No right-thinking person would shed tears over the death of Gaddafi, the Libyan dictator, but any well-informed analyst with his feet firmly on the ground would be nervous over the likely sequel to his elimination.
Gaddafi suppressed his people. He used brutal force against them. He funded, trained and armed many of the West Asian terrorist organisations, that claimed to be fighting for the Palestinian cause against Israel and the West. He funded and armed the Irish Republican Army to make the British bleed. Under him, the Libyan intelligence became a brutal sponsor of terrorism against the West --particularly after the alleged death of his daughter in a US air strike in 1986 when Ronald Reagan was the US President.
His intelligence blew up a French civilian plane in Africa and a Pan-Am Aircraft of the US near Lockerbie in Scotland in December 1988. He partly funded Pakistan’s Islamic bomb along with Saudi Arabia and Iran. He was a menace who deserved to be eliminated.
Post-9/11, he gave signs of a new friendly Gaddafi on the horizon. He handed over his intelligence officers to the West for trial. He paid huge compensations to the relatives of those who died in the two explosions aboard a French and US aircraft. He kept away from Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda. After the US found out about his nuclear acquisitions with the help of Pakistan’s A.Q. Khan, he made a clean breast of his nuclear acquisitions and destroyed them to the satisfaction of the West. This merited a “Thank you” visit to Libya by the then British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Gaddafi fondly hoped that these mitigating actions by him would spare him a brutal fate. They didn’t. The ideal thing would have been for the West to ensure that like Iraq’s Saddam Hussain, Gadaffi too died in the gallows after a due process of law. Instead, it let him be killed in an uncivilised manner by his enraged captors, who will be the new rulers of Libya.
One might blame his captors for their uncivilised behaviour, but many in the Islamic world would convince themselves that this uncivilised behaviour could have been prevented if the West had wanted to. The West wanted his death to be a grim warning to others of Gaddafi’s ilk who stood in the way of Western interests. He died in a horrible manner, but his death could haunt the West for some years to come.
Other nuclear aspirants like the rulers of Iran and North Korea would conclude, rightly or wrongly, that it was unwise on the part of Gaddafi to have voluntarily given by his nuclear card. The West would find Iran and North Korea even more recalcitrant on the nuclear issue.
There was no Al Qaeda in Iraq before the US intervention in 2003. AQ, Iraq, was born as a result of the US intervention. Its founding father Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed some years ago, but there are other trained cadres who have been keeping Iraq bleeding.
Gaddafi kept AQ many fathoms away from Libya, but he could not prevent angry individual Libyans from gravitating to the Af-Pak region to join AQ. Abu Faraj al-Libi, now in Guantanamao Bay, is one such example. There are other Libyan recruits in the AQ. A new AQ, Libya, to avenge the US-sponsored or at least blessed intervention in Libya will be on the cards.
There is an ominous aspect about Libya which was not there in Iraq. In return for the Libyan funding of Pakistan’s Islamic bomb, A.Q.Khan had trained many Libyan nuclear scientists in Pakistan’s nuclear establishments to run Libya’s nuclear infrastructure. To please the US and the UK, Gaddafi dismantled his nuclear infrastructure to their satisfaction, but the Pakistan-trained nuclear scientists are still around.AQ will look for them.
B. Raman is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies