As US Secretary of State Hillary Clintonannounced US recognition of the rebel National Transitional Council (TNC) "until a fully representational interim government can be established," Muammar Qaddafi declared "We aim for victory – not compromise!" and launched his troops on a new operation against rebels in the west. Clinton's announcement to the 30-nation Libya Contact Group meeting in Istanbul, July 15, offered the key to eventually unlocking more than $34 billion in frozen assets.
debkafile reports: Qaddafi's latest offensive began as he and his sons engaged in secret talks with the US – through Moscow – and with France and Italy – through Berlin. It was a maneuver to improve his bargaining position in the talks for ending the war against him.
The real business for terminating the war is taking place in that quiet forum, which does not include Britain and NATO, and only reflected in the deliberations of the Istanbul gathering.
Those talks were kicked off by the phone call US President Barak Obama made Thursday, July 14 to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev assigning Moscow the task of negotiating an end to the conflict based on Qaddafi's consent to step down and hand power to an interim administration in Tripoli.
debkafile's intelligence sources sum up the situation on the Libyan battlefield on Friday, July 15:
They dismiss the government spokesman's charge that pro-Qaddafi forces are under rebel and NATO ground, air and naval attack in the eastern oil region of Brega as a red herring to disguise the transfer of an expanded government armored brigade from Brega to fight a separatist insurgency in the western Nafusa Mountains.
They also discount the rebel complaint that with enough arms on the western front they could have been standing now at the gates of Tripoli.
In fact, the rebels have suffered another defeat. The Libyan ruler was only stopped from moving in and taking their last strongholds around the western town of Zintan by fear that NATO would bomb his forces.
That Qaddafi felt able to move a division-sized force from eastern Libya to the west indicates that he no longer fears rebel advances around Brega in the east or Misrata in the west. Neither is he concerned about them capturing Sirte on the road to Tripoli – or even laying this key town to siege. In all the five months of their NATO-backed offensive against the regime, they never came close to that objective.
Qaddafi went on the offensive additionally to show the 30-member Libya Contact Group which army holds the upper hand on the Libyan battlefield and underscore NATO's failure to turn the tide against him.
In recognition of that reality, the Istanbul meeting was informed by the US Secretary: "The TNC has offered important assurances today, including the promise to pursue a process of democratic reform that is inclusive both geographically and politically." It will be recognized only "until an interim authority is in place" This means that the TNC was not recognized by the US as Libya's legitimate government.
The formula specified by Clinton in a prepared statement was based on the understanding previously accepted by Qaddafi and sons as the basis for negotiations during their informal contacts with Washington, Paris and Rome. It is part of a political package that includes "a ceasefire to halt the civil war."
This development is the sequel to debkafile's earlier story of July 14, 2011.