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NATO Stressed over Libyan Turmoil

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TEHRAN, April 18 (ICANA) – NATO forces continue airstrikes over Libya, while the embattled longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi and his loyal troops have not yet succumbed to the nationwide popular protests.
Monday, April 18, 2011 7:57:08 PM
NATO Stressed over Libyan Turmoil

In an interview with Press TV, former Pentagon Officer Michael Maloof from Washington shares his thoughts on the developing situation in the African nation. The following is a transcript of the interview:

Q: The situation seems to be a continual tug-of-war in Libya. Do you think that the NATO forces were right in going in there? We had the United Kingdom Prime Minister, David Cameron, saying that they are limited because of the United Nations resolution, and it limits them and makes it very difficult. They cannot enforce regime change. What is your take on the NATO and Western role in this?

Maloof: I think the fact that NATO went in initially for humanitarian purposes was essential. They (Libyan authorities) were killing a lot of totally innocent people, and when you have a regime that hangs its own entire people, it loses all its legitimacy as far as, I think, anybody is concerned. In doing that, however, there was no game plan as to what to do once they were able to stop the initial slaughter. And I have not seen anything coming forward and if you are going to try to change things in Libya, you are going to have to ultimately put boots on the ground in order to get Gaddafi out.

I do not see NATO undertaking such a commitment at this point. So once again, it becomes a Western effort against another Muslim country. I think what is going to happen, however, is that the West will have to -- hopefully in consort with other countries -- start providing assistance to the rebels; it will start providing the kind of training that they need. I just hope it is not too late, but it seems to me that Gaddafi has not only weathered the NATO storm as a war, but he has actually shown a lot more confidence in his behavior. And I think, unless they come up with something a little more imaginative, either the country gets split up or efforts will be made in a major way -- major policy shift -- to take him out.

Q: You said Gaddafi, himself, is now showing a lot more confidence. This is after NATO has gotten involved. Why would that be the case? Do you think that NATO went in without a concrete game plan and now they are stuck?

Maloof: I think that is partially the case. There does not seem to be too much enthusiasm by a number of the NATO members to commit the necessary forces to ultimately take out Gaddafi. That would mean boots on the ground. Now boots on the ground, in the traditional sense, would be military forces. Gaddafi is very smart and shrewd. He is a survivalist. There is no question about it. What he has done is that he altered his strategy to blend in more with the western civilian population, which makes it much more difficult for NATO. They are only committed to the limited mandate they have with air attacks. Gaddafi is on the ground, so he is going to take advantage of that any time he can. NATO countries are in dispute among themselves. You have the Netherlands and Spain that do not want to commit any more air force to the effort. Italy does not want to do it, as well. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that a number of these countries still have outstanding contracts with the Gaddafi regime. So they do not want to upset the economic aspects too much with the ongoing contracts.

Q: You said the NATO countries had no choice but to go in there because when a leader turns against his own people, he loses all legitimacy. We unfortunately have many leaders right now in the world that have turned on their own people, killing and imprisoning them; but NATO has not chosen to get involved. What is the difference? What is the bottom line with Libya that makes it different from many other countries that are facing similar violence by their so-called leaders?

Maloof: Each country is different. I know in the case of the United States, we are certainly not doing the same with Syria; we have been very reluctant to chase Saleh out of Yemen; and in Bahrain, the Obama Administration, in fact, looks like it is backing up the monarchy there against the Shia majority, which is unfortunate. I think the European Union is in conflict, generally, because they want to condemn Iran and they want to condemn Libya; but they are soft with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Syria. I think the conditions are a little different. He (Gaddafi) was using his armed forces and tanks and aircraft against his own defenseless population.

Q: What is the line for the NATO forces and the United States regarding Bahrain where foreign forces have also turned against the people?

Maloof: I think in all cases we should be encouraging these regimes to undertake the reforms that are required, and we should get them to stop hitting on their defenseless citizens. I think that the NATO countries will kind of do that at a number of levels, but you have a conflict in policy by the NATO countries and by the United States...

Q: If that is the case, would it be fair to say that the perspective that many countries take is not based so much on humanitarian loss, but more on their own interest?

Maloof: In the case of Libya, it definitely was a need for humanitarian purposes because of the extent of the attacks on the civilian population. And this is why I said a little earlier the West is conflicted. They have always backed these regimes simply because they were able to keep down the terror... Each country is different and that is why you do not see a coherent policy out of the United States -- or indeed, out of the West.

What was interesting the other day at the European Parliament, the Hungarian deputy minister basically said that Bahrain, Yemen and Syria could be treated to a Libyan-style military attack if they did not take care of their citizens. That to me is a very significant development, but I will be interested to see if they put action to word. At this point, it is word. I think this, once again, underscores the conflict that is underway in the West because of their national interests versus the humanitarian needs that they sought. I think the United States should be much more vehement toward the monarchy in Bahrain, and certainly toward Saleh in Yemen, but because of their other policy concerns and interests, they have not shown the enthusiasm they have in Libya. For that matter, we have another perception problem -- that the United States wants to get involved in a war in a third Muslim country. Right now, policy in the United States -- and indeed throughout Europe -- is very fluid when it comes to dealing with these countries, and I think they are almost treating them on a case-by-case basis.

Q: If the stalemate continues in the African country, how likely is it to hear more talks of a divided Libya?

Maloof: I think it is going to increase. I think the longer the NATO efforts become protracted and confused, it works in Gaddafi's favor. He could, in effect, set up a de facto area of operation in the West, maintain that and actually conduct other operations from the West... That could, over time, increase as long as he can hold out. What is working in his favor is a divided NATO. They do not have a unified command in terms of strategy and initiative to undertake this mission and you can see how it is wearing down on them. And that works in Gaddafi's favor. Every day that it passes this way, that is what happens. As I said earlier, I think the condition in Libya was different from what occurred in Syria and Yemen and Bahrain. Now the question is -- where do we go from here? There is no strategy at this point. This works in Gaddafi's favor. It could ultimately result in a split in the country. I think that is probably what Gaddafi is aiming for at this point. If I was in his shoes, that is probably what I would aim for -- to set up an area of operation that would give me some sanctuary. You see it today with the Taliban in Afghanistan. That is basically what is going on right now.

Q: If Libya was to divide, and the West would be in the hands of Gaddafi, and the East in the hands of the revolutionaries or NATO forces, what kind of country that we have been talking about would be left for Gaddafi, because the resources; the oil is concentrated in the East, so why would he even accept that situation? Some analysts say a lot of this has been part of a plan by NATO to get control over the Eastern oil fields.

Maloof: I think the strategy is to cut off the financial flow. However, he seems to be knocking on the door, and I think from Gaddafi's standpoint, he needs to regain control of those oil fields -- of which there is a substantial number -- in order to keep that financial flow going. I think he has some assets in the West, as well, plus he has other resources. He has had 41 years to build up his bank accounts! So he has got financial resources to pay for this. He could probably prolong this for quite some time and all he has to do right now, from what I am seeing, is wait out NATO because they are already showing stress, fraying around the edges. It is just a waiting game as far as the East is concerned.

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