The demise of Libyan dictator M. Gaddafi was a process that spanned over several months this year. As soon as the ‘Arab spring’ had started and the first authoritarian regime had fallen in the region, in Tunisia, unaware of the dormant volcano he was sitting on, Gaddafi set himself up as a guru of the ‘Arab street’, advising the ‘residents’ to be good and grateful to the leaders they had. Later on, as the volcano was starting to irrupt in his own country, he engaged into a genocide war against the society he had been ruling with an iron hand for over 40 years. The international community immediately moved to take the measures it deemed appropriate. In March 2011, the UN Security Council sanctioned a no-fly zone operation to be conducted by NATO, which initiated the military support of the rebel forces fighting the dictator. For several months, NATO organised air raids on Gaddafi’s loyalists’ ’support points and took the political measures to ensure a non chaotic transition to the post-Gaddafi era.
The liberation of Tripoli a few weeks ago was announcing the end of Gaddafi era. The dictator took refuge in his home town Sirte where he continued his resistance fighting with support from the few loyal forces that were left. Last Thursday he was captured and killed under still unclear circumstances.
It is still a subject of investigation what determined Gaddafi not to negotiate a withdrawal into exile, a proposal that had initially been made to him and that would have prevented him from appearing before the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity, but rather to stay on in Libya even after some of the members of his family had found shelter overseas. Did he obtain the promise of some foreign forces to intervene to his defence or to implement a plan to keep him ruling on just some of the Libyan territory – meaning secession and extension of the civil war, or something of the kind? What could have made Gaddafi continue his hopeless resistance?
Significant information on the capturing and killing of the Libyan leader is already on the market. German magazine Der Spiegel has reasons to believe that the intelligence regarding Gaddafi’s hideaway and convoy came to the allied forces and from there to the rebels via German intelligence services that had developed a network of informants in Northern Africa. Once the military had got the tip, the convoy was bombarded by French jets and Gaddafi was injured, apprehended and executed by the rebels guided to his hideaway. The German magazine wonders if Germany’s support for the anti-dictatorship fighting forces in Libya was Berlin’s way to make up to its allies for its abstention from the vote on the UN Security Council resolution authorising the NATO intervention. On the other hand, the same magazine wonders ‘whether the BND (German intelligence service) is partially responsible for Gaddafi’s death.’
But, irrespective of the answer to such inciting questions, there is another one that poses the highest interest: What is the future of Libya?
Selected international affairs observers are already asking whether this country with such important oil reserves and with a major weight on the international crude market could become into a huge Somalia, therefore a huge ungovernable black hole. An analysis published by American Foreign Policy magazine the day after the death of the Libyan dictator was finding that ‘There’s no question that Gaddafi’s demise opens up countless opportunities for Libyans to proceed along the path of determining their own future. But openness also brings risks. Gaddafi’s son, Saif al-Islam, once warned Europe that Libya would turn into a Somalia on the Mediterranean if European forces didn’t come to the regime’s aid. That hasn’t happened yet, but it still could.’
NATO has already announced the termination of its operations in Libya at the end of the month, meaning that, without a contrary decision being made, it is virtually excluded that the North-Atlantic Alliance may engage in a ‘post-conflict rehabilitation’, the type of work it has specialised in over the recent years.
On the other hand, the future of Libya is of utmost importance to the international community as a whole, as the country’s domestic stability will give the international market access to the quantities of Libyan oil regularly available and will keep its price to normal levels. This last fact has a major impact on the pace of recovery of the global economy harmed by the international economic and financial crisis. Analysts expect it will take Libya years before it can deliver the quantities of crude it was delivering before the conflict. Some views suggest Libya now produces approximately 350,000 barrels of oil per day, which, compared to almost zero barrels at the most critical point of the rebels vs. Gaddafi clash, is deemed to be good performance. Most of that oil goes to Europe, with Italian company ENI being the biggest operator in Libya. On the other hand, bringing back Libyan oil production to the 1.6 M barrels before the conflict is truly a huge task. One that, to be fulfilled, requires a good solution to the already very complicated political situation – numerous rebel leaders, very prominent in the battlefield, are now competing to get to the buttons – and this is certainly the kind of process that will take some time to complete. If we are talking about years, as commentators appreciate, or just months, as leaders of the new political establishment say, is still to be determined. We are inclined to believe German commentators Paul Sankey with Deutsche Bank: ’We believe we will struggle to resume previous 1.6 million barrel-per-day levels even through 2014.’