John R. Houk
© March 21, 2011
The civil war in Libya looked promising in its beginning to force the dictator Moamar Qaddafi out as leader. Then Qaddafi began his counter-offensive making serious dents of the rebel holdings in the east while cause vicious casualties among rebel soldiers and Libyan civilians. Then a coalition that is initially headed by the U.S. Military instituted a No-Fly zone which in effect has stalled at least momentarily Qaddafi’s counter-offensive.
If President Obama had acted earlier more damage may have hampered Qaddafi that would have indeed forced to him to flee; however President Obama is exactly known for his foreign policy guts that would protect American National Interests and benefit potential future allies from Libya. Nonetheless, when the President gave the go the combined coalition forces of America, France and the UK began an operation of pin-point accuracy rattling Qaddafi’s Air Force and anti-aircraft capabilities. That has to be good for the Libyan rebels to regroup and perhaps receive some military aid that could enhance a rebel counter-offensive.
I have been alerted to a STRATFOR article that offers a glimpse into the inner workings of the Libyan rebel leadership and governing apparatus. In this article I discovered that Libya like many Muslim nations is basically divided by tribal influences. In Libya those tribes seem to be divided into two regions. The western region, of which Qaddafi is from, has been known as Tripolitania and the eastern region of Libya, which most of the rebels are from, has been roughly known as Cyrenaica.
Apart from the STRATFOR emphasis on Tripolitania and Cyrenaica, there is a third region in Libya called the Fezzan. I suspect STRATFOR focuses on Tripolitania and Cyrenaica is because those regions are the most populous. The Fezzan is really a backward area of mostly the Sahara Desert. Really western part of Libya is divided into Tripolitania in the Northwest and the Fezzan in the Southwest with the Eastern half of Libya as the region of Cyrenaica. Also you should know that Cyrenaica was the dominant tribal region after Libyan independence. Moammar Qaddafi became the leader of a group of low level Officers that executed a coup against the Western installed King Idris who was deposed. A good short summary explaining the regions of Tripolitania, the Fezzan and Cyrenaica can be found at Middle East News Wire.
The picture then is somewhat of a traditional looking civil war between two sides: Tripolitania and Cyrenaica. The Cyrenaica-Libyan rebels have denied the civil war is a regional civil war but is a war to rid all Libyans of the despotism of Moammar Qaddafi.
The reality is though that there are undoubtedly some tribal elites of Tripolitania that have had a favored status that probably support their native son loony Moammar Qaddafi. If the rebels launch an effective counter-offensive to retake lost rebel territory and it is successful it will be interesting how many Tripolitania-Libyans will get behind the Cyrenaica-Libyan rebels.