March 6th, 2011

Dr. Franklin Lamb from Beirut - `Libya needs an international delegation`

Libyan rebels are gaining more ground in the country while the calls for an international delegation to hold talks and prevent more violence are being encouraged.

Interview with  international Lawyer, Dr. Franklin Lamb from Beirut regarding the uprisings in Libya and how the US was caught off guard.

Dr. Franklin Lamb is Director, Americans Concerned for Middle East Peace, Beirut-Washington DC, Board Member of The Sabra Shatila Foundation, and a volunteer with the Palestine Civil Rights Campaign, Lebanon. He is the author of The Price We Pay: A Quarter-Century of Israel’s Use of American Weapons Against Civilians in Lebanon and is doing research in Lebanon for his next book.
Question: Franklin, we were speaking earlier to one of our analyst and he was saying what Libya needs now is a breakthrough maybe from the opposition. What kind of a breakthrough do you think Libya needs right now for these revolutionary forces to succeed?

Lamb: Well, I am picking up on your words. I think because of the rapidly escalating killing that we are seeing … If we could just get a break, that is Gaddafi has supposedly offered two or three international fact finding groups. I personally think it would be excellent if today an international delegation were to appear there. I think that might have the effect of tamping down some of this really dangerous and erupted violence. It looks like it's going to intensify very quickly so I think the international community should try and get a presence in there of diplomats and representatives of the international community to start talking and trying to see if there is any basis to at least take a break, and to stop this movement toward catastrophe.

Question: Franklin, I would like you to respond to this question. It is the question regarding the US and the West. We are hearing some of our earlier analysts saying that the US and West are standing by in the current point in time, and just watching the events in Libya unfold. First of all how do you access the role that has been taken on this by the West and the United States?

Lamb: Of course they were caught off guard. I'm against military intervention so I don't fault them for that; although, it looks like the British are trying to probe a bit. There is support in Washington to get a team in there. I see some contradiction … many say on the one hand what's needed is more violence in a sense with the rebels apparently killing more people and taking control. That is going to happen, but I don't think it's going to benefit the rebels. I think that the power may be a pendulum going toward Gaddafi. That is why I go back. I don't think they deny completely the rationale for getting an international delegation in there.

I have heard conflicting reports about the rebels' point of view. But I feel certain if a creditable international delegation from the Arab League for example went in there immediately; the rebels would not boycott them. I think they would talk. I believe in the old notion of talk, talk, talk rather than war, war, war if we can arrange that. The violence is going to continue unless that happens. The West's position can be criticized but the Arabs haven't done anything. Nobody has done much. I'm not sure a lot can be done unless they are going to go in militarily, which I think everyone pretty much rejects. So you have to find a way to get in there and talk and try to calm things down. Maybe have some troops freeze in place with conditions if Chavez could get Gaddafi to do that and then someone can talk with the rebels. I think that is the international obligation and I do think it would be useful. It's one of the few national options that we have, and we have to try it.

Question: If you want to speak about leaving the Libyan people to decide what is going to happen to their country. Franklin Lamb, do you think that leaving the Libyan people on this matter because if it's going to work, as some say can the Arab League or any other force come in play here without asking Gaddafi to go? That is not going to be accepted by the people is it?

Lamb: Well, we don't know for sure. You gave a million graphics of what the other countries want. Obviously the Libyan people want the same. I think the talks would start off without conditions. The important thing is to get the talks going. Saying we can't have talks unless we agree in advance that Gaddafi goes, that's probably not going to happen. Some believe the talks would buy time for Gaddafi. Look, it will buy time for the Libyan people too. It would save lives. So the sooner this shooting stops and the delegation said it would not begin unless there is a cease fire.

So first you need a ceasefire and then they can talk. You may find it repulsive to even consider talking if Gaddafi stays. He may go or he may stay. Again it's for the people to decide and they will be well represented. I see an urgency of getting somebody in there, getting a ceasefire and preventing this catastrophe. So we will have to learn this afternoon if that delegation is going to firm and get in there. As I understand the government has accepted it. I'm not convinced again that the rebels who are completely rejected out of hand. If it shows up, believe they will meet with them. Then at least people can then get to the hospital and get some food and get some humanitarian aid in there while the talking goes. Then it will bring in more international pressure. I think it's critical that some international delegation from the Arab League gets in there.

Interview was originally published here