The playbook in Libya looks nothing like what recently transpired in Tunisia and Egypt. As Libyan protests escalate, Qaddafi’s Son Warns of Civil War.
A five-day-old uprising in Libya took control of its second-largest city of Benghazi and spread for the first time to the capital of Tripoli late on Sunday as the heir-apparent son of its strongman, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, warned Libyans in a televised speech that their oil-rich country would fall into civil war and even renewed Western “colonization” if they threw off his father’s 40-year-long rule.
Witnesses in Tripoli interviewed by telephone on Sunday night said protesters were converging on the capital’s central Green Square and clashing with the heavily armed riot police. Young men armed themselves with chains around their knuckles, steel pipes and machetes. The police had retreated from some neighborhoods, and protesters were seen armed with police batons, helmets and rifles commandeered from riot squads.
“The state has disappeared from the streets,” said Mansour Abu Shenaf, a writer living in Tripoli, “and the people, the youth, have practically taken over.”
The younger Mr. Qaddafi blamed Islamic radicals and Libyans in exile for the uprising. He offered a vague package of reforms in his televised speech, potentially including a new flag, national anthem and confederate structure. But his main theme was to threaten Libyans with the prospect of civil war over its oil resources that would break up the country, deprive residents of food and education, and even invite a Western takeover.
“Libya is made up of tribes and clans and loyalties,” he said. “There will be civil war.”
The whereabouts of Colonel Qaddafi himself remained unclear on Sunday. Over the last three days his security forces have killed at least 173 people, according to a tally by the group Human Rights Watch. Several people in Benghazi hospitals, reached by telephone, said they believed that as many as 200 had been killed and more than 800 wounded there on Saturday alone, with many of the deaths from machine gun fire. And after protesters marched in a funeral procession on Sunday morning, the security forces opened fire again, killing at least 50 more, Human Rights Watch said.
Under Colonel Qaddafi’s idiosyncratic rule, tribal bonds remain primary even within the ranks of the military, and both protesters and the security forces have reason to believe that backing down will likely mean their ultimate death or imprisonment.
But in a break with the Qaddafi government, the powerful al-Warfalla and al-Zuwayya tribes came out against Colonel Qaddafi on Sunday. “We tell him to leave the country,” a spokesman for the al-Warfalla told the pan-Arab news channel Al Jazeera.
The Libyan government has tried to impose a blackout on the country. Foreign journalists cannot enter. Internet access has been almost totally severed, with only occasional access, though some protesters appear to be using satellite connections or phoning information to services outside the country.
Qaddafi’s Son Says Rivers of Blood Will Flow
Bloomberg has some interesting details in Qaddafi’s Son Warns of Libyan Civil War, Offers Dialogue
“Instead of weeping over 84 dead people, we will weep over hundreds of thousands of dead,” Saif al-Islam Qaddafi said on state television. “Rivers of blood will flow.”
Qaddafi said some demonstrators had captured military equipment, and warned that the conflict may halt the flow of oil. BP Plc halted exploration work in the Libyan desert.
Libya, holder of Africa’s largest oil reserves, is the latest country in the region to be rocked by protests ignited by the ouster of Tunisia’s president last month and energized by the fall of Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak on Feb. 11. Violence has flared in Yemen, Djibouti and Bahrain as governments sought to crack down on demands for change.
“The speed of the whole thing in Libya has surprised most of the specialists because Colonel Qaddafi established a very special repressive system of his own,” Amin Saikal, director of the Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies at Australian National University, said in an interview on Bloomberg Television. “Probably the casualties will be extremely high and therefore Qaddafi will be left with very little credibility to really go on and govern the country for much longer.”
In Yemen, President Ali Abdullah Saleh held a press conference in the capital, Sanaa, to rule out meeting all the demands of protesters demanding his ouster. Demonstrators took to the streets for an 11th day as Saleh said their calls for regime change are “not logical.”
In Bahrain, home to the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, seven opposition groups were drawing up demands to put to the government as they discussed the government’s call for dialogue, said Ebrahim Sharif, head of the National Democratic Action Society. Protests have been led by the Shiite Muslim majority, which says it is discriminated against by Sunni rulers.
Thousands of Bahrainis yesterday poured back into the central square that has become the focus of protest in the Bahraini capital, Manama, after tanks, armored personnel carriers and riot police withdrew on the orders of Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa. Unions called off a general strike planned for today in response.
Demonstrations also were reported yesterday in Iran and Morocco. One protester was shot dead in Tehran as thousands gathered in main squares in the Iranian capital and clashed with government supporters, Dubai-based Al Arabiya television said. Security forces also clashed with demonstrators in the city of Shiraz, it reported. There were clashes last week between protesters and security forces in Djibouti, the Horn of Africa nation that hosts the only U.S. military base on the continent.
Chaos in Morocco
Please consider Fears of Chaos Temper Calls for Change in Morocco
For Morocco, a kingdom on the western edge of North Africa, the calls for change sweeping the region are muted by a fear of chaos, a prevalent security apparatus and genuine respect for the king, Mohammed VI. Since he took the throne in 1999, the king, who is only 47, has done much to soften the harsh and often brutal rule of his father, Hassan II.
On Sunday, in response to a “February 20 Movement for Change” that began on Facebook, more than 10,000 people turned out in cities across the country to call for democratic change, lower food prices, freedom for Islamist prisoners, rights for Berbers and a variety of causes, including pan-Arab nationalism.
“This is a start,” said Imane Safi, 18, who was at the demonstration in Casablanca. “The Arab world is changing and the Moroccan people need a change in the Constitution for more democracy. We want a country like Britain, with a constitutional monarchy and a strong Parliament that is not corrupt.”
Oil Rises as Libya Violence Prompts Middle East Supply Concern
Bloomberg reports Oil Rises as Libya Violence Prompts Middle East Supply Concern
Oil for April delivery rose for a fourth day in New York as violence escalated in Libya, bolstering concern supplies will be disrupted as turmoil spreads through the Middle East and North Africa.
“Libya is producing 1.5 million to 1.6 million barrels a day, so any unrest is concerning,” Andrey Kryuchenkov, an analyst at VTB Capital, said by phone from London. “Until things settle there, prices are underpinned.”
Libya, the eighth-largest oil producer among those with quotas in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, has become the focal point of region-wide protests ignited by the ouster of Tunisia’s president last month and energized by the fall of Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak last week. Violence has flared in Yemen, Djibouti and Bahrain as governments sought to crack down on calls for reform. Demonstrations also were reported yesterday in Iran and Morocco.
“There is also the continued risk that this contagion will spread into Iran or another country in the region that is more important to the global oil market,” Ben Westmore, a minerals and energy economist at National Australia Bank Ltd., said by phone from Melbourne.
Tunisia, and Egypt were relatively peaceful, what will the rest bring?
Mike “Mish” Shedlock
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