There is no disputing NATO's success – led by London and Paris and helped by America – in wresting Libya from the hands of Muammar Qaddafi on behalf of the rebels fighting his regime.
But the Libyan war is far from over. To consolidate this success and bring stability to the war-torn country, the air strikes mandated by the UN – albeit with unacknowledged ground support – will not suffice. Ground troops will have to be brought in.
This calls for a new Security Council resolution with a broader mandate, which is bound to be defeated by Russia and China. NATO can get around this. Since the Western allies, chiefly the UK and France, exceeded the UN mandate this week by putting boots on the ground for capturing Tripoli, they could make it kosher if the transitional Libyan government invited them to send in soldiers for upholding the peace and security of the capital.
That is why NATO is in such a hurry to get the National Transitional council's Mohammed Abdul Jalil transferred from Benghazi to Tripoli and established at the head of a provisional government.
Even after formal authorization for ground forces is in the bag, the UK and France don't have the financial or military resources for routing Qaddafi's army once and for all.
There is still a long way to go to reach this goal. Thursday, Aug. 25, two days after the rebels celebrated the capture of the Qaddafi stronghold of Bab al-Aziziya, his loyalists were fighting in parts of Tripoli and in control of substantial areas in Libya.
When the Libyan Donors Group got together in Doha, Qatar Wednesday, Aug. 24, their first priority was raising money. Libya's National Transitional Council NTC needs cash to rule.
They set a target of $2.5bn to cover the civil service payroll and the personnel, medication and equipment urgently needed by hospitals for treating the rising number of war casualties.
Britain and France are too broke for a drawn-out war effort
The US, the UK, Turkey, France, Italy and Qatar were listed formally as donors. But realistically, only Turkey and Qatar can afford to help. America can contribute little and Britain, France and Italy are all deep in economic crises with no funds to spare – especially when the sum targeted will only cover the next ten days until September 1. After that, more bills will come due.
Britain, France and Italy are accordingly in no financial position to finish the job they started in Libya in the name of NATO. To bankroll the cost of the military strength required to sustain the Libyan project, the Western Alliance will have to turn to the oil-rich Gulf States, starting with Saudi Arabia.
Even in the unlikely eventuality that the US, France and Britain, can get their UN Security Council draft past the Russian and Chinese veto and unfreeze some of the Libyan assets in the West (estimated at about $130 billion), it will take time to lay hands on the money given the current state of international markets.
To make up the current payments shortfall in Tripoli, the Saudis and Gulf emirs will have to remit billions of dollars each month for an indeterminate period.
They will not be shy about sending the West a bill itemizing their military, strategic and diplomatic requirements as remuneration for financial services rendered.
Therefore, the change of power in Tripoli accomplished with remarkable speed this week has set the scene for expanded financial, military and intelligence cooperation between the Gulf Cooperation Council-GCC states and NATO.
The Saudis will expect NATO to fight their wars too
This outcome will please the Barack Obama administration.
In the six months of the uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad, Washington has been pushing hard for the Turks and Saudis to form an alliance for breaking the Iranian-Syrian bond.
Because Turkey is a member of NATO, its alliance with Saudi Arabia would also boost the Western defense organization. Cooperation between NATO and the Gulf emirates would also shift the weighty financial burdens from Washington to the oil-rich Arab governments.
On a personal level, President Barak Obama senses that his complex and fragile interaction with Saudi King Abdullah would be more tactfully managed in a broader strategic framework than on a one-on-one basis.
As Riyadh and Doha gear up for the Syrian crisis which us uppermost for them, the subject has not yet come up in the political discourse in Washington, Brussels, London or Paris but they won't be able to dodge the subject for much longer.
The Saudis are already throwing out broad hints, DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s intelligence sources report, that they want to see the Turkish army moving into northern Syria under US and NATO protective air, missile and anti-missile cover, while a GCC expeditionary force including Saudi units would enter Syria from the south, through the Horan region and its capital Daraa, where the anti-Assad uprising began.
They would also expect NATO to chip in should Jordan come under a retaliatory attack from Syria.
Harnessing NATO as a GCC military arm
A tradeoff is taking shape: Saudi Arabia will help NATO stabilize Libya and consolidate its influence in Tripoli with financial aid, in return for which the Western alliance is expected to align itself with the GCC in Syria and help out with any regional fallout from the anti-Assad operation
These developments pose tough questions:
1. London and Paris are already financially overstretched by the Libyan campaign. David Cameron's government went in mainly to gain control of Libyan oil; Nicolas Sarkozy had a score to settle with Qaddafi for refusing to come aboard French policy in Africa.
Are they financially up to more military activity in other parts of the Middle East and another expensive neo-imperialist expedition in Syria? It is hard to see them holding out even in Libya for another three months in the likely eventuality of the war continuing.
2. Are NATO members prepared to see their defense organization harnessed as the military operational arm of the Gulf Arabs in the Middle East? The first step was taken in Libya.
3. Will NATO, Britain and France agree to be drawn into serving the Saudi Arabia's Muslim Sunni lineup for challenging Iran-led Shiite domination of the Muslim world?
If NATO and its leading members can answer these questions in the affirmative, their organization will be ready for a key military role in the Arab Revolts of the year 2011.