The three-day Muslim festival of Eid Al-Fitr falls on or around August 30, 2011 marking the end of the fast month of Ramadan. Muslims gather early in the morning in outdoor locations or mosques to recite the Eid prayer, then scatter to visit family and friends, exchange gifts (especially to children), and make phone calls with good wishes for distant relatives.
In most Muslim countries, the three days are an official government/school holiday.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly's military and intelligence sources report that for some reason, NATO has set the date of its final assault for crushing Muammar Qaddafi on the day after Eid.
Alliance officers in Brussels explained that they had decided to hold off until after Ramadan during which Muslims are not supposed to engage in combat.
This sounded odd. Even from Brussels, wars, revolutions and other violence must have been visible raging unabated during Ramadan in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Syria and Yemen – all Muslim countries. That is because bloodletting is not prohibited on religious grounds.
Revisiting the "shock and awe" tactic for destroying Qaddafi
This is not the first time in the six-month Libyan war that NATO has geared up for a spectacular operation to bomb Muammar Qaddafi out of power. On June 16, DEBKA-Net-Weekly 497 disclosed under the heading "French-UK-Italian Shock and Awe Plan Stalled by Empty Arsenals" that Britain, France and Italy were in the middle of secret preparations for a "Shock and Awe" (technically known as "rapid dominance") coup de grace against the Libyan ruler, when they discovered their air forces had run out of missiles and smart bombs. Their arsenals were empty.
This time, NATO swears there will be no more glitches of this kind; everything is now in place for September's Shock and Awe strike.
This is disputed by our military sources. The tactical plans may be ready but the military resources for their execution are not. Brussels headquarters reports pledges by the countries participating in the war to put up the necessary personnel and assurances that they are already mobilized. But no information has come in from Washington, where it counts most, about whether or not pivotal US units and weapons will be made available.
It is not even known whether President Barack Obama has approved NATO's finishing blow for Qaddafi or how the plan would be affected by the eruption of another Middle East war, say in Syria.
NATO's purportedly secret preparations, supposed to have caught the Libyan ruler by surprise, have already surfaced with three untoward consequences:
Libyan rebels high on fictitious victories
1. Rebel forces have suddenly switched from low morale to boundless self-confidence and constant bragging about how close Qaddafi and his army are to collapse and defeat. Tuesday, August 16, they were quoted as boasting that their popular uprising against the longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi was in a "decisive phase" and promised victory would be in the bag by the end of August.
2. Dialogue on a political solution for ending the war in Libya was broken off, including the main track on the Tunisian island of Djerba which, from August 13-15, had brought Qaddafi's ministers and representatives of the rebel Transitional National Council together for the first time under the aegis of the UN Secretary's special envoy, former Jordanian foreign minister Abdul Ilah al-Khatib.
The rebels tried to disavow this event. But then UN Secretary Ban ki-Moon more or less confirmed it when he stated Saturday, Aug. 13 that "a ceasefire linked to a political process which would meet the aspirations of the Libyan people is the only viable means to achieving peace and security in Libya."
Ban's comment may have been intended to persuade NATO to desist from extreme military action before giving diplomacy a chance.
Premature obituaries for Qaddafi
3. The rebels began broadcasting highly-colored accounts of wholly fictitious victories.
Wednesday, Aug. 17, they fed stories to Western reporters in the rebel capital of Benghazi claiming they were fighting under fire from government forces to consolidate their new gains and lay siege to Qaddafi's last stronghold in Tripoli.
Many Western television stations, especially in Britain, put senior analysts with maps before their cameras to illustrate their contention that Libyan government forces are surrounded and on the point of breakdown – repeating the same premature obituaries for Qaddafi they aired in April and May.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly's military sources confirm – now as then – that these accounts are part of a psychological warfare campaign aimed at casting Qaddafi's forces down in despair ahead of NATO's final hammer blow.
Up until the moment of writing this account, none of Qaddafi's defense lines have been breached by NATO air strikes or rebel attacks and no strategic towns have fallen to the rebels.
Battles are taking place around some cities where outlying villages change hands back and forth. But the front lines still hold firm with only minor changes.
The six brigades which are the backbone of Qaddafi's army have sustained losses, but none were knocked totally out of action.
"Throwing dishes against a wall" or a real menace?
Khamis Qaddafi is the seventh and youngest of the Libyan leader's sons. From command of the Khamis Brigade of the Libyan armed forces, he was recently promoted to top commander of all six brigades. He was never hurt by any NATO air strike as Western media and rebels reported.
Tuesday, Aug. 16, government forces launched a surface-to-surface Scud missile for the first time in the six months of warfare. It was fired from the city of Sirte east of Tripoli against rebel forces fighting to conquer the oil city of Brega.
This was the first hint of the punishment Qaddafi held in store should NATO go ahead with its coup de grace against him.
Western Alliance spokesmen retorted that his missiles might harm civilians but had as much chance of changing the course of war as "throwing dishes against a wall."
But Moscow takes Qaddafi more seriously. On July 14, the Russian president's special envoy Mikhail Margelov warned NATO strategists:
"Qaddafi has not yet used a single surface-to-surface missile while he has more than enough of them. This raises doubts that the (Qaddafi) regime is running out of arms. Theoretically, Qaddafi may be short of tank and gun munitions, but he has quite enough missiles and explosives."