Right Web

Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

US Edges Towards Rebel Recognition

While neoconservatives in the U.S. are itching to get into the fight against Gaddafi, the United States and its European allies are first focused on non-military support for the Libyan insurgency.

Inter Press Service

As the tide of battle appeared to shift for the first time Thursday in favor of forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi, the United States and its European allies moved closer toward intervening – if not yet militarily – on the side of the insurgency.

In testimony before Congress, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that she will meet with rebel leaders when she travels to France, Tunisia and Egypt in the coming week. She also said Washington had suspended relations with Libya's embassy here.

At the same time, President Barack Obama's national security adviser, Thomas Donilon, said the administration is sending humanitarian assistance teams into eastern Libya with the cooperation of rebel authorities there, presumably to prepare for the delivery of humanitarian assistance.

In a teleconference with reporters, Donilon said Washington and its NATO allies continue to move maritime and other assets into the region for other possible contingencies, including enforcing a U.N. Security Council arms embargo on the regime, imposing a no-fly zone (NFZ) to prevent Gaddafi from using his warplanes over contested areas, and "a full range of additional options", notably "additional kinds of supplies to the opposition".

"We've been directly engaged with the opposition groups in learning about the [governing] structures that have been emerging, the leadership, who they are, who they represent, and what their goals are," he said, adding that the rebels appeared to be in de facto control of over half of Libya's 6.5 million people.

The latest U.S. steps came as France and Portugal became the first Western governments to formally recognize the rebel Libyan National Council as the "legitimate representative of the Libyan people".

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who, according to an AFP report, will urge Friday's emergency European Union (EU) meeting in Brussels to consider air attacks against key Gaddafi command centers, also announced that Paris will soon send an ambassador to the new government in Benghazi, the eastern city where the rebellion began.

His announcements came as pro-Gaddafi forces appeared to gain the upper hand over the past 24 hours. After a series of battles over the past several days, rebel forces reportedly lost control of Zawiya, about 50 kms west of Tripoli, and withdrew under fire from the strategic oil port of Ras Lanuf, effectively dashing for now their hopes of advancing westwards toward the capital.

The latter marked an important victory for Gaddafi, whose son, Seif al-Islam Gaddafi, suggested that pro-regime forces would now move eastward toward Benghazi. "I send a message to our brothers and friends in the east who are sending us daily calls for help and asking us to rescue them: We're coming," he reportedly told a rally in the capital.

The rebels are "in for a tough row", Obama's Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Gen. James Clapper told a Senate hearing here Thursday. Given Gaddafi's greater logistical resources and weaponry, he said, "I think, from a standpoint of attrition …in the longer term that the regime will prevail."

While Donilon agreed that Gaddafi held certain strictly military advantages at the moment, he insisted that Clapper's assessment did not take account of a number of other factors, noting, in particular, that "the international community is engaged in an increasingly deep way with the opposition," and that such engagement is likely to deepen in the coming days.

Precisely how it will do so – and what Washington's role will be – has become the source of a raging public debate between neo-conservative hawks and liberal interventionists who favor military action, unilaterally if necessary, on the one hand, and foreign policy "realists" both in and outside the administration, on the other.

While the imposition of strong diplomatic and economic sanctions – the Obama administration froze some 32 billion dollars in U.S.-based Libyan assets last week – against Gaddafi have been applauded by virtually all factions here, the two sides have disagreed strongly over what, if any, military measures should be taken to protect the rebels and their civilian supporters and under what circumstances.

The hawks have gone so far as to suggest the insertion of U.S. Special Forces to train and fight alongside the rebels in a repeat of Washington's campaign against the Taliban in late 2001, while others have called on Washington to at least begin supplying insurgents with the arms they need to defend themselves, if not retake the offensive.

The most commonly discussed measure, however, has been the imposition of an NFZ, similar to the one imposed against Saddam Hussein over Iraqi Kurdistan from 1992 to 2003, that would prevent Gaddafi from using warplanes to bomb rebel positions or the civilian population. With growing urgency, rebel leaders have called for such a move, as has the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

But even while insisting they are planning for such a contingency, senior officials have argued, as Clinton did Thursday, that such an NFZ would be relatively ineffective, because most of the killing in Libya has been carried out by ground troops and low-flying helicopters.

Senior Pentagon officials, including Defense Secretary Robert Gates, have been particularly scornful of the idea not only because of its doubtful effectiveness, but also because the deployment of "the U.S. military in another country in the Middle East" would further strain an already- overstretched force and risk a regional backlash.

