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Looking onto the Libyan crisis now, we have seen a constant toing and froing of the front line between the army, controlled by the embattled Muammar Gaddafi, and the rebel forces, controlled by the unrecognized National Transitional Council or NTC.
But wait! That IS one major change since the last time I posted about Libya. The NTC, or Interim National Council, or Libyan National Council, is now recognised as a/the representative of the Libyan people by 29 countries.
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As representatives of the international community assemble in Juba, the capital of the newly-independent Republic of South Sudan, Spineless Liberal takes a look at the challenges facing the world’s newest country.
Image by Abode of Chaos via Flickr
Over the past 24 hours, the Libyan opposition has made major gains against Gaddafi‘s forces – under the cover of the no-fly zone. The cities of Ajdabiya and Brega, crucial outposts on the main highway along the coast, have been retaken. This makes a full attack on Benghazi difficult. There are also reports emerging that the rebels have retaken the city of Ras Lanuf, a crucial oil-supplying town. Hurting Gaddafi’s economy can only help in his (hopeful) eventual overthrow.
What has changed? We changed. Thanks to the Western (and now Qatari) imposed no-fly zone over Libya, the rebels are benefitting from a huge boost in morale, knowing that the international community supports them, and from the no-fly zone grounding Gaddafi’s deadly air force.
Apparently, Ajdabiya was taken mostly because of the RAF. A devastating bombardment of the city by RAF Tornadoes led to Gaddafi’s forces melting away.
The French air force has also been suppressing Gaddafi’s air force around Misurata, a city besieged. It took down, reportedly, three planes and two helicopters last night.
Liam Fox has claimed that we will not be directly suppling the rebels with arms, citing the presence of a UN weapons embargo. Mind you, Resolution 1973, only cites arms delivered to the “Libyan Arab Jamahiriya“, the name of Libya under Gaddafi. The Transitional Council calls the country the Libyan Republic. As France recognises the rebels as the legitimate government, are they bound by this embargo? I’m no lawyer, but it’s a point to explore…
So, that’s the latest updates on Libya. A clear change of fortunes for the rebel forces, that we can only hope will continue.
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Bahrain Updates –
A Friday “day of rage” is ongoing, despite martial law. But who is organising it?
Neither Wefaq not the February 14 Youth Movement have claimed responsibility, and Wefaq, a Shia opposition group, have distanced themselves from the protests, seemingly hinting that it is now too dangerous to protests, with Saudi troops on the streets.
Libya Updates –
NATO appears to be taking over command of the no-fly zone over Libya, but the US will remain in charge of air strikes on Gaddafi’s ground forces.
This seems mostly to be the only way to get Turkey on board, a country which opposes bombing ground targets as it fears civilian casualties.
The situation now seems to ask the question – what is the goal? I still believe that we cannot only side with the rebels, for fear of poisoning our reputations in the eyes of other Arab states. We must appear to remain impartial and legitimate. But really, the goal must be Gaddafi’s removal. The continuing economic sanctions will hopefully force him to submit to a change in leadership. In the meantime, covertly or via France (which recognises the Transitional Council as the legitimate government of Libya), the west and Arab states must supply the rebels. This will allow them to survive, and even force Gaddafi out, by themselves. Supplies and training are crucial for the rebellion.
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10.15pm: The government has won by 557 votes to 13 – a majority of 544.
via Politics blog + Commons Libya debate – live | Politics | guardian.co.uk.
Now that’s a majority and a half. Clearly it shows widespread support for the intervention in Libya… but we also have to note the real tone of the debate, and it was far from positive. Reading through a few of the comments, it shows that people are uneasy. With a British submarine, alone with American ships, launching missiles at 20 targets on the coast (Gaddafi‘s missile defence system, clearing the way for the pilots), we’ve become involved more than perhaps some MPs expected. The Arab League is also wavering in support, condemning the bombing of civilians – despite the fact that intervening in a near-civil war was always going to result in civilian casualties, especially as Gaddafi’s supporters were, he claimed, willing to be bussed in to key targets to act as human shields. The prospect of assassination of Gaddafi, hinted at by Secretary of State for Defence Liam Fox, is outrageous to many – frankly, I find that speaking openly of it is a foolish move. If you want to assassination someone, you don’t bloody tell Fleet Street. At least the Israeli’s have the common sense not to admit it if they do it. Having said that, assassinating Gaddafi is foolish in-and-of-itself. Martyrdom for Gaddafi is not an advantage to anyone – forcing him out may be our best option, but openly killing him. If he does chose to go down with the ship, so be it. Good riddance. But we can’t openly support it, or plan for it. Our legal mandate is to defend civilians, not assassinate politicians.
John Baron (Basildon & Billericay)
Graham Allen (Nottingham North)
Ronnie Campbell (Blyth Valley)
Jeremy Corbyn (Islington North)
Barry Gardiner (Brent North)
Roger Godsiff (Birmingham Hall Green)
John McDonnell (Hayes & Harlington)
Linda Riordan (Halifax)
Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)
Mike Wood (Batley & Spen)
Caroline Lucas (Brighton Pavilion)
Mark Durkan (Foyle)
Margaret Ritchie (Down South)
Labour’s Katy Clark (North Ayrshire and Arran) and Yasmin Qureshi (Bolton South East) acted as tellers for the noes.
An excellent summary of the debate can also be found here :-http://blogs.ft.com/westminster/2011/03/unease-in-the-commons-as-mps-debate-libya-action/