Libya struggles to maintain order in the face of post-Gadhafi chaos

(Deutsche Welle) Although Libya’s revolutionaries managed to destroy the Gadhafi regime with the help of NATO, the country’s interim leaders are sitting on a political powder keg as they struggle to establish law and order amid chaos.

The tasks facing Libya’s Western-backed interim government in trying to restore political and social order are big enough as it is. Now, there’s an additional challenge in the form of massive unsecured weapons stockpiles which threaten to destabilize the broader region. Revolutionary military councils have been engaging in skirmishes as retribution killings against alleged Gadhafi loyalists jeopardize the reconciliation process.

In western Libya outside the capital, Tripoli, fighters from the coastal city of Zawiya have clashed with armed tribesmen from Warshefana. The skirmishes killed at least 13 people during four days of fighting that saw heavy gunfire and the use of rocket propelled grenades, according to reports by the Associated Press. The cause of the clashes remains unclear.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has gathered mounting evidence of human rights abuses committed by forces associated with the National Transitional Council (NTC). Militias from the northwestern coastal city of Misrata – which suffered a brutal months-long siege at the hands of Gadhafi – have arbitrarily killed and detained residents and burnt homes in the now abandoned town of Tawergha, according to HRW. Many Tawergha residents fought for Gadhafi during Libya’s civil war.

And in Gadhafi’s hometown of Sirte, where the Libyan dictator was captured and killed, HRW reported finding the bodies of 53 regime loyalists who had apparently been summarily executed at the hands of revolutionary forces allied with the NTC. Attacks have also reportedly occurred against black-skinned Africans accused of having fought for Gadhafi as mercenaries.

“For all the talk about the need for reconciliation, for all the talk about the need of doing the right thing, doing the right is much harder,” Sarah Leah Whitson, who heads HRW’s Middle East and North Africa Division, told Deutsche Welle

“To the extent that there are these kinds of revenge attacks and this sort of division in the country of punishment for people who were loyal to Gadhafi, it will be very hard to transition in the direction the country needs to transition, which is accountability for past crimes but also reconciliation,” Whitson said.

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Iraq syndrome haunts Obama Administration in Libya

(By Deutsche Welle) Burdened with Iraq and Afghanistan, US President Obama clearly limited the Libyan operation. But as the ground war drags on, Washington may come under growing pressure for a military escalation to break the stalemate.

From the outset of the intervention in Libya, US President Barack Obama called for a limited American military involvement aimed at protecting civilians. NATO allies, particularly Britain and France, would take the leadership role.

However, Colonel Moammar Gadhafi remains in power and the civil war rages on, despite more than a month of allied airstrikes targeting his forces. Pressure has mounted for a military escalation as diplomats have shuffled between London, Doha, Paris and Berlin in search of a Libyan endgame.

As Britain and France argue with NATO over the intensity of the airstrikes, the Obama administration has largely taken a back seat and deferred to its divided European partners. After a decade of war, Washington has lost its enthusiasm for intervening militarily in the Muslim world.

But with the rebels and Gadhafi loyalists currently in a stalemate on the ground, Washington may come under growing pressure to launch a military escalation designed to bring the conflict to a decisive close.

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Berlin steadfast in Libya abstention despite political fallout

(By Deutsche Welle) For the first time in post-war history, Germany has publicly taken a position contrary to virtually all of its major allies. The fallout of Berlin’s abstention from coalition operations in Libya could be far reaching.

By abstaining from the UN Security Council vote to intervene in Libya, Germany has managed to position itself against both the United States and Europe for the first time, said former NATO General Klaus Naumann in an interview with the daily Stuttgarter Zeitung.

Berlin’s abstention has sparked controversy domestically with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right government coming under bi-partisan political fire. Former Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, member of the Green Party, wrote in the daily Süddeutsche Zeitung that he was “ashamed” of the German government’s “failure.” And Ruprecht Polenz, a member of Merkel’s party and chairman of parliament’s foreign affairs committee, expressed concern that Berlin had isolated itself.

Meanwhile, Chancellor Merkel has declared Berlin’s “unreserved support for the goals of the resolution” despite its opposition to military intervention. And Merkel has sought to demonstrate this ambiguous support by offering humanitarian aid for refugees and pushing for an oil embargo against Gadhafi. However, Berlin’s attempts at damage control are unlikely to contain the negative political fallout from its abstention.

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No-fly zones protect civilians, but political uncertainties remain

(By Deutsche Welle) As the UN-backed coalition seizes control of Libyan airspace, Washington maintains that Gadhafi must leave power. But past no-fly zones in Bosnia and Iraq suggest that air campaigns have a limited impact on the ground.

With Moammar Gadhafi’s forces allegedly crippled after the initial round of airstrikes, coalition forces are moving to expand the UN-sanctioned no-fly zone to encompass Libya’s vast and densely populated coastal region, General Carter Ham – commander of US Africa Command – told reporters in Washington earlier this week.

According to the UN resolution 1973, the no-fly zone’s express purpose is to protect civilians from Gadhafi’s forces and maintain the arms embargo imposed against Libya. Although the resolution focuses on humanitarian ends, US President Barack Obama has called on Gadhafi to step down, suggesting that the political goal is regime change.

Past experience with no-fly zones imposed over Iraq and Bosnia during the 1990s points to the uncertainties associated with such operations. While no-fly zones often achieve the limited goal of protecting civilian life, they rarely force the targeted government to make broad concessions and can result in political stalemate.

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ICC’s Gadhafi probe could empower neighbors more than Libya

(By Deutsche Welle) The international criminal investigation against Gadhafi may have limited impact on the Libyan conflict. But it could give protesters in other Arab countries new momentum in their bid to force democratic reforms.

In a period of two weeks, the world community stripped Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi of his status as rehabilitated dictator, relegating him to the rank of international pariah and possible war criminal.

On February 26, the UN Security Council voted unanimously to refer Gadhafi’s violent crackdown on peaceful protesters to the International Criminal Court in The Hague. It was the first unanimous referral in the Security Council’s history.

But in the weeks since the Security Council’s historic vote, the international response to the conflict in Libya has floundered. As world powers debate the pros and cons of military intervention, heavily armed and well-trained Gadhafi loyalists have regained momentum and pushed deeper into rebel-controlled territory, closing in on the opposition stronghold of Benghazi.

So while the Security Council’s vote to investigate the Gadhafi regime may lend moral support to the embattled rebels, it has little practical impact on the balance of power in Libya. However, holding the Gadhafi regime legally accountable for alleged crimes could give renewed momentum to other opposition movements throughout the Arab world.

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