More than a hundred days have passed since fighting in Libya broke out between Col. Muammar Qaddafi’s forces and those revolting against him.
Today the picture is clearer: Colonel Qaddafi may still be standing on his feet but he is suffering losses every day, and his reign is almost certainly coming to an end. The only question is when?
Two developments are significant in this battle.
The first is that almost all of Colonel Qaddafi’s key allies have abandoned him.
The second is that Colonel Qaddafi’s forces may surrender, not because of a lack of money, men, or arms, but because the rebels are attacking oil supplies, and the people of Tripoli are now being forced to resort to using bicycles because of the lack of petrol. Thus Colonel Qaddafi may fall to the weapons of oil and diplomacy.
The Russians previously announced that they would not give up on Colonel Qaddafi yet; since then it is clear that they have indeed abandoned him. It was clear to everybody that the equation had changed when the Germans changed their stance and sent a [diplomatic] delegation to the rebel capital, Benghazi.
It has been said that a Russian solution still exists, which would see Colonel Qaddafi relinquishing power without leaving Libya, and instead being transferred to a safe location of his choice within the country.
This [solution] would also see the Libyan people holding a general election to choose an alternative ruler. It appears that Colonel Qaddafi has not rejected this idea out of hand, and it could be acceptable to the rebels so long as the only alternative is a destructive and costly war.
However this may be a trick by the colonel to buy more time, whilst the allies [NATO forces] are complaining about their financial losses [in Libya].
Indeed Colonel Qaddafi now finds himself in an extremely difficult situation, as he may lose the war due to the weapon of oil being turned against him, something he never envisaged.
Ironically, Mr. Qaddafi may be defeated by the same oil which he used to threaten his opponents throughout his reign. He has smuggled large quantities of arms into the country, and possesses modern military technology obtained prior to the revolution, whilst still retaining an adequate financial budget that allows him to buy political allies and additional mercenaries. Yet despite all this he might lose [the conflict with the rebels].
It seems that the rebel military strategists have decided to weaken Colonel Qaddafi’s forces by targeting oil sources and storage installations. Today the price of a gallon of gasoline in Tripoli is 50 times more expensive than what the rebels pay in Benghazi.
Since the beginning of the uprising, Colonel Qaddafi has always had the option to flee the country with his children, leaving to live in Uganda or Russia; however this is something that he has always rejected.
This was followed by a second alternative to divide the country between the East [held by the rebels], and the West [held by Colonel Qaddafi], but this was something that the rebels rejected in turn.
Following this, the Russians surprisingly entered mediation, taking over after the president of South Africa failed in helping the two sides reach a peaceful solution.
The Russians are closer to the Colonel, and if Mr. Qaddafi does intend to step down he will not grant his concession to South Africa, but rather to those who he believes can get him something in return.
Published in the London-based Asharq Al Awsat on July 1, 2011, Abdul Rahman Al Rashed is the General Manager of Al Arabiya