Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
July 20, 2011

A False Rebel Victory In Libya

Since last Thursday and with very active support from NATO air forces the eastern rebels in Libya have tried to conquer the oil city Brega. At one point they even claimed victory and that they were in "full control" of the city. But that does not seem to have been true at all. Instead the rebels seem to be losing that fight:

Rebel forces have been pushing to seize the frontline town, which is home to an oil refinery and terminal, for nearly a week, but they say minefields planted by Gaddafi's forces have slowed the advance.

They took positions 10km east of the oil port, working to clear the mines so they can move forward.

"Maybe within three or four days we will solve this problem of mines and we will be in Brega," said rebel spokesman Ahmed Bani.

Good luck with that.

As any military knows a minefield, like any military engineering barrier, can only hold when it is monitored and defended and it seems that is exactly what Gaddhafi loyals are doing. A reporter from the LA Times who is in the area observes:

[F]ighters described a rocket barrage by forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Kadafi that ripped through a rebel unit trying to advance into the city. The advance halted as rebels treated and evacuated casualties, they said.

The insurgents said government forces had flown rebel flags from some rocket launchers and vehicles as a ploy to close in on rebel units.

The rebels are trying to clear mine fileds in the open desert where the artillery of the loyals can reach them. They do not have armored vehicles to protect them against artillery and have no mechanical mine clearing equipment. The result is, very predictably, high casualties:

The latest rebel assault on Port Brega, which began Thursday, had left at least 32 antigovernment fighters dead and 291 others wounded, according to the hospital's running tally.

That is about a battalion worth of troops dead or wounded. I doubt that after these losses the rebels will continue a sustained assault.

In the west, the rebels had captured the small town of Qawalish and thoroughly looted it. As C.J Chivers reports, they also seem to have committed further war crimes and are trying to cover them up:

Last week we reported about the five dead men in the uniforms of Qaddafi soldiers found rotting in a cement basin near Qawalish. [...] Since those reports, questions surrounding what happened to these men have found traction among other news agencies, and reports from other journalists are forthcoming. And since then the site has been bulldozed.
Over the weekend, upon noticing as we drove past the basin that the site had been dismantled and bulldozed, we tried to stop to learn more. Our driver refused, announcing that he was under orders from the rebel military leadership not to allow us near the site.

The five dead soldiers were tortured and beheaded.

Despite some resistance from the U.S. France has repeated the offer for Gaddhafi to stay in Libya:

"One of the possibilities is that he (Gadhafi) remains in Libya," Alain Juppe told French news channel LCI. "But on the condition that he stays away from Libyan political life. This is what we are waiting for before we begin the political process for a cease-fire."

One wonders how that would work. Do the French really expect that everything would be well and fine if only Gaddhafi steps down? What about those people who actually support him? What about the disunity in the rebel ranks? What about their crimes? I have yet to see answers to those questions.

Wouldn't it be better to just declare that a mistake has been made, to simply end the war and leave the cleanup to Gaddhafi?

Posted by b on July 20, 2011 at 13:47 UTC | Permalink



oh and of course there is this
"Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov began talks on Wednesday with his Libyan counterpart Abdul Ati al-Obeidi in Moscow.

The sides are expected to discuss the current situation in Libya, as well as the African Union and UN mediation efforts.

The Russian-Libyan talks come after Lavrov's recent statement that Moscow recognized the Transitional National Council of Libya (TNC) as a negotiating partner, but not as the only legitimate representative of the Libyan people."

Posted by: somebody | Jul 20 2011 15:46 utc | 1

Wouldn't it be better to just declare that a mistake has been made, to simply end the war and leave the cleanup to Gaddhafi?

Since the rebels have established the new Central Bank of Libya and a new national oil company as well, I can see why they just won't feel safe with Gaddafi around.

Posted by: Genie | Jul 20 2011 17:55 utc | 2

OT, but very interesting: Drones over Iran shot down -- Iran giving Russians a look at the remains.... Note the plural.

And they're US drones.

Uh, is this an act of war on the part of President Nobel Peace Prize (and Destroyer of Social Safety Net Programs)? Or...? Just a screw up?

How would the US react to foreign drones over our airspace?

"Russian experts requested to see these drones and they looked at both the downed drones and the models made by the guards through reverse engineering," the official IRNA news agency quoted General Hajizadeh as saying. General Hajizadeh did not elaborate on the number or type of unmanned US aircraft it had shot down, or when or where it had done so.

Iran had announced on January 2 that its forces had downed two US drones after they "violated" Iranian-controlled territory.

It later said it would put the aircraft on public display.

"The planes that were shot down are among the most modern US navy drones and have a long-range capability," the Fars news agency quoted the commander of the guards' naval forces, Ali Fadavi, as saying at the time.

Posted below by mistake.

Posted by: jawbone | Jul 20 2011 21:19 utc | 3

somebody, Links to Bolton should come with a warning, por favor. Some people like me really don't want to give his ilk a click.

