A US-led airstrike between Benghazi and Ajdabiyah March 20, 2011
Source: Press TV
Clashes between Libyan revolutionary and pro-government forces combined with the US-led war in Libya continue, while more officials are defecting from the country's ruling regime.
Press TV speaks with Peter Rushton, historian and political commentator in London, about whether the Libyan revolution is still alive and about the possibility of a military coup being staged.
Press TV: How do you see the situation in Libya now as you know anti-Qaddafi forces are interested in reaching a political solution due to the standoff that is developing as they fail to find a quick military solution against Qaddafi forces? Has this all been for nothing? If the goal at the beginning was to reach a political solution, would it not have been better for both parties to sit and talk?
Peter Rushton: I fear that from the point of view of the Libyan people it's beginning to look as though all of this could be for nothing. That what could be about to happen is in effect a coup; a reshuffling of the Libyan government; an internal coup in which elements more friendly to the West and their interests take over in Tripoli.
We've seen the defection recently of the Libyan Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa who is supposedly somewhere here in London being debriefed by the London authorities. And we've heard speculation that a number of former Qaddafi ministers may be about to rally to the pro-Western side.
So it's looking now as though it may not be correct to speak about a Libyan revolution and that in the long term we may just be speaking about a pro-Western military coup or pro-Western government being imposed in Libya; whether this leads to any improvement for the situation of people in eastern Libya remains to be seen. But I fear that having once had the taste for rebellion, whatever happens, if the West tries to impose some military government -- some Qaddafi-type government without Qaddafi, there will be some people keen to accept it and others who not accept it.
So, will that mean Western troops on the ground in Libya for quite some time to come? -- a Western military base in Libya for quite some time to come. And is that what people in London and Washington want? Many things remain unclear in the situation over the past few days and one fears that what we could be looking at isn't it the long term interests of the people of Libya.
Press TV: People in Libya are not naïve they are aware that the intervention that forced a retreat of pro-Qaddafi forces out of Benghazi will indebt them to the US. The Libyan people seem ready to make a deal with the West and so this would depend on how much the West want to take for their actions. How much do you think the West wants to take from this situation?
Peter Rushton: Well, let's remember that we're dealing with very experienced and very cynical operators in London and Washington and beyond. These are people who have long experience across the region of seeking to exploit the desperation of others so the sad desperation of the people of Benghazi is an opportunity from the point of view of many strategic planners.
In particular, it's an opportunity for them given what happened in Egypt only a few weeks ago; that the West is now looking to put a stop to what seemed to be a threat to Western interests and a threat of course to Zionist interests across the Middle East.
Events in Libya and the desperation of those people could be seen by many as an opportunity to exploit and an opportunity to reestablish long term and medium term bases for NATO or for the US; the sort of bases they had up until 1969 in Libya. And to have a US base for military interests that they would dearly love to have to keep control potentially of events in Egypt and across the region.
This is the disturbing situation that we're looking at at present. From the point of view of ordinary voters, the general public in Britain and America -- many many people at this grass roots level are very concerned about the possibility of a long term military commitment. And this is because they see the recent failures of Western military commitment in Iraq and Afghanistan. They see the long term dangers. Additionally, they may have members of their family serving in the armed forces, or worried about the UK economy and government cut backs, you are not much seeing strategic opportunities, you're seeing dangers and worried about the implications of another long term British America NATO military commitment in the Middle East.
Press TV: Western media is portraying this as if the US, the Brits and NATO have to go in and save the Libyan people from this awful dictator. When it is presented as a package in this way by Western media isn't it more likely that members of the public there will accept it on those humanitarian grounds and say well we have no choice?
Peter Rushton: That media presentation does certainly have an influence. Despite the almost unanimous media support for the intervention to begin with, we see in the first opinion polls on the topic over the last couple of weeks that the British public is pretty evenly divided on the subject with a slight majority in many of those polls against British military involvement in Libya.
So the media unanimity in favor of the intervention hasn't persuaded the majority of the British people that this is necessarily a good idea. Of course it is a rapidly changing situation; an awful lot depends on what happens tomorrow and next week. If there could be a rapid conclusion and Qaddafi is removed from power quickly, opinions might change. But I think still among many people in Britain there is a concern about what is the medium to long term objective.