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Monday, March 21, 2011

UPDATED : Gadhafi's Strategy : Military and Diplomatic Attrition

It seems patently obvious what Colonel Gadhafi's strategy is. He will escalate attacks on the rebels using tanks and artillery, and dare anybody--the Coalition, the Arab League, the Gulf Cooperation Council, the U.N. and maybe even the Highway Patrol--to stop him.   

He has every reason to believe that
  • Arab support for the rebels is not merely conditional : it is fictional, already evaporating into clouds of prevarication, hypocrisy, and diplomatic doublespeak
  • there is no Arab power other than Egypt which could singlehandedly tip the balance in favor of the rebels in nearby Cyrenaica,  but Egypt, in the throes of its own revolution, is hors de combat 
  • Iran is conflicted about what is happening in Libya, and while Muslim, it is not Arab, and cannot project military power far from its shores
  • Turkey feels it has no skin whatsoever in this particular game, but will use the occasion to rail against Exploitation by the Western Powers and try to score more cheap points with ' the Arab street '   
And Gadhafi has every reason to believe that :
  • the U.S. is apprehensive about involvement in the MENA region that could become another Iraq 
  • unless U.S. sentiment changes dramatically and quickly,  he need only fear France and Britain, whose respective leaders may well lack the domestic political support to put boots and tanks on the ground
  • no other member of NATO will step up to the plate and wholeheartedly join in a military campaign against him, or provide meaningful assistance to save the rebels.    
So Gadhafi will continue to do what he is doing until he wins.

It is possible that in doing so, he, like Saddam, he will dreadfully miscalculate.

The latter, of course, assumes that the world is still capable of digesting only so much bad behavior, only so many massacres.

3/23/11 Update :

In an article on BBC Online,  Shashank Joshi Associate of the Royal United Services Institute surveys the situation in Libya as follows :  

Gaddafi's forces continue to punish civilians in Misurata, and remain in striking distance of urban areas in the east. In short, Gaddafi's greatest strength is his ability to force an unwelcome choice between escalation and leaving civilians in harm's way.

The best attainable conclusion may involve the irreversible degradation of the regime's firepower and the injection of Arab League and African Union peacekeepers.

Unless detailed planning for a managed stalemate begins now, Gaddafi may succeed in his effort to chip away at UN forces until the Franco-British rump collapses under the weight of its own contradictions.

How long can the dictator hold out, with his overseas funds largely frozen  ?  Longer than one might suppose, depending on where Gadhafi has stashed Libya's gold reserves. How much gold is that ? Glad you asked. According to Andrew Walker, an economics correspondent for the BBC World Service...

Libya has declared gold reserves worth more than $6bn at current prices, thought to be held largely at home.

The reserves are substantial, ranking in the global top 25, according International Monetary Fund (IMF) data.

They could potentially be used to finance Colonel Gaddafi's government at a time when it is subject to international financial sanctions.

It might be possible to transport the gold to other African countries and sell it.
    And that $ 6 Billion could buy Gadhafi lots more mercenaries,  Walker adds.