Rebels Say No Peace With Qaddafi

Over the weekend, a group of African Union leaders announced that Libyan dictator Moammar Qaddafi had signed on to their “roadmap to peace” proposal.  The plan, according to an Associated Press report, “calls for an immediate cease-fire, cooperation in opening channels for humanitarian aid and starting a dialogue between the rebels and the government.”  However, it makes “no mention of any requirement for Qaddafi to pull his troops out of cities as rebels have demanded.”

The rebels apparently don’t think much of this plan, because they’ve been staging demonstrations in their stronghold of Benghazi, “saying there can be no peace without Muammar Qaddafi’s departure and expressing little faith in an African Union team trying to mediate a cease fire.”

The Washington Post explains that dissidents are “deeply skeptical about the neutrality of the African Union, which they see as packed with Gaddafi’s allies.  They are also likely to be disappointed by a peace plan that fails to wring any concessions from Libya’s leader at the outset, despite the brutal suppression of protests in February in which hundreds of people were shot and thousands were arrested.” 

The African Union grandees don’t help to dispel this impression by saying things like, “we have completed our mission with the brother leader, and the brother leader’s delegation has accepted the road map as presented by us,” in the words of South African president Jacob Zuma. 

In addition to a cease-fire, the other three major provisions of the African Union road map are a guarantee of access to humanitarian aid; protection for foreigners in Libya, including African migrant workers; and the establishment of dialogue between Qaddafi’s government and the rebels.  The part about securing the safety of African workers is a sharp, and well-deserved, slam at the rebels, who have been conducting some very messy purges of Africans and “Qaddafi sympathizers” from their strongholds.  Nothing in this “roadmap” covers terrain that would be terribly difficult for Qaddafi to navigate.  Dialogue?  Sure, whatever, as long as he’s still the dictator.

There is no mention of removing Qaddafi and his family from power in the African Union plan, and that’s a non-negotiable item for the rebels, who correctly view any other end to the conflict as a defeat that will have bloody consequences for them, once Qaddafi’s power is consolidated and the world isn’t paying much attention to him any more.  It would also be a stunning defeat for the United Nations, NATO, and President Barack Obama, who will have blown a staggering amount of American resources – and put American soldiers’ lives at risk – in an operation of dubious legality that accomplished exactly nothing, except depleting the Qaddafi regime’s supply of murder weapons. 

The UK Telegraph quotes Libya’s new foreign minister rejecting all talk of regime change, by saying “Now is not the time to discuss this issue… To say [Qaddafi] must go out now complicates any solution. He is the leader and he is helping and advising.”  As long as he gets to continue “helping and advising,” the dictator is happy to accept political cover from his “brother leaders” in the African Union. 

The war has become a quagmire – the rebels clearly cannot defeat Qaddafi, and NATO air power can do little more than prevent the regime from pushing its enemies all the way into the Mediterranean.  A cease-fire would relieve Qaddafi of the effort required to maintain this stalemate… and those rebel cities will still be there, long after the United Nations has moved on to other affairs, leaving Qaddafi free to engage in the kind of “dialogue” he prefers.