Sunday, March 20, 2011

Operation 'Odyssey Dawn'- Lots of Noise, But Little Purpose


David Eshel
A former British air force commander said a clear objective in Libya is needed before launching airstrikes. Now the strikes are on and may produce the "Biggest Show in Town" but unfortunately, little more. But what is the objective of Operation 'Odyssey Dawn'? Does it include a regime change, or physical removal of Colonel Muammar Qaddafi personally?  If so, what of his seven sons – are they to be targeted too? As far as we know, UNSC Resolution 1973 calls for the "halt in the fighting and to achieve a ceasefire". It does not explicitly call for the removal of Col Muammar Gaddafi or a even a regime change. In fact, it specifies clearly that no ground action is permitted: It  "authorizes member states to "take all necessary means to protect civilians", but crucially excludes any "foreign occupation force" moving into the territory of Qaddafi's Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, in most sweeping terms. So what 'necessary means' can the operation take to achieve to protect civilians? Without getting 'boots on the ground' very little can be achieved in any military action. Even hitting high-profile targets will become difficult, when hidden, or well camouflaged in urban environment., without 'eyes on the ground'. So what is the purpose behind all this noise?

When the US and its allies invaded Iraq in 2003 the aim was to overthrow Saddam Hussein and this was achieved by ground action. When NATO  entered Kosovo in 1999 its purpose was to stop ethnic cleansing by Slobodan Milosevic's army. As mentioned, the precise objectives of  Operation Odyssey Dawn 2011, and how they will be achieved, are by far, less well-defined – and therefore, potentially problematic. It therefore looks like 'good old' Qaddafi will stay in power in Tripoli for some time to come and a form of stalemate will eventually emerge, bringing to a partition between the east and west, which could 'invite' Jihadist elements filling the void. Moreover, having already attacked Qaddafi, he will feel cornered, making him again one of the top dangerous terrorists in the world.

Should Operation Odyssey Dawn end in a divided Libya, the danger of it becoming a Jihadist terror base will be real. There are reports that radical Islamist elements are already active in the rebel held eastern part of Libya. Taking advantage of the ongoing chaos, a large group of Islamist gunmen, believed to be members of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), recently seized a weapons depot in the eastern Libyan port city of Derna. Calling itself the “Islamist Emirate of Baraqa,” the group, assisted by a former Libyan Army Colonel named Adnan al-Nwisri, seized a large cache of weapons. There may be other Islamic groups active in this area, which have not yet been identified. It needs little imagination to estimate the danger posed to Egypt, still in process to reorganize itself, to fill the leadership gap, left after Mubarak. A radical Islamic neighbor could have devastating consequences in this highly sensitive and dangerous situation.
So under the present UNSC constraints, there is little hope that Operation Odyssey Dawn will achieve anything apart from a few days of high profile public relations, indicating UN and  Western determination to act and, inevitably- with a considerable bill to pay, adding to an already dwindling defense budget in the UK, France and even the USA.

According to a new report issued by the US Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, three options for a No-Fly Zone over Libya would have three very different costs:

1. "Full No-Fly Zone" covering all of Libya
- $100 million to $300 million per week
- Initial strike to secure airspace: $500 million and $1 billion
- Six month total: $3.1 billion - $8.8 billion
- Similar to no-fly zone imposed over Iraq (Operation Northern and Southern Watch)

2. Limited No-Fly Zone focusing on the northern third of Libya
- $30 million to $100 million per week
- Initial strike to secure airspace: $400 million to $800 million
- Six month total $1.18 billion - $3.4 billion

3. Stand-off No-Fly Zone focusing on coastal Libya with only air and naval assets beyond Libyan territory
- $15 million to $25 million per week. 

For a total cost estimate- take your pick, as to how long the operation will last.

Just as a reminder, the No Fly Zone over Iraq lasted from 1991 to 2003, when Operation 'Iraqi Freedom' started. Before that, Operation 'Deny Flight' over Bosnia took place from April 12, 1993–December 20, 1995.
With no specific aim for Operation Odyssey Dawn, any guess might be right to define how long it will last until someone decides, either to change the UN resolution terms and send ground troops in to remove the tyrant, or let him stay, with all the dangerous consequences involved.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Vacuum After Qaddafi Will Be Filled by Jihadists

I am no friend of Qaddafis, but nor have I any yearning towards Al Qaeda or the  Muslim Jihadists taking over the Libyan void, once this weird figure is chased out.And it sure will come to this, although western leaders and the media keep ignoring the facts. Qaddafi might be mentally stuck in eighth century Islamic traditions that certainly were not intended to build a seeming democratic nation, but erode another. The Western press continues to tell its readers that once the old tyrant will disappear, Libya will become a moderate nation, its people longing for freedom and self expression, after 42 years of brutal oppression. Unfortuntely, as with the ongoing popular uprisings in the region, hope for a western style democracy in the Muslim nations seem, at best a deceptive and naive view, if not sheer wishful thinking. In the words of Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, who still plans his country to become member of the Euuropean Union: “Democracy is a product of western culture, and it cannot be applied to the middle-east which has a different cultural, religious, sociological and historical background”- could there be a more  explicit  and frank opinion issued by a "moderate" Islamist leader?

