Interview with Israel Shamir, a well-known independent observer and political commentator.
France’s air force has destroyed some tanks and armed vehicles in Libya, as confirmed by French Defense Ministry’s official. Meanwhile, Gaddafi has expressed his discontent at the intervention by French forces and has wowed that he and his supporters are willing to die rather than to submit. And with us today, commenting on this breaking news, will be Israel Shamir, a well-known independent observer and political commentator.
US defense officials tell Reuter that the US navy has three submarines in the Mediterranean preparing for operations in Libya, and France’s air force has destroyed some tanks and armed vehicles in Libya, and this has been confirmed by French defense minister. Al-Jazeera had reported earlier that 4 Libyan tanks were destroyed to the south-west of Benghazi. What is your information on the current situation in Libya at this point?
Actually, they destroyed 4 Libyan government tanks. And now there is also a report that a Libyan airplane was brought down, and it seems to be that the airplane was the jet belonging to the rebels. Not that they intended to do it, but that’s what happened. Now, in Tripoli, they celebrate the surrender of Tripoli to the government troops. Now, they are going through some certain time of total confusion. On the one hand, the government forces say that Benghazi surrendered, and, on another hand, English and French forces try to keep it. Now, Western reporters report from Tobruk, which is further east from Benghazi. And Tripoli seems to be very strongly in the hands of Gaddafi, and there are a lot of popular demonstrations in support of him. I saw very cynical reports saying that in the very worst case, even if English and French succeed in dismembering Libya, and break away the Benghazi piece, that’ll be quite a worthless piece, because the oil isn’t there. But, again, that’s provided if what they want is oil. But it’s also very possible that what they want is to have a good place for a good big military base in Tobruk and Benghazi to keep an eye on Egypt. And that is something that also would make a lot of sense, because nobody knows which way Egypt will drift. If it will drift away from its present pro-Israeli course, Israel will feel very upset, and, in such a case, the United States, as a bigger sister of Israel, will obviously step in, and, for such a case, a good base outside Egypt will be very much suitable. But, anyway, the first thing I’d like to say is to express deep, deep regret that this intervention started. That was extremely unnecessary. And it would be much, much better if Libyans would be allowed to sort out their developments themselves.
As you know, actually, Gaddafi wrote letters to Cameron and Sarkozy saying they have no right to interfere, and there are some thoughts that this could lead to Gaddafi holding Benghazi and a stalemate across the country. What do you think the chances are that this will not be quickly resolved, that they’ll have a stalemate situation in weeks, or in days, or, maybe, even in months?
Oh, that’s how it looks now. It’s still difficult to know what will happen, but Gaddafi has huge staying power. He is quite a unique man. Well, he is not very young any more – but, let’s say, he’s survived many bombings. Americans bombed him, and killed his daughter, as you, maybe, remember, some years ago. So, he’s survived a lot of attempts to undo him and to conquer Libya. It’s not impossible if he survives again, he is very much a fox, a very clever ruler with a lot of ability, lot of guts. At it seems to be that he also has a lot of support – not that much support as he would like to have, and, obviously, he made many mistakes by not democratizing his country, by not letting people more chance to express their views and their desire. There is, obviously, opposition. But, you know, it doesn’t mean that all this opposition will support submission to the colonial European forces.
What about Gaddafi’s supporters? What is their number and percentage, and are they also concerned by the intervention? This intervention, actually, turned many people toward Gaddafi, saying: “You know, we would have liked to resolve our issues ourselves, without this invasion.”
I think that this last remark of yours is absolutely, exactly on the point, exactly correct. That is exactly what it is. People that until now would hate Gaddafi, how say: “Well, if it is either Gaddafi or reoccupation by European colonizers, let it be Gaddafi.” So, that’s something that we are familiar with, in many countries, in the face of foreign invasion, people say: “Let’s forget about our internal dissension, let us kind of present a single united front. So, it’s very possible, and I see that this view is shared by many observers – that, actually the attack would strengthen Gaddafi rather than bring him down.
Yes, that’s definitely what everybody is feeling now. But how long do you think Gaddafi can actually stay in power under the attack by the US forces, by French forces, by British forces? As far as I know, there are US submarines posed to take part in the action if necessary.
Well, so much depends on so many things. It’s difficult to prophesy. Today also was a day when, in the United States, the first anti-war demonstrations took place in Los Angeles and in New York, and, for tomorrow, they plan more demonstrations in San Francisco. So, it’s not impossible that the American public opinion will turn against the war, because they feel that they had enough of Afghanistan, and enough of Iraq and they don’t really want more. So, that is also not impossible. Now, there is also some element of farce in this great joy of British and French politicians that now they have something to show to their voters what for they were elected for, and this seems to be some sentiment which is so much outdated, showing so much of their military bravery. And what is their bravery? Attacking a small foreign country far away! So, it’s not really easy to say now how it will go.
I see. Now, what do you think will be the long-term ramifications of this intervention?
You know, one thing is clear – and that is something that is very bad. Let’s tell the bad news first. The bad news is zero sovereignty, and that is one of the most important things. That emerging or re-emerging Russia try to make strong point saying that sovereignity should be recognized, and sovereignty of every country should be honored, this concept was severely undermined again. Some people compare it with what happened in Kosovo, and other people compare it with what happened in Afghanistan or Iraq, anyway we see again that the NATO forces this for other they try again to impose regime change, they try to change the government, and what is very, very disappointing is that Russia and China thought it’s good enough to abstain and to stay away, instead of supporting the great principle of sovereignty we see that in the same very time Bahrain, which is, as we know, also a base for the US 5th fleet, also had demonstrations, demonstrators were shot at, the country was invaded by Saudi troops, and, somehow, nobody even on it. So, it seemed to be very odd, and, I would say, I think that the Russian political elite should make a second thought about it. And they should, in my opinion, regret their inaction.
I see. Thank you so much for commenting at this late hour, and I really appreciate it.