Away from the cameras focusing on the African Union peacemaking delegation in Tripoli Sunday, April 10 headed by South African President Jacob Zuma, debkafile's exclusive intelligence sources disclose German Chancellor Angela Merkel's discreet but key role in the multinational thrust to broker an end to the Libyan war. Her emissary arrived quietly in the Libyan capital with NATO consent.
Our sources identify him as Bernd Schmidtbauer, German government coordinator and former secret service chief.
The intervention of the strongest European power for ending the conflict underscores Muammar Qaddafi's military successes over the rebels and the failure of their NATO, British and French supporters to force him to step down – whether by military action, an ineffectual no fly zone and UN sanctions. The German chancellor refused from the first to join the international effort to topple Qaddafi. She now leads the effort to end the conflict.
The Americans were first to grasp that those measures would not work, By April, they had withdrawn their military assets from the arena.
The German emissary has met Qaddafi and his son Saif several times on the basis of a commitment that under no circumstances would the Libyan ruler have to leave his country. This concession makes it possible for him to stay in power – at least until political reforms providing for elections in which one of his sons can run for election as president are in place
In his talks with the African delegates, Qaddafi agreed to the immediate cessation of all hostilities and to negotiations with a view to "adopting and implementing the political reforms necessary for eliminating the causes of the current crisis," according to a statement issued Sunday.
No mention was made of Qaddafi stepping down.
According to debkafile's sources, President Zuma and Schmidtbauer got together Monday morning, April 14, to coordinate their road maps before the South African president set out for Benghazi to sell the evolving peace plan to rebel leaders. A blueprint backed by Africa, Europe and NATO will be hard for them to reject, especially with the US absent from the combat on their behalf.
Sunday, NATO carried out air strikes to knock out 14 pro-Qaddafi's forces' tanks outside Adjabiya to stop their advance on the rebel stronghold of Benghazi. More air strikes hit another 11 tanks and stopped a second government column reaching Misratah, the only town in western Libya still partially held by the rebels.
Any deal that leaves Qaddafi in power – even for a limited period – represents a political and military setback for French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron, both of whom had set their sights and all their prestige on the Libyan ruler's ouster – or at least on the partitioning of the country in a way that assigned half to the rebels.
As it turned out, Qaddafi had prepared a formidable military force in advance to stand up to foreign intervention and the rebels were sorely lacking in the military and political cohesion and capabilities for his overthrow.