“The tide of Libya’s revolt-turned-civil-war has turned against the rebels,” writes Una Moore at U.N. Dispatch. Gaddafi loyalists backed up by tanks, aircraft and rocket artillery captured the central Libyan oil port of Ras Lanuf on Friday then moved a further 77 miles east, taking the oil terminal of Brega. In western Libya, loyalists devastated the city of Zawiya. If the loyalists can maintain their momentum, they will be poised to attack the strategic city of Ajadbiya and then be on to Benghazi. That’s a big if, however, on a battlefield with intense logistics pressures and a historical record of rapid advances and retreats.
Still, Gaddafi has tanks and air power. And the rebels? Not so much. Abu Ray at The Arabist blog — expanding on a Spanish journalist’s comparison of the Libyan war with Spain’s own civil war — wrote: “Benghazi in this scenario becomes civil war Barcelona, with an exuberant explosion of revolutionary thinking and fervor that is eventually crushed under the boot of the fascist armies after it turns out enthusiasm doesn’t beat out lots of equipment on the front.”
At what point might the U.S. or NATO decide to carry out a military intervention in Libya? My guess is, when we see a combination of at least two of the following conditions:
- Gaddafi’s forces carry out a massacre large enough to shock the global conscience –something akin to a Libyan Srebrenica, or a re-enactment of the fall of Mazar Sharif to the Taliban in 1998.
- The Arab League endorses outside military intervention.
- The U.N. Security Council authorizes an intervention.
- The Europeans agree to participate in a multilateral effort against the Libyan regime.
Libya’s rebels want Western air power on their side, but the U.S. and its allies, bruised by the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, are in no hurry to join another war.