yesterday on KPFA Flashpoints Radio again spoke with their special correspondent in Libya, Mahdi Nazemroaya. (Click here for KPFA archives, here for Flashpoints Radio website -- Flashpoints airs live from 5:00 to 6:00 pm PST, Monday through Friday). Excerpt:
Kevin Pina: Well today NATO backed troops in Libya claimed they'd taken the last key oil facility in Zawiya as bombs continue to fall on Tripoli. Support for the Libyan government remains strong throughout the west as reports are claiming even as fears grow of a larger military assault on the horizon. And joining us once again from Tripoli, Libya is our Flashpoints special correspondent Mahdi Nazemroya. Mahdi, welcome back to Flashpoints.
Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya: Thank you, Kevin.
Kevin Pina: Mahdi, we understand that there are reports now that are saying the so-called rebels, the so-called insurgents, they're alternately being called. You called it. Yesterday I saw AP refer to them as opposition forces. You actually called that one. Whatever you refer to them, what they're saying is that they've taken the key town of Zawiya which is the last of the oil centers inside Libya, as they put it, tightening the noose around Tripoli. We even hear and see articles coming out saying that the 'rebel' chiefs are fearing a bloodbath in Tripoli should they attempt to take it. What's really going on on the ground there, Mahdi? What can you tell us?
Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya: Well I can tell you just driving here in Tripoli that it's very tranquil. There's no fighting here. It's peaceful and it's calm. There was mounting psychological tension here the last couple of days but now it's gone downward. I can tell you that there is still fighting on the route from here to Tunis which is an artery for this district of Tripoli. Around Zawiya there is still fighting between the insurgents and the government forces. In Surmon everything is alright. And basically what the media is saying about Zawiya is incorrect because the rebels are to the south of the city and Zawiya district. They have not taken over the oil refinery. They have not presented any evidence for it whatsoever and Libyan television showed Zawiya and the oil refinery today as well as a number of other oil refineries and no insurgents controlling those sights.
Kevin Pina: And you're listening to Flashpoints on Pacifica Radio. And that is the voice of Mahdi Nazemroaya our special correspondent speaking to us directly from Tripoli, Libya. Mahdi is also a research assistant with the Centre for Research on Globalization based in Montreal, Canada. Now, Mahdi, we have also heard that there have been recent NATO bombings. You say it's normal there but they're also reporting in the press that just within the last 24 hours there have been large explosions heard in the capitol of Tripoli, Libya.
Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya: Well, Kevin, NATO bombs have been ongoing. I don't think there's been a day where I haven't heard them or felt the earth shake or been told about the bombings here in Tripoli or around it. They're bombing all over Libya. And last night there were very heavy bombings. There were bombings today. On my way here, there was a bombing. So NATO -- the North Atlantic Treaty Organization -- has not stopped bombing. And I want to remind listeners that most of these sites are civilian and it's mostly civilians that get killed -- like they did in Zlitan where mostly women and children were slaughtered by NATO.
Kevin Pina: And, of course, that was a report that came out last week that we spoke about yesterday where they are saying that 85 civilians were killed in an attack on Zlitan, including 33 women and how many children?
Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya: There was 33 and 32 of them were women and children.
Kevin Pina: So altogether we're talking about 65 women and children were killed in Zlitan overall?
Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya: Yes, that is correct.
Kevin Pina: So is there growing fear now that the so-called 'rebels' or insurgents -- these guys with big guns that are coming from Qatar with US money French francs in their pockets, that these guys are going to be overrunning Tripoli anytime soon?
Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya: To be dead honest with you, there is fear. This is because of the psychological dimensions of the war and the media push. There was fear the last couple of days but that fear is beginning to disappear. There was tensions, especially two days ago. There was a high amount of tensions. And the BBC today said there was going to be an airlift of foreign nationals. I've asked Libyan officials about that and they know nothing about it. So I don't know what the BBC reporters are coming up with these claims. But there was psychological tensions here, that is definite. But now it has gone away. And that psychological tension is the biggest enemy. The Libyans have been winning this war but if they give into fear that can be their downfall.
Kevin Pina: And that is the voice of Mahdi Nazemroaya, Flashpoints' special correspondent speaking to us from Tripoli, Libya. Finally, Mahdi, I know that there have been protests of millions of Libyans in Tripoli and throughout the surrounding areas in support of the Libyan government and specifically in support of Muammar Gaddafi. In many ways, we can say that we weren't hearing the truth about the extent of the popular support that Gaddafi actually still enjoys within Libya. In fact, we can say that we've been told misinformation based upon the reports that you've been giving us. But do you see, even if these so-called insurgents were able to come in to Tripoli, do you see any waning of that popular support for the Libyan government and for Muammar Gaddafi? And, if not, isn't this really going to end in a bloodbath? Isn't this going to be house-to-house fighting? Isn't this going to be a protracted battle, house-to-house, within the capitol.
Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya: Number one, I'd like to emphasize that I don't want to see any bloodshed from a personal vantage point here. From my personal perspective, I'm against that. But if they do come here, I don't think that Muammar Gaddafi's support is going to wane. I think that there will be fighting and it will be heavy and it will be protracted. Yes, there will be definite fighting and he will still have a strong base of support. Let me put it this way, Col Gaddafi is more popular in his own country -- and especially in the continent of Africa -- he's more popular in Libya and the continent of Africa than President Barack Hussein Obama is in the United States or David Cameron is in the United Kingdom or Great Britain or Northern Ireland or Nicolas Sarkozy is in the French Republic. He's far more popular here than them. It's not absolute popularity but he's far more popular than those figures and the population is not going to side with insurgents or forces that it sees as foreign proxies working for NATO in their country. You might have some elements that will switch sides. That's always a possibility. But at present, I'd have to tell you that you're going to see most of the population in Tripoli and the district of Tripoli side with him as they have for the last five to six months.
Kevin Pina: Well we're going to have to leave it there and, again, that is Mahdi Nazemroaya Flashpoints special correspondent giving us yet another insightful report on the ground from Tripoli, Libya. Mahdi, thanks again for joining us on Flashpoints.