Tobruk is about an hour and a half by car from Libya's border with Egypt, a drive through flat, sparsely populated scrubland along the Mediterranean coast. The communities along the route are scattered in low, rectangular block buildings, many painted a decaying, sand-battered white with green doors and shutters. As nightfall came to Libya on Tuesday, the towns almost disappeared into the darkness, with their electricity limited, despite many power lines. Sporadic lakes of sewage broke up fields of garbage. "You see how Libyans are living here," said my guide, Emat al-Maijri, an activist, pointing to the buildings. "And with all this oil!"
The men of Tobruk are proud to have been among the first to push Muammar Gaddafi's regime out of their city. There were only three or four fatalities here, with about 50 injured, residents say. That's because Tobruk, in Libya's far east, fell fast. It was part of the domino collapse of Libya's eastern towns — the first in the country to fall to the antigovernment protesters. "All of Libya is against Gaddafi," says Gamal Shallouf, a marine biologist turned activist in Tobruk. He says the east was the first to fall because it long felt neglected by a ruler who focused development projects on the capital and his hometown of Sert.
Since the time of classical Greek antiquity, when Grecian settlers founded the colony of Antipyrgos next to the excellent harbor there, Tobruk has been a strategic location. The Romans turned the site into a fortress. The most famous episodes in its history as a strategic point were during World War II. Italy was the modern colonial master of Tubruk from 1911 to 1951. In the course of those 40 years, the Italians managed to kill off about half the Libyan population, who withstood colonization until the occupiers became far too brutal to defeat.
In 1940, excited about the German defeat of France, Italy declared war on the UK, which occupied adjacent Egypt. An Italian attack on western Egypt was quickly thwarted by the British, who then rapidly occupied eastern Libya, including Tobruk, which fell to the British on January 22, 1941. Later that year, British Commonwealth and Empire troops, most notably the Australian 9th Division, withstood a German siege of the city, but were later overwhelmed quickly in a fresh attack upon it on June 21, 1942. After the British and allied forces defeated the Germans and Italians at El Alamein in October-November, 1941, Tobruk fell to the UK on November 11, 1942.
II. After the military coup that brought Col. Gaddafi to power in 1969, he once again turned Tobruk into an important military base. Housed there are important anti-aircraft units, which - presumably - have gone over to the insurgency, or have fled to the west or to sea.
Tobruk's fall, perhaps more than that of Benghazi marks the turning point in Gaddafi's desperate venture to hold onto power. If the insurgency can spread out to the south and southwest of the Tobruk-Benghazi axis, they will control about half of the Libyan oilfields and transportation-refining infrastructure. Only two of the main Libyan pipelines go into the area Gaddafi seems to be still strongly holding. All of Libya's offshore oil and gas developments lie just to the north and northwest of Tripoli.
If European and American naval assets are being deployed right now, it would be to the waters directly north of Azzawia, possibly to the port itself. If Gaddafi loses Azzawia, it will be game over. (Misurata just fell to the insurgents)
FOX News, quoting their in-house Libya expert Sarah "I Hate This Job!"
Mooselini Palin, this morning, whined about Obama's inaction regarding Libya:
Here are screenshots of her facebook statement, as carried by FOX:
WTF, Palin? As the published excerpts from Frank Bailey's and others' books clearly show, you're one of the most pathetically challenged people regarding foreign affairs in the history of American politics. Every day Palin, there is more evidence of this. Watching Palin being worshipped by these FOX "pundits" and talking heads gets even more astounding every week.
Aren't you glad we don't have a President Palin handling this cascade of events?
Shortly after Palin's facebook whine went up: