A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Noose Tightens

I want to be cautious about being overoptimistic, as some seem to be, that the end is near in Libya. The rebels now claim to have cut several pipelines leading to Tripoli, and are talking about having "encircled" it, but the facts remain that they have only tenuously taken Zawiya and are hundreds of kilometers away in the other direction; unless the rebels have acquired a blockading fleet I'm not aware of, Tripoli is a seaport anyway and is hard to besiege if  you don't control the sea. But at least the momentum is in the right direction.

Qadhafi's firing of a Scud missile the other day made little military sense; not only did it not hit anything but it's hardly the weapon to use against insurgents. It had a slight air of desperation, or saying, hey, we still have missiles.

On a more positive note, the Libyan Embassy in DC has reopened, but under the rebel's old flag, not Qadhafi's green banner this time. The old Ambassador, having switched sides, is back. The broadening recognition of the rebels, and the unfreezing of Libyan funds held in the West, has no doubt helped the rebels to acquire arms and ammunition, while the continuing fighting has improved their training and experience. The sense that Qadhafi's inner circle is shrinking fast — his Interior Minister took his whole family to Egypt on what he described as a "holiday" though the Libyan Embassy in Egypt reportedly was unaware of it beforehand — is no doubt helping fuel the talk of an early end. But I suspect Qadhafi will fight to the bitter end. Remember Nicolae Ceausescu?


papicek said...

Your caution is well founded. If the fighting reaches the streets of Tripoli, it'll be very bad indeed.

freude bud said...

I was under the impression that NATO was essentially enforcing an embargo of Tripoli by sea ... for arms and fuel. Am I wrong?

Michael Collins Dunn said...

Not wrong, but I'm not sure how close inshore. If they're in international waters he can still supply with coastal shipping. And how many NATO vessels are there? Does anybody know?

freude bud said...

If anyone in the blogging community knows, it would be Galrahn @ www.informationdissemination.net. He noted that the blockade was porous back in March http://www.informationdissemination.net/2011/03/libyan-rebels-capture-gaddafi-supply.html . He says the "information atmosphere" around the operation is bad, but he might be able to give you more operational details off the top of his head if you sent him an email asking.