Qaddafi launches jihad with sea barrage on Benghazi
In a long, fiery speech broadcast by Libyan state TV Tuesday, Libya's ruler Col. Muammar Qaddafi declared war on his enemies at home and abroad. He accused the Cyrenaicans of the East of conspiring to establish an Al Qaeda emirate that would bring the Americans over and create the same situation in Libya as in Afghanistan and Pakistan and threatened them with the fury of millions of Libyans. Straight after his speech, Tripoli announced that Libyan oil and gas exports were blocked to Europe, causing pandemonium in a world market that saw a 12 percent price hike of crude oil this week and seriously threatens the fragile economies of many nations. Libyan Navy missile ships began pounding Benghazi from the sea.
debkafile's Gulf sources report that Saudi Arabia quietly informed Washington and some Arab capitals that it has enough spare production capacity to tide them over for the loss of Libya's exported 1.8 million barrels a day.
The Saudis have a serious bone to pick with Qaddafi after foiling his plot to assassinate King Abdullah in 2007.
Contrary to expectations in some Western capitals, Qaddafi made it clear he had no intention of devolving his powers or "stepping down and giving up like other leaders."
Earlier Tuesday, debkafile reported: Even after two pilots defected to Malta, the 22,000-man strong Libyan Air Force with its 13 bases is Muammar Qaddafi's mainstay for survival against massive popular and international dissent. debkafile's military sources report that 44 air transports and a like number of helicopters swiftly lifted loyal tribal militiamen fully armed from the Sahara and dropped them in the streets of Tripoli Monday, Feb. 21.
Qaddafi had mustered them to fill the gaps left by defecting army units and the large tribal militia which went over to the people.
One of the ruler's sons, Mutassim Qaddafi, is in command of the Tripoli crackdown. Air Force planes, mostly from the Libyan Air Force's inventory of 226 trainers, and helicopter gunships, bombed and fired heavy machine guns to scatter every attempt to stage a rally in the city's districts.
In their wake, Mutassim's "Libyan Popular Army" cleared the streets of protesters.
The tactics employed by Qaddafi and his sons was, first, to give the protesters free rein to rampage through the city, torch state TV and government buildings and so generate an impression among them and in the West that the Qaddafis were about to fall.
But when the demonstrators fanned out to seize the rest of the capital, they were bombed from the air and targeted by the tribal militias, who had no qualms about shooting directly at civilian crowds.
By the small hours of Tuesday, Feb. 22, when Qaddafi went on air to demonstrate he was still in Tripoli, he was again in control of the capital.
In a similar tactic, he first tried to gull his international critics by sending his urbane son, Saif al-Islami, who has convinced many influential people in the West that he is a moderate compared with his father, to state the Qaddafi case in a television interview Sunday, Feb. 20. Behind the scenes, another son, Mutassim, supreme commander of the Popular Army, designed a vicious crackdown in the capital. Deep in Sahara, their father raised a tribal army to fight for their survival.
When Muammar Qaddafi delivered his victory statement Tuesday, he sounded just like "the madman of the Middle East" – and epithet attached to him by the late Ronald Reagan. But in less than 60 seconds, he had conveyed his message that, although buildings were on fire in Tripoli, he was still standing and was determined to punish all his enemies, whom he dismissed scornfully as "foreign dogs" and "terrorist gangs of misguided youths, exploited and fed hallucinogenic pills."
Our military sources report his strategy for staying in power rests first on consolidating his grip on Tripoli and then using it as a base for military operations to regain control of the rest of the country, including Cyrenaica.
The Libyan ruler has not yet thrown all this military resources into the battle for survival. His navy is still in reserve. But his substantial air might well be crucial fro his fight to recover Cyrenaica's coastal towns of Benghazi and Tobruk from the rebels.
Qaddafi shows no sign of being cowed or deterred by international revulsion at his methods and the condemnations expected from the UN Security Council and the Arab League, both of which hold special meetings on Libya later Tuesday. Libya's deputy ambassador to UN accused the ruler of "genocide" and war crimes against his own people" and several ambassadors have quit or refused to represent his government any longer. But Qaddafi is very much on the warpath.