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.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

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

Former Vice President Dick Cheney was a leading framer of the “global war on terror” and a staunch supporter of aggressive U.S. military action around the world.


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.


Right Web readers will be familiar with Mr. Fleitz, the former CIA officer who once threatened to take “legal action” against Right Web for publicizing reports of controversies he was associated with in the George W. Bush administration. Fleitz recently left his job at the conspiracy-mongering Center for Security Policy to become chief of staff to John Bolton at the National Security Council.


Norm Coleman is chair of the Republican Jewish Coalition and a former senator from Minnesota known for his hawkish views on foreign policy.


Billionaire hedge fund mogul Paul Singer is known for his predatory business practices and support for neoconservative causes.


Keith Kellogg, national security adviser to Vice President Mike Pence, is a passionate supporter of Trump’s foreign policy.


Christians United for Israel (CUFI), the largest “pro-Israel” advocacy group in the United States, is known for its zealous Christian Zionism and its growing influence in the Republican Party.


For media inquiries,
email rightwebproject@gmail.com

From the Wires

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The Trumpian new regional order in the Middle East is predicated on strongman rule, disregard for human rights, Sunni primacy over Iran and other Shia centers of power, continued military support for pro-American warring parties regardless of the unlawfulness of such wars, and Israeli hegemony.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

A comparison of U.S. nuclear diