Libya risks degenerating into chaos similar to that in Somalia, said Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov, who didn’t rule out Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi being able to defeat the rebels fighting his forces.
“The worst-case scenario -- I think it wouldn’t be realized but it’s theoretically possible -- is that Libya might turn into another Somalia,” Ivanov said in an interview yesterday in Miami, two days after meeting U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Washington. “Nobody wants that, but who knows?”
The conflict in Libya pitting the eastern-based opposition against Qaddafi’s regime has become a “tribal war,” Ivanov said. Somalia hasn’t had a functioning central government since 1991 and has become a breeding ground for pirates who attack shipping. Clinton said March 2 the Obama administration was also concerned that Libya may become a “giant Somalia,” providing a base for al-Qaeda.
Russia, with power to veto United Nations Security Council resolutions, abstained from last month’s vote that authorized the airstrikes by the U.S. and its allies to protect civilians from an offensive by Qaddafi’s army. It has criticized the NATO- led campaign for violating the UN resolution by backing one side in a civil war.
Lacking heavy weapons and training, the rebel forces have been unable to take and hold strategic cities in the center of the country. A U.S. Army general said yesterday the overall conflict is settling into a stalemate between regime forces and rebel fighters.
General Carter Ham, who commanded the opening phase of the alliance military operation, told a U.S. Senate committee that the use of NATO air power is “increasingly problematic” when it comes to hitting regime forces without endangering civilians and opposition fighters.
“Is it a possibility to solve the matter diplomatically and for example provide Qaddafi a dignified exit?” said Ivanov, a former defense minister. “Or maybe he wouldn’t take that proposition and continues fighting and maybe his soldiers and his army finally prevail over the opposition, and he will simply stay in power, that’s also a possibility.”