I wrote this on 25 March:
As predicted, the military action in Libya is going horribly wrong. The bombs and missiles are consolidating an undeserved nationalist support for Gadaffi and motivating more people to actually fight for him. The rebels are on the wrong end of ground battles and there is precious little evidence what majority opinion in Libya actually now wants. The western bombing forces are more and more involved in ground attack on pro-Gadaffi forces, and not only armour.
Our policy in Libya is in such disarray that I confess I have no idea what the policy is. I am quite certain that the “humanitarian intervention” motivation is a ruse to dupe the public in general and stupid liberals in particular. Johann Hari is not one of those, and this may be the finest thing he has ever written.
But NATO’s bombing has, as I predicted, only served to strengthen on nationalist grounds support for Gadaffi and the morale and activity of his forces. The vaunted ability of the rebels to sell oil will prove a short lived phenomenon as Gadaffi’s men sweep back through the oil installations.
Having achieved bugger all militarily, NATO are now out-manoeuvred comprehensively on the diplomatic front. Jacob Zuma and the African Union have negotiated a ceasefire deal and transitional government arrangement with Gadaffi, which Gadaffi has accepted and the rebels have refused.
Now, it is essential to bear in mind – which nobody in power is doing – that the aims of UNSCR 1973, from which NATO draws its mandate for the no fly zone and dubious claim of a mandate for attacking Gadaffi’s forces, are a ceasefire and a negotiated settlement. These are operative paragraphs 1 and 2:
1. Demands the immediate establishment of a ceasefire and a complete end to violence and all attacks against, and abuses of, civilians;
2. Stresses the need to intensify efforts to find a solution to the crisis which responds to the legitimate demands of the Libyan people and notes the decisions of the Secretary-General to send his Special Envoy to Libya and of the Peace and Security Council of the African Union to send its ad hoc High-Level Committee to Libya with the aim of facilitating dialogue to lead to the political reforms necessary to find a peaceful and sustainable solution;
Nowhere does UNSCR 1973 mandate regime change or insist that Gadaffi must go as the end result of negotiations. If Gadaffi has accepted an AU-brokered ceasfire, then he is in compliance with the UN Resolution. If the rebels have refused such a ceasefire, then they are in breach of UNSCR 1973 and it is they who are endangering civilians. It is the rebels who NATO should be attacking. Perhaps they will work out that it would be much better if they stopped attacking anybody, but I doubt it. They have chosen a side in this civil war, and military macho will propel them to continue to try to make that side win.
Let me be plain – I have no time for Gadaffi and would have been delighted if he had been overthrown by moral force, or even with a little violence, by his people, as in Egypt and Tunisia. But what we have now is a civil war in which it is by no means clear that Gadaffi’s opponents – including blood drenched senior ex Gadaffi regime members motivated by opportunism and possibly ethnicity – are going to put “good guys” in power.
NATO have no mandate to take sides in a civil war and propel their forces to victory. The aim of UNSCR 1973 is a ceasefire and negotiation.
There is no doubt that the CIA and MI6 are actively strengthening the determination of the rebels to resist a negotiated settlement, with promises of continued NATO air support and training, spotting, intelligence and other military assistance. They are therefore in direct violation of UNSCR 1973.
One sad thing in this is the complete lack of moral stature of the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon. He is mandated in UNSCR 1973 to be arranging negotiations, and those who enforce the no-fly zone are obliged under UNSCR 1973 to consult and cooperate with him. In fact he has done almost nothing and possesses absolutely none of the moral stature or personal charisma of Kofi Annan. Moon has no interest in anything but his stature and perks (UN staff call him the vainest Secretary General ever), and in making many millions from networking with the West for his retirement employment.
As NATO argue with complete illegality in Libya, I would call Moon the dog that did not bark. But that would be an insult to dogs.
All of which leaves Cameron, Sarkozy and Obama wedded to a policy which is completely contrary to UNSCR 1973, illegal, and still failing on the ground. They face a gigantic loss of face which can only be reversed by boots on the ground. My FCO sources tell me that they are already considering the officially unsanctioned provision of mercenary forces to the rebels. I asked whether there had been any discussion with Tim Spicer, and received a “I couldn’t possibly comment” response.