How Libya Will Move Forward Without Gadhafi
NEAL CONAN, host: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. After more than 40 years in power, Libya's Moammar Gadhafi died today as his last stronghold crumbled. Early this morning, forces aligned with the Transitional National Council finally gained control of the city of Sirte, Gadhafi's hometown, and that holdout for almost two months after the fall of Tripoli.
The last battle centered on a fortified area about 700 yards square. As anti-Gadhafi troops overran the last defense, a convoy of vehicles tried to escape. Exactly what happened next remains unclear, but the convoy did not get far, and television networks soon showed gruesome pictures of Gadhafi's body, half-naked, with blood seeping from a bullet wound to the head.
Over the past eight months, a cycle of protest and crackdown led to rebellion. The Arab League condemned civilian deaths, the United Nations Security Council approved aerial intervention, and then as Gadhafi forces appeared ready to crush the rebel city of Benghazi, President Obama ordered American jets to open the way for a NATO air campaign that destroyed much of Libya's military hardware and gave the rebels time to organize.
President Obama is speaking about the death of Moammar Gadhafi at the White House. We'll play his remarks in full, later in this hour. The death of Moammar Gadhafi, the way ahead in Libya and lessons learned for NATO and the U.S. Give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email us, firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also join the conversation on our website. That's at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.
Later in the program, Jeffrey Gettleman of the New York Times on Kenya's military move into Somalia. But first, NPR's Grant Clark joins us on the line from Tripoli. And Grant, nice to have you with us.
GRANT CLARK: Hi, Neal.
CONAN: And how did Libyans learn of the death of Moammar Gadhafi?
CLARK: Well, I think in various ways. Most, or many, Libyans I should say, at least in the capital Tripoli, you know, tune into the local news networks. I learned of the news waiting at the local airport, as it would have it, trying to get a flight out, when the city just erupted in gunfire, including heavy artillery. And some of us were wondering what on earth was going on.
Our flight was canceled as a result, but as I drove back into the city, I realized why, and that was that news had gotten to the streets of - at least at that point - his capture and many believed his death. And that's - that was quite an experience. I mean, I think that, you know, even though at that point it wasn't confirmed, it became clear that everybody had bought it, and Libyans came out in the hundreds to celebrate.
CONAN: What did it look like?
CLARK: Well, you know, I've got say, Neal, I haven't seen this kind of euphoria since 1994, when I covered elections, our first democratic elections in my native South Africa. There's just people coming on the streets in the hundreds, waving flags, chanting, traffic. I was coming down the main, sort of, highway or at least a seaside boulevard that leads from the airport into town, and we were just being stopped everywhere by people running in the streets.
It was just - and a cacophony of sound. Fighters came out with their gun trucks, and everybody who had a weapon was firing it. You might be able to hear some of the gunfire in the background and people honking their horns. It was just a scene of total euphoria, really.
And you're speaking to people, we stopped to chat to people, just speechless, really, at that, just in disbelief that this had happened, eventually.
CONAN: Do we know for sure how he met his death?
CLARK: No, we are - that is not clear. In fact, the National Transitional Council, Libya's interim government, earlier the interim Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril, held a press conference here in Tripoli and basically wasn't being drawn into details on how that happened.
He said, at that point - this was a few hours ago - that forensic experts were looking at the body and were, you know, piecing together the details. And once they knew that, they would let it be known. But at this point, nothing - it's not really clear. As you well know, there is talk - there have been reports, NATO's spoken about targeting a convoy of vehicles. But as far as the details of exactly how he met his end, it's not absolutely clear just yet.
CONAN: We're also seeing pictures of what is alleged to be the body of one of his sons, Moatessem, and reports that another of his sons, Saif al-Islam, may have been, either, killed or captured, too.
CLARK: That's correct. I'm - I've been seeing the same thing on local and international news networks. But again, I just checked in again with the NTC, and they remain tight-lipped about it. They're refusing to confirm, and I'm afraid without, you know, without any other conclusive evidence besides those pictures, it's really hard to say for sure.
