Libya is a country in turmoil, poised on the brink of civil war. Protests began in the country in mid-February, at least partially prompted by uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt. By the end of February, the protests had escalated to a full-blown revolution.
At present, government and revolutionary forces are engaged in periodic combat over several key cities in central Libya. Muammar Gaddafi, the so-called Leader and Guide of the Revolution of Libya, an honorific title that was bestowed upon him when he took control of the country via military coup in 1979, has lost control of much of Libya during the fighting.
Government forces still hold the capital of Tripoli in the west and a number of small towns in the south. The opposition is headquartered in the major port of Benghazi to the east and has support from people throughout the country.
Though some military units have joined opposition forces, Gaddafi is still supported by heavily armed security forces based in the capital. Tanks, helicopters, artillery and air strikes have all been used against civilians opposing the government. There are also reports of anti-aircraft guns being mounted on trucks and used against the protesters.
Gaddafi has claimed that unlike rulers in Tunisia and Egypt, he will “fight to the death” to hold on to his leadership of Libya. So far, it seems that Gaddafi is holding true to his promise, as government and opposition forces remain locked in a stalemate. The revolution is unlikely to progress further without foreign aid. Opposition leaders have stated that they do not want foreign soldiers in Libya, but would welcome support in the form of air strikes against Gaddafi.
Under Gaddafi, Libya has had one of the most restricted news media in the world. Gaddafi has regularly executed political dissenters.
The forceful military response to protesters has caused several members of Gaddafi’s government to resign in protest. In late February, Libyan opposition forces formed the National Transitional Council to unite and act as the political face of the rebellion against Gaddafi. Since that time, the Council has claimed itself to be the only legitimate government in Libya, and has been recognized as so by France.
In light of Gaddafi’s use of helicopters and jets to attack protesters, the Council has called for the United Nations to establish a no-fly zone over Libya. It has found much support from other nations, particularly France, though the U.S., to whom the responsibility of enforcing the no-fly zone would likely fall, has not officially supported direct military intervention.
Other nations, like Russia and China, are largely undecided on the no-fly zone proposal, and may abstain if and when the question is put to a vote at the UN Security Council.
As of the time of this writing, jets continue to bomb protesters: on Monday March 13, Libyan forces bombed Ajdabiyah, the only sizeable town in between Brega, which was taken by the government on Sunday, and Benghazi, the rebel stronghold. Time is running out for a UN intervention: Libyan forces continue to drive rebels eastward with air and artillery attacks, making the chance of a successful revolution in Libya a shrinking possibility every day the rebels go unaided.