CeaseFire, Not No-Fly Zone Best Hope For Libya Peace

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[Black Star News Editorial]

Rather than calling for the imposition of a no-fly zone the Arab League yesterday should have asked for a ceasefire in Libya, if the true motivation is to pre-empt possible large scale loss of civilian lives as the conflict continues.

Unless the imposition of a no-fly zone is a prelude to actual armed intervention by Western powers to shore up the rebels now being driven back towards Benghanzi the major city they control in the east. It's unlikely that the U.S., after the continuing experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan, would be involved in military engagement.

News reports suggest the Libyan rebels cannot defeat Mummar Gaddafi's army. The rebel fortunes have seriously reversed in the last week. Rebels were driven from Zawiya, the Western town near Tripoli the capital and from Ras Lanuf, the major oil refinery town towards the East.

News accounts report of a panicky rebel withdrawal including the abandonment of heavy weapons. Given the fire power of Gaddafi's army, plus the rebels' ill-training, a no-fly zone won't stop a rebel rout. The Gaddafi army's armored vehicles, tanks and artillery will still give it an upperhand and likely result in rebels being driven from all areas they now control. A top American intelligence official has already publicly stated that Gaddafi's army would defeat the rebels.

So it would seem that if there is genuine fear of reprisals against the civilians in the east who are opposed to Gaddafi, then there should be a call for a ceasfire; especially now that the rebels face a rout. However, a ceasfire presupposes that negotiations would follow.

Therein lies the problem. The rebels have rejected negotiations "unless Gaddafi leaves in 72 hours." Yet that was when the rebels' military fortunes were growing. On the otherhand, the United States and the EU countries have already proclaimed that the Gaddafi regime has lost its legitimacy. So, theoretically, there's no one to negotiate with.

The biggest advocates for a no-fly zone have been France and Britain--France has gone as far as to recognize the council that has set up an administrative body in Benghazi as Libya's legitimate authority. There are reports that France is eager to strike favorable oil deals with the Benghazi authorities in a possible post-Gaddafi era.

It's remarkable that on the one hand Western countries "deplore" possible massacres but encourage Benghazi Libyans literally to fight with their bare hands. Might it be that, indeed, some outsiders do hope for such deaths to justify intervention?

Also, the endorsement of a no-fly zone in and of itself by the Arab League isn't sufficient as the United Nations would have to decide on it. What's more, several of the Arab League countries, including Oman, Bahrain, Yemen, and even Saudi Arabia, also face domestic challenges to the regimes there. There is also no guarantee that Russia, China, and the African Union would support a no-fly zone on Libya.

The U.S. and the EU countries had seemingly not included in the possibility, in all of their diplomatic calculus, that the rebels' military advances would ever reverse. The U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague was so confident that he had even claimed Gaddafi was already on a plane to Venezuela, weeks ago when the uprising started.

Rather than a no-fly zone, a ceasefire would work better in precluding the possibility of a  rebel rout, large scale civilian deaths, or a refugee and humanitarian disaster should Benghazi fall. Tripoli would likely demand for the Benghazi authority's surrender as condition for cessation of hostilities.

"Speaking Truth To Empower."

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