But I can tell you one thing, Neal, that Libya is not really waiting for details at this point. It seems very clear that people have decided that this is the end of the revolution, at least, you know, the end of the struggle to rid themselves of Moammar Gadhafi, and they're reveling in the moment.
CONAN: Grant Clark, thanks very much for your time, appreciate it.
CLARK: You're welcome, Neal, good talking to you.
CONAN: NPR producer Grant Clark on the line with us from Tripoli in Libya. Joining us now, NPR foreign correspondent Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, who covered much of the conflict in Libya, and she's now by phone with us from Dohar in Qatar. Nice to have you with us today.
LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO: Nice to be here.
CONAN: And this is the triumph of the revolution that began as a protest movement and then started organizing in the eastern part of the country and held on against Gadhafi forces as they threatened to crush it.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: This is the day that I think most Libyans have been waiting for. You know, the euphoria when the rebels swept into Tripoli, they felt that they had sort of won their revolution, but this is really the exact thing that had to happen so that they feel they can move forward and put the past behind them.
Maybe Libyans that I spoke to over the past months really wanted to see Moammar Gadhafi dead. They felt that any trial would be divisive and - because he still has many supporters in Libya - still to this day - and I think going ahead, that's going to be a problem how you bring these people into the fold and move into a new era in Libya.
So, so many people I know are celebrating in Tripoli, across the country, because they really do feel that Moammar Gadhafi's 42-year-old rule is effectively over.
CONAN: The National Transitional Council, what kind of legitimacy does this group have now?
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Well that's a very good question. I mean, a lot of people, because of the ongoing struggle, because they have been involved in an armed conflict, have given the National Transitional Council some leeway. There's been a lot of infighting. They haven't really proven themselves yet to be able to run a country.
And so now that this struggle is effectively over, they have a great many challenges ahead of them, not least of which is what to do with all the guns on the streets, what to do with all these fighters, how to rebuild the cities that have been destroyed in the fighting, how to get Libya's wealth back online, the oil wealth that will be the engine that drives the economy and puts people back in work.
So they have a huge, huge task ahead of them. The clock now starts ticking. When they declare that Libya has been, quote-unquote, liberated, then they will declare an interim government, and then that will pave the way towards elections, at least that's the way it's supposed to be.
But of course we've seen in the past that these things have been delayed. The path to democracy is not an easy one.
CONAN: It is not, and as part of the Arab spring movement, this movement moved in a very different direction than did Tunisia or Egypt, on either side of Libya, elections today in Libya, talk of a coalition government, very different developments today in and around the city of Sirte.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Absolutely. I mean, if you look, you know, at the city of Sirte, I was there last week, and it's a city that's been completely devastated. I think it's going to become a symbol of just how divisive this civil war has been: And make no mistake, it was a civil war. This was Libyans fighting Libyans in many cases, even though there were, of course, foreign mercenaries involved, as well, and NATO forces involved, as well.
But Libyans will have to now try and reconcile themselves to what happened, all the bloodshed that took place. And while they are celebrating tonight, you know, the dawn comes, and many people will have to, you know, be called to account for what they did.
And so I think it's going to be a very bumpy road ahead. I don't think it will be an easy one.
CONAN: We're talking with Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, NPR foreign correspondent. We want to hear your questions and thoughts at the death of Moammar Gadhafi today, 800-989-8255. Email email@example.com. Neal's(ph) on the line calling from Philadelphia.
NEAL: Hi, I'm calling because - well, I'm in the Pennsylvania National Guard, and I was deployed 2009 and '10, and, you know, I voted for President Obama, and I am really happy for the news out of the Middle East. Some of our worst enemies he's taken care of.
And I know this is indirectly, through NATO, but, you know, between the Arab spring, more freedom for everyone and things like Obama being taken out, it's been a great year, so just wanted to say that.
CONAN: All right, Neal, thanks very much. I assume you meant Osama being taken out. But Moammar Gadhafi today, Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, and this was an operation, well, started by the United States at the urging of Britain and France, as NATO led the way, with some support from Arab countries, including Qatar, where you are today.
