ROVING EYE Why no-fly won't
fly By Pepe Escobar
To follow Pepe's articles on the Great
Arab Revolt, please click here.
You don't stay 41 years in power without
learning a geopolitical trick or two. A wily fox,
the African king of kings Muammar Gaddafi seems to
have carefully surveyed the chessboard and come to
an iron-clad conclusion; the no-fly option - not
to mention an invasion of Libya - won't fly in the
United Nations Security Council.
reported by Asia Times Online (Arab
revolt reworks the world order March 10),
three of the emerging BRICS group countries -
Brazil, India and South Africa - have already all
but torpedoed the no-fly option. They happen to be
current members of the Security Council. The other
two BRICS members - Russia and China - are
permanent members. BRICS for some time now have coordinated
crucial decisions. At Foreign
Ministry level, Russia had already dismissed
no-fly last week, and China did it this week. Plus
there's Lebanon - another non-permanent member of
the Security Council. That makes six "no" votes.
Make no mistake; Gaddafi is keeping tabs.
Even the administration of President
Barack Obama is not explicitly backing up no-fly.
Pentagon chief Robert Gates - even counting on two
aircraft carriers and 175 planes of the US 6th
Fleet based in Naples, Italy - has explicitly
warned this is serious business and it means war,
which implies all manners of possible escalation
plus unintended consequences (think Bosnia).
Those who do back a no-fly zone make a
dodgy catalogue; former African colonial powers
France and Britain; US neo-conservatives; and the
six-member Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) - which
includes Bahrain (which already lethally repressed
protests), Saudi Arabia (who may do the same
during this Friday's "Day of Rage"), Oman (which
may do the same if protests continue) and Qatar
(whose al-Jazeera is barely covering the
democratic aspirations of fellow GCC members).
Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, secretary general of
the 57-member Organization of the Islamic
Conference (OIC), also backs no-fly (but the OIC
has not taken an official position yet). Same for
the toothless Arab League; a meeting has been
called by the GCC to discuss it. As for the
European Union (EU) it should have a unified
position by the end of the week; but don't bet
your steak frites on it.
liberated eastern Libya movement is puzzled. Some
leaders of the provisional Benghazi government
want it, some don't (as well as a mass of rebels).
There's no evidence the Obama administration is at
least trying to take an informal no-fly poll among
those doing the fighting (and dying), be it in
English or Arabic.
Talk to the
hand Meanwhile, Gaddafi skillfully plays
the al-Qaeda joker - as in without me, the West
will be confronted with an Islamic emirate
assembly line churning out thousands of jihadis
across the Mediterranean. The people
unquestionably buying Gaddafi's rhetoric are none
other than extreme right-wingers and
cripto-fascist fanatics in the EU and also in
Israel. From Islamophobes in Germany and
Scandinavia to the new French political darling
Marine Le Pen - the I-mean-business daughter of
the founder of the National Front, Jean Marie Le
Pen - they will be silently congratulating the
Good Colonel Gaddafi on his geostrategic acumen.
Gaddafi has also made a shrewd move; he
sent an envoy to Egypt's Supreme Army Council. The
message is clear; the Awlad Ali tribe - which
controls the city of Salloum, on the Egyptian side
of the border with Libya - is supplying the
liberated eastern Libya rebels with everything
from food to weapons. He wants it to stop. It's an
open question whether the transitional
army-Egyptians will fall for it - apart from
notorious "war on terror" stalwarts such as now
invisible Omar "Sheikh al-Torture" Suleiman.
Anyone watching al-Jazeera can tell that
the rebels are disgruntled, unemployed youth
engaged with a lot of spirit and no
strategic/tactical insights in what The Guardian
of London aptly described as "drive-in war". Some
of these come from the Zintan tribe.
it's no wonder that Gaddafi's televised address in
the middle of the night on Wednesday was to an
audience of young people from Zintan (there were
not many, and they didn't seem to be mesmerized).
The hole in Gaddafi's rhetoric is that all the
communiques from eastern liberated Libya totally
bypass typical al-Qaeda terminology, and talk
extensively about a united nation and the people's
desire for democracy.
A key argument of
proponents of no-fly is that if "we" - the
civilized West - don't intervene Libya will
descend into Somalia-style chaos. It's instructive
to follow what's actually happening in Somalia
Somalia is crucially strategic,
right across Yemen by the Gulf of Aden and
practically a neighbor of the GCC countries.
Everyone and his neighbor intervene in Somalia -
from al-Qaeda to Ethiopia, from Sudan to GCC-based
The African Union (AU) got
really scared that Libya and Egypt will not be
funding its operations anymore; so their 8,000
alleged peacekeepers (from Burundi and Uganda)
launched an attack on al-Shabaab, a Somali
coalition supported by a coterie of Osama bin
Laden-affiliated jihadis that controls much of
central and southern Somalia, including key parts
of the capital, Mogadishu.
No one knows
how this business of UN-sanctioned peacekeepers
actually attacking an Islamic militia will end up.
But Gaddafi will certainly use what's happening as
a bargaining chip with the AU; as in, if you want
my money and collaboration, don't even think about
This is how the African
king of kings is reading the writing on the UN
walls. No-fly, even approved, would be useless
against his helicopter gunships, tanks and
superior firepower. He knows the no-fly contingent
can't invade Libya - that would be seen as one
more chapter, after Afghanistan and Iraq, of the
white man's crusade to destroy Islam (and get the
If Saudi Arabia arms the rebels - as
it did with the 1980s Afghan "freedom fighters" -
the weapons may be seized by infiltrated al-Qaeda
types, and Gaddafi wins the public relations war.
The US Central Intelligence Agency could always
bribe one of his generals - or one of his sons;
after all Mutassim already tried to unseat him -
to go for the proverbial bullet in the back of the
head; Allah knows what kind of freak would take
No wonder the king of
kings now looks so relaxed under his brown robes.
As far as he's concerned, it's only a question of
time before it's a (blood-soaked) game, set and