THE ROVING EYE Welcome to Libya's 'democracy'
By Pepe Escobar
The Big Gaddafi has barely left the building - the Bab-al-Aziziyah compound -
and the Western vultures are already circling overhead; the scramble is on to
seize the "big prize" - Libya's oil and gas wealth. 
Libya is as much a pawn in a serious ideological, geopolitical, geo-economic
and geostrategic chessboard as a pedestrian morality play sold as a TV reality
show; idealistic "rebels" win against Public Enemy Number One. Once the public
enemy was Saddam Hussein, then it was Osama bin Laden, today is Muammar
Gaddafi, tomorrow is President Bashar al-Assad in Syria, one day it will be
Iran's President Mahmud Ahmadinejad. The enemy is never the ultra reactionary
House of Saud.
How NATO won the war
The spectacular reappearing act of Gaddafi's son Saif al-Gaddafi
notwithstanding, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has virtually
won the Libyan civil war (or "kinetic military activity", according to the
White House). The masses of "Libyan people" were spectators at best, or bit
part actors in the form of a few thousand "rebels" carrying kalashnikovs.
The top billing was R2P ("responsibility to protect"). From the beginning R2P,
manned by France and Britain and backed by the US, magically turned into regime
change. That led to the unsung stars in this production being Western and
monarchical Arab "advisers", as in "contractors" or "mercenaries".
NATO started winning the war by launching Operation Siren at Iftar - the break
of the Ramadan fast - last Saturday evening, Libya time. "Siren" was the
codename for an invasion of Tripoli. That was NATO's final - and desperate -
power play, after the chaotic "rebels" had gone nowhere after five months of
fighting Gaddafi's forces.
Until then, NATO's plan A was to try to kill Gaddafi. What R2P cheerleaders -
left and right - had dubbed "steady NATO attrition" boiled down to praying for
three outcomes; Gaddafi killed, Gaddafi surrenders, Gaddafi flees.
Not that any of this prevented NATO bombs from falling in private homes,
universities, hospitals or even close to the Foreign Ministry. Everything - and
everyone - was a target.
"Siren" featured a colorful casting of "NATO rebels", Islamist fanatics,
gullible embedded journalists, TV-friendly mobs, and Cyrenaica youth
manipulated by opportunist Gaddafi regime defectors eyeing fat checks by oil
giants Total and BP.
With "Siren", NATO came out all guns (literally) blazing; Apache gunships
firing nonstop and jets bombing everything in sight. NATO supervised the
landing of hundreds of troops from Misrata on the coast east of Tripoli while a
NATO warship distributed heavy weapons.
On Sunday alone there may have been 1,300 civilian deaths in Tripoli, and at
least 5,000 wounded. The Ministry of Health announced that hospitals were
overflowing. Anyone who by that time believed relentless NATO bombing had
anything to do with R2P and United Nations Resolution 1973 was living in an
intensive care unit.
NATO preceded "Siren" with massive bombing of Zawiya - the key oil-refining
city 50 kilometers west of Tripoli. That cut off Tripoli's fuel supply lines.
According to NATO itself, at least half of Libya's armed forces were "degraded"
- Pentagon/NATO speak for killed or seriously wounded. That means tens of
thousands of dead people. That also explains the mysterious disappearance of
the 65,000 soldiers in charge of defending Tripoli. And it largely explains why
the Gaddafi regime, in power for 42 years, then crumbled in roughly 24 hours.
NATO's Siren call - after 20,000 sorties, and more than 7,500 strikes against
ground targets - was only made possible by a crucial decision by the Barack
Obama administration in early July, enabling, as reported by The Washington
Post, "the sharing of more sensitive materials with NATO, including imagery and
signals intercepts that could be provided to British and French special
operations troops on the ground in addition to pilots in the air".
That is, without the Pentagon's unmatched firepower know-how, satellites and
drones, NATO would still be engaged in Operation Quagmire Forever - and the
Obama administration would not be able to milk a major victory in this
Who are these people?
Who are these people who suddenly erupted in joy on US and European television
screens? After the smiles to the cameras and the Kalashnikovs shooting the
skies, get ready for some major fratricidal fireworks.
Ethnic and tribal trouble is bound to explode. Many of the Berbers from the
Western mountains, who entered Tripoli from the south this past weekend, are
hardcore Salafis. Same with the Muslim Brotherhood/Salafi nebula from
Cyrenaica, which has been instructed by US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)
boots on the ground. As much as these fundamentalists "used" the Europeans and
the Americans to get close to power, they may become a nasty guerrilla force if
they are marginalized by the new NATO masters.
