Just as the military is now the defacto (and indefinite) ruler in Egypt following what was a revolution-cum-coup, it appears that Libya is poised to repeat in the same footsteps. One thing to note is the increasingly shorter halflife of Maghrebian revolutions: Tunisia took more than a month, Egypt took 18 days, Libya is in its 6th day, and all signs point to a rapidly approaching endgame in which the military will end up with control. Hopefully they know the dynamics of oil cartel game theory behavior. In the meantime, here is Stratfor's latest geopolitical outlook on Libya following earlier reports that the airforce has started firing on military installations (and civilians) to prevent them from falling into protesters' hands.
Unrest and the Libyan Military
Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi has ordered the Libyan air force to fire on military installations in Libya, according to what the BBC has characterized as a reliable source. Al Jazeera has suggested that air force fighters have opened fire on crowds of protesters.?
Though the latter would be particularly draconian, the more important question is whether these signs reflect a split within the regime and Gadhafi using military force to crush opposition to his regime emerging from the military or other security forces. Similar reports of the Libyan navy firing on targets onshore also are emerging, as well as reports that Gadhafi has given execution orders to soldiers who have refused to fire on Libyan protesters.
The application of conventional weaponry is noteworthy and will warrant scrutiny — particularly in terms of the targets of the attacks and the rationale behind them. The use of these weapons is more appropriate for other armed entities rather than unarmed protesters. Libyan troops are good at instilling fear, but not good at stabilizing a situation, so the military may not be able to get in on the ground due to lost capability.
The situation remains opaque, but these latest developments combined with recent reports of defections of military units to the demonstrators’ side continue to draw STRATFOR’s attention to the possibility that the regime is fracturing.
And another perspective on the Libyan crisis from Stratfor analyst Reva Bhalla:
Libya is facing its biggest internal crisis to date with reports trickling out of the country indicating that unrest is now spreading to the capital of Tripoli. Government buildings are being attacked, prisons are being broken into and energy firms like BP are evacuating their personnel.
The ability of the Libyan regime to hold itself together depends on two key factors: the loyalty of the tribes and the loyalty the army to the regime. Now those are the two factors that are the most in flux and the threat of civil war is thus very real.
Late last night, one of Gadhafi sons Seif al-Islam gave a long, rambling and impromptu speech in which he said that Libya is not another Egypt or Tunisia and that his father Moammar Gadhafi, who has ruled the country for more than four decades, is not another Ben Ali are Mubarak. In other words, Seif al-Islam was saying that the military is not about to drop the regime’s leader and Gadhafi was not about to flee the country. But Seif al-Islam has long been at odds with the military old guard of the regime and thus he can’t be seen as the one to necessarily hold the army together. Saif al-Islam has long avoided the political spotlight preferring to use his charity organization to push for ideas on political, social and economic reforms, which he saw as the key to the long-term survivability of the regime.
For a long time, however, Seif al-Islam and his allies like the National Oil Company Chairman Shokri Ghanem have been pushed against a wall by the military old guard, which is led by his brother Mutassim, the national security advisor who has the trust of many within the army elite. Now with the country in crisis, Seif al-Islam is trying to present himself as the untarnished face of the regime, but with reports of unrest now spreading to the capitol of Tripoli, it seems as though many Libyans just view Seif al-Islam as another Gadhafi that needs to be ousted.
The problem with that scenario is that there is no real alternative to the Gadhafi regime that has ruled for more than four decades. This is not a situation like Egypt or even Tunisia where the Army as an institution is in a position to step in and seize control of the situation. In fact there are already signs of the Army splitting, with reports of army defections in the East, where the regime has had a lot of trouble holding onto support in the past and with reports of even the army chief being placed under house arrest. If the regime can not pull the loyalty the army, then power in the country falls to the tribes, many of which have already reportedly been turning on the regime in the past couple days. Seif al-Islam specifically warned in his speech that the fall of the regime could lead to civil war. Given how serious the situation has become and given the signs of the army splitting, that is a threat should be taken very seriously.