Important Articles on Libya 3
Wednesday, Jun. 01, 2011
What Mediating in Libya Could Cost Medvedev
By Simon Shuster / Moscow
On April 5, a little-known Russian Senator and diplomat, Mikhail Margelov, published an article called "The Arab World Is Changing," in which he argued that Russia is well-placed to act as mediator in the war in Libya, but it should think hard about the political risks. "We have too much going on in our own country," he wrote. "We have elections coming up." Two months on, the junior diplomat is starting to look prophetic.
With the war at a stalemate and the West apparently out of options for negotiating a truce, the U.S. asked Russia last week to step in and try to convince Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi to make a deal. Not only did Russian President Dmitri Medvedev agree — with potentially huge political consequences — but he also made the surprise decision to send in Margelov, who barely has two months under his belt as Russia's envoy to Africa. "I am knocking on wood and crossing my fingers," Margelov told TIME while planning his departure on Tuesday. "But it's hard to guess what will happen." (See how Libya has boosted Medvedev's confidence.)
In the best-case scenario, at least as the West envisions it, Gaddafi will finally cede power to the rebels, who rose up against him in February and sparked a civil war. But NATO's persistent bombing raids against Gaddafi's forces have failed to accomplish that in the past two months. On Monday, South African President Jacob Zuma also couldn't convince the colonel to go. It's hard to see how Margelov's chances would be any better, while the risks he alluded to in his April article have not gone away.
In the coming months, Medvedev will need to convince his political mentor, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, to let him stand as a presidential candidate in the 2012 elections. That would get the support of Putin's political party, practically guaranteeing Medvedev a second term. "This is what is keeping Medvedev up at night," says Alexander Rahr, a Russia expert at the Berlin-based German Council on Foreign Relations.
But Putin, who is also considering a presidential run, has repeatedly stated that he wants nothing to do with the West's adventure in Libya, which he likened to a "crusade." The majority of Russians seem to agree. A survey released on March 24 by the state-run pollster VTsIOM found that 62% of respondents believe it is up to Libyans to resolve their own internal conflict and no other state should get involved. (See pictures of Putin and Medvedev vacationing together.)
So until last week, Medvedev kept Russia on the sidelines. In March, he abstained from voting on the U.N. resolution to allow the bombing raids against Gaddafi, and he even rebuked NATO in April for "seeking to abuse" the resolution's mandate by using too much force. But his position changed at the G-8 summit last week in Deauville, France. On May 27, he signed the summit's final declaration, which said Gaddafi "has lost all legitimacy" and must give up power, and he agreed to U.S. President Barack Obama's request to mediate in Libya.
This entails an incredible gamble. "If we succeed, we will build our political authority in the G-8, as well as the Arab world and Africa," Margelov, the negotiator, says. And if you fail? "Well, I don't think there is a chance of not succeeding," he says. "We have not burned our bridges with either Gaddafi or the rebels, and this is the wonderful product we have to trade on the political market."
There already seemed to be some dividends from that trade at Deauville, albeit meager ones. The U.S. offered $5 million for information leading to the capture of Russia's most wanted terrorist, Doku Umarov, and it gave Russia a contract worth almost $400 million to supply helicopters to the Afghan army. But aside from these gestures, the two sides made no progress in resolving their main dispute: the U.S.'s plans to build a missile shield in Europe, which Russia sees as a threat. (Watch "A Russian Road Trip.")
Rahr, of the German Council on Foreign Relations, points out that Russia may also be angling to grab a bigger piece of Libya's oil wealth once the conflict there subsides. Russian energy giant Gazprom has long coveted refining and pipeline deals in Libya. But even if Moscow manages to get them in the long term, Medvedev's involvement in Libya still opens him up to accusations of acting like a Western stooge ahead of the elections — about the worst insult a Russian leader can face.
So in Moscow, not everyone is radiating Margelov's optimism. Konstantin Kosachyov, head of the foreign-relations committee in the Duma, says if Russia fails to mediate the conflict, "we will be pulled into a situation we did not design." He adds, "It will not just be a failure of our diplomatic mission, but more broadly, we will share the responsibility of failing to resolve Libya's problems through external influence as a member of the G-8."
And the odds of success look slim. After Medvedev signed the declaration against Gaddafi at Deauville, it will be much harder for any Russian to seem like a neutral mediator. "Gaddafi will understand that Russia has no role to play here except as a postman for the West," says Rahr. That is not the image Medvedev wants while heading into these negotiations in Libya — or into next year's elections at home.
7:03PM BST 31 May 2011
Russia joins West over Libya for interests
His regime has handed out thousands of weapons to ordinary civilians, saying they would turn Libya into a "living hell" if Nato ground forces invade.
He is also gathering a coterie of young members of his own tribe around him to make a last stand as his regular forces are depleted by defections and Nato bombing.
Anti-Gaddafi activists fear they could unleash a wave of killings and revenge attacks if Col Gaddafi is forced out whether by western military might or negotiations.
“The reason why people are given guns now is because Gaddafi wants it to be chaos whether he is in power or out of power,” said one activist living in a suburb of southern Tripoli.
The regime is playing up the spectre of a wave of vengeance similar to post-2003 Iraq rather than denying it. Moussa Ibrahim, the chief spokesman, said even if there were a negotiated solution opposition leaders like Mustafa Abdul Jalil, chairman of the Benghazi-based Transitional National Council, would be targeted by loyalists.
by Zheng Haoning, Igor Serebryany, Feng Kang
MOSCOW/CARIO, June 1 (Xinhua) -- Russian President Dmitry Medvedev strikingly joined the Western powers in urging Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi to give up power at the latest round of the Group of Eight (G8) summit in the northern French seaside town of Deauville.