A large Benghazi-based "revolution" sold to the West as a popular movement was
always a myth. Only two months ago the armed "revolutionaries" barely numbered
1,000. NATO's solution was to build a mercenary army - including all sorts of
unsavory types, from former Colombian death squad members to recruiters from
Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), who pinched scores of unemployed
Tunisians and tribals disgruntled with Tripoli. All these on top of the CIA
mercenary squad - Salafis in Benghazi and Derna - and the House of Saud squad -
the Muslim Brotherhood gang.
It's hard not to be reminded of the UCK drug gang in Kosovo - the war NATO
"won" in the Balkans. Or of the Pakistanis and Saudis, with US backing, arming
the "freedom fighters" of Afghanistan in the 1980s.
Then there's the dodgy, Benghazi-based, Transitional National Council (TNC)'s
cast of characters.
The leader, Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, Gaddafi's justice minister from 2007 until his
resignation on February 26, studied sharia and civil law at the
University of Libya. That might entitle him to cross rhetorical swords with the
Islamic fundamentalists in Benghazi, al-Baida and Delna - but he could use his
knowledge to press their interests in a new power-sharing arrangement.
As for Mahmoud Jibril, the chairman of the council's executive board, he
studied at Cairo University and then the University of Pittsburgh. He's the key
Qatari connection - having been involved in asset management for Sheikha Mozah,
the ultra high-profile wife of the emir of Qatar.
There's also the son of the last monarch of Libya, King Idris, deposed by
Gaddafi 42 years ago (with no bloodshed); the House of Saud would love a new
monarchy in northern Africa. And the son of Omar Mukhtar, the hero of the
resistance against Italian colonialism - a more secular figure.
The new Iraq?
Yet to believe that NATO would win the war and let the "rebels" control power
is a joke. Reuters has already reported that a "bridging force" of around 1,000
soldiers from Qatar, the Emirates and Jordan will arrive in Tripoli to act as
police. And the Pentagon is already spinning that the US military will be on
the ground to "help to secure the weapons". A nice touch that already implies
who's going to be really in charge; the "humanitarian" neo-colonialists plus
their Arab minions.
Abdel Fatah Younis, the "rebel" commander killed by the rebels themselves, was
a French intelligence asset. He was killed by the Muslim Brotherhood faction -
just when the Great Arab Liberator Sarkozy was trying to negotiate an endgame
with Saif al-Islam, Gaddafi's London School of Economics son now back from the
So the big winners in the end are London, Washington, the House of Saud and the
Qataris (they sent jets and "advisers", they are already handling the oil
sales). With a special mention for the compound Pentagon/NATO - considering
that Africom will finally set up its first African base in the Mediterranean,
and NATO is one step closer to declaring the Mediterranean "a NATO lake".
Islamism? Tribalism? These may be Libya's lesser ills compared to a new
fantasyland open to neo-liberalism. There are few doubts the new Western
masters won't try to revive a friendlier version of Iraq's nefarious, rapacious
Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), turning Libya into a hardcore
neo-liberal dream of 100% ownership of Libyan assets, total repatriation of
profits, Western corporations with the same legal standing of local firms,
foreign banks buying local banks and very low income and corporate taxes.
Meanwhile, the deep fracture between the center (Tripoli) and the periphery for
the control of energy resources will fester. BP, Total, Exxon, all Western oil
giants will be gratefully rewarded by the transitional council - to the
detriment of Chinese, Russian and Indian companies. NATO troops on the ground
will certainly help to keep the council on message.
Oil executives estimate it will take at least a year to get oil production back
to pre-civil war levels of 1.6 million barrels per day, but say annual earnings
from oil could reap Tripoli's new rulers some US$50 billion annually. Most
estimates place oil reserves at 46.4 billion barrels, 3% of the world's
reserves and worth some $3.9 trillion at today's oil price. Known gas reserves
stand at some 5 trillion cubic feet.
Thus in the end R2P wins. Humanitarian imperialism wins. The Arab monarchies
win. NATO as global Robocop wins. The Pentagon wins. But even that is not
enough for the usual imperial suspects - already calling for the deployment of
a "stabilization force". And all this while lost-the-plot progressives in
assorted latitudes continue to hail the Holy Alliance of Western
neocolonialism, ultra-reactionary Arab monarchies and hardcore Salafis.
It ain't over till the fat Arab lady sings. Anyway, on to the next stop;