Friday, April 15, 2011

Libya: Benghazi Revolt Seems to Come in Handy for NATO

NATO Berlin Conference | Credit: NATO

By Jaya Ramachandran
Courtesy IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis

BERLIN (IDN) - As 28 foreign ministers of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and of the so-called "partner countries" met in Berlin within weeks of launching the military operation in Libya, they had reason to be grateful to the Benghazi uprising against Muammar Al-Gaddafi.

Benghazi has given a shot in the arm to hawks -- led by former colonial powers in the region -- keen to make NATO's "robust" presence felt in the Middle East and North Africa.

The significance of the Berlin gathering is also underlined by the fact that it is the first meeting of foreign ministers since NATO leaders approved the Alliance's new Strategic Concept at a summit in Lisbon in November 2010.

The concept claimed a global military role for the Alliance, which many thought had become irrelevant after the end of the two ideological blocs triggered by the fall of the Berlin wall. As follow-up on Lisbon, the Berlin meeting showcases "NATO's role in working with partners to find cooperative solutions to common threats".

According to Alfred Ross, president of the Institute for Democracy Studies, New York, "the U.S. and its NATO allies deliberately lied to the world, including the UN Security Council, about the facts relating to the 'humanitarian crisis' and the military attack on Libya."

Ross says: "Since 1969, when Gaddafi, forced the U.S. military out of Libya Washington has been planning to return and overthrow him.

"In 1981 the CIA created the National Front for the Salvation of Libya (NFSL) to overthrow him. The NFSL launched a series of well-armed military attacks in the 1980s and created its own Libyan National Army (LNA)."

Ross points out that it was the CIA-armed NFSL and its spokesperson Ibrahim Sahad who launched the demonstrations in February (2011), which led to "the humanitarian crisis", adding: "This explains why, unlike Tunisia and Egypt the Libyan demonstrations were quickly militarized."

Meanwhile the British and French signed a military agreement on November 2, 2010 and began planning of the attack on Libya by no later than January 30, 2011. The evidence of this is a series of military web sites that Ross has compiled.

These indicate, he adds: "The military plan was to attack a 'southern dictatorship' between March 21 and 25. 2011. The military web sites even indicate that the dictator's son might take over from his father. Since clearly the UK and France were not planning to attack the southern 'dictatorship' of Egypt, there is no question that the premeditated target was Libya."

Ross goes on to say in an E-Mail made available to IDN: "Clearly the U.S., Britain, and France reassured the CIA-created 'opposition' that if they attacked the army of Libya they had a well developed plan to attack. The (military) web sites even specify the fighter planes to be used in the March attack. The US and its military allies created the 'humanitarian crisis' which they used to justify the planned attack."

Independent of Ross' findings, France's role is of critical importance. Under the presidency of Charles de Gaulle, France was wary of what it perceived as a "special relationship" between the United States and Britain, and withdrew in March 1959 its powerful Mediterranean Fleet from NATO command, and three months later banned the stationing of foreign nuclear weapons on French soil.

More than half-a-century later, de Gaulle's successor Nicolas Sarkozy took the lead in convening the Paris conference on Libya on March 18, 2011 as it became obvious that in the wake of Arab uprisings, Benghazi revolt against Gaddafi -- who was allowed to erect his Beduin tent in central Paris in November 2007 -- needed be taken seriously in French and NATO interests on the whole.

Dubbed as Operation Unified Protector (OUP), the NATO military operation launched by 28 member states and six Arab countries -- including Qatar and the United Arab Emirates -- claims to be purported to "protect civilians and civilian-populated areas under threat of attack" from pro-Gaddafi forces, as envisaged in the UN Security Council Resolution 1973. They have put in place an arms embargo and no-fly zone in Libya.

Military action was first launched by France, the United States and Britain on March 19, before NATO took over the operation after overcoming French reservations about letting the Western military organisation lead it.

The Berlin gathering on April 14 was preceded by the Libya Contact Group in Doha, the capital of Qatar, one day earlier, the London Libya Conference on March 29, and the March 18 Paris conference.

In a press conference after the ministers met April 14, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said: “All of us agree: we have a responsibility to protect Libyan civilians against a brutal dictator. The United Nations gave a clear mandate to do it. The people of Libya desperately need it. And we are determined to do it. Because we will not stand idly by and watch a discredited regime attack its own people with tanks, rockets and snipers."

The Foreign Ministers welcomed the outcome of the Contact Group meeting in Doha on April 13, and strongly endorsed its call for Gaddafi "to leave power": "Gaddafi and his regime have lost all legitimacy through their comprehensive and repeated refusal to abide by UNSC Resolutions 1970 and 1973."

Insisting that there could not be a purely military solution to the current crisis, Ministers reiterated their strong support for the development of a political solution, as well as for "the sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and national unity of Libya," NATO stated.

The NATO statement added: "We will continue to adapt our military actions to achieve maximum effect in discharging our mandate to protect civilians and civilian-populated areas. To this end, we are committed to provide all necessary resources and maximum operational flexibility within our mandate. A high operational tempo against legitimate targets will be maintained and we will exert this pressure as long as necessary and until the following objectives are achieved:

"1. All attacks and threats of attack against civilians and civilian-populated areas have ended;

"2. The regime has verifiably withdrawn to bases all military forces, including snipers, mercenaries and other para-military forces, including from all populated areas they have forcibly entered, occupied or besieged throughout all of Libya, including Ajdabiyah, Brega, Jadu, al Jebal al Gharbiyah, Kikla, Misrata, Nalut, Raslanuf, Yefrin, Zawiyah, Zintan and Zuara;

"3. The regime must permit immediate, full, safe and unhindered humanitarian access to all the people in Libya in need of assistance."

The statement went on to say: "In carrying out our mission, we reaffirm our support to the sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and national unity of Libya. We reiterate our strong support for the development of a transparent political solution as the only way to bring an end to the crisis and build lasting peace in Libya and a better future for the Libyan people."