Experts and analysts believe Russia made the move to protect its own interests in Libya and have a stake in the country's future. Yet they remain skeptical over whether Russia could help make a difference in the Middle East country.
WHY THE MOVE?
Ever since the bloody upheaval began in Libya, Moscow's decision-makers have been busy calculating whether Gaddafi would step down and whether Russia's interests on the ground could be recognized if the opposition rises to power. And the entangling seasaw battle in Libya made Russia's final answers hard to come by.
Feeling too early to pick side, Russia followed a more flexible path, condemning both the NATO-led air campaign and the hostile actions against civilians by Gaddafi's troops.
"The Russian position on the Libyan issue was based on the common BRICS ground of non-involvement in the conflict, of thorough balancing between three parties: the Libyan government, opposition forces and Western powers," said Fedor Lukyanov, chief editor of magazine Russia in Global Politics.
However, as time goes by, the repeated Western outcry to oust Gaddafi and the escalating Western-led air strikes over Tripoli might have helped Russia to make up its mind.
Said Lawendy, expert of international relations at Egypt's Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, told Xinhua in a recent interview that NATO won't halt its interference unless Gaddafi's regime falls.
Moreover, seeking to protect its interests and stay relevant in the post-conflict Libya is perhaps another key reason.
Russia sees Libya an important partner in the region,having poured billions of U.S. dollars of investment in Libya in sectors like oil exploration, railway construction and arms sales.
Already, a chaotic Libya is crippling Russia's investment there. According to a recent report on Russia's RBC daily, the war in Libya could set back Russian oil and gas investment in the country for many years.
Tatneft, a Russian oil firm, has invested heavily in Libya over the past six years, while Gazeprom, Russia's gas giant, spent some 163 billion U.S. dollars this February purchasing part of the shares of Libya's Elephant oil and gas production field project. The two companies were forced to suspend their operations and evacuate their workers in Libya because of the ongoing conflict, said the report.
As NATO air raids are gaining further momentum, it's only natural for Russia to start considering its own role as it cannot afford to stay out of the picture.
Meisant al-Janabi, professor with Russia's Peoples' Friendship University, said the Kremlin is attempting to prevent Libya's future from being shaped only by the West. Medvedev is trying to hedge the risk.
Additionally, some of the Western nations' promises and offers at the G8 summit also prompted Russia to make the turn.
At the summit, the Western countries pledged to facilitate Russia's entry into the World Trade Organization by the end of this year while ahead of the summit, France and Russia reached a deal under which Paris would sell four Mistral-class helicopter carriers to Moscow.
"It's no secret that every world power's politics is based on its own interests....So Medvedev has done nothing extraordinary. He just showed that Russia has calculated its possible benefits and losses," professor al-Janabi said.
“Jalil will never be safe in Libya,” he said. “He would be killed, such is the hatred we have for him. He would have to live with permanent security guards.”
Promotion of fanatical and violent Gaddafi loyalists within the armed forces is said to have been one trigger for the defection of five regular army generals who announced their switched loyalties in Rome on Monday.
They said they could no longer tolerate the revenge attacks in rebel towns that this younger generation of officers had overseen.
Col Gaddafi has enforced his rule in recent years by packing the security services with members of his own small tribe, the Gadadfa, and an allied tribe, the Megarha, to which the alleged Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali Megrahi belongs.
They themselves have been taught to fear retribution from the rebel side if Col Gaddafi goes.
“There will be chaos here if the colonel goes,” said one loyalist policeman. “We will not let it happen.”
At the time the Nato no-fly zone was imposed, Col Gaddafi said he was issuing a million guns to people across the country. In the days afterwards, journalists were introduced to teenagers and young men proudly brandishing their new Kalashnikov assault rifles.
But the Tripoli activist said that the purpose of the distribution had since become clear. Families applying for weapons had to prove their pro-regime credentials.
Those with identity cards showing they were from areas where there had been anti-Gaddafi demonstrations were automatically refused.
“It is another trick by the regime. They only give weapons to supporters,” he said. “This is what worries us now.”
Fighting has already broken out in some parts of the city, according to several residents, as the once ever-present plain-clothes police have drained away.
A protest in the east Tripoli suburb of Souq al-Juma’a filmed and posted on Youtube on Monday was said by one local dissident to have begun at the funeral of two men killed in a shoot-out at a checkpoint.
Some may be simple criminal activity. A shop-keeper in the old city said many shops, particularly gold and jewellery stores, were shut because they feared robbery.
“There are fights in the street at night,” he said. “The dealers are afraid.”
The air of tension is added to by state television footage repeating claims, some apparently true, of revenge attacks on Gaddafi loyalists, particularly black fighters accused of being mercenaries, captured in eastern Libya.
“If the rebels win they will kill us,” said Joy Badmos, 37, a Nigerian who has lived in Tripoli for 15 years running a family fashion design business.
“We have seen on state TV how the rebels are killing Africans”.
What is not clear is whether there is any co-ordinated planning for resistance should Col Gaddafi be forced to leave. But Khaled Kaim, the usually conciliatory deputy foreign minister, gave an indication of a change of mood at the weekend with a fierce attack on the rebels, saying that opposition leaders were “traitors”.
“Those who sided with NATO in attacking their own people, it will be impossible for them,” he said.