The Time has Come to Help the Libyan Revolution     Print

Le Monde, 16.03.11


We’ve maneuvered ourselves into a paradoxical situation. The Libyan regime is daily losing more international support – treated as a pariah, ostracized by other governments, decried as “illegitimate” and abandoned by its former allies. It is doomed.

Yet day after day Colonel Gaddafi’s forces retake control of the land held by the rebellion six weeks ago to liberate the country from a grotesque dictatorship.

The flow of the fighting – which pits the under-equipped and under-trained insurgents against the over-armed troops of the self-proclaimed “Brother Leader and Guide”  will soon bring the city of Benghazi, the opposition stronghold, within firing range of Gaddafi’s soldiering. As things stand, nothing will stop the Libyan army.

Moammar Gaddafi’s regime is has been pronounced illegitimate by the United States, Europe and even the Arab League, which has expelled it from membership. It has just lost one of its last key supporters in the UN Security Council: Russia.

On Monday March 14, President Dimitri Medvedev announced that Gaddafi and his family were considered as “persona non grata” by his government and would not be allowed to conduct any financial transactions in Russia.

Every day, the opposition, meeting as a national transition council, is gaining international recognition.

Around the world, the Gaddafi family’s bank accounts are frozen. In this country of six million, most of the people who make things work are foreigners -- Chinese, Tunisians, Egyptians, Malians, Nigerians, Chadians – have fled.

Half of Libya’s oil installations – which provide roughly two percent of the world’s supply – are shut down.

But, in the face of this situation, the international community seems to have resigned itself to seeing Colonel Gaddafi crush the insurgency and stay in power. Everything is happening as if the atrocities perpetrated by the regime in recent weeks -- hundreds of fatalities among the civilian population, torture, arbitrary arrests and "disappeared” opposition figures -- do not yet provide a legal basis for indirect military assistance to the insurgency.

France has not convinced  Europe of the need to impose a no-fly zone on combat areas any more than it convinced the foreign ministers of the G-8 (Canada, Germany, United States, France, Great Britain, Italy, Japan and Russia) when they met this week in Paris.

Intervention, even if minimal, would still pose enormous risks. But inaction exposes the Libyan people to even greater risks. We know what Gaddafi is capable of: he has threatened to put the insurgents to fire and the sword.

Nicolas Sarkozy is right. We must make a military gesture to help the rebels fortify Benghazi. This may take the form of a no-fly zone over the city. Americans and Europeans have what it takes to do the job. The time has come to act.