Libya: Nine non-violent options
I am like many disappointed by the lack of debate about non-violent alternatives to the situation in Libya. No Fly Zones are an extremely risky venture, have no current legal basis, and may backfire. Above all, imposing NFZs, as Defense Secretary Gates has said, means attacking Libya i.e. entering a war. That means killing Libyans.
Before any violent military action is contemplated, there are other steps available to put pressure on Gadhaffi’s regime to step down. These are additional to the welcome steps imposed by the UN Security Council this weekend in UNSCR 1970: ICC referral, assets freeze, travel bans etc.. Some ideas involve the military, but not force.
These are ideas for discussion, but discussion followed by deliberate action is what’s needed right now. A lot of these ideas flow from my – very mixed – experience of working on sanctions on Iraq and indeed Libya (when the UN imposed sanctions to get Libya to hand over the Lockerbie accused), as well as some recent thinking about so-called “smart sanctions”. I should add that in this debate I bow to Libyans on the ground – their views on what’s needed should be heeded very carefully.
1. Establishment of an escrow account for Libyan oil revenues: this would require further UNSC chapter VII authorisation. At present, it appears that all oil revenues, including from oil produced from rebel-held areas, flows to the Libyan government. All payments should instead be paid into a UN-run escrow account, the proceeds of which would be released as soon as a representative government is established in Libya. While the account is in operation, proceeds might in the interim be used for humanitarian purposes in rebel-held areas or to aid refugees. This would be a short-term measure to exert maximum pressure on the regime. My suspicion is that govts are not discussing this for fear of the effect on oil prices (this is uppermost in US debate in particular). To deal with this problem, Saudi Arabia should be asked to make very public commitments to increase its daily production to cover any shortfall of Libyan production.
2. Listing all Libyan personnel involved in repression for sanction under SCR 1970. Paras 22-23 of this resolution encourage states to nominate individuals to whom the asset freeze and travel ban would apply. At the moment, the list is very short and comprises only prominent regime members. The UN or Security Council members should make public this encouragement to Libyans on the ground to nominate members of the security forces. Why not publish an email address for such nominations or set up a wiki for Libyans to compile evidence? I realise the potential downsides of this, but the point would primarily be to act as a deterrent. There is also nothing to stop individual states declaring that those named under paras 22-23 will be subject to these measures in perpetuity. For a start, why not nominate all Libyan diplomats who have not defected for these sanctions? Why not take the names of all senior Libyan army officers and stick them on the list too?
3. Seek public declarations from all commercial companies that they will not do business with the Gadhaffi regime. The admirable folks in the Genocide Intervention Network have already begun campaigning for this and have secured several such commitments. I see no reason why governments, such as the US and UK, should not demand such commitments of companies based in their respective countries. Naming and shaming has considerable effect on the recalcitrant.
4. Immediately position monitoring units on all borders and a naval blockade to ensure that the military embargo under UNSCR 1970 is enforced, and that regime members under ICC investigation or subject to paras 22-23 of UNSCR 1970 do not escape. This could be implemented now, and does not in my view require further Security Council authority.
5. An air blockade to the same effect might also be considered. This should of course exclude all evacuation and humanitarian flights, but the aim is to increase the isolation of the regime. Flights should by contrast be permitted to rebel-held areas. Such measures were imposed on Gadhaffi under the earlier sanctions regime over Lockerbie. He didn’t like it.
6. Electronic jamming of all regime communications; interference with internet communications, stuxnet-like attacks on regime IT infrastructure. I hope that US etc are already trying to do this. If not, they should be.
7. Provide immediate and substantial humanitarian assistance in rebel-held areas.
8. Set up publicly accessible websites using satellite and other reconnaissance data to inform anti-Gadhaffi forces of the disposition of regime military and irregular units. Or, get the data to them more covertly using encrypted satphones etc.. (thanks @racionalisimo for that one)
9. Consider making the Libyan currency non-convertible (thanks to @stream47 for this idea). I’m no expert on this so list this for consideration only. Another idea is to impose Swift banking sanctions to freeze all financial transactions beyond the assets freeze imposed in SCR1970. The problem with assets freezes is that it’s too easy these days for individuals/regimes to hide money. Tracking these monies is a major forensic effort, and can take time.
These are only nine ideas. I am sure there are others. I am grateful to various friends on Twitter for their suggestions. Please keep them coming.