Despite growing pressure by neo-conservative and liberal hawks, the administration clearly hopes that a direct military commitment of the kind required by an NFZ will not be necessary. Indeed, at a closed meeting of NATO defense ministers in Brussels Thursday, Gates, joined by his German counterpart, repeated his reservations, according to reports which said that no consensus on anything beyond the delivery of humanitarian assistance and enforcement of the arms embargo had been reached

To the great frustration of neo-conservatives, in particular, the administration has also made clear that it will not take unilateral action – least of all, military action – without a strong regional, if not international, consensus behind it.

Most independent analysts here have predicted that an NFZ – or any other military action – is unlikely to be approved by the U.N. Security Council, given the almost certain opposition of veto-wielding Russia and China. Council members Turkey and Brazil have also publicly objected to the proposal.

As a result, the administration is looking for both guidance and support from regional organizations, including the EU, which holds an emergency summit Friday, the Arab League, which meets Saturday in Cairo, and the African Union which has been meeting since Thursday in Addis Ababa.

"We do seek regional support; this is really important," said Donilon. "And it’s not just regional rhetorical support. We're going to be seeking actual support by those nations – the Arab League, the GCC and the African nations – to participate in any of these efforts as they go forward. Again, not just rhetorical support, but actual participation, which we think is absolutely critical."

Jim Lobe is the Washington bureau chief of the Inter Press Service and a contributor to IPS Right Web (http://www.rightweb.irc-online.org/). He blogs at http://www.lobelog.com/.

Share RightWeb

Featured Profiles

Update was slow, but still no lag in the editor window, and footnotes are intact.     This has been updated – Bernard Lewis, who passed away in May 2018, was a renowned British-American historian of Islam and the Middle East. A former British intelligence officer, Foreign Office staffer, and Princeton University professor, Lewis was…


Bernard Lewis was a renowned historian of Islam and the Middle East who stirred controversy with his often chauvinistic attitude towards the Muslim world and his associations with high-profile neoconservatives and foreign policy hawks.


John Bolton, the controversial former U.S. ambassador to the UN and dyed-in the-wool foreign policy hawk, is President Trump’s National Security Adviser McMaster, reflecting a sharp move to the hawkish extreme by the administration.


Michael Joyce, who passed away in 2006, was once described by neoconservative guru Irving Kristol as the “godfather of modern philanthropy.”


Mike Pompeo, the Trump administration’s second secretary of state, is a long time foreign policy hawk and has led the public charge for an aggressive policy toward Iran.


Max Boot, neoconservative military historian at the Council on Foreign Relations, on Trump and Russia: “At every turn Trump is undercutting the ‘get tough on Russia’ message because he just can’t help himself, he just loves Putin too much.”


Michael Flynn is a former Trump administration National Security Advisor who was forced to step down only weeks on the job because of his controversial contacts with Russian officials before Trump took office.


For media inquiries,
email rightwebproject@gmail.com

From the Wires

Trump is not the problem. Think of him instead as a summons to address the real problem, which in a nation ostensibly of, by, and for the people is the collective responsibility of the people themselves. For Americans to shirk that responsibility further will almost surely pave the way for more Trumps — or someone worse — to come.


The United Nations has once again turn into a battleground between the United States and Iran, which are experiencing one of the darkest moments in their bilateral relations.


In many ways, Donald Trump’s bellicosity, his militarism, his hectoring cant about American exceptionalism and national greatness, his bullying of allies—all of it makes him not an opponent of neoconservatism but its apotheosis. Trump is a logical culmination of the Bush era as consolidated by Obama.


For the past few decades the vast majority of private security companies like Blackwater and DynCorp operating internationally have come from a relatively small number of countries: the United States, Great Britain and other European countries, and Russia. But that seeming monopoly is opening up to new players, like DeWe Group, China Security and Protection Group, and Huaxin Zhongan Group. What they all have in common is that they are from China.


The Trump administration’s massive sales of tanks, helicopters, and fighter aircraft are indeed a grim wonder of the modern world and never receive the attention they truly deserve. However, a potentially deadlier aspect of the U.S. weapons trade receives even less attention than the sale of big-ticket items: the export of firearms, ammunition, and related equipment.


Soon after a Saudi-led coalition strike on a bus killed 40 children on August 9, a CENTCOM spokesperson stated to Vox, “We may never know if the munition [used] was one that the U.S. sold to them.”


The West has dominated the post-war narrative with its doctrine of liberal values, arguing that not only were they right in themselves but that economic success itself depended on their application. Two developments have challenged those claims. The first was the West’s own betrayal of its principles: on too many occasions the self interest of the powerful, and disdain for the victims of collateral damage, has showed through. The second dates from more recently: the growth of Chinese capitalism owes nothing to a democratic system of government, let alone liberal values.


RightWeb
share