Libya on the threshold of change

It took the Libyan rebels only three days to establish control over a considerable part of the country's capital, Tripoli. This came as a surprise both for the international community and, judging by everything, for the rebels themselves.

It took the Libyan rebels only three days to establish control over a considerable part of the country's capital, Tripoli. This came as a surprise both for the international community and, judging by everything, for the rebels themselves. A week ago it would have been hard to predict that Col. Muammar Gaddafi's opponents would so easily break through the fading Libyan leader's last line of defense.

Experts are not unanimous on Libya's future. Some are convinced the country will split along tribal lines, resulting in a war of everyone against everyone and a humanitarian disaster; others believe the transition of power will be relatively calm and internecine strife will be avoided. But analysts seem to agree that Gaddafi doesn't have many options left and all of them are bad.

Too soon to declare victory?

Although Gaddafi has not yet been overthrown, the opposition is already drafting plans for the country's new political system. Speaking with the BBC, Omar Turbi, an advisor to the National Transitional Council, said the most difficult task will be to achieve a calm transition of power. He said it is necessary to achieve peace among tribes and prevent looting. Speaking about the technocrats who have run the country under Gaddafi, Turbi said it was essential to persuade them to cooperate with the opposition: "Many of them are honest, great people who know the lay of the land and what needs to be done to open airports and harbors and to start communicating with the outside world and to begin a process of reconciliation between tribes."

Yevgeny Minchenko, director of the International Institute for Political Expertise, thinks it is still early to talk about a transition to a new political system. "Gaddafi would rather die with a gun in his hand or leave for one of the neighboring countries and continue fighting from there," he said. "Gaddafi could continue his resistance even if the capital falls. He has already demonstrated his resolve and I don't think he will surrender."

Gaddafi's downfall remains a question mark. Yevgeny Satanovsky, president of the Middle East Institute, says the information coming out of Tripoli is contradictory. "The evidence of complete disarray in the Benghazi camp is belied by the fact that they have all gathered here and are taking Tripoli."

The Somali model

Both Minchenko and Satanovsky believe that Libya will face even greater challenges when and if Gaddafi is overthrown. "The victory [of the rebel forces] will put Libya under the control of al Qaeda and Sunni Islamists. In this case, events will unfold along the lines of the Somali model, that is, a war of everyone against everyone," Satanovsky said. He thinks that only a foreign occupation can hold Libya together as a single state.

"If the Gaddafi regime falls, Libya will cease to exist as a single country and will split into three parts," said Minchenko.

"Most likely, it will split into three states along the borders of Libya's historic regions - Tripolitania (north-west), Cyrenaica (north-east) and Fezzan (south)," the expert explained. "These Libyan provinces existed independently for a long time and there is every chance that they will become independent. Some tribes may also declare their autonomy," Minchenko said. In his opinion, such a split is bound to lead to a humanitarian catastrophe worse than in Iraq.

Satanovsky warns that the partition of Libya will dramatically increase the flow of illegal immigration from the Middle East and Northern Africa to Europe.

A second-rate country

Alexander Shumilin, director of the Middle East Conflict Analysis Center at the Russian Academy of Sciences' Institute of U.S. and Canadian Studies, is less pessimistic about Libya's future: "There is no point in exaggerating the contradictions [in Libyan society]." In his view, the transition will proceed in a relatively orderly manner.

"There are no grounds to expect the Libyan tribes to go to war," says Georgy Mirsky, an expert from the Russian Academy of Sciences' Institute of World Economy and International Relations. He added that after Gaddafi's departure, Libya will not exert "serious influence in the world arena."

In his opinion, "because of Gaddafi's character and his revolution, [Libya] played a disproportionately large geopolitical role... Gaddafi wanted to have a finger in every pie and so he encouraged terrorists and revolutions." He added: "Libya will remain essentially a second-rate country. If it had had no oil, nobody would have even heard of it. But since it has oil, it will play some role but no longer a political one."

Shumilin is confident that Libya's role in the oil market will be secondary as well. "Libya's effect on the oil market was shown to be unimportant a long time ago. Traders have already removed Libyan oil from stock exchanges and its absence was made up for by other [oil-producing] countries," he explained.

Death or trial

As for Gaddafi's future, he has few options - either death or trial, analysts say. He may seek refuge in a neighboring country, but this is unlikely for technical reasons, first among them being that Tripoli is under the control of the rebels.

Moreover, his escape "may slightly damage his image because [Gaddafi] has said a hundred times that he will not go anywhere but will fight and die on his own land," Mirsky notes.

"Voluntary exile is no longer a viable option. Suicide or a trial in The Hague is more likely," Shumilin said. However, suicide is a sin in Islam and for this reason Gaddafi may "try to hold out till the very last in order to be killed in action," according to Mirsky. Analysts believe if the colonel survives he will most likely be handed over to the international tribunal.

Shumilin believes that in any event, the events in Libya and Gaddafi's fate will have a positive effect on the situation in the region and serve an example for the Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, who is refusing to step down despite the demands of the opposition and the world community.

"Gaddafi's strategy - resistance till the very end, through all the bloodshed - has not justified itself. Its outcome and Gaddafi's personal fate will be an example for everyone, for instance, Bashar al-Assad... I hope Damascus will draw the right conclusions from these events," the expert said in conclusion.

The views expressed in this article are the author's and may not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

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