How is the reaction going to be across the Arab world that one of the leaders, Moammar Gadhafi, one of the most charismatic Arab leaders for four decades, has been killed?
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Well, Moammar Gadhafi had very little friends in this region. He managed to alienate many of the Arab leaders here, and you see by Qatar's involvement in the Libya conflict, it's been heavily involved, providing weapons and money to the rebel forces, now the National Transitional Council forces, just how that has - how that has paid them back.
So I think there'll be mixed feelings, certainly when you have - the Arab spring has, you know, seen Mubarak imprisoned, now Gadhafi killed, seen Ben Ali from Tunisia fled. And so, many of the leaders in this region will be looking at that very warily.
It's very difficult to predict what's going to happen. You know, right now, there's a real sense of euphoria in Libya, that everything's going to be fine, that democracy will come. But there are many competing groups there. There's many different ideologies. There's many different, you know, regional differences, tribal differences that still have to be ironed out.
And while that can happen democratically would be a good thing, but there are still many people who are armed and a lot of people with a lot of antagonism. You know, Libya's become a very lawless country in the past eight months. People have been fighting for their very lives, have seen their brothers killed, have seen their fathers killed.
And so again, I think it's going to be a rough road.
CONAN: And there was another place that held out for a long time, Bani Walid. We just have a few seconds before a break, but that was apparently overrun earlier last week.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yes, Bani Walid was overrun, the last holdout. So now there are no sort of large population centers that have Gadhafi loyalists in it. Basically now the country is effectively free of Moammar Gadhafi's supporters.
CONAN: Lourdes Garcia-Navarro is going to stay with us. Rebel troops in Libya killed Moammar Gadhafi today after first capturing Sirte, the former leader's hometown. When we come back, we'll hear the remarks of President Obama, who spoke just a few minutes ago in the Rose Garden of the White House.
We'll also talk more with Lourdes Garcia-Navarro and with George Joffe, a North Africa expert at Cambridge University's Center of International Studies. Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. I'm Neal Conan. Libya's prime minister, once part of an overmatched and outgunned group of rebels, today declared Moammar Gadhafi dead, the first leader to be killed during the Arab Spring.
We've been waiting for this moment for a long time, Mahmoud Jabril said in a news conference. Gadhafi was an unpredictable and brutal leader. He fashioned himself a revolutionary, an Arab nationalist, at times as Africa's king of kings.
In 1986, Gadhafi was linked to a terrorist bombing in Germany, which killed two American soldiers. President Ronald Reagan dubbed him a mad dog and ordered American planes to bomb his compound in Tripoli.
Libya was also tied to the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerby, Scotland. Gadhafi later agreed to pay up to $10 million to victims' families. Several years ago, he promised to dismantle the country's nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs.
The thaw with the West did not last. After months of civil war, Gadhafi promised a fight to the end: I am a fighter, a revolutionary from tents. I will die as a martyr, he promised, foreshadowing today's events.
Gadhafi died at the hands of Libyan rebels at the age of 69. The death of Moammar Gadhafi is largely symbolic for its country at this point. The interim government continues to coordinate control. And the way forward is littered with challenges, including remnants of Gadhafi's forces, tribes who have been aligned against each other for years with no real experience at democracy or government.
We'll get to all those questions in just a moment, but a few minutes ago, President Obama spoke about this at the White House Rose Garden. Let's hear the president.
President BARACK OBAMA: Good afternoon everybody. Today the government of Libya announced the death of Moammar Gadhafi. This marks the end of a long and painful chapter for the people of Libya, who now have the opportunity to determine their own destiny in a new and democratic Libya.
For four decades, the Gadhafi regime ruled the Libyan people with an iron fist. Basic human rights were denied. Innocent civilians were detained, beaten and killed. And Libya's wealth was squandered. The enormous potential of the Libyan people was held back, and terror was used as a political weapon.
Today we can definitively say that the Gadhafi regime has come to an end. The last major regime strongholds have fallen. The new government is consolidating the control over the country. And one of the world's longest-serving dictators is no more.
