The imminent end of the Gaddafi regime is not the end of the story in Libya. The battles may continue to rage for days and even weeks. While the combat capabilities of Gaddafi’s army were mostly neutralized by NATO’s airstrikes and the high-quality intelligence information provided by the Americans, Gaddafi has not yet been neutralized and may cause trouble.
The tens of thousands of Gaddafi loyalists, including security officials and civilians, along with the militias he set up and the tribes that support him, will apparently not give up easily and will be fighting valiantly in the coming days. This stems not so much from their loyalty to the mad tyrant, but rather, from their personal fear for their lives and property.
Indeed, Gaddafi’s loyalists know that the rebels, intoxicated with victory after they fully takeover Tripoli and other Western Libya cities, may embark on a journey of revenge replete with merciless murder and plunder. Hence, these loyalists are fighting even though the battle seems to be a lost cause.
Western officials are now concerned about the day after – how to prevent the post-Gaddafi Libya from turning into a hotbed of terror and violence against the West and moderate Arab regimes, as happened in Iraq in 2003 after Saddam Hussein’s fall.
This fear stems from the fact that the rebels have no orderly plans for the establishment of an alternate government. For 42 years, Libya was under a dictatorial regime without a clear hierarchy or functional government institutions. Gaddafi ruled by utilizing the tribes loyal to him and his personal charisma, and now Libyans need to establish a democratic, functioning government from scratch.
West wants Libyan oil
The West also fears a rebel massacre against Gaddafi’s loyalists, as well as wars amongst the rebels themselves over tribal and clan prestige, and mostly for control of Libya’s lucrative oil and gas reserves.
The West has an economic and humanitarian interest in preventing such all-out warfare; the first indication that such war may be in the cards was the murder of the rebel military commander by his rivals about a month ago.
Western officials are interested in quickly renewing the oil supply from Libya, terminating the expensive NATO intervention in the country and preventing the huge quantities of arms accumulated by Gaddafi to flow into the hands of Islamist elements in the Middle East (including to Gaza, via Sinai.)
These interests prompted the US Administration to urgently dispatch last week a senior representative to engage in talks with rebel leaders last weekend. US envoy Jeffrey Feltman, sent by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, attempted to secure understandings with the rebels that would enable the establishment of a new, democratic regime in Libya.
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