Obama wants Qaddafi out of Libya, but what is he ready to do?
Amid calls for a no-fly zone, Obama says a wide range of options are being discussed to deal with Libya. Analysts say he is in no hurry to use force, especially not unilaterally, to oust Qaddafi.
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In a conference call with reporters Monday, the US ambassador to NATO, Ivo Daalder, said the Alliance is ramping up aerial surveillance of Libya via AWACs to a 24/7 operation, and that the international priority in the coming days will remain the humanitarian crisis brewing on Libya’s borders.Skip to next paragraph
“We’re looking at all the options out there … but the most immediate [focus] is, how can NATO support the humanitarian effort that is ongoing,” Ambassador Daalder says.
NATO defense ministers to meet
Implementation of a no-fly zone and enforcement of the Security Council-mandated arms embargo on the Qaddafi regime are very likely to be on the agenda when NATO defense ministers meet Thursday, he says. But he adds that NATO would almost certainly want the Security Council to pass another resolution calling for a no-fly zone – a step many UN experts say China and Russia would almost certainly oppose, at least for now.
“All of us want a Security Council resolution” if a no-fly zone is to be enforced, Daalder says. “That’s pretty clear.”
But the US ambassador adds that NATO’s weekend surveillance of Libya suggests that the regime’s antirebel air activity has been decreasing – a trend that may have been prompted by the international talk of imposing a no-fly zone, he says. There were, nevertheless, reports Monday of some air strikes on rebel forces outside the oil city of Ras Lanuf with an unknown number of casualties.
On the other hand, decreased aerial attacks by the Qaddafi regime could also doom the imposition of a no-fly zone, since both Russia and China have suggested they would only consider such a measure if events on the ground in Libya warranted it.
All of which means that, despite Obama’s preferences to the contrary, Qaddafi might still be in power six months or a year from now, says American Progress’s Korb.
“Don’t forget that Qaddafi bombed Americans in Berlin, and brought an American plane down, and then the Bush administration reestablished diplomatic relations with him,” he says.
And of course arguments can be made now that the Bush administration’s difficult but pragmatic decision to swallow hard and reopen links to Qaddafi was fortuitous, since it was based on the Libyan leader’s decision to give up his WMD programs.
Looking ahead, Korb says he can foresee a scenario where international action against Qaddafi months from now is focused on the war-crimes investigation launched just last week. “This could follow other cases [including several in Africa],” he says, “where you rely on the International Criminal Court to go after them.”