One year ago, the notion of a free Libya seemed impossible. But then the Libyan people rose up and demanded their rights. And when Gadhafi and his forces started going city to city, town by town, to brutalize men women and children, the world refused to stand idly by.
Faced with the potential of mass atrocities and a call for help from the Libyan people, the United States and our friends and allies stopped Gadhafi's forces in their tracks. A coalition that included the United States, NATO and Arab nations persevered through the summer to protect Libyan civilians.
And meanwhile, the courageous Libyan people fought for their own future and broke the back of the regime. So this is a momentous day in the history of Libya. The dark shadow of tyranny has been lifted, and with this enormous promise, the Libyan people now have a great responsibility: to build an inclusive and tolerant and democratic Libya that stands as the ultimate rebuke to Gadhafi's dictatorship.
We look forward to the announcement of the country's liberation, the quick formation of an interim government and a stable transition to Libya's first free and fair elections. And we call on our Libyan friends to continue to work with the international community to secure dangerous materials and to respect the human rights of all Libyans, including those who've been detained.
We're under no illusions, Libya will travel a long and winding road to full democracy. There will be difficult days ahead. But the United States, together with the international community, is committed to the Libyan people.
You have won your revolution and now we will be a partner as you forge a future that provides dignity, freedom, and opportunity. For the region, today's events prove, once more, that the rule of an iron fist inevitably comes to an end. Across the Arab world, citizens have stood up to claim their rights.
Youth are delivering a powerful rebuke to dictatorship, and those leaders who try to deny their human dignity will not succeed. For us here in the United States, we are reminded, today, of all those Americans we lost at the hands of Gadhafi's terror.
The families and friends are in our thoughts and in our prayers. We recall their bright smiles, their extraordinary lives and their tragic deaths. We know that nothing can close the wound of their loss, but we stand together as one nation by their side.
For nearly eight months many Americans have provided extraordinary service and support of our efforts to protect the Libyan people and to provide them with a chance to determine their own destiny. Our skilled diplomats have helped to lead an unprecedented global response. Our brave pilots have flown in Libya's skies. Our sailors have provided support off Libya's shores, and our leadership at NATO has helped guide our coalition.
Without putting a single U.S. service member on the ground, we achieved our objectives, and our NATO mission will soon come to an end. This comes at a time when we see the strength of American leadership across the world. We've taken out al-Qaida leaders, and we've put them on the path to defeat. We're winding down the war in Iraq, and have begun a transition in Afghanistan.
And now, working in Libya with friends and allies we've demonstrated what collective effort can achieve in the 21st century. Of course, above all, today's - belongs to the people of Libya. This is a moment for them to remember all those who suffered and were lost under Qaddafi and look forward to the promise of a new day. And I know the American people wish the people of Libya the very best in what will be a challenging, but hopeful, days, weeks, months and years ahead. Thank you very much.
CONAN: President Obama a few minutes ago in the White House Rose Garden. With us still is Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, NPR foreign correspondent, with us by phone from Doha in Qatar. And joining us now is George Joffe, a research fellow at Cambridge University Center of International Studies, with us from Cambridge in the U.K.
And George Joffe and I started talking about Moammar Gadhafi and the future of Libya I guess more than a quarter-century ago. George, nice to have you with us again.
GEORGE JOFFEE: Thank you very much.
CONAN: And before we get on to what the president described as what could be difficult days ahead, what kind of legacy does Moammar Gadhafi leave behind?
JOFFEE: Well, quite frankly, there's no legacy left now. The political system he invented has gone. The state he constructed on the basis of that system has been dissolved. There is, of course, the detritus of the civil war, which destroyed large parts of the infrastructure he built up in that state. His army is dissolved, and the money he spent, vast amounts of money, on weaponry, has been wasted.
So it has to be said there's not very much, but there is something. There is still - maybe now it's going to be amplified because of his death at the hands of the revolution - there is still the memory of him as a martyr, and that could be very dangerous in the future, because his ideas haven't died. They are still around.
People still do believe in them, surprisingly enough. And that means that there are people who will see him as someone who was martyred for a cause, a cause he defined as anti-imperialism, as anti-colonialism and as an attempt to reconstruct the developing world.
