Without cutting through the fog of war it's impossible to understand what's really going on in Libya.
Odyssey Dawn is only happening because the 22-member Arab League voted to impose a no-fly zone over Libya. The Arab League - routinely dismissed in Western capitals as irrelevant before this decision - is little else than an instrument of the House of Saud's foreign policy.
Its "decision" was propelled by Washington's promise to protect
the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) kings/sheikhs/oligarchs from the democratic aspirations of their own subjects - who are yearning for the same democratic rights as their "cousins" in eastern Libya.
This is exactly the same GCC, posing for Saudi Arabia that invaded Bahrain to help the Sunni al-Khalifa dynasty to crush the pro-democracy movement. The GCC gang is considered by the West as "our" bastards, while Colonel Muammar Gaddafi - according to the Western narrative - is a terrorist who went to rehab and is now a thug.
The GCC comprises stalwart egalitarians Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). It was the GCC that first voted for a no-fly zone; then top dog Saudi Arabia twisted arms/promised bribes to extract an Arab League endorsement (Syria and Algeria, for instance, were seriously against it).
For the opportunist Arab League secretary-general Amr Moussa, who is already running for the presidency of Egypt, this was a great deal; he took his marching orders from Riyadh while at the same time polishing his CV with Washington.
For Saudi Arabia this was a great deal; the perfect chance for King Abdullah to get rid of Gaddafi (the bad blood between both since 2002 is legendary), and the perfect chance for the House of Saud to lend a hand to a bewildered Washington.
Odyssey Dawn has no inbuilt endgame. US President Barack Obama has made it clear numerous times that his endgame means "Gaddafi must go". This is called "regime change". Or, in the new two-pronged Obama doctrine, "US outreach" (directed towards opponents of "evil regimes"). Not-so-evil regimes, as in Bahrain or Yemen, are encouraged towards "regime alteration".
The problem is "regime change" is not mandated by UN Resolution 1973.
Odyssey Dawn is the first African war of the latest Pentagon overseas military command, Africom. Soon it will turn into the first African war of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Although sold as a "limited mission", Odyssey Dawn - as in just imposing and maintaining a no-fly zone - will cost at least $15 billion a year. Members of the Arab League are supposed to be footing a substantial part of the bill - since the only one to have committed military forces is Qatar (two Mirage fighters).
The whole ongoing circus revolves around how to "transition" the war from the Pentagon in Africa - which is based in Stuttgart, Germany, because none among 53 African countries wanted it - to the Pentagon in Europe, also known as NATO.
NATO already interfered in Somalia in 2010 - airlifting thousands of Ugandan troops. It is now conducting operation Ocean Shield off the Horn of Africa. And before Odyssey Dawn had already placed Libya under 24-hour surveillance by its AWACS planes - part of the nearly 10-year-old Operation Active Endeavor.
In the big picture, the combined role of the Pentagon global tentacles falls under the Full Spectrum Dominance doctrine, which aims to prevent any developing nation, or group of nations, from establishing alliances or preferential relationships with both China and Russia.
China and Russia are among the top four BRIC countries, along with Brazil and India. All four abstained from the UN vote. Only 48 hours before the rushed-in vote, Muammar Gaddafi had threatened that if attacked by the West he would transfer Libya's juicy energy contracts to companies from Russia, India and China.
War by committee
The Libyan opposition is a motley crew of disaffected tribes, the well-meaning youth movement, civilian and military defectors from the Gaddafi regime, Central Intelligence Agency-sponsored assets (such as sinister former justice minister Mustafa Abdel-Jalil), Muslim Brotherhood-related (and unrelated) Islamists, and monarchist Senussi tribesmen. The Senussi is the top tribe in the Benghazi area; most of the keffiah-and-Kalashnikov "rebels" are Senussi, as was King Idris, overthrown by Gaddafi in 1969.
The Libyan transitional council now calls itself an "interim government" - although still committed, in its own words, to a unified Libya. But partition cannot be ruled out - because historically Cyrenaica has always been at odds with Tripolitania. If Gaddafi can muster majority tribal support, the regime won't crumble.
All eyes will be on a "green march" now announced by the one million-strong al-Warfalla tribe, Libya's largest; they had defected to the opposition but now are eager to show their loyalty to Gaddafi.
There's no guarantee the February 17 Movement, the political force at the forefront of the Libyan revolt, with a democratic platform for human rights, a state of law and free and fair elections, will have the upper-hand in a post-Gaddafi environment.
The West will privilege a leadership speaking English, and cozy with Washington and European capitals. Preferably a pliable puppet. Oil may corrupt the new leadership to the core. Add to it the spicy bit of news of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) - arguably yet one more CIA front - with its maximum of 800 jihadis, already supporting the "rebels". No wonder Armageddon scenarios swirl - the fall of Gaddafi having the potential to produce another Afghanistan or another Iraq.
The agreement reached by Obama, UK Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy is that NATO will play "a key role" in Odyssey Dawn. Translation; for all practical purposes NATO will be in charge. The political leadership will fall to a "steering committee" of foreign ministers - an Anglo-French-American club with a sprinkling of Arab League. They are supposed to meet soon in Brussels, London or Paris.
Obama phoned Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and apparently convinced him about the arrangement - although in a speech to his ruling Justice and Development Party Erdogan said that Turkey "will never point a gun at the Libyan people".
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said that since not all members of the military coalition are members of NATO "this is therefore not a NATO operation". Make no mistake; it is.
This "now you NATO, now you don't" war is roughly what Sarkozy wanted - a "heroic" platform to save his re-election in 2012. But the West's motivation, above all, tastes like oil. Since Saudi Arabia is not on the market, Libya is a spectacular piece of real estate for the energy-hungry West; a giant gas station in the desert with very few people around.
The bulk of Libya's proven oil and gas reserves lie in "rebel" Cyrenaica. Oil and gas account for 25% of the economy, 97% of exports and 90% of government revenue. Sarkozy - as well as the West - fear a protracted war. France wants it to end now. Unlike Germany, Britain and Italy - they're already in - France is salivating to get a huge piece of the oil action.
There's absolutely nothing humanitarian about the current casino inside the EU and NATO. The only thing that matters is the right positioning towards the post-Gaddafi era - the energy bonanza, geostrategic primacy in the Mediterranean and the Sahara-Sahel space, juicy business "reconstruction" opportunities.
Regime change or balkanization?
So Western moral uprightness may be summed up like this. If you sell us a lot of oil, buy our weapons, and smash al-Qaeda, that's fine with us. You may even kill your own people, provided it's just dozens, not thousands.
That's how Saudi Arabia can get away with anything in the current counter-revolution climate, with the House of Saud pulling all stops to crush any measure of democratic aspirations in the Persian Gulf.
As for those regimes that kill perhaps thousands of their own people - and have oil, and threaten to sell the oil to the Russians or the Chinese, their destiny is to fight a UN/Tomahawk resolution.
The forces of counter-revolution are now joined at the hip with the West. Saudi Arabia's military will remain inside Bahrain. The GCC legitimizes the Western war in Libya. The favorite Western endgame in Libya is divide and rule, and roll with the oil. Is the great 2011 Arab revolt about to crash-land in the desert sands? Pepe Escobar is the author
of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007) and Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge. His new book, just out, is Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009