Sunday, March 27, 2011

Libya is more than a coastline

I'm doing some research on disaster relief, and encountering a number of interesting items along the way. Since updates to this blog have been woefully infrequent recently, I'm going to link to a few without too much comment.

First up: lots of people have noted that much of the Libyan population lives very close to the Mediterranean cost. For example, Christopher Hitchens, writing in slate, calls the country "in effect a long strip of coastline, with a vast hinterland of desert." However, that hinterland is not empty.

In fact, it contains both towns and, more importantly, weapons arsenals. Alex de Waal points out that Libya's neighbours are quite concerned about this, since groups aiming to overthrow their governments have long sought shelter in Libya. Now that Gaddafi has made his arsenals available to anyone willing to fight on behalf of his rule, "such rebels have been able to acquire arms and vehicles with ease." Not only that, de Waal reports that "Mercenaries, freebooters and rebels from across the Sahel, and even beyond, are heading for Libya to take advantage of this open-entry, take all you can arms bonanza."

This is not an issue that has been much discussed in the international media, but given the number of long-simmering conflicts in the region, it is a problem well worth monitoring more closely.

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