Libya: Commentary from the Region

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    Middle East Policy has been one of the world’s most cited publications on the region since its inception in 1982, and our Breaking Analysis series makes high-quality, diverse analysis available to a broader audience.

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It has been only a few days since the Libyan National Transitional Council (NTC) forces stormed the Libyan capital, Tripoli. Most observers are declaring Gaddafi’s rule over, and the dominant question has now become what’s next for the NTC. Equally important are the implications of the developments in Libya for the rest of the region, and especially for regimes such as Syria which are facing similar uprisings.

 Gulf Times, in a brief article dedicated to the matter, had words of caution: “Italy yesterday said the Libyan ‘tragedy’ (Gaddafi’s regime) was about to end and the U.S. said his fall was ‘imminent,’ but it’s important not to get carried away. For one, who knows what a cornered Gaddafi is up to? And more importantly, even if he is ousted, do the rebels have it in them to rule the country? We will know soon.”

The editorial board at Peninsula was more definite about the fate of the Gaddafi regime, but equally unsure about the future: “Is Tripoli falling? Has the countdown started for Gaddafi’s end? The answer to both questions is a definitive YES….After 42 tumultuous, unquestioned years in power, Gaddafi must prepare for an unstable, miserable future….Now that the regime’s end is a certainty, it’s time for the rebels and the international community to look at the future….All eyes will be on the opposition National Transitional Council and the question asked is whether it’s fit to take reigns of power in Tripoli.”

Questions remain, however, about the ability of the NTC to translate their movement into a real government. The Khaleej Times editorial, for example, notes: “[I]t remains to be seen how effectively the rebels are going to transform their successes for making a holistic change on the political canvas of the country, and what would be the equation of the regime that for the last many weeks is nothing but virtual in existence….The rebels who are marching into Tripoli have a daunting task to deliver, and the first of its challenge will be to restore the confidence of the people in governance and do away with the ad hocism that had inadvertently set in over the past few months.”

The need for establishing order is one of the main points of an article by Oman Tribune, which cautions: “As we mentioned earlier, the main order of priority in the country is the preservation of civil order, without which the very purpose of the six-month long rebel campaign to oust the Gaddafi regime stands defeated. Functioning state institutions become a priority, and so does the control of the law and order machinery. It is imperative for rebel groups to set aside their differences and join hands for the greater good of their people.”

An editorial by The National also urges the NTC to move forward, leaving behind any desire for vengeance: “Libyans have, after four decades of tyranny, risen up to represent themselves. It is now essential that Libyans be protected and counted in ways the Qaddafi regime never could or would deliver….A quick return to normality, if indeed such a thing ever existed in Libya, is unlikely. But it is possible to avoid prolonged bloodshed as long as disparate factions don’t act on vengeful instincts….Ultimately this will be a Libyan-led reconstruction. The rebels and their political backers have told the world for months they spoke for all Libyans. Now is their time to prove it by protecting all of them from the uncertain future that awaits.”

Calls for acting honourably are not directly only at the Transitional Council, but also at Gaddafi himself. In an editorial, Khaleej Times hopes to appeal to Gaddafi’s better senses: “Gaddafi loved the country he liberated at the tender age of 27. Now, that same country wants to be liberated from his rule and if he does truly love the land he has ruled for nearly four decades, he should call it quits. Not because the U.S. says so, or because the UN calls for it, but because it is the right thing to do….Gaddafi has to face the reality of being isolated as the inner circle understands there is no way out. Not only will the political advisors make their moves but military commanders will also now seriously be considering other options that save the lives of the troops and their future in the country.”

Regardless of the unknowns and insecurities, for some the nightmare seems to be drawing to an end, with the Libyan people seemingly in control of their future. As an Arab News editorial puts it: “Inevitably there will be fears about what happens next. Who will take over? …Will there be a spate of revenge killings? …[But] there is every reason for guarded optimism. The Libyan uprising appears deeply committed to the notion of democracy. The fact, too, that pro-Gaddafi forces, when captured, have largely been well treated is also encouraging. The basis for reconciliation is there. As to who takes over, that will be for the Libyans to decide.”

Just as one chapter of the Arab Spring appears to have come to a close, some are casting their eyes towards other countries in the region, particularly Syria, and trying to understand what events in Libya portend for them. In another editorial, Arab News reminds us: “As the Libyan endgame plays out in Tripoli, questions are being asked as to what the consequences will be for the rest of the Arab world….In the case of Syria, the opposition is bound to draw comfort from events in Tripoli and it will probably encourage yet more protesters onto the streets on Friday. It may yet be a tumultuous Eid for Syria….Assad claims that there is no danger of his government falling and that any foreign intervention will fail….[But] the more his forces kill, the greater the chance it will inflame protest and see his government swept from power.”

Similarly, The National attempts to draw some lessons from Libya’s council for Syria’s opposition: “The one lesson that Syrians must learn from Libya is this: set up a truly representative national council. The Libyan Transitional Council was formed on February 27, only 12 days after Colonel Muammar Qaddafi declared a war against his own people. Libya’s council, headed by an honest politician, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, then began rigorous diplomatic efforts to gain international legitimacy, support and access to funds….A national council including credible dissidents would convince many Syrians who currently sit on the fence to side with the protesters. By discussing post-Assad Syria, a council could also encourage the international community to move more aggressively against the regime….The heaviest blow to Mr Al Assad is an alternative to his rule. Only then will his regime surely crumble.”

Hamad Al-Majid, writing for Asharq Alawsat, is even more direct in his conclusions: “Libyan rebels’ victory [is] terrifying al-Assad…. The most important aspect of the Libyan rebels’ recent victories is the positive impact this has had on the ‘maturing’ of the Syrian popular uprising. Prior to this, the defeats suffered by the Libyan rebels at the hands of Gaddafi’s battalions, and the Libyan leader’s ability to regain control of several Libyan towns from the rebels, inspired the Syrian regime….[T]he dramatic change that has occurred in favor of the Libyan popular uprising will certainly cause a positive change in the Syrian arena. In brief, Gaddafi is horrified — as are the key figures in the Syrian regime — at the consecutive victories achieved by the Libyan rebels. The Libyan rebels are knocking on the doors of Tripoli, and Bashar al-Assad can hear this [in Damascus].”


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Middle East In Focus is a synopsis of commentary and news from Middle Eastern and other international media. Its purpose is to provide a succinct and balanced summary of the main developments and views that are often overlooked or not properly reflected in the U.S. media. For the most recent collection of articles on and from the Middle East, please go to: Comments and feedback are welcome at

  • Middle East Policy

    Middle East Policy has been one of the world’s most cited publications on the region since its inception in 1982, and our Breaking Analysis series makes high-quality, diverse analysis available to a broader audience.

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