Libyan Karzai? Chalabi? Forget it

Predictable Western political interference in Libya is reminiscent of recent involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Rebel fighters Libya
Libya is not likely to emerge as a client state no matter how long the NATO bombardment goes on [EPA]

NATO’s political mission “should swiftly identify and nurture a national opposition and plot the path for a post-conflict transition to democracy, probably under UN auspices”, or so advises the Financial Times in its lead editorial, “Plotting the Way Forward”.

Both the title and the advice are borrowed from a past era: the post-Afghanistan invasion strategy that plotted the nurturing, financing, and supporting of Hamid Karzai’s – the former US corporate oil executive – bid for the presidency.

Or another throwback: pre- and post-invasion of Iraq, when London and Washington plotted their invasion as they prepared the Iraq National Congress to hopefully replace Saddam’s regime.

Except that this FT editorial comes a decade later and proposes the same plan as the way forward in Libya! Where NATO powers are exploiting their military role to define, or at least influence, the post-Gaddafi alternative.

Too much of a sense of deja vu? Or the recurring nightmare of predictable Western political interference that follows military intervention using whichever pretext is available; be it ‘war on terror’, ‘weapons of mass destruction’, or ‘humanitarian intervention’? 

The Libyan National Council, transitional

Fortunately, the Council wasn’t made-in-the-USA or manufactured by another foreign power. Rather it came into existence, a month ago, at Libyans’ own initiative, soon after the winds of revolutionary change blew Libya’s way, and after its people rose to the occasion with pride and courage.

Most of the 31 council members are unknown to the media. And the few with a mandate to attain Western and international recognition have used all contacts from their previous official roles or grabbed onto Western overtures through whatever channels possible, even unsavoury French connections, to get it. 

Sources close to the council claim Western powers have opened channels of communications not in return for future Libyan concessions but rather out of concern that they would be left out of post-Gaddafi Libya and its economic opportunities.

And unlike some of the Libyan diplomats who jumped ship all too recently, and who shifted their position from loyalty to Gaddafi to passionate proponents of Western ground military intervention, the Transitional Council has insisted on a limited UN authorized intervention.

Indeed, the council insists that the Libyan people could stand up to Gaddafi on their own provided the playing field/battlefield has been levelled with the Gaddafi’s militias, either by providing them with arms or neutralising the regime’s heavy weaponry. 

Once again, the aspirations of people on the ground, ie. the Arabs, seem to count for little in Washington, Paris and London as they debate how far to go with their intervention.

While the Council is indispensable for engaging the outside world, it’s bound by and must represent the aspirations and demands of the revolutionaries fighting on the ground throughout Libya that include fighters and communities, and tribal leaders from all walks of life.

Council members who stray from their mandate in favor of Western dictates are certain to find themselves as outcasts. Even attempts at establishing a transitional or emergency government, without sufficient consultation with the base, were met with indignation and rejection last week. It ended up as no more than a symbolic emergency committee.

Libya for the Libyans

Overreaching Europeans are already clamouring to define and mortgage Libya’s future. Libya is a European, not an American problem, they claim. And hence, so is the solution and the benefits.

Unwilling to recognize Libya as an independent country that belongs to its people and part of an Arab, not Western, sphere of influence.

Incapable of conceiving the revolutionary transformations that swept through the region, especially those of Libya’s neighbors, Egypt and Tunisia, the British, French and Italians still hope for influence over the next government.

But Libya isn’t likely to emerge as a client state, or be led by client leadership, no matter how long the NATO bombardment goes on or how long Gaddafi holds onto power.

The British tested the water already when they asked for the extradition of Omar Ahmed Sudani – the man accused of killing British policewoman Yvonne Fletcher in London in 1984, but were turned down.  

Any aspiring leader who seeks a political future in post-Gaddafi Libya knows all too well that people power – not NATO power – and mandate is indispensable.

None of the Council’s senior leaders want to be identified or even remotely associated with NATO’s plans for Libya. For them, NATO’s nurturing of the Libyan opposition means only one of two: Afghanistan’s Karzai or Iraq’s Chalabi.