Commentary

Libya and the Region after the Death of Gaddafi

Middle East In Focus

Middle East In Focus

As news of Muammar Gaddafi’s death spread yesterday, many stopped to consider his legacy as well as what his demise means for the region. Some commentators reflected on the challenges ahead for the country in light of the Egyptian and Tunisian experience. Others, not so subtly, made the connection between Gaddafi’s fate and what others resisting political reform in the region may face.

The Gulf Times editorial perhaps best reflected the enthusiasm felt in Libya and across the region, noting: “It is poetic justice that on the same day Tunisian expatriates began voting in the first Arab Spring elections Libya was finally freed from the shackles of a tyrannical regime....Gaddafi seized power in a bloodless military coup in 1969 when he toppled King Idris and he quickly gained rock-star status. He oversaw the rapid development of Libya by investing new-found oil wealth to improve the living standards of the impoverished....However, in the meantime his family was busy plundering the country by diverting vast oil revenues into private bank accounts that would become the subject of sanctions....Today, Libya can begin its healing process and for the NTC there should be jubilation and, as with Tunisia, a concerted effort to lead Libya into a new dawn of democracy.”

However, attention soon turned to the day after. What did the way forward look like for Libya’s interim government? Reflecting on the historical rupture between an old and new cadre of revolutionaries, The National’s editorial suggests: “A generation of ‘revolutionary’ Arab leaders have fallen, although their revolutions had stagnated in authoritarian kleptocracy decades ago. Deposing them might once have seemed inconceivable, but now their successors face the greater task of healing the wounds that they caused....The numerous Libyans who are rejoicing today will not need to be told that this is not the end of their troubles, but rather the beginning of a new challenge....Qaddafi is dead. His taint should not be allowed to poison every person who was ever associated with his regime. That would lead to revenge campaigns that would harm every Libyan. A state is not a zero-sum game.”

Similarly, the Arab News editorial cautions: “The point about Qaddafi’s death is that it makes the next transition stage that much easier, that much safer. As long as he remained at large, he would have been in a position to destabilize the country....Even so, the next stage in Libya’s transition is going to be a rough ride. Only a couple of days ago, Jibril warned of a possible power struggle ahead between rival politicians and political movements. That is likely to be the case, although it will probably be resolved via the ballot box. Given that situation, it would be best for Libya if elections to a constituent assembly to draw up the new constitution were held sooner rather than later. The longer the political void, the greater the chance of chaos.”

Writing on Al Jazeera, Larbi Sadiki reflects on the Egyptian experience: “The death of Gaddafi unleashes huge potentialities and possibilities that will enliven the remarkable Libyan people. Now it is their turn — after the thousands of deaths, injuries, the devastation, pain and suffering — to breathe life into the new Libya, the post-Gaddafi Libya. But there are challenges....There is no need for Libyans to reinvent the wheel. The task now is to ‘quarantine’ their passions. Like their Egyptian or Tunisian neighbors, Libyans should not surrender their revolution....Today, they are tasked with laying down their weapons and their emotions to nurture their revolution, or risk the very life of the infant-revolution's condition. New conditioning — post-conflict reconstruction — needs rational tutelage.”

For others, Gaddafi’s demise is a clear signal to other dictators in the region. As the Lebanese daily, The Daily Star, points out in its editorial: “Will the country move in the direction of a post-U.S.-invasion Iraq?...A country of feuding tribes must be transformed into a cohesive entity that is a homeland for all its citizens, devoid of hatred, repression and corruption — if not, critics will argue that nothing has changed....Dictatorial rulers should once again realize that they must accept change, which is inevitable. They can choose to resist, through violence and oppression, or oversee a process of reform, change, democracy and freedom, to spare their countries the kind of nightmare that Libya now, gratefully, hopes is at an end.”

In Turkey, whose government has been very critical of the Syrian regime’s handling of opposition protests, Today’s Zaman reports: “Turkey has said the fate of former Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi and his four decades long autocratic regime should make a "bitter lesson" that needs to be paid attention with its all dimensions in the face of change and democratic transformation in the region....A statement released by Turkish Foreign Ministry on Thursday said the death of Gaddafi is a historic turning point that would spawn a new era in Libya....Turkey urged relatives of Gaddafi and members of the ousted regime to turn themselves in to justice immediately to further stop the bloodshed in Libya.”

A bit unexpectedly, the Iranian government echoed this warning: “Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast says the death of former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi should serve as a learning moment for other dictators…. Mehmanparast stated that a humiliating and dishonorable fate awaits oppressors that trample upon the rights of their nations....The Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman also called on the US-led NATO forces to immediately withdraw from Libya and said that the Libyan people need to determine their own destiny in an atmosphere free from any foreign intervention. Mehmanparast also voiced Iran's willingness to participate in the reconstruction of Libya.”