Six months into the Libyan crisis and negotiations are still underway for the removal of Colonel Gaddafi from his position of power. Gaddafi’s reluctance to budge combined with his surprising resilience has backed Britain into a corner.
What began as peaceful human rights protests in Libya back in February resulted in a full-scale uprising weeks later. Amid the violence and chaos, Britain stepped up, alongside France and the US, to take on the Libyan dictator. Approximately £200 million later, Colonel Gaddafi is showing no sign of stepping down and Britain is getting desperate.
After emphasising Gaddafi must leave Libya and be held accountable for his crimes against humanity, British Foreign Secretary William Hague has now backed down. In a recent press conference, Hague finally offered a political solution, rather than a military one, and offered Gaddafi a place in Libya if he agrees to relinquish his position.
Britain once looked firm on their campaign to drive Gaddafi out of Libya, so why the turnaround?
With the US knee-deep in depression-inducing debt and distancing themselves as far as possible from this messy game, Britain had no choice but to negotiate. In an effort to curb financial losses, anti-Gaddafi countries are looking for an out.
In addition, political struggles within the main rebel group, who Britain now recognises as the governing representatives in Libya, have led to a possible weakening of power. It was only days ago that William Hague praised the rebels for their "competence and success" - now it appears the rebels have murdered their own leader. Colonel Gaddafi used the controversial murder of the rebel's main commander in chief, Abdul Fattah Younes, to re-emphasise that the rebels are not capable of running Libya. After tirelessly campaigning for the rebels, Younes' death could not have come at a worse time for Britain.
Debates over NATO's military tactics have also put pressure on the UK. Media reports of civilian deaths caused by NATO-led airstrikes contributed to the rapid decrease in public support, which was never strong to begin with. And while NATO faced a media backlash, Gaddafi crept out of his hiding place to hurl further accusations and add fuel to the fire. Politicians have been correct in calling this war a mess. Divisions within NATO over possible involvement in the conflict pitted Britain, France, and the US against Germany and Norway who refused to back the end decision. Aside from the financial implications, NATO could face diplomatic repercussions after the war has ended. However, judging by the progression of the negotiations that may be months away.
But if the offer was to be accepted - what does this mean for a post-Gaddafi Libya?
For him to remain in the country, he would have to agree to willingly relinquish his power. Sounds like a fair negotiation – if it weren’t for the fact that this offer was inevitable, considering no other country wanted the pleasure of accommodating him.
But Gaddafi’s presence in Libya could potentially divide the nation. If he remains in his country his supporters will never fully surrender to the new leadership. There may always be the threat of a coup - how Gaddafi got his title back in 1969. Is it realistic to think that after 42 years of dictatorship that he will abdicate all of his power?
If he does try to retain some of his military power, he could potentially avoid judicial punishment for his crimes and anger Libyan civilians who were tortured under his regime. Therefore, the International Criminal Court was quick to dismiss Hague's political agreement. The ICC argued that the new rebel government would be obligated to honour the arrest warrants, and that Gaddafi must be removed from Libya completely to be brought to justice.
Given Gaddafi’s tactical navigation through this war of politics and public relations, one thing is clear – he will not go willingly, or silently.
As anti-Gaddafi countries continue to bleed money while time and credibility begin to slip away, we may see desperate negotiations to tempt the dictator out. But how far is Britain willing to go?
The operation in Libya is taking more time and money than originally expected
by Natalia Gomes (02 August 2011)