NATO Out for Regime Change in Libya


Gaddafi to be told to stand down or face Apache attack

guardian.co.uk

Nato has only one question as it prepares to unleash Apache helicopters against the forces of Muammar Gaddafi this week, and Captain Ali Mohammed, one of the defenders of the besieged rebel city of Misrata, can supply the answer.

If, as most pundits predict, tomorrow’s peace mission to Tripoli by South African president Jacob Zuma fails, Nato will hit the Libyan leader harder than it has ever hit him before.

British Apaches, together with French Tiger attack helicopters, will launch surgical strikes on Gaddafi’s forces besieging Misrata. They have the ability to destroy individual gun positions in the town of Zlitan, west of Misrata, with less risk to the civilian population kept there as human shields.

But there is a problem. This kind of war takes time, and time is the commodity Nato does not have as critics complain it has extended the original United Nations no-fly zone mandate into what is regime change in all but name.

The big question is whether the defenders will crumble under the onslaught, or fight with the same tenacity shown by their rebel enemy in Misrata. “If you use Apaches, it is sure they will run away,” said Mohammed. “There is a big difference between Gaddafi’s men and ourselves. I am defending my home, my family, my city. But Gaddafi’s forces do not believe in what they are doing.”

The captain has led a band of fighters in this shell-scarred city, not just surviving the onslaught but pushing pro-Gaddafi forces back to the outskirts.

Yet Gaddafi’s troops continue to rain death on the city outskirts, which shuddered under a bombardment of hundreds of mortars and missiles on Friday, fired from launchers too far back for the rebels to counter.

To respond, they need the Apaches, four of which are on the helicopter carrier HMS Ocean, cruising somewhere beyond the horizon visible from Mohammed’s position. A second vessel, the French amphibious assault carrier Tonnerre, has four equally ferocious Tiger attack helicopters, plus a dozen of the more elderly Gazelles.

All are armed with Hellfire missiles which have the ability to be launched from five miles off with pinpoint accuracy, precisely destroying gun positions and machine gun nests, leaving the local civilians unharmed. It is these weapons that the alliance hopes will finally break the will of Gaddafi’s forces.

Fast jets continue pounding targets in both Tripoli and behind the front lines. In the skies across Libya, British and American Reaper drones, which can stay on patrol for 14 hours, circle endlessly. They watch the few highways out of Tripoli day and night, using their own Hellfire missiles to destroy any vehicle they see, in effect making it impossible for Gaddafi to reinforce or supply his units at Misrata and those further west near Benghazi.

But his firepower has its limits. The UN resolution mandating Nato’s action prohibits the use of ground troops, leaving the alliance needing to win with only the lightly armed rebel troops to actually take and hold ground.

Additionally, Apaches are vulnerable; slow and ponderous, they dare not venture over enemy territory for risk of being shot down by machine gun fire. Instead they are likely to linger over rebel lines, engaging only Libyan positions in the immediate vicinity.

Given enough time, the Apaches can take out gun positions one by one, but time is not on Nato’s side. Many members, notably Germany and Turkey, were reluctant partners from the start and at the United Nations China and Russia have complained that the western alliance did not consult over the extension of a mandate designed to protect civilians into what is a full-scale war. Nato needs victory quickly by breaking the will of Gaddafi’s troops.

“Sixty per cent of Gaddafi’s army do not want to fight,” says Abdulla Ali, a rebel army spokesman in Misrata. “They are forced there. If they do not fight they are shot.”

Mohammed says Nato has instructed his forces to stay behind a “red line” marked out along the Misrata front, allowing Nato to kill anything it sees west of that line. It is an instruction he intends to obey.

His dark eyes betray the strain of fighting through the streets of his city for the past 70 days. He stands, clad in a green shirt, pale jeans and black sandals amid a sand-encrusted checkpoint of corrugated iron and a few battered plastic chairs.

Around his chest is the shoulder strap of a battered AK-47 machine gun, on his shirt a small badge with the picture of Ramadan Swehli, hero of the city’s resistance against Italian occupation nearly a century ago, superimposed over the rebel red, green and black tricolour.