CONAN: Has the one thing that united the opposition - the National Transitional Council and all the elements that fought against Moammar Gadhafi - has the one thing that united them died today?
JOFFEE: No, I don't think so. I mean, I think he goes far further than that. First of all, Libyans have a sense of being Libyan. And that's been acquired over the years, and partly through the experience of the Gadhafi dictatorship. They therefore are aware that they have a common heritage and a common destiny, too. And so that will keep them together.
There are other things, too, that will keep them together. They share a common language. They share a common religion. And those are important factors, as well. And despite the fragmentary nature of the Libyan state as it evolved, and the fragmentary nature of Libyan society, too, I think those things are going to turn out to be the glue that guarantees that the state, despite the very difficult days it faces, will actually hold together.
CONAN: And I wanted to turn back to you, Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, to talk about some of those things that unite and divide the Libyans. There were, for example, as you said, very sharp regional differences, nowhere sharper than in the city of Misrata, which suffered under such a long and difficult siege.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yes, I think we're seeing Misrata evolve into quite a, sort of, powerhouse, if you will. It's become almost a city-state in many regards. It has its own military council. It has its own sort of local council, and they don't answer to the National Transitional Council in real ways at the moment. To get into the city of Misrata, you need almost a visa, as one person quipped to me, but you definitely need a letter. And if you don't have it, you simply cannot enter the city, even if you have family there.
If you do have family there, that family member has to come out and vouch for you. That is a product of the fear, obviously, that Gadhafi loyalists could come and sabotage the city or wreak havoc in the city. But also, it speaks to, I think, one of the problems that will evolve. I mean, definitely, Libya is a country that is united by a common language and a common heritage and a sense of being Libyan, but I think one of the legacies of this particular conflict, of this revolution are that these regional differences have been brought into sharp relief, and that many of these groups now believe in itself to be very autonomous and are acting very independently. And I think that will be very difficult to rein in under the interim administration.
CONAN: George Joffe, Lourdes Garcia-Navarro did some wonderful reporting from the mountains in the southern part of Libya about people there who think, well, we were really the ones who conquered territory and fought against the troops and drove the Gadhafi forces back. We're the ones who liberated them. As we hear, the forces in Misrata said we're the ones who held out under siege for so long. Benghazi has its own interests. Tripoli, of course, its own Sirte is largely been destroyed. All of these regional factors are going to be very difficult to heal.
JOFFEE: Yes, of course, they are, and there are other factors beyond that, too. There's a tribal basis, too, to Libyan society, and that may reassert itself. We just don't know yet quite what that will mean. And it's true that there are enormous fractures inside the Libya that existed before February, and they do demonstrate a series of antagonisms, self-interests and specific concerns. It will take a very long time to bring together. I think their particular job in Nafusa and the Berber populations who quite clearly are going to demand some kind of autonomy inside the new state.
But all these things are open for discussion. No one's yet suggesting that Libya should fragment. Indeed, one of the things that came out from the revolution earlier on was a sense that there had to be a common solution despite all these factional interests and concerns. And it's true that Misrata is in a very particular place because of the way in which it had to stand up to Gadhafi's forces. But nonetheless, there's still a sense that they're part of a wider whole. So I think in the end, these things will be overcome.
The real question is how the institutions that exist, namely the National Transitional Council, can best help achieve that. And the problem for the council is that it doesn't yet really enjoy a sense of legitimacy amongst all the factions that exist.
CONAN: We're talking with George Joffe of Cambridge University's Center of International Studies and with Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, NPR foreign correspondent, about the death of Moammar Gadhafi, the way ahead in Libya. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. And this email from Kevin. Lourdes Garcia-Navarro mentioned Gadhafi had not made many friends in the region with good reason. However, one important point to cover is that Gadhafi made and perhaps one could say bought many friends on the African continent, among normal African people who benefited from money and support given by Gadhafi to their countries for projects and improved human welfare outside of Libya.
