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.
Tag Archive: France
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.
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.
- Libya and Middle East unrest – live coverage (guardian.co.uk)
- “Gaddafi has lost his link with reality” – Middle East expert (rt.com)
- Arabs say Gaddafi must go, wary of Western action (reuters.com)
With the international community divided over how exactly to react to the ongoing crisis in Libya, the world risks losing its best hope of toppling Gaddafi, preventing a full-blown humanitarian emergency, and repairing its links with the Arab world. All because of Iraq.
While Britain and France have been demanding a no-fly zone to be put in place over Libya for some time now, the Obama administration is lacking. It’s rhetoric is multilateral and interventionist, but outgoing Secretary of Defence Robert Gates refuses to sanction a no fly zone. The reasons are plain – it fears another Iraqi conflict. But Libya is not Iraq.
The invasion of Iraq was wrong, and should not be repeated, but not because it brought down the Hussein regime – it was wrong because it was poorly planned, costly, showed no awareness of the internal situation, had no exit strategy, and had little international and regional support. On the other hand, involving ourselves in Libya is a must. We can deploy immediately, hopefully never use ground troops, and can exit when the new government is installed – a government with mass popular support, from the population, the exiled king, human rights actors in Libya and the regional powers.
NATO claims that there are three conditions for its involvement.
1) Regional Support
2) Proof its help is needed
3) A Security Council Resolution
The first condition has already been satisfied by recent calls from the Arab League and the Gulf Co-Operation Council to impose a no fly zone. The Arab League Secretary-general, Amr Moussa, has said that the League “can also play a role” in imposing the no-fly zone. Saudi Arabian, Egyptian and other Arab planes in the skies over Libya would help nullify Gaddafi’s rhetoric about the West just being after Libya’s oil. We must make sure that any response is multilateral, this is true, but this can be done.
The second condition – It is probably true that the humanitarian crisis has not yet fully emerged, and Gaddafi’s air force has not always been the main danger to rebel forces. But with strongholds such as Brega and Ajdabiya being taken by Gaddafi loyalists, and Misurata coming under heavy shelling, it will not be long before the rebel forces are driven all the way back to their stronghold in Benghazi. This is the crown in the rebels’ defences – a city of up to a million people, most virulently anti-Gaddafi, and many armed. It will be too large for Gaddafi’s forces to attack head on, and some pundits claim that the air force will be used in great force. It will be the only way for Gaddafi to finally crush the rebellion against him.
The rebels are in a desperate position. The Libyan army has huge momentum and control of major roads and crossroads, whereas the rebellion is lacking supplies and its morale is low. Support from the international community would change everything. A no fly zone grounding Libyan planes would improve morale and make Benghazi near impossible to capture. The rebellion may yet succeed, but only if we support it in its hour of need.
The third condition of having a UN Security Council resolution is important. But it may be too late. Diplomats are currently saying that there may be no vote on the UK-France resolution before Thursday – in a conversation with Reuters, Libya’s deputy foreign minister, Khaled Kaim, said that the country would be back under control “as soon as possible… [he hopes] in a matter of days”. It might be time to start thinking about circumventing the UN – we did it in the Balkans, when time was of the essence. It is almost run out for the Libyan Opposition.
The desperation of the situation in Libya for the rebels cannot be over-emphasised. If the Arab League and/or NATO are going to install a no fly zone, in order to prevent a humanitarian crisis, it must be done nearly immediately. Perhaps before even a Security Council resolution can be passed. Gareth Evans, the former Foreign Minister of Australia, and proponent of the Responsibility to Protect doctrine, claimed that Libya is a perfect case for military intervention. Amr Moussa, has said that intervening in Libya is a “humanitarian action, [consisting of] supporting the Libyan people in their fight for freedom against a regime that is more and more disdainful.” We must move quickly, and if the UNSC does not manage to give authorisation in time to prevent a tragedy, NATO, the Arab League, Britain and France should prepare to take matters into their own hands, if Cameron’s calls for the UN to “show some leadership” go unheeded, and they act too late. In a short, emotional speech on Tuesday, Gaddafi attacked Britain for calling for a no-fly zone – “What right do you have? Do we share borders? Are you our tutor?” No, Britain and Libya do not share a border, but the neighbours of Libya call for the same action to be taken as Britain. We are not your tutors but we must be the protectors of the Libyan people, if their government are a threat to them. It is only right and moral.
This is what the UN and NATO, Germany and the United States, must remember – Libya is not Iraq. Here, we have a chance to prevent a crisis, help overthrow a dictator, liberate a people. We have wide-spread regional support, a request from the Libyans themselves to intervene, and even a minimal deployment will help in some way. Iraq must never be repeated, but this is a different situation. If we allow our fear over repeating Iraq to prevent us implementing a no-fly zone over Libya, and saving the Opposition movement from its almost certain annihilation, we will have committed a mistake greater than invading Iraq ever was. We learnt the wrong lessons.
Amr Moussa, the secretary-general of the Arab League, has called for a no-fly zone over Libya, and has said the bloc wants a role in imposing it.
The comments comes as the organisation meets in the Egyptian capital Cairo on Friday for talks on the ongoing crisis.
“I do not know how nor who will impose this zone, that remains to be seen. The Arab League can also play a role, that is what I will recommend,” Mussa said in an interview with a German magazine.
“I am talking about a humanitarian action. It consists, with a no-fly zone, of supporting the Libyan people in their fight for freedom against a regime that is more and more disdainful.”
Support from the West for a no-fly zone appears to hinge on the outcome of the meeting as consensus is sought for such an action.
“The European Union and the [UN] Security Council are not going to do anything unless they get support from the Arab League,” Qatar University’s Youcef Bouandel told Al Jazeera.
Please, please Arab League…agree to a no-fly zone.
The Gulf Cooperation Council, with Saudi Arabia a key member, has already agreed that Gaddafi’s government is illegitimate and support’s a no-fly zone. If Saudi Arabia can convince Egypt to join in, then two of the best equipped air forces in the Arab/North African world could ground Gaddafi’s fearsome air-force.
The Arab community must be the one to front and support any foreign intervention in Libya, or else the neocolonial arguments will just fracture the country more and send waving nationalists over to Gaddafi’s side.