TUESDAY: Twenty four
hours ago, the streets of Tripoli were full of the sounds of rejoicing.
Now they are filled with the sounds of gunfire. The real battle for
Tripoli has commenced.
hours ago, the streets of Tripoli were full of the sounds of rejoicing.
Now they are filled with the sounds of gunfire. The real battle for
Tripoli has commenced.
confused and contradictory reports from Libyan capital indicate that
what we saw in the last 24 hours was not the end but only the beginning
of the battle for the capital. The surprising ease and rapidity with
which the rebel forces entered the heart of the city disguised the fact
that the enemy forces had not been liquidated and still retained the
ability to stage a counterattack.
The BBC correspondent says
fighting in Tripoli has restarted, with the sounds of gunfire and
grenades. Gaddafi forces have been reinforced and some rebel supply
lines into the city have come under attack. It is clear loyalists are
fighting back in some areas and many casualties are being reported.
position seems to be that the rebels remain in possession of large
parts of the city, including Green Square. But pro-Gaddafi forces are
attempting to launch a counter attack. Yesterday I considered just such a
possibility, but on the basis of the information then available, did
not think it the most likely variant. Now we see that, despite the
rebels’ rapid advance on Tripoli, which was a severe setback, Gaddafi
still has forces he can rely on to continue fighting. He showed this
last night, when a government counterattack inflicted severe casualties
on the rebels who were obviously taken by surprise.
were reported in Mansoura between government forces and opposition
fighters, with Gaddafi men using mortars and heavy weapons. The source
of the attacks is Bab al-Aziziyah, a large compound where Libyan leader
Muammar Gaddafi is thought to be hiding. It has been the focal point of
fighting in Tripoli and rebel leaders have said that they do not expect
the huge complex to fall easily.
A woman called Danya, who is in
Dubai and has family in Tripoli says they are telling her that "snipers
are everywhere, and Gaddafi forces keep counter-attacking. As soon as
you think your neighbourhood is free, they’ll start shooting from
Who are these men who are shooting people in cold blood
from the rooftops? Entrenched in his fortress, Gaddafi has surrounded
himself with a kind of Praetorian Guard. Some will be fanatical Gaddafi
supporters, willing to follow their leader to the end. Others will be
foreign mercenaries, mainly from African countries, who have
participated in acts of repression against the population and who fear
the fate that may befall them if the rebels are victorious. They fight
on because they have nothing to lose by fighting and, they believe,
everything to lose by surrendering.
Fog of propaganda
all the fog of propaganda, claim and counter-claim, it is difficult to
assess the real position on the ground. Rebel leader Mustafa Abdul Jalil
is claiming that his fighters were in control of 95% of the city. But
the BBC’s Matthew Price, in Tripoli, says it is still unclear who is
winning the battle for the capital. Both sides say they control most of
NATO spokesman Col Roland Lavoie says it is difficult
to know exactly which areas are still controlled by Col Gaddafi’s
forces: "Each side is claiming victories, and of course clarity is the
first casualty in that conflict, because we were bombarded with a
variety of information. I would say, globally speaking, it is clear that
the Gaddafi regime has lost its grip and control over the capital," he
told the BBC Radio Four Today programme.
The most astonishing
report was that Gaddafi’s son, Saif al-Islam, has appeared in Tripoli,
after repeated reports of his arrest yesterday. A BBC correspondent said
Saif al-Islam seemed confident and full of adrenalin. He turned up in
the early hours of Tuesday at the Rixos Hotel, where many international
journalists are based, claiming that the government had "broken the
backbone" of the rebel offensive.
UK International Development
Secretary Andrew Mitchell blamed confusion over Saif al-Islam’s apparent
arrest on the "fog of warfare": "There was a lot of confusion, there
are quite long lines of communication involved. It’s inevitable in this
situation, with the warfare going on as it is, that there will be some
Confusion is the word of the moment in Libya. In a
civil war propaganda plays an even bigger role than in normal warfare.
And here the deafening din of propaganda makes it all but impossible to
ascertain the real position. It seems that in Libya, what counts most is
not the number of bullets fired but the level of noise generated.
Claim and counter-claim
Price, the BBC News correspondent in Tripoli asked Saif al-Islam
Gaddafi where he saw the balance of power in Tripoli: "We gave them a
hard time, so we are winning," he told me. He seemed pumped full of
adrenalin and brimming with confidence.
But Libyan opposition TV
immediately dismissed the claim of Saif al-Islam that the government had
"broken the backbone" of the rebel offensive. Reacting to the
statement, one of the presenters on the Doha-based rebel TV station
said: "It does not matter if Saif al-Islam appears on TV channels or
not… The important thing is that Tripoli’s youths freed the capital in
less than 48 hours. It is just a matter of hours until youths arrest
the whole ruling family."
