Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Libya - NATO and the rebels should accept Gaddafi's offer of elections as a chance to avoid a long war with more civilians killed by both sides

Gaddafi last week offered elections supervised by international observers if the rebels and NATO would agree to a ceasefire (1). Given even the chance that this might resolve the civil war and bring a transition to democracy under whoever wins those elections, this should be preferable to continuing a war in which both Gaddafi’s artillery and tank attacks and NATO airstrikes are killing civilians – and in which both Libyan civilians and migrant workers are suffering shortages of food, water and medical treatment (2) – (3).

Even if arms and training provided to the rebels by Qatar, the Saudis and NATO allow them to start defeating Gaddafi's forces they would probably have to take Tripoli in the same kind of assaults Gaddafi's forces have made on other cities, with heavy civilian casualties inevitable

Libyan rebels and the US government refused the offer of elections almost instantly (4). It’s completely understandable that, if Gaddafi did order troops to kill unarmed demonstrators, many of the rebels refuse to consider accepting any deal that does not involve the Gaddafis first giving up power, but if the aim is to provide a transition to democracy without many more civilian deaths, the offer of elections may be the best chance of getting this and they should reconsider.

There is no way any war will be over quickly or without many more deaths and it’s likely that even if one side did win, the losing side would resort to guerrilla or terrorist tactics, like the insurgency or resistance in Iraq. Taking up the offer of elections at least offers a chance of a way forward that avoids this.

(1) = Independent 16 Jun 2011 ‘Gaddafi would agree to supervised election, says son’,

(2) = Amnesty International 06 May 2011 ‘Misratah – Under Siege and under fire’

(3) = AFP 22 Jun 2011 ‘NATO backtracks on denials over killing of Libyan civilians’,

(4) = Al Jazeera 16 Jun 2011 ‘Libyan rebels reject election offer’,

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