Thursday, 4 August 2011

Libya's immediate future is shrouded by uncertainties

Libya's immediate future is shrouded by the uncertainties regarding rebel military action in the Jebel Nafusa and the Tripolitanian Jefara plain. Whereas the war in the Jebel Nafusa is serious, in terms of damage to people and property, it has so far had very little impact on the economy of the country. The beginning of hostilities in the western plains would affect most aspects of daily economic life in Libya's main productive area.

The doubt that surrounds the possibility of a successful attack against Colonel Mu'ammar Qadhafi's forces is palpable throughout the southern zone, especially as oil and gas installations would be badly affected and few businesses would be unscathed. It is likely that a political meltdown in Tripoli and its immediate hinterland would affect basic provisions, including oil and oil products. Worse still, a major setback for the revolutionaries in western Libya would throw into disarray the already narrow margin of assurance that exists among the rebel groups.

The confidence of both the Libyan domestic and expatriate population in the ability of the revolutionaries to seize and then maintain power is being heavily undermined by the failure of their various constituent parts to come to terms on developing a joint policy towards foreign affairs and, in particular, to the kind of government that Libya needs after the fighting has finished. The rifts in the revolutionary ranks are, if anything, worsening with the passage of time. Different policies are being recommended in Misrata and Benghazi and this is both dividing the available resources and weakening the overall credibility of the rebels' efforts on the battlefield.

Those fighters in Misrata and Benghazi are impatient of the divisive and weak policies that are being put forward by the revolutionary administrations. The latter have little battle experience and little appreciation of the real needs of the fighters in the field. There is, for example, a general shortage of ammunition within the rebel territories and this is consistent with the needs of the current major campaigns that are being contemplated by the rebel side.

Other factors are also tending to diminish the perceived threat from the rebel army – the prowess of which is reduced by its inability to innovate modern battle techniques. The leadership of the armoured echelons is still renowned for its inefficiency and ineptness despite the acquisition of modern fighting weapons.

The overall forecast by both the military men in Benghazi, and the external advisers who are in position in South Africa, is that it will be a close call once hand-to-hand fighting begins.

For more news and expert analysis about Libya, please see Libya Focus and Libya Politics & Security.

© 2011 Menas Associates

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