If you ask an average citizen in Kenya or South Sudan, you may very well get the surprising response that they are sorry for Gadhafi's death, that he was a great leader. Their point of view is a very different one from that of a Libyan citizen as they did not suffer the consequences of the dictator's strong-armed tactics and repression of human rights and freedoms within Libya. And, George Joffe, I think that's probably correct.
JOFFEE: It's absolutely correct, and indeed amongst the smaller African states where Colonel Gadhafi often spread considerable largesse, there is undoubtedly still support for him and for his ideas and for the state that he created. But even amongst the larger states, South Africa, for example, was always grateful to Libya for the support that the Gadhafi regime had given to the ANC in its struggle against the white regime that had dominated there. And those things are not forgotten even now.
You may remember that during the current civil war, there were attempts by South Africa, acting in the name of the African Union, to try to find some negotiated peace. And under the South African president, Jacob Zuma, several attempts were made to find a basis for negotiation. They were all pushed to one side, ignored, and African states actually feel very badly about it. We saw evidence of that at the United Nations when South Africa actually blocked for some time the unfreezing of funds held by United Nations states that was supposed to be redelivered to Libya simply because there was resentment about the way in which it should have been treated.
CONAN: Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, there's another side of this, and that is there were any number of visitors and workers in Libya from the southern part of the continent, black Africans, who are in grave difficulties today.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: There are. And I think what's really interesting to note right now is if you speak to an average Libyan citizen, my producer there, who we've heard from earlier, Grant Clark, is from South Africa, and he's - when he tells people he's from South Africa, the amount of rage and invectives that comes out of the average Libyan at the moment. First of all, there's resentment because of all of that money that they believe was squandered on the African continent because, you know, pandering to Gadhafi's ego as they see it, and secondly, because of the way that countries like South Africa behaved after the revolution was well on its way.
They felt that those countries stood with Gadhafi and didn't stand with the Libyan people, and they say that now those countries will be penalized for it. They want those countries to be penalized for it. So how Libya now adjusts itself to the African continent on which it lies will be very interesting. Will we see a shift to closer relations with the Arab world? I think we will. Clearly, Qatar, where I am now, is a great beneficiary of what had happened in Libya because it showed such unwavering support, financial and otherwise. So I think we're going to see some shifts definitely happening in Libya's outlook and how it deals with the rest of the world.
CONAN: Interestingly, the Libyan Transitional National Council, I think, became the first outside group to recognize the Syrian overall umbrella group of opposition forces. Their transitional national council is the legitimate government there. So we're going to have to see how that develops. Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, I know you've got some work to do, and I know you're trying to get back into Libya, so we'll let you get back to see if you can get a flight.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Thank you. Bye.
CONAN: Lourdes Garcia-Navarro with us from Doha in Qatar. George Joffe, can you stay with us for a few minutes more?
JOFFEE: Yes, of course.
CONAN: Good. We're going to continue our conversation, take a couple of more calls about the situation in Libya following the death of Moammar Gadhafi earlier today at the hands of rebel forces outside of his hometown of Sirte. We're also going to be talking with Jeffrey Gettleman of The New York Times about another military situation in Africa. This is in East Africa where Kenya forces have gone across the border - hundreds of them - to intervene in Somalia against Shabaab. Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
CONAN: We're also following the developing story out of Libya and the death of former dictator Moammar Gadhafi. What's next for Libya's Transitional National Council? And we're talking with George Joffe, a research fellow at Cambridge University's Center for International Studies, an expert on Libya and North Africa. Let's go next to Mike. Mike is calling us from Dayton in Ohio.
MIKE: Hi, Neal. I've always enjoyed the show. Thanks for taking my call.
CONAN: Thanks for calling.
MIKE: I've always been a little suspicious as to the reasons why NATO got involved in the first place. This has been mostly a French and British endeavor, and I know that the two countries have a lot of historical background in Libya. Well, ostensibly, it was to protect the people from Gadhafi's violence or vengeance. We're seeing the exact same thing happening in Syria, another country which has very strong French and British historical ties. I was wondering if NATO could be looking at Syria right now, and I'll take my answer off the air. Thank you.
