Gaddafi's Syrtis: nearing the end

It was more than six months ago that I posted Syrtis = Sirt: Danger on the Coast of Libya, predicting that this city whose sands were once a threat to the Apostle Paul would soon be a threat to Col Gaddafi. Well, things didn’t happen as quickly as I hoped then, as a few days later the advancing attackers were forced to turn back from Sirt. But while that town remained in Gaddafi’s hands, almost all the rest of Libya, including Tripoli, has fallen to those who rose up against him.

Col Muammar GaddafiBut now at last the end seems to be near for Gaddafi’s control of the city of his birth. The BBC reports that the NTC forces have now captured most of Sirt, although they “are meeting stiff resistance”. One of their commanders is quoted as saying

God willing, in two days maximum, all of Sirte will be clean.

May God indeed help to bring this about, and without further civilian casualties. It looks as if Gaddafi’s forces are determined to die fighting rather than surrender. As for the colonel himself, no one seems to know whether or not he is among the defenders of Sirt.

And when Sirt does fall to the NTC, that will be not so much the turning point of this conflict as its final act, with few if any more pockets of resistance remaining. Even if he is not personally captured, this will surely signal the end of any semblance of power for Gaddafi.

Clearly this desirable outcome would not have happened without the UN intervention, in which our own British forces played a major part. Does that end justify the means? In a case like this perhaps it does.

But I also see a huge irony in the way that our British government is continuing to promote, through the recent Defence & Security Equipment International exhibition, the sale of arms to the regimes of 55 nations, many of which are just as undemocratic and potentially oppressive as Gaddafi’s was. This has been defended by our government as hugely profitable. But the weapons sold might be turned against unarmed civilians as they were in Libya. So do the profitability calculations factor in the cost of the weapons that might be needed by UN forces to neutralise the ones sold, not to mention the human cost of any such conflict?

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