled by rebels from Misrata. Berbers from the mountain town of Yafran control Tripoli’s central square, now spray-painted “Yafran Revolutionaries”. All these territories are clearly marked as a warning.

As the TNC, as a political unit, already behaves like a lame duck; and as the militias will simply not vanish – it’s not hard to picture Libya also as a new Lebanon; the war in Lebanon began when each neighborhood in Beirut was carved up between Sunnis, Shi’ites, Christian Maronites, Nasserites and Druse.

The Lebanonization of Libya, on top of it, includes the deadly Islamic temptation – which is spreading like a virus all across the Arab Spring.

At least 600 Salafis who fought in the Sunni Iraqi resistance against the US were liberated from Abu Salim prison by the rebels. It’s easy to picture them profiting from the widespread looting of kalashnikovs and shoulder-launched Soviet Sam-7 anti-aircraft missiles to bolster their own hardcore Islamist militia – following their own agenda, and their own guerrilla war.

Welcome to our racist ‘democracy’
The African Union (AU) will not recognize the TNC; in fact, it charges the NATO rebels of indiscriminate killing of black Africans, all bundled up as “mercenaries”.

According to the AU’s Jean Ping, ” … the TNC seems to confuse black people with mercenaries … [They seem to think] all blacks are mercenaries. If you do that it means one-third of the population of Libya which is black is also mercenaries.”

The small port of Sayad, 25 kilometers west of Tripoli, has become a refugee camp for black Africans terrified of “free Libya”. Doctors Without Borders found out about the camp on August 27. Refugees say that since February they started to be expelled by the owners of the businesses they were working in, accused of being mercenaries – and they have been harassed ever since.

According to rebel mythology, the Muammar Gaddafi regime was essentially protected by murtazaka (“mercenaries”). The reality is that Gaddafi did employ a contingent of black African fighters – from Chad, Sudan and Tuaregs from Niger and Mali. The majority of black Sub-Saharan Africans in Libya are migrant workers holding legal jobs.

To see where this thing is going, one has to look at the desert. The immense southern Libyan desert was not conquered by NATO. The TNC has no access to virtually all of Libya’s water and a lot of oil.

Gaddafi has a chance of “working the desert”, of negotiating with a number of tribes, to buy or consolidate their allegiance and organize a sustained guerrilla war.

Algeria is involved in a vicious fight against al-Qaeda in the Maghreb. Algeria’s vast, porous, 1,000 kilometer-long border with Libya remains open. Gaddafi can easily base his guerrillas in the southern desert with a safe haven in Algeria – or even in Niger. The TNC is already terrified of this possibility.

NATO’s “humanitarian” operation has unleashed at least 30,000 bombs over Libya over these past few months. It’s safe to say that many thousands of Libyans have been killed by the bombing. The bombing never stops; soon NATO may be targeting some of those – civilians or not – it was in theory “protecting” until a few days ago.

A defeated Big G can reveal himself to be even more dangerous than a Big G in power. The real war starts now. It will be infinitely more dramatic – and tragic. Because now it will be a Darwinian, northern African, war of all against all.

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007) and Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge. His new book, just out, is Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

He may be reached at

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