CONAN: Mike, thanks very much for the call. Libya, of course, was a former Italian colony. The British were involved after the second - during and after the Second World War. But, George Joffe, certainly, Britain and France were involved in Syria historically. It presents a very different situation, however.
JOFFEE: It certainly does. One needs to remember that in the case of Libya, the Libyan state wasn't in fact a major player in world events, so that intervention in it would not necessarily provoke some profound change in the situation inside the Middle East.
Syria is a very different matter. Syria after all is crucial to the security of Israel. It's a crucial ally of Iran. It's a state that dominates the Levantine region. And, of course, it dominates Lebanon. If you remove the Gadhafi - the Assad regime from power, there's no guarantee that what then emerges is going to be a state that will be able to accommodate the extremely complex regional situation, and therefore nobody wants to disturb the situation there more than necessary.
If the Syrian population is able to get rid of its leader, well and good. But the idea of an intervention from the outside is something that nobody is yet prepared to contemplate.
CONAN: Also as we saw this play out in Libya, French and British forces nearly exhausted themselves, ran out of smart bombs, had to buy some from U.S. inventory. NATO is breathing a sigh of relief that this is over, no?
JOFFEE: Oh, I'm sure that's true, and you're quite right. Very early on in the campaign to the great embarrassment of statesmen in London and in Paris, there was indeed a shortage of ammunition, and that had to be rectified very quickly. And that was partly a measure of the excessive overconfidence that was shown both in Paris and certainly in London. I remember the chancellor here in Britain saying that the cost of the intervention in Libya will be a matter of a few millions of pounds.
It's actually cost Britain 1.8 billion pounds. And now that may not seem very much in the context of American expenses in Afghanistan and elsewhere, but for Britain, this going through a period of intense retrenchment is a considerable expenditure. So in a way, yes, NATO leaders are going to be delighted that it's now over. They're meeting tomorrow in fact to draw a veil over the campaign. But, again, one needs to bear in mind that the reason why they became involved wasn't just because they wanted to protect the Libyan population.
In fact, as far as France was concerned, there was an enormous need to demonstrate that France was not, as it had appeared to be, simply the state that actually collaborated with dictators in the Middle East. It had done so in Tunisia. This was a chance for President Sarkozy to show that France was something very different. And for Britain, I'm afraid to say that Britain became involved largely because it wanted to show that it was a state engaged in a moral crusade in a wider world. That's now have been done. We have to hope that actually this has been a learning and sobering experience for the leaders concerned, and that they won't be quite so ready to do it again quite so quickly.
CONAN: One last question on this and then we'll get to East Africa. Scott is on the line from Jackson, Michigan.
SCOTT: Hi. Well, I think there is a slight downside to this regarding foreign policy. Few of us would want to live under Gadhafi's autocratic regime, or would have, but we now have zero credibility with North Korea and Iran. So how are we going to go to Iran and negotiate and say, oh, if you play ball with us, you know, on nuclear disarmament or dismantling your nuclear program, we'll let you re-enter the sphere - the diplomatic sphere as an equal? Well, they're going to say, hey, Gadhafi did that. Look what happened to him.
CONAN: George Joffe, is that a downside here?
GEORGE JOFFE: I think it probably is. And I tend to agree - although I think in the case of Iran, the problems arose long, long ago. The fact that the United States has had no relations with Iran, no diplomatic relations, for the last 30 years, made, of course, any question of negotiating very difficult. And the way in which the nuclear negotiations have gone has certainly not helped that. So, in a way, Iran has been the beneficiary of the mistaken invasion of Iraq and, of course, it continues to benefit from that. So, in a sense, I think the problems there aren't really the consequence of what happened in Libya, but they do demonstrate the way in which, in effect, the United States has had a very bad decade in terms of its policies inside the Middle East.
CONAN: George, thanks very much. Scott, and thanks for the call. And George Joffe joined us from a studio of the BBC in Cambridge in the U.K., where he's at the Center for International Studies at Cambridge University. George, always good to talk to you. Thank you very much for your time.
JOFFE: My pleasure.
CONAN: And just to Kenya and Somalia, up next. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.