Outgoing Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman, Admiral Michael Mullen, while taking satisfaction that the NATO coalition has "dramatically attrited" Qadaffi's forces, was still forced to use the term stalemate in describing the situation in Libya. The current stalemate and the knowledge that it will not be broken in the next few weeks due to desert temperatures ballooning to 45-50 centigrade (115°F) and the Muslim month of Ramadan approaching (where the believers abstain from fighting), is motivation to search for a diplomatic way out.
Yesterday, British foreign Secretary William Hague admitted that Britain would not insist on Qadaffi going into exile. Currently the position has softened into "Our position is that the best way of showing the Libyan people that they would no longer live in fear of Qaddafi would be for him to leave Libya. (But) whatever happens Qaddafi must leave power."
In this respect Hague has now aligned itself with the French position. Last week French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, interviewed on French news channel LCI, floated the idea
"One of the possibilities is that he (Qadaffi) remains in Libya…But on the condition that he stays away from Libyan political life. This is what we are waiting for before we begin the political process for a cease-fire." The ceasefire would commence following
"A formal and clear commitment by Qaddafi to give up his civil and military responsibilities"
The American position will not suffice with a commitment but insists on actual abdication as enunciated by spokesman Jay Carney: "He [Qadaffi] needs to remove himself from power ... and then it’s up to the Libyan people to decide."
It should not be difficult to reconcile the American position with the Anglo-French position; the problem will be in the details. For example, how is one to interpret the term "Libyan people"?
If one is to define the Libyan people as the National Transitional Council in Benghazi, then for most of these people Qadaffi can only remain in Libya in an unmarked grave. There may be some moderates who would consent to have the ousted Qadaffi under some glorified form of detention.
Mustafa Abdel Jalil, the chairman of the National Transistional Council, specified the minimal price demanded by the insurgents in return for Qadaffi's being allowed to stay in Libya in an interview to the Wall Street Journal:
"Qadaffi can stay in Libya but it will have conditions," Mr Jalil said. "We will decide where he stays and who watches him. The same conditions will apply to his family."
If one defines the Libyan people to include the tribes and forces fighting for Qadaffi and maintaining him in power despite the rebels and the coalition, then the terms will be markedly different.
Another question is what will happen with the International Criminal Court warrants issued against Qadaffi? Would his abdication from power grant him immunity from the warrants in Libya as well or only in a country that does not recognize the International Criminal Court? The British position appears to hold out immunity as a sweetener; the French position insists that the court warrants be respected
As the solution to these thorny questions and others remains unclear, the Libyan Civil War and the stalemate will undoubtedly grind on.