In Iraq, a major plus for achieving a stable regime was the common interest of Shias—though they quarreled endlessly among themselves—in sticking together to keep the Sunnis from massacring them and reclaiming power. The Kurds, while claiming autonomy, were also a stabilizing force. No such powerful political glue exists in Libya.
Second, the regime is very badly infiltrated—far more than Iraq or Afghanistan—by revolutionary Islamist elements. Extremists did a lot of the fighting against Qadhafi and picked up a lot of arms. One of the most popular and important army commanders is the former head of the Libyan al-Qaida affiliate. Anything that the U.S. government tells its Libyan counterparts—where the ambassador or embassy staff is located, for example—will quickly be passed on to the terrorists.
Of course there are many Libyans, probably a majority, who don’t want a radical Sharia state. Some of them attacked the headquarters of an Islamist militia they blamed for killing the Americans and forced out the radicals. “I am sorry, America,” one man said. “This is the real Libya.” But like those who are more moderate in Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq such people have a real fight on their hands and they are not necessarily the better organized, better-armed side.
All of this is a nightmare. The United States is only at the start of a nasty conflict in Libya which is going to be very anti-American. It is shocking that there is so little recognition of that fact and an apparently sincere belief that all the problems there are due to a You-Tube video. Having a big problem is bad enough; refusing to recognize that one has a bad problem is potentially fatal.
Note: Remember the old argument that the Arab-Israel or Israel-Palestinian conflict was the centerpiece of the region; all the Arabs cared about, and what they judged the West by? Now there are a dozen other issues more important to the extent that this cannot even be hidden by the Western mass media and “experts.”
Originally published at Rubin Reports.Barry Rubin
About the Author: Professor Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. See the GLORIA/MERIA site at www.gloria-center.org.
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