Sharp-eyed Western observers noticed the absence of a single military commander in the National Transitional Council delegations representing the rebels in Libya received in London on April 12 for talks with Prime Minister David Cameron and then on to Paris on April 14 to meet French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
This absence was odd since the subject of their conversations, aside from the rebels’ failed application for political recognition and more financial assistance, is presumed to have been ways and means of winning the war and driving a defeated Muammar Qaddafi out of power.
At least one military figure should have between present for this discussion.
This week too, media coverage of the Libyan warfront underwent a tidal change. All of a sudden, the most embattled cities since February vanished from front-page reports: Misrata, Ras Lanuf, Brega and Ajdabiya dropped out of the headlines without explanation. NATO bombardments moved away from battering pro-Qaddafi military targets in those cities and switched to Tripoli and another missile blitz for short-cutting an end to the war by killing the Libyan ruler.
General Sir David Richards, Britain’s top military commander, said Sunday, May 15, that the Libyan leader would be left “clinging to power” unless NATO broadened its bombing targets to the country’s infrastructure. His pessimistic summing-up of a week of accelerated air strikes on the Libyan capital was an admission that those air strikes had so far failed in their objective and, unless the offensive was widened – which the British and French air forces cannot manage without US air force intervention – Muammar Qaddafi would have the last laugh on NATO.
The Misrata smoke-screen victory for saving rebel honor
This admission contrasted starkly with the confident NATO claims of progress pouring out of alliance sources. The widening gap between the hype and the reality of the Libyan war indicates the disarray in Western ranks caused, DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s military sources disclose exclusively, by a well-hidden development: Libya's rebel commanders are in advanced secret negotiations with Qaddafi's military chiefs.
Those talks have progressed to a point close to agreement on a truce, our sources report.
The commanders in Benghazi and various other rebel factions opted for talks when they realized they would never defeat Qaddafi's army – even with NATO air cover. They lacked both the necessary trained combat strength and weapons systems for beating Qaddafi's fighting machine which is backed and augmented by warriors from friendly tribes.
The plan to approach the rebels came from Abdullah Sanousi, head of Qaddafi's spy agency.
Hailing from a clan in rebel-held Cyrenaica in western Libya, Sanousi began using his tribal connections with the rebels two weeks ago to plant secret agents in the rebel command center of Benghazi. They came close enough to the rebel commanders to draw them into initial conversation on ways to end the fighting.
Those conversations evolved into negotiations, areas of agreement and a suspension of fighting by both camps.
The two sides got together on a smokescreen to cover their breakthrough. It came in the form of a big victory whereby the rebels drove Qaddafi's troops out of the strategic Misrata airport and capturing of large quantities of weapons including 40 Grad missiles.
Rebel commanders get a substantial cut of Libya's oil revenue
This charade was staged jointly by rebel and Qaddafi's commanders on May 11. The rebels told Sanousi's agents that they needed a big battlefield victory before accepting a truce. Qaddafi approved the stunt and let them move in and of Misrata airport with a quantity of weapons as booty.
After that, calm descended on the embattled town.
Meanwhile, Sanousi's agents clinched another point of agreement with the rebel commanders. This one not only saved them from more combat against unequal odds but also lined their pockets.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s sources report a secret agreement on a ceasefire in the Sirte oil basin ranging from Sabha in the south and enclosing the oil towns of Sirte, Uqayla, Bin Jawad, Ras Lanuf and Brega on the coast.
This agreement stipulates non-interference in oil production in this basin and its exporting facilities.
In return, from the estimated $100 million dollars a day earned from oil revenue, Qaddafi has agreed to shave off $10-15 million for the rebel commanders, provided the money is not spent on buying weapons or recruiting manpower for fighting the regime.
This secret accord has transformed many of the unkempt rebel fighters overnight into security personnel hired to guard the oil fields and production facilities.
Having jumped to the rebel commanders' double game, the British and French governments looked for another way to dispose of Qaddafi outside the failed battlefield. They accordingly pressed the prosecutor general of the War Crimes Court in The Hague to ask the judges to issue an international arrest warrant and summons for questioning against Qaddafi, his son Saif al-Islam and Abdullah Sanousi, the three live wires instrumental in pulling off deals with the rebel commanders for ending the Libyan war without gains for the Western coalition.
Even if the ICC judges were prevailed upon to issue these warrants, there is no force in Libya for executing them.