[Letters] Qaddafi’s departure is not easy

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[Letters] Qaddafi’s departure is not easy

After the fall of Tunisia and Egypt, it seemed that the Libyan strongman Colonel Muammar el-Qaddafi, faced with huge public anger, will soon be forced to step down. Reports were abound that Qaddafi has put a proposal before the rebels that he was ready to leave the country, provided no harm is done to him or his family and all his property and gold will remain with him.

But the reliability of all such reports becomes questionable when either Qaddafi or his son is seen on TV saying, “I am Libya, I will fight and I will die here.” Qaddafi claims that only he can bind together the nation, which consists of numerous tribes. And if he loses his grip over the country, it’ll break down. He quotes Bosnia in this regard.

No doubt there is huge public outcry in Libya against Qaddafi. The reasons are the same as in Tunisia and Egypt - poverty, unemployment, corruption, inflation and despotism. Although, being a major oil exporter, Libya is economically better placed than its neighboring counterparts. Another major difference between Egypt and Libya is that while Hosni Mubarak of Egypt had the support of the U.S., Qaddafi is not that ‘lucky.’ He bluntly criticizes American policies. The U.S. cannot tolerate such a ruler of an oil rich nation for long. Therefore, it is supporting of the rebellion against Qaddafi.

American President Obama is very much concerned that Qaddafi is using his army, air force and mercenaries to crush the rebels. While the U.S. is trying to establish a no-fly zone over Libya, at the same time it wants NATO to militarily interfere. As per the reports, along with the army, Qaddafi is using air raids to quell the protesters. More than a thousand people are feared dead in clashes between the rebels and pro-Qaddafi forces. If Libya is declared a no-fly zone, no plane would be permitted to fly over it, not even that of the Libyan Air Force.

The question pertains to the transparency of American policy vis-a-vis Libya. If it sympathizes with the rebels and wants to see a democracy installed in Libya, there are many monarchies and dictatorships which are U.S. allies and who face more poverty, corruption and despotism than Libya.

Reports suggest the strengthening of the rebels and pro-Qaddafi forces alternately. It is important to remember that not all the people of Libya are against Qaddafi per se. In many places, common people can be seen supporting the government forces. The army has taken back possession of many areas earlier ‘liberated’ by the opposition. Cities like Zawiya and Ras Lanuf, which were under the control of the rebels, are now back with the pro-Qaddafi camp. It is now clear that dethroning Qaddafi will not be that easy.

Notwithstanding the above situation, Libya is facing the threat of an impending civil war. More than three hundred thousand people have become homeless since the start of this conflict. The UN has appealed for $1.6 million for the maintenance of the displaced Libyans.

Despite this, Qaddafi’s hold on power doesn’t seem to be loosening. Even though Obama favors action by NATO, his Director of National Intelligence, General James Clapper believes that a victory by the rebels is unlikely. He says that Qaddafi would ‘win’ since his soldiers are well trained and well equipped.

At the same time, the rebels are also wary of a possible influx of American forces in the guise of unseating Qaddafi. Many countries including Russia, China and Iran have warned against any such uncalled for interference. Overall, these are the factors which are still providing strength to Qaddafi to remain clinging to power.

*Letters and commentaries for publication should be addressed “Letters to the Editor.” E-mailed letters should be sent to eopinion@joongang.co.kr.

Tanveer Jafri, a columnist based in India
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