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Geopolitics

The West Must Hold Its Nerve In Libya

Editorial: a Le Figaro correspondent in Libya says the anti-Gaddafi coalition should not give in to gloom or impatience. The rebels still enjoy widespread popular support - but they need help from the West.

In Benghazi, people holding the Qatari, American, French, British and Italian flags
In Benghazi, people holding the Qatari, American, French, British and Italian flags
Adrien Jaulmes

It's now been two month since the Libyan revolution began, threatening to take down a 40-year-old dictatorship. One month has passed since the military intervention by the international coalition began, halting Muammar Gaddafi's forces just as they were about to overrun Benghazi. Still, this fast flowing string of events seems to pass ever so slowly when put up against the standard of our fast-moving, media-driven societies.

Criticism is fusing from all quarters. There are fears that the operation might already be reaching a stalemate, and that nasty Al Qaeda agents might be infiltrating the Libyan revolutionaries' camp. Skeptics are brandishing the spectre of the Iraqi debacle. Impatient contemporary media give the impression that there is no exit to the allies' venture. Analysts are mistrustful of uncertain and unpredictable military operations, overcome as always by events that do not follow the usual script.

Gaddafi has been feistier and more resilient that anyone believed he would be. His army is yet to lose its confidence or willingness to fight, despite the losses induced by NATO's bombs. The world's most skillfull blackmailer, the mercurial tyrant who rules his country at the head of a greedy clan, joyfully clobbering his own people while claiming its affection, is still in power and is not giving any sign of wanting to leave.

On the ground, however, the situation is a lot more fluid than it seems, and nothing indicates that the conflict should turn in Gaddafi's favor. The Libyan uprising -- different as it may be from the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions -- is enjoying large popular support. The movement may cruelly lack well trained leaders, and its fighters may not be very efficient, but this is no crime. Nor can anyone blame Libya's most conservative fringes from uniting with forces from the country's most liberal elements in the joint pursuit of freedom?

The rebels have conquered much of the eastern part of the country, and NATO has so far protected them from the regime's vicious revenge. Benghazi, Tobruk, Beida and the entire Cyrenaica region are now administered by popular committees that could of course work better, but are a hundred times preferable to a state built on extortion. The idea that Al Qaeda is part of the uprising should be dismissed as pure fantasy. There are, to be sure, many devout Muslims in Libya, just as in any of its neighboring countries. Libya also has its fair share of salafists and jihadists, just as in any of its neighboring countries. But the Libyan revolution started and remains a popular movement whose goal is a full-fledged democracy that has nothing to do with the international jihad.

The brave resistance put up in Misrata against Gaddafi's siege and bombs is a lesson for the entire Arab world, usually so clannish and individualistic. The way in which the Libyan civil society has organized itself in the liberated areas is almost as symbolically important as the social utopia born in Cairo's Tahrir square.

If Libya's rebels are to escape Gaddafi's repression, it is of the utmost importance that NATO's military operations carry on. Dictators don't usually show any signs of weakness before collapsing, and Gaddafi's resilience should not be seen as an indicator of his capacity to cling to power indefinitely. But the international coalition must offer proof of its own resolve.

Read the original article in French.

Photo - Al Jazeera

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The apartment leveled by a Russian rocket

Cover Images via ZUMA
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