OSLO, March 23 (Xinhua) — While the Western-led coalition forces claimed initial success in substantially reducing the Libyan government’s military capabilities after days of cruise missile attacks and air bombardment, experts and political leaders in the West warned there was no quick fix to the crisis in oil-rich Libya.
Loud explosions and intensive anti-aircraft fire were heard Tuesday night in the Libyan capital of Tripoli, which has been bombed by Western forces in recent days.
Meanwhile, U.S., French and British leaders discussed how to set up a proper command structure as demanded by Norwegian Defense Minister Grete Faremo.
NATO ROLE CUM ARAB PARTICIPATION?
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said Tuesday that a new political body, not NATO, will take over the responsibility of enforcing a no-fly zone over Libya.
The new body, to be set up as proposed by France, will consist of foreign ministers from countries that are currently participating in the military intervention in Libya, and some Arab states, he said, adding that it could meet soon in London or Paris.
He said the military action will stop only if “the Tripoli regime acts with accurate and complete compliance with resolutions of the UN Security Council, as it accepts an authentic cease-fire, and withdraws its troops from where they entered.”
Also on Tuesday, the Elysee Palace said French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his U.S. counterpart Barack Obama had agreed via phone on how to use NATO’s command structure to support the military operation in Libya.
“They agreed on the need to continue efforts to ensure the full implementation of 1970 and 1973 resolutions,” Sarkozy’s office said in a statement. They voiced their satisfaction with the coordinated military operation in Libya, which they believed limited civilian casualties and reduced the power of the Libyan government forces.
The United States was very reluctant to play a leading role in another military campaign, being deeply involved in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, Jan Egeland, director of the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI),told Xinhua Tuesday.
“Now the U.S. is in command, but it wants to hand over (command) within the next days. The best option may be a coalition of Arab and Western countries in charge assisted by the NATO structures,” Egeland said.
He also said that “it is now very important that Arab and other non-Western countries participate in the operation.”
Vegard Valther Hansen, a NUPI researcher, echoed Egeland in stressing the importance of Arab participation in the military operation against Libya.
The participating Western countries were overwhelmed by the support offered to their military intervention by the Arab League, Hansen told Xinhua Tuesday.
But on Sunday, Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa surprised the West by criticizing the bombardment of Libya. “What has happened in Libya differs from the goal of imposing a no-fly zone, and what we want is the protection of civilians and not bombing other civilians,” Moussa said.
He even called for an emergency Arab League meeting to discuss the overall situation after the Western military intervention.
CIVIL WAR WITH PARTITION?
Many Norwegians fear that after the Western military intervention, Libya could fall into long-term turmoil and chaos, in which the Libyan people would also suffer.
“Yes, and this is one of many disturbing dilemmas,” Hansen said.
“There is no fixed state apparatus to replace the current regime, no democratic tradition, no political parties or organization to be a solid civic society. And the opposition seems to agree on only one thing, to remove Gaddafi from power,” the researcher said.
A long-lasting conflict without a defined regime change and sporadic heavy clashes with a severe number of civilian casualties will result in firm pressure on the coalition to send ground troops to avoid a large number of casualties, he added.
Egeland agreed with Hansen, saying that a long civil war in a divided Libya is a very bad option.
MASSIVE REFUGEE FLOW TO EUROPE?
What could be the short- and long-term impacts on European countries if Libya eventually falls into prolonged civil war?
Egeland said he believed the economic and social impact on Norway would be minimal and that the main impact of a civil war in Libya would be mostly psychological.
“There could be massive refugee flows across the Mediterranean to Southern Europe,” Egeland said. “Nobody can be unaffected by so much suffering so close to Europe.”
The prolonged chaotic situation in Libya will also lead to an increase in oil and gas prices in the short term and cause instability, organized crime and terrorism, anger and hatred of Europe as well as greater pressure in Europe to engage more in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), Hansen said.
“Norway will earn more money than other oil exporters if the oil prices go up, but lose just as much by the economic problems in our export markets,” Egeland said.
Norway will gain more both politically and economically in the long term if Libya and the rest of MENA will develop into a more stable region, Hansen said.