Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Latest in Libya

This map from the NY Times has a nice summary of the current state of affairs.  Qaddafi still controls Tripoli, where about 1 out of 6 Libyans lives (the city has a population of about 1 million, and the country has a population of about 6 million). Tripoli is on the western side of the country, not too far from Tunisia.  He also controls several other smaller cities in the neighborhood, particularly west of Tripoli, with the exception of Zawiyah, which is 25 miles west of Tripoli and has an oil refinery.  Qaddafi has a major attack right now against Zawiyah, trying to win it back from rebels.

Most of the country east of Tripoli is controlled by the rebels except for Surt, which is where Qaddafi's tribe is from. A few days ago the rebels took control of Ras Lanuf, another refinery town, but Qaddafi's troops are attacking there, too, trying to win it back. Most of the towns south-west of Tripoli are also held by the rebels.

The opposition does not want the West to send troops to overthrow Qaddafi; they want the overthrow to be purely the result of local actors.  Governments in Iraq and Afghanistan have compromised legitimacy because they were the result of US invasions.  The rebels are becoming more vocal, however, that they want the West to help out with a no-fly zone to protect them from air raids, etc.  But a no-fly zone would require the West to shoot down anti-aircraft installations in Tripoli, etc., which is a bit of a dicey business, especially if civilians get killed by accident.

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