Based on recent past, "successful" attempts  to demote ruling despots and democratize these people, ended in just more misery and bloodshed, until even more brutal leaders emerged from the ensuing turmoil. Western intellectuals continue their naive talk about Islam really being a ‘religion of peace’ that only needs to evolve through a moderate revival, to become a democratic entity, once it frees itself from centuries of the oppressive clerics. Still many of those pseudo-oriental scholars, continue preaching about this possibility, while totally ignoring the fact that Islam is in fact already right in the midst of a revival, but a post-colonial fundamentalist radical revival that is affecting Muslims all over  the world, even those in Western countries including the United States. No less a person than Iranian President Ahmadinejad recently told European leaders that Islam was in the midst of a revival that would culminate in world-wide Muslim domination.

According to US based University Professor Walid Phares, himself a born Lebanese and leading Scholar of world reknown, warns that Islamic  jihadists want to impose a re-creation of the strict religious law caliphate, by merging dozens of Muslim countries into one world power and thereby obsrtuct any democratization attempts in the Middle East. In prof. Phares' words: " The jihadists have been waging a war of ideology against democracies, using the influence of their petro-economies and (western) democracies have fallen to a "global civil war" of ideas, politics and interests". This highly dangerous trend, which is already enfolding through the so far leader-less mass demonstrations, all over the Middle East, may become the vanguard of this world dominating jihadist caliphate, if not stopped in time, already running short.

Libyan opposition leaders, which France and Great Britain are desperately trying to bolster in their failing attempt to demote Qaddafi and his henchmen, are actually casting themselves as 'true followers' of Islam- but far from being the Western-style freedom movement, that the media has miscast. That the Libyan revolt is Islamic in character and is being deliberately misrepresented in western media reports, although clear anti-western slogans are issued constantly by rebel leaders.They clearly emphasize the nature of their intent- turning post-Qaddafi's Libya into a Jihadi Islam nation, with a Taliban-like Shariah law installed.

An even more mystifying fact, that among the leading elements in the rebelling Libyans, the notorious Libyan Islamic Fighting Group ( LIFG)  is represented.  According to the Washington based Center for Defense Information, LIFG is regarded as a highly dangerous anti-western organization, which aims replacing the Qaddafi regime with a government modelled on the most exterme Sunna ( Wahhabi) principles. And LIFG is not alone in its quest for Islamization of Post-Qaddafi Libya. According to a report from Al Arabiya, a senior rebel leader confessed to European politicians in Tripoli, that the terrorist group Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, (AQIM) has already set up an “Islamic emirate” in Derna, a city in eastern Libya. It s headed by a former prisoner once held at the U.S. detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

What will happen in the Libyan war depends now on the western determination to oust Colonel Qaddafi from his subterranean bunker in Tripoli. So far his troops seem to make progress against the rebels, but if the controversial "no-fly zone" should prevent his air power from taking to the sky, the situation could become critical for Qaddafi. Just how this "no-fly zone" will operate seems questionable from a sheer military viewpoint. Without massive USAF and USN intervention, the Europeans have little chance to become effective. Although Qaddafi's air defenses are not exactly powerful, these still have to be eliminated before a danger-free operational airspace can be established on acceptable flight-operation conditions. As most of the Libyan SAMs are mobile, their neutralization will require real-time intelligence and rapid reaction with sensor-to-strike missions. Gaining such information will inevitably require "boots on the ground"- a high-risk operation in itself. US Defense Secretary Robert Gates left little room for optimism in this realm when he mentioned: "In my opinion, any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should have his head examined".

But sooner or later mounting pressure from the West and the Arab League will force Moammar Gaddafi to go, just as Mubark went. But then what? Whom does Mr Obama wish to replace this lunatic Libyan despot? A vacuum in leadership in this unstable country will inevitably lead to an Islamic revolution like that in Iran 1979. When Hosni Mubarak stepped down in Egypt, the military temporarily took to the reins and  and blunted any opportunity for an Islamic revolution, at least for the time being. However a jihadist neighbor in Post-Qaddafi Libya will certainly encourage Islamic elements, led by the highly Influential Muslim cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who is just waiting for his chance to fill in the void. Linking a radical shift in the Egyptian Brotherhood under Qaradawi with LIFG and Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, (AQIM) could become the founding pillars for the prophesied  quest for the jihadist' caliphate.

However, should Qaddafi maintain his hold on Libya- which seems likely, as western leaders are still dithering over launching an ineffective "no-fly" zone, the colonel's message to Arab and Iranian autocrats will be clear: "do what you see effective to maintain your regime- don't worry about Obama or the EU' they only talk and do nothing".

The Saudis already acted and sent their troops into Bahrain, just before Tehran would, to support their Shiites rioting against the Kingdom. No doubt, the King of Jordan will also be encouraged to keep his Hashemite throne, while the military in Egypt might become more aggressive, should the 'Lotus' revolution get out of control.

Meanwhile the Obama administration continues to lose its prestige as a resolute world leader- the  series of amateurish statements from the president and his aides seem rediculous, only underlining the impotence of a dwindling 'Pax Americana', caught so flatfooted in the latest crisis management. His wavering attitude has already damaged American credibility throughout the region, particularly with leaders who for decades were Washington's loyal allies. Mr. Obama thus made a virtue out of not having a strategy.

Unfortunately, with such a dubious record, there is little hope that Barak Hussein Obama can hardly become the Peacemaker, which he so passionately wishes to be.

Related Item:
16/12/2007: Defeated in Iraq, Al Qaeda Migrates to Maghreb -Next Stop: Europe