The negotiating stand-off at Bani Walid is not that surprising really.

Whoever it is from Gaddafi’s side that is holed up there must be feeling pretty anxious right now – with deep-seated reassurance or even survival needs. This is because after all the fighting and the casualties and now the discovery of appalling atrocities there will be a thirst for “justice” from the NCT rebels and their Western allies which is impossible to ignore. This will mean trials and probably executions. Gaddafi’s side know that if they negotiate a surrender now there is not much of a “win” in the deal for them – hence the standoff whilst they consider other options – including fighting to the last or, more likely, escaping if they can.

There seems to be a further complicating factor in the negotiation as well, in that the discussions are being brokered through the Warfalla tribe, who dominate this area. There are 140 different tribes in Libya and their influence on events has been under-stated in reporting to date. In this case the tribe seems somewhat split between those in Bani Walid who are pro-Gaddafi and those in other regions like Miserate who are pro NTC. It’s never easy to get things agreed with a divided team on the other side so that may be complicating events too…

It’s a shame really. What was the “win” here? It must have been regime change. Getting rid of Gaddafi bloodlessly would have been a major negotiating coup and might have been possible before the fighting began. He might not have been punished but, evil though he is, could we have tolerated that in the overall bigger picture? Was it necessary to punish the IRA for their horrendous acts of violence in the context of the Irish peace negotiations? No. The result is a peaceful Ireland to the benefit of all its citizens. Had the West stuck to this more limited aim from the outset it might have been possible to negotiate an exit for Gaddafi that avoided all the bloodshed and the problem of how to deal with him now.

We will never know for sure, but what we do know is that the desire to evict him forcibly rather than through negotiation prompted the military intervention which has now raised the stakes. It has resulted in thousands of deaths and multiple atrocities which it is understandably impossible for the NTC and its Western allies to overlook. They can’t be seen to let Gaddafi and his cronies off the hook now, even though his regime is finished.

No wonder both sides are currently stuck trying to negotiate a surrender. They don’t seem to have any room to negotiate‚Ķ