Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of the Pan-African News Wire, delivering an address on the prison industrial complex on Saturday, August 25, 2007. (Photo: Cheryl LaBash)., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
NATO Escalates Bombing of Libya While Loyalists Defend Tripoli
Fighting continues over control of Tripoli as imperialists make plans to plunder North African state
By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire
A six-month-old war against the government of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya has reached a new stage with the entering of the capital of Tripoli by the rebel opposition forces amid an escalation of NATO bombing. On August 21, fighters loyal to the Transitional National Council (TNC) moved into at least three areas of Tripoli and its surrounding suburbs while NATO warplanes flew over head in coordinated military actions aimed at toppling the government.
By nightfall in Libya, the corporate media began to repeat claims that Tripoli, a stronghold of the government, had largely fallen to the TNC forces. False reports indicated that the airport was under rebel control and that three sons of Gaddafi had been taken into custody by the armed opposition.
Beginning in the early morning hours of August 22 there were reports of fierce fighting in several areas of Tripoli between government loyalists and the opposition. Despite the fact that the western media outlets were saying that Green Square in Tripoli was under TNC control, rebels and journalists embedded with them were forced to retreat from the central section of the city.
These developments came in the aftermath of fierce battles between opposition forces and government troops in and around Zawiya, Zlitan, al-Brega and other areas in the west of the oil-producing country. NATO has intensified its bombing of Libya in efforts to bring about a swift entry into Tripoli ahead of the upcoming United Nations Security Council deliberations on the renewal of the military operations launched by the U.S. and NATO on March 19.
Despite claims of rebel advances securing the capital in the interests of the U.S.-NATO forces, Libyan military units and other supporters of the government inflicted casualties on the TNC inside the capital. Seif al-Islam, the son of Muammar Gaddafi, who had been reported to have been detained by the rebels, appeared at the main hotel in Tripoli in the early morning hours of August 23.
Seif al-Islam told supporters and international journalists that the rebels were lured into the capital, trapped and dealt severe blows militarily. "We have broken their backs," Seif al-Islam was quoted as saying in regard to the fighting in the capital.
Seif al-Islam offered to take journalists on a tour of the "hottest" areas of Tripoli to prove that the Libyan government was firmly in control of the military situation. One other son of Gaddafi, who had been reportedly captured, was still free and living in the capital.
A U.S.-NATO War of Destabilization and Conquest
Since February 17, a series of attacks against the Libyan government by armed groups have been funded and engineered by a number of imperialist states under the banner of NATO. It became quite obvious at the beginning of the rebellion in Benghazi and other areas of the eastern region of Libya that the U.S. and several imperialist countries along with their allies were heavily involved.
Since March 19 the U.S.-NATO forces have carried out nearly 20,000 sorties, which include approximately 7,500 strike sorties. These bombing operations took on a more urgent character when on August 20 such operations were carried out over the capital and its environs. (Center for Research on Globalization, Aug. 22)
Of the 105 sorties on August 20, 36 reportedly hit areas around Tripoli. Later on August 21-22, there were additional bombings of specifically targeted civilian areas of the capital.
In an article published by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya on August 22, he stresses that “Tripoli has been the object of extensive bombings of residential areas, creating an atmosphere of panic. Rebel forces are not the decisive factor. The decisive forces are the extensive NATO bombings and the support provided by NATO to the rebels.” (Center for Research on Globalization)
This operation aimed at taking control of Tripoli has been labeled “Operation Mermaid Dawn.” The assault began on the evening of August 20 with the armed actions of opposition cells involving several hundred people.
Overnight fighting on August 20 reportedly resulted in 350 deaths and 3,000 injuries. Although the situation appeared calm on the morning of August 21, a NATO warship anchored off the shore of Tripoli delivered heavy weapons and additional TNC rebel forces.
Thierry Meyssan wrote that “Fighting started again during the night. There were intense firefights. NATO drones and aircraft kept bombing in all directions. NATO helicopters strafed civilians in the streets with machine guns to open the way” for the opposition forces. (Center for Research on Globalization, August 21)
It was also reported by Meyssan that a convoy of governmental officials came under fire and they eventually headed to Hotel Rixos where foreign journalists are based. By 11:30pm in Libya, the Health Minister said that the hospitals were full of wounded and injured people.
Overall it has been the NATO forces that have been the most important element in the war aimed at regime-change in Libya. Two United Nations Security Council Resolutions, 1970 and 1973, which “authorized” the imposition of a naval blockade and the implementation of a no-fly zone over the country, were utilized to provide a pseudo-legal rationale for the war against Libya.
According to the New York Times, it has been U.S. military aerial surveillance that has proved crucial in the recent fighting. Authors Eric Schmitt and Steven Lee Myers quote unnamed U.S. and NATO officials as saying that “coordination between NATO and the rebels, and among the loosely organized rebel groups themselves, had become more sophisticated and lethal in recent weeks, even though NATO’s mandate has been merely to protect civilians, not to take sides in the conflict.” (New York Times, August 22)
The Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency’s deployment of predator drones enhanced the ability to pinpoint targets for airstrikes that allowed rebel forces to make advances from Zawiya to the capital of Tripoli. Schmitt and Myers go on to point out that “At the same time, Britain, France, and other nations deployed special forces on the ground inside Libya to help train and arm the rebels, the diplomat and another official said.”
NATO’s bombing operations struck thousands of targets including rocket launchers, tanks, military installations as well as the national infrastructure that severely damaged the ability of the Libya government and military to coordinate its response to the intensified airstrikes and rebel attacks. The Times article says that “The cumulative effect not only destroyed Libya’s military infrastructure but also greatly diminished the ability of Colonel Gaddafi’s commanders to control forces, leaving even committed fighting units unable to move, resupply or coordinate operations.”
The rebel leadership has credited NATO with providing it with the opportunity to advance in the eastern and western part of Libya. This disparate group of poorly-trained rebels, who had earlier been largely defeated prior to the beginning of the bombings on March 19, could have never gained these territorial advances without the military support and coordination of the western air forces, intelligence and special forces as well as warships that have supplied the TNC with weapons, training and transportation.
Implications of the U.S.-NATO War Against Libya
At the time of this writing the situation in Libya still remained fluid militarily and politically. A major aspect of the war against Libya has involved psychological operations and media-generated propaganda that seeks to demonize the Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, his family and government.
Much of the information that has been circulated about the political and military situation in Libya has been designed to turn both the people inside the country and the international community against Tripoli. International conferences convened by the imperialist states have bestowed “recognition” to the rebels as the sole legitimate forces representing the country.
Nonetheless the people of Libya and throughout the regions of North Africa, the Arabian Peninsula and the Persian Gulf can only be alarmed by the western military assault against the Libyan people. The possible deployment of U.S. and NATO ground forces into Libya may be more rapidly executed if the TNC forces make an appeal for "boots on the ground" in order to purportedly restore “stability” to the country.
Africa and the Middle East have a long history of struggles against colonialism, neo-colonialism and imperialism. The uprisings throughout the region has set off panic among the ruling classes of North America and Western Europe due to the strategic minerals that are supplied to the world capitalist markets from various countries.
However, the workers and oppressed of the region will not benefit at all from these imperialist military interventions. In all of the countries that are allied with the U.S. and other capitalist states in the region, the conditions of the masses of people have worsened.
As these conditions deteriorate along with those of the workers and oppressed in the industrialized states greater opportunities will arise for international solidarity among people throughout the world.