Libya’s interim leaders claim they will not stay in power once the last Gaddafi strongholds are defeated. But Patrick Henningsen, a managing editor of the 21st Century Wire news site, believes that the interim government will stay on long after that.
“To have an indication of what the future is going to look like, all you have to do is look over to Egypt,” he said. “The military government is still in power, and will be in power for some time.”
Nevertheless, Henningsen says there is a huge power struggle within the Transitional National Council.
“These rebels are basically fighting for whatever piece of the pie they can get,” he said. “They do not know for how long they are going to be in power. So they are trying to solidify their own personal interests, while they have not even won the war yet.”
NATO has vowed not to end operations in Libya until civilians are no longer in danger. With thousands fleeing Sirte and Bani Walid because of shelling and water shortages, Henningsen believes the operation will continue until Gaddafi’s last strongholds are emptied of civilians and razed to the ground.
“What they are doing with Sirte is much like it was with Fallujah [in Iraq] – they are trying to empty the city, so that there is only a military presence left, now ‘insurgent’ presence,” he said. “And then they are going to carpet bomb it or just shell it for a week or two, until there is nothing left but a pile of dust.”
Henningsen argued that for now, the West’s main idea seems to be: “It is not stable yet [in Libya]. When stability comes, we will give you democracy.”
But Libya has little chance of growing into a full democratic state, Henningsen says, because the “seeds” planted by NATO’s support for the rebels were not exactly democratic.
“Essentially, NATO has given air cover and military cover to a rebel faction that was not chosen or elected by the people,” he said. “They don’t have a mandate. What we will have, I think, is protracted power struggle, a tribal backlash which is going to occur in Libya as a result of this war.”
He believes that the West is just carving up Libya, and the only stability it is really interested in is if it is stable enough for Western companies to come in and sign profitable contracts.