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What next for Libya? That was the central question at a fascinating discussion session held in what was a crowded ECFR London conference room this lunchtime.
The first speaker was Guma El-Gamaty, UK Coordinator for the National Transitional Council in Libya, whose gave his essentially optimistic perspective. Gaddafi’s opponents are short of weapons, and need sustained international resolve behind their cause, he said (more Turkish involvement would have been welcomed; “We go back a long way”). One thing they are not short of, however, is young people: he cited the statistic that a huge 72 per cent of the Libyan population is below the age of 30. His vision of a post-Gaddafi Libya – for unsurprisingly, that is what he sees next for the country – involves a “national dialogue” leading to a democratic constitution, and he warned against drawing too many parallels with Iraq, both because “Gaddafi is not Saddam Hussein...he is much weaker”, and because “Libya is a Mediterranean country” with a history of relations with Europe.
Rear Admiral Christopher J. Parry, former Director General of Development, Concepts and Doctrine at the Ministry of Defence, focused on the international military intervention, criticising what he argued is a “failure of strategy” by NATO and various individual nations, which have adopted a “one step at a time”, reactive approach rather than planning for Gaddafi’s next move. He expects those next moves to include, in the coming days, a test of precisely the international resolve that Guma El-Gamaty identified as being crucial, and called for amphibious units to be positioned off the Libyan shore in case there is an urgent need to prevent a massacre. If foreign boots on the ground are a no-go for Libya, what about fins?
The audience left with plenty of food for thought, and we hope to give you more of a taste by publishing podcast interviews with both these speakers in the coming days.
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