NATO renews airstrikes after extending Libya mission by three months

NATO's extension of its intervention in Libya comes amid a slew of defections from Tripoli. Can Qaddafi hang on?

Rodrigo Abd/AP
A man chants anti-Muammar Qaddafi slogans during a protest in the rebel strong hold of Benghazi, Libya, on Thursday, June 2. NATO blasted Tripoli with a series of air strikes early Thursday, sending shuddering booms through the city.

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NATO approved a three-month extension of its Libya mission this week and promptly launched airstrikes on Tripoli, the Libyan capital that remains in leader Muammar Qaddafi's hands. The extension will take the conflict that began in March deep into the summer unless Mr. Qaddafi steps down, the precondition for a NATO ceasefire.

"This decision sends a clear message to the Gaddafi regime: We are determined to continue our operation to protect the people of Libya," said NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, according to Al Jazeera. NATO said it conducted at least 10 raids on Tripoli Friday morning alone.

Fighting continues on the diplomatic front as well. French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé said Friday that France has increased pressure on those close to Qaddafi who it believes have the influence necessary to convince him to step down, Reuters reports. Earlier this week, Qaddafi told visiting South African President Jacob Zuma that he would not leave Libya.

President Zuma's failure to secure a deal, coupled with defections from Qaddafi's ranks, have boosted support for the NATO intervention. The attempts at negotiating with Qaddafi are failing and more emphasis should be placed on the military efforts to oust him, according to a Guardian Op-Ed.

But mediation or ceasefire initiatives such as South Africa's, and others encouraged elsewhere, have something wrong with them: they offer Gaddafi a lifeline at a point when he is facing an increase in defections and significant opposition progress on the battlefield, and when he is becoming increasingly isolated internationally – as shown last week when Russia shifted its position by calling on him to stand down.

It is clear that the west, in the form of the Nato-led coalition, has a strategy in Libya and it is working. It should be left alone.

The military assault is part of a three-pronged strategy, the Guardian writes, and the other two prongs are working as well: tying NATO involvement to continued progress among the Libyan rebels and encouraging defections.

Libya's top oil official, Shokri Ghanem, announced his defection from Qaddafi's ranks on Wednesday, two days after eight army officers announced their own defections. Mr. Ghanem, speaking in Rome, cited the "unbearable" violence against civilians and stressed that he backed "the choice of Libyan youth to create a modern constitutional state respecting human rights and building a better future for all Libyans," the Wall Street Journal reports.

He said that the months of conflict, sanctions, and disrupted supply lines have left Libya with shortages of oil and other goods. Before the uprising, about 80 percent of government revenue came from oil exports, according to Al Jazeera.

Qaddafi's troops have not been inactive amid the diplomatic and military assaults. CNN reports that they continued shelling rebel positions along the east-west frontline near Brega and around the western city of Misurata.

But cracks are beginning to form against Qaddafi even in his stronghold of Tripoli, CBS News reports. Protests, which were common before the foreign intervention but evaporated soon after, have resumed, not borne out of anger against Qaddafi necessarily but at the disruption to residents' daily lives that his stubbornness has brought.

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