Posted by: Eureka Springs | Jul 20 2011 21:20 utc | 4

the Libayn army has NOT laid any mines..who says it has? the insurgents!
as for Obama giving Libya to the russians! LOL since when did Obomber own Libya!? he might think he does,but 5 million Libyans would disagree

Posted by: brian | Jul 20 2011 21:49 utc | 5

Eureka Springs, that was the point. Things are really bad, when people like Bolton begin to get close to making sense.

Posted by: somebody | Jul 20 2011 22:22 utc | 6

well, since we gave Iraq to Iran, I don't see why we can't give Libya to Russia.

Posted by: Susan | Jul 21 2011 0:00 utc | 7

Wouldn’t it be better to just declare that a mistake has been made, to simply end the war and leave the clean-up to Gaddhafi?

No, some of the NATO and western leaders must be held accountable and face trials. Huge compensation similar to what gets offered for the Jews must also be paid, free EU passports to all the dead relatives etc.

Posted by: hans | Jul 21 2011 10:02 utc | 8

Wouldn’t it be better to just declare that a mistake has been made, to simply end the war and leave the clean-up to Gaddhafi?

No, some of the NATO and western leaders must be held accountable and face trials. Huge compensation similar to what gets offered for the Jews must also be paid, free EU passports to all the dead relatives etc.

Posted by: hans | Jul 21 2011 10:02 utc | 9

Thanks b, another in a long line of reasons that we should not be involved Libya. (or anyplace else for that matter)

Posted by: joseph | Jul 21 2011 12:03 utc | 10

@brian - the Libayn army has NOT laid any mines.

It has - there were several reports on this (for example here. And that is totally legitimate and okay. Mines are a very good way to keep ones back free of enemy forces. While fighting in the desert that is very necessary as the enemy usually can very easy simply drive around one's position and attack from the rear.

To get a "feel" for desert warfare I again recommend the memoirs of a New Zealand brigadier who fought in the war in Libya 1941/42: Infantry Brigadier chapter 7,8,10++. It is usually a very bloody mess in a quite adverse environment that holds lots of surprises.

Posted by: b | Jul 21 2011 12:37 utc | 11

of course b., it is not ok to mine your country (or any country) as it will make the landscape unsafe for everybody for years to come.

it is also not ok to kill your country's soldiers and policemen, as they are citizens just like you. same applies to having your country's infrastructure destroyed.

it is ok to fight against oppression and dictatorship. you 'd better made sure however, if you decided to use violence, that it would be fast, organized and that the majority of the people (the army and the policemen) were with you, either that or keep it peaceful and be prepared to suffer yourself only. it would be wise to make sure the people who fight with you actually shared most of your ideas as otherwise you might get killed by a different dictatorship at some stage.

if you decide for civil war with foreign intervention, understand that you will split your country and will lose all souvereignty you should have. if you cannot defend your resources, i.e. oil fields, now or in the future, just forget about it.

basically all of these wars are completely pointless, except for individual profiteers. ask people stuck in mini statelets in the former Eastern Block, ask Koreans, Vietnamese, Iraquis.
ask people in the empires. arguably, the US would be much better off now without these wars. in the case of Libya there actually is a huge amount of wealth to fight about, at present, everybody makes sure nobody gets it.

I guess Libyans know that, as the official number of casualties suggests that most of the fighting is done for show and most people seem to be holding back. I also guess that Libyans are pretty cynical by now about foreign interventionists and their "help".

as a foreign interventionist you should make sure that you end up with the stronger party of the conflict. presumably they put the whole of the Middle East and Africa into their calculations, but even then ...

Posted by: somebody | Jul 21 2011 13:27 utc | 12

Re: somebody's Bolton link @ 1 and "making sense" comment @ 6.
Bolton's anti-Obama rant suggests he's in panic mode.

But in the last four months neither America nor its NATO allies have successfully identified and strengthened (quietly or otherwise), a truly significant cadre of pro-Western voices in Libya.

This failure increasingly risks that an ultimately victorious opposition will simply replace one rogue regime with another.

The "replace one rogue regime with another" conjecture is pure bluster. What is important is that Bolton wouldn't admit, in public, that there are no significant (aka credible) pro-West voices in Libya unless it was already a common topic of conversation in the White House or Pentagon, or his favourite spin tank. As far as I can discover, no-one has told Bolton to shut up and he hasn't retracted his remarks.

Something is going badly wrong for US-NATO in Libya and Bolton is convinced that a Russian diplomatic presence there will only worsen the situation.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Jul 24 2011 18:55 utc | 13 need to read your own posts:
'Here, below, is a view of some of the nearly 50 anti-tank mines and 200+ anti-personnel mines the rebels retrieved from the dirt and have set aside, hopefully for eventual destruction. (It’s not immediately clear how the rebels will dispose of these mines. Though the rebel leadership has pledged not to use mines in this war, '

source for this claim? the insurgents(glossed by chivers as 'rebels)..sorry but thats not satisfactory eviodence at all.

Posted by: brian | Jul 24 2011 22:34 utc | 14

as for their pledge not to use them...LOL would you buy a used car from those guys?

Posted by: brian | Jul 24 2011 22:34 utc | 15

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