Both claims are obviously exaggerated
for propaganda purposes. The population of Tripoli is divided. Many came
out to celebrate with the rebels on Green Square. BBC correspondent
Rupert Wingfield-Hayes writes:
“Exactly what is going
on in the city is very hard to say. It is best to describe the city as
atomised into different neighbourhoods supporting different sides in the
"We were talking to locals last night who welcomed the
rebels and who have joined the rebellion, and they said they are
defending their neighbourhoods. I think what they’re doing is they’re
defending their street, their neighbourhoods, they’re barricading
themselves in, they’ve got weapons, but they don’t really control
anything more than the street that they live in."
support Gaddafi and fear of reprisals from the rebels will encourage
them to fight. The sudden appearance of Saif al-Islam will embolden them
further. The Gaddafi forces are better armed and better coordinated
than the rebels are. The units that are defending the area around
Gaddafi’s compound and around the Rixos hotel in the middle of Tripoli
are very well equipped.
The whereabouts of Gaddafi himself remain
unknown. He has not been seen in public for months, although he has
broadcast audio messages from undisclosed locations. It seems likely he
is still at the compound of Bab al-Aziziyah. However, despite the
last-minute rally of his forces, the outlook for Gaddafi is bleak.
Zawiyah, Zuwara, Gheryan, Al-Aziziyah and Brega have fallen in less than
two weeks. Tripoli was already cut off from the rest of Libya. Now
Gaddafi only controls the area around his bunker. How long can that
The NTC has admitted that the fight is not over — not only
in Tripoli but in other areas of the country as well. It is believed
that some loyalist forces could enter Tripoli from the city of Zlitan,
and loyalist strongholds remain in the cities of Sirte and Sabha. Sirte
is Gaddafi’s hometown and, like Sabha, is a bastion of the Gaddafi
tribe, which has relied upon the Libyan leader’s reign for its
These will be the last groups of loyalists to
surrender. They could even provide a basis for the continuation of the
civil war for a time – but it would be on the lines of a guerrilla war
or a terrorist campaign rather than a full-blown war. The fact is that,
whatever happens in the next days, Gaddafi has lost power in Libya.
The international situation
the situation is even worse for Muammar Gaddafi, deserted by one state
after another. Oman is only the latest Arab nation to break off
relations with Gaddafi’s regime in favour of the National Transitional
Council. It has recognised Libya’s rebel-led council as the country’s
legitimate international representatives. Gaddafi is completely isolated
internationally. Even China has said that the matter must be settled by
the will of the Libyan people, an oblique way of recognizing the new
South Korea said it was considering sending money to
Libyan rebels, while Seoul shares in construction firms soared amid
growing hopes for resumption of their projects in Libya. Seoul’s Yonhap News agency reported South Korea planned to provide up to one million U.S. dollars in cash for humanitarian purposes to the rebels.
government has provided humanitarian aid to the rebels through
international organisations, and we are considering providing a certain
amount of money from the humanitarian aspect on the bilateral basis,"
Shin Maeng-ho, the foreign ministry spokesman, told a news briefing on
The turmoil in Libya disrupted South Korean firms’
construction projects and led them to evacuate thousands of workers. But
now Seoul shares in construction firms rose amid growing hopes the
civil war in Libya may be drawing to a close and rebuilding projects in
the country could resume. Hyundai Engineering Construction gained 8.82
per cent and Daewoo Engineering Construction surged 8.58 per cent when
Tuesday’s stock market closed. Seoul analysts said the post-Gaddafi
regime would need to build new roads and houses, which could boost
infrastructure demand for Korean firms. As the Englsh proverb goes: It
is an ill wind that blows nobody any good.
Iran today also
congratulated the Libyan people, saying the rebellion there indicated
the necessity of submitting to the "legitimate demands of the people."
"The popular uprising in Libya once again showed that submitting to the
legitimate demands of the people and respecting their opinions is an
undeniable necessity," the statement said. Whether the government in
Teheran was itself willing to do the same was not made clear.
so, In Washington, London and Paris they are worried. In place of the
triumphant tone yesterday, their latest statements are more cautious.
Suddenly victory over Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s regime is "not
complete" French officials warned on Tuesday, as Paris’ joy over the
rebel forces’ entry into Tripoli gave way to renewed caution.
said yesterday that victory was not complete," insisted Foreign Minister
Alain Juppe, who on Monday had written – in a blog post entitled "End
of a dictatorship" – "The goal is being achieved." Defence Minister
Gerard Longuet, who on Monday had declared: "The regime has fallen, the
turnaround is total", said on France Inter radio: "In Libya the
situation is not totally at an end, far from it."
confirmed that there were still pockets of resistance by pro-Gaddafi
fighters and that combat was continuing, holding out the possibility of
more NATO air strikes. Juppe told Europe 1 radio that officials from
France, Britain, Turkey, Germany, the United States and several Arab
countries had held a conference call on Monday to discuss their ongoing
There are reports of new NATO air attacks on
Gaddafi’s compound, although these have proved ineffective in the past.
The imperialists are afraid that the renewed fighting will radicalize
the situation even more and strengthen the hand of the rebel fighters at
the expense of the “moderates” in the NTC. They are desperate to bring
about an end to the fighting in order to allow a speedy return to
“normality” – that is, to the normal rule of big business and
If the mood has changed in
London and Paris, it has experienced an even bigger swing on the streets
of Tripoli. Yesterday’s mood of euphoria has given way to a very
different mood. Al Jazeera’s Jacky Rowland, reporting live from the
rebel stronghold of Benghazi, said: "Now we are seeing accusations,
doubts, and confusions”.
The rebels who have done all the fighting
are suspicious that their self-appointed leaders in the National
Transitional Council are manoeuvring behind their backs to do a deal
with the old regime. One correspondent says: "We are starting to see now
the resentment. I think this is going to put the pressure on the NTC
that if wants to be part of a new Libya it going to have to get over to
Tripoli pretty quickly. Because if it turns up later, the people on the
ground will feel they own this revolution and will likely say ‘who are
you, we’ve done all the hard work go away’. This is a crucial time for
"It is going to be interesting to see how the NTC
explains this debacle and how it seeks to reinforce and strengthen these
alliances and able the rebels to get to Tripoli itself," she said.
questions need to be answered. How was it possible for the rebels to
enter Tripoli virtually unopposed? How do we explain the strange
pantomime of the supposed detention of Gaddafi’s sons followed swiftly
by their equally strange “liberation”? A complete mystery surrounds the
question of what became of the Libyan army’s Khamis Brigade. Stratfor
“Commanded by Gadhafi’s son Khamis, the
brigade purportedly was the strongest line of defense protecting the
capital, yet on Aug. 21 the forces put up almost no resistance as rebels
pushed eastward from Zawiya. An Aug. 22 Al Arabiya report claimed that
Khamis Gadhafi was leading the brigade from the Gadhafi compound at Bab
al-Aziziya into central Tripoli, though this was never confirmed, nor
was an Al Jazeera report that his corpse had been discovered alongside
the body of Libyan intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senoussi in Tripoli.
Khamis’ whereabouts, like those of his father and several other
brothers, are unclear.”
The distrust of the fighters
towards the NTC is completely justified. The gentlemen in Benghazi would
have preferred to arrive at an agreement with Gaddafi, which would have
handed them power on a silver plate, while providing guarantees of
immunity for Gaddafi and his family. It is not impossible that they were
in the process of reaching some such deal when the sudden eruption of
the rebel army into Tripoli upset their plans. This is only a
hypothesis, of course, but it would explain many things that otherwise
"One rebel fighter told Al Jazeera that he
suspected that maybe Saif al-Islam had bribed his way out and he accused
the NTC of cutting some sort of a deal. He asked: ‘Where is the NTC?
Why are they not in Tripoli? We are doing all the hard work, they are
back in Benghazi sunbathing or something’."
This growing mood of
criticism explains why members of the rebels’ National Transitional
Council (NTC) in Benghazi say they plan to fly to the capital on
Wednesday to start work on forming a new government. Like their bosses
in Paris and London, they are worried that the situation in Tripoli will
get out of control: that is, out of their control.
The wind of change
plans the NTC may have had to strike a deal with Gaddafi are now in
ruins. Gaddafi’s counterattack, which left many rebel fighters dead,
will have stoked the fires of anger. There are reports of large groups
of rebels heading towards Bab Aziziya being cheered by the people.
can say exactly how events will play out in the next hours or days.
Revolution is a struggle of living forces. The present conflict can be
drawn out and swing one way or the other before reaching a final
conclusion. But it is clear that the wind is of change is blowing
strongly, not only in Libya but throughout the Arab world. It is leaping
from one country to another. It laughs at frontiers and defies all
attempts to stop it. It is the most powerful wind of all – the wind of
The old regimes cannot withstand this hurricane. They can
last for a time on the basis of repression. But finally the dominoes
must fall, one after the other. This fact, long ago predicted by the
Marxists, is now beginning to be recognised by the most intelligent
bourgeois observers. In today’s edition of The Independent, Robert Fisk expressed very well the international repercussions of these events. We will close with his words:
remaining Arab potentates and tyrants have spent a second sleepless
night. How soon will the liberators of Tripoli metamorphose into the
liberators of Damascus and Aleppo and Homs? Or of Amman? Or Jerusalem?
Or of Bahrain or Riyadh? […] Ben Ali gone, Mubarak gone, Saleh more or
less gone, Gaddafi overthrown, Assad in danger, Abdullah of Jordan
still facing opposition, Bahrain’s minority Sunni monarchy still
suicidally hoping to rule for eternity. These are massive historical
“The Arab Spring is going to last for years. We better think about that. There is no ‘end of history’."
London, 23rd August, 2011.
(6:30 pm): The latest news shows that the rebels have stormed Gaddafi’s
compound and taken it. Gaddafi has disappeared, but the rebels are
raiding the armoury.