However, before the Apaches are unleashed, Nato has decided to give diplomacy a final shot. The key part of this plan fell into place on Friday when Russia’s president Dmitry Medvedev announced – possibly through gritted teeth – that he now supported Nato’s demand that Gaddafi step down immediately and unconditionally.

That message will be delivered by Zuma in Tripoli tomorrow, coupled with the threat that if the Libyan leader refuses, Nato will unleash what will be the heaviest attack the alliance has mounted. Yesterday brought a clear sign of its increasing impatience with the regime as a rare daytime air strike was launched on the capital of Tripoli.

For diplomats, the problem is not with Zuma’s negotiating skills, but with the fact that the message he conveys to Gaddafi offers no carrots, only sticks. Capitulation means he faces certain death if he stays in Libya. If he flees, any country willing to take him will shortly receive demands from the UN to hand him over to the International Criminal Court, whose judges are expected to issue an arrest warrant for crimes against humanity within weeks. The chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno Ocampo, has already called for one of his sons, Saif, to be indicted, and more charges against three more members of the regime are expected to follow later this year.

In Misrata, few rebels expect the Libyan dictator to agree to step down, even in the face of Nato’s bolstered firepower.

“He will not listen – he will stay and fight,” said Osama Alfitory, a fighter from Benghazi who volunteered to come and help in Misrata, for him a brother-city. “This guy is insane. I think he believes he will win in the end.”

Nato hopes that if its renewed assault begins – which could happen as early as Tuesday night – Gaddafi’s army will start to think differently.
If South African president Jacob Zuma’s peace mission fails, Nato will deliver its heaviest blow to Libyan leader’s forces

guardian.co.uk

A rebel fighter returns fire during a battle with forces loyal to Gaddafi along the western front near Misrata. Photograph: Zohra Bensemra/Reuters

Nato has only one question as it prepares to unleash Apache helicopters against the forces of Muammar Gaddafi this week, and Captain Ali Mohammed, one of the defenders of the besieged rebel city of Misrata, can supply the answer.

If, as most pundits predict, tomorrow’s peace mission to Tripoli by South African president Jacob Zuma fails, Nato will hit the Libyan leader harder than it has ever hit him before.

British Apaches, together with French Tiger attack helicopters, will launch surgical strikes on Gaddafi’s forces besieging Misrata. They have the ability to destroy individual gun positions in the town of Zlitan, west of Misrata, with less risk to the civilian population kept there as human shields.

But there is a problem. This kind of war takes time, and time is the commodity Nato does not have as critics complain it has extended the original United Nations no-fly zone mandate into what is regime change in all but name.

The big question is whether the defenders will crumble under the onslaught, or fight with the same tenacity shown by their rebel enemy in Misrata. “If you use Apaches, it is sure they will run away,” said Mohammed. “There is a big difference between Gaddafi’s men and ourselves. I am defending my home, my family, my city. But Gaddafi’s forces do not believe in what they are doing.”

The captain has led a band of fighters in this shell-scarred city, not just surviving the onslaught but pushing pro-Gaddafi forces back to the outskirts.

Yet Gaddafi’s troops continue to rain death on the city outskirts, which shuddered under a bombardment of hundreds of mortars and missiles on Friday, fired from launchers too far back for the rebels to counter.

To respond, they need the Apaches, four of which are on the helicopter carrier HMS Ocean, cruising somewhere beyond the horizon visible from Mohammed’s position. A second vessel, the French amphibious assault carrier Tonnerre, has four equally ferocious Tiger attack helicopters, plus a dozen of the more elderly Gazelles.

All are armed with Hellfire missiles which have the ability to be launched from five miles off with pinpoint accuracy, precisely destroying gun positions and machine gun nests, leaving the local civilians unharmed. It is these weapons that the alliance hopes will finally break the will of Gaddafi’s forces.

Fast jets continue pounding targets in both Tripoli and behind the front lines. In the skies across Libya, British and American Reaper drones, which can stay on patrol for 14 hours, circle endlessly. They watch the few highways out of Tripoli day and night, using their own Hellfire missiles to destroy any vehicle they see, in effect making it impossible for Gaddafi to reinforce or supply his units at Misrata and those further west near Benghazi.

But his firepower has its limits. The UN resolution mandating Nato’s action prohibits the use of ground troops, leaving the alliance needing to win with only the lightly armed rebel troops to actually take and hold ground.

Additionally, Apaches are vulnerable; slow and ponderous, they dare not venture over enemy territory for risk of being shot down by machine gun fire. Instead they are likely to linger over rebel lines, engaging only Libyan positions in the immediate vicinity.

Given enough time, the Apaches can take out gun positions one by one, but time is not on Nato’s side. Many members, notably Germany and Turkey, were reluctant partners from the start and at the United Nations China and Russia have complained that the western alliance did not consult over the extension of a mandate designed to protect civilians into what is a full-scale war. Nato needs victory quickly by breaking the will of Gaddafi’s troops.

“Sixty per cent of Gaddafi’s army do not want to fight,” says Abdulla Ali, a rebel army spokesman in Misrata. “They are forced there. If they do not fight they are shot.”

Mohammed says Nato has instructed his forces to stay behind a “red line” marked out along the Misrata front, allowing Nato to kill anything it sees west of that line. It is an instruction he intends to obey.

His dark eyes betray the strain of fighting through the streets of his city for the past 70 days. He stands, clad in a green shirt, pale jeans and black sandals amid a sand-encrusted checkpoint of corrugated iron and a few battered plastic chairs.

Around his chest is the shoulder strap of a battered AK-47 machine gun, on his shirt a small badge with the picture of Ramadan Swehli, hero of the city’s resistance against Italian occupation nearly a century ago, superimposed over the rebel red, green and black tricolour.

However, before the Apaches are unleashed, Nato has decided to give diplomacy a final shot. The key part of this plan fell into place on Friday when Russia’s president Dmitry Medvedev announced – possibly through gritted teeth – that he now supported Nato’s demand that Gaddafi step down immediately and unconditionally.

That message will be delivered by Zuma in Tripoli tomorrow, coupled with the threat that if the Libyan leader refuses, Nato will unleash what will be the heaviest attack the alliance has mounted. Yesterday brought a clear sign of its increasing impatience with the regime as a rare daytime air strike was launched on the capital of Tripoli.

For diplomats, the problem is not with Zuma’s negotiating skills, but with the fact that the message he conveys to Gaddafi offers no carrots, only sticks. Capitulation means he faces certain death if he stays in Libya. If he flees, any country willing to take him will shortly receive demands from the UN to hand him over to the International Criminal Court, whose judges are expected to issue an arrest warrant for crimes against humanity within weeks. The chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno Ocampo, has already called for one of his sons, Saif, to be indicted, and more charges against three more members of the regime are expected to follow later this year.

In Misrata, few rebels expect the Libyan dictator to agree to step down, even in the face of Nato’s bolstered firepower.

“He will not listen – he will stay and fight,” said Osama Alfitory, a fighter from Benghazi who volunteered to come and help in Misrata, for him a brother-city. “This guy is insane. I think he believes he will win in the end.”

Nato hopes that if its renewed assault begins – which could happen as early as Tuesday night – Gaddafi’s army will start to think differently.

  1. #1 by Ingrid B. on May 31, 2011 - 5:56 pm

    All this to get one guy.. Gadaffi, the new Bin Laden.. Next we`ll be hearing he`s in a cave, or a hole in the ground..

  2. #2 by funky d on June 1, 2011 - 12:42 am

    nato out to commit mass murder, not just regime change. they are also out to destroy the whole of libya, destroy the infrastructure, steal the resources, poison the nation, and MURDER gaddafi and his whole family, as they did to saddam.

    if they manage to murder gaddafi that will not be the end of it cos then they will use the spectre of al qaeda to stay in libya and murder thousands more, keeping the people in libya under constant fear of death.

  3. #3 by Louise M on June 2, 2011 - 3:01 pm

    Disgusting. The ‘rebels’ do not have the best interests of Libyans at heart. They are opportunists taking money from whoever is handing it out.

    NATO and the US need to stop fighting this illegal war and let the will of the Libyan people work this crisis out — if that means Gaddafi back in power, so be it. It makes more sense than Qatari or European proxy forces stealing Libya from its people.

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