The split among the Libyan rebels

The split among the Libyan rebels


The further the fight between the Libyan rebels and the troops of Colonel M. Gaddafi continues, the more there are signs of disorder and vacillation in the ranks of the rebels, which have far from random roots.


Firstly, the rebels are, in fact, a partisan army consisting of unsuited tribal groups, united on the basis of hatred for the regime, but having a lot of contradictions among themselves. These groups are not characterized by strict submission to a single command, they are poorly controlled and constantly in conflict.

For the time being, the contradictions had a latent form, but they became aggravated when the West recognized the so-called Transitional National Council (PNS) and indicated the possibility of its access to Libya’s frozen bank holdings. Despite the fact that this money could only be used for the purchase of arms, a serious struggle broke out in this very, to put it mildly, “colorful” body for the right of the “first night”. All its members understood what enrichment could bring access to the country's giant assets. Naturally, this fight could not escape the attention of Western representatives.

Even worse is the case with the authority of the rebels as honest fighters against the dictatorship for "democratic ideals." Their reprisals against civilians from the tribes loyal to the government raise suspicions that if they win, the country will fall into a conglomeration of the warring territories and return to the state that has tormented Libya for many centuries.

In recent weeks, the rebels carried out acts of genocide in the western mountain villages and the coastal city of Misurata. They ruthlessly dealt with the villagers for the fact that their tribes support Gaddafi, robbed houses, devastated entire villages and suburbs.

However, the decisive moment in the destruction of the internal unity of the opposition was the assassination of the commander of the rebel army, General Abdul Fattah Yunus. And no matter how the PNS would like to blame this act on Gaddafi’s secret services, it has now become obvious that this was the work of a rival rebel group that had avenged Yunus for his previous work even in the Gaddafi security service.

After the head of the powerful Yunus tribe (the Obeidi tribe) threatened to take revenge on the organizers of the murder, a crisis began in the PNS itself, resulting in mass layoffs of possibly participating members.

It should be noted that the Obeidi tribe is the most cohesive military force and harbors around itself similar combat-ready groups. In comparison, the rest of the rebels are more like a crowd of armed hooligans calling themselves “the police”.

NATO is very concerned about the growing tension between these two groups, although they are not inclined to give this problem wide publicity.

In September, the bloc will once again decide on the extension of the air operation in Libya, and the squabbles of the opposition will not add chances to supporters of its continuation.

Moreover, the dissatisfaction of its own public with the high costs in Libya against the background of the global financial crisis is already growing rapidly. This discontent will be aggravated by the fact that the rebels, who were initially perceived as freedom fighters, are becoming more and more like a gang of brigands who fought among themselves.

In this regard, the leadership of the block got a very difficult problem. It understands that without air support, the rebel military operations are doomed. As soon as the NATO planes disappear from the sky of Libya, the scales will swing towards the government forces and the situation will quickly change.

So far, none of their serious progress has been accomplished without a massive air cover.


For example, last week, the rebels attacked three strategically important cities in Libya: Brega, a port with oil terminals, the city of Zawiya on the outskirts of Tripoli and the city of Charian - the gateway to southern Libya. All these attacks did not lead to a decisive success, but they would have been unthinkable if the NATO fighter-bombers did not hang in the sky.

According to international experts, the conflict that has flared up among the rebels has already received its own dynamic and is potentially working for Colonel Gaddafi.

Western politicians, who yesterday unreservedly supported the PNS, are thinking today: will this support bring even more problems to Libya and discredit the short-sighted policy of the West, which was led by Sarkozy? After all, the danger that the victorious "democrats" will not stop before the massacre of supporters of M. Gaddafi, became obvious.

Their moral character has lost its old purity and has been fundamentally undermined by unacceptable reprisals against the civilian population.

However, the stakes have been made, and NATO will be forced to continue the operation, at least in September. This is evidenced by the commentary of the Assistant Secretary of State for the Middle East, Jeffrey Feltman. He describes the situation in soothing tones and says that fears about the strife between the rebels are exaggerated. Of course, there are disturbing reports from Benghazi and from the battle line, but he is confident that the PNS will cope with the situation. The Council has already ordered the cessation of reprisals against the population among the tribes loyal to the government in the mountains and described the shuffle in the PNS as an "unprecedented step towards its transparency and accountability." After a number of members of the Yunus clan began hunting for opponents, PNS managed to convince them to stop the shooting and entrust themselves to the investigation, which is now being conducted. Feltman praised their ability to stop and said that it deserves to be transferred to the “next class of the democratic school.”

True, the representative of the State Department did not say what to do with the fact that the PNS consists of the former ardent opponents of M. Gaddafi and his former confidants, who recently stood on opposite sides of the barricades.

However, the main problem of the opposition is only approaching: against the background of contradictions in the leadership, the commanders of individual groups begin to depart from the central command and act on their own, based on their tribal and local interests.

Will the new phase of the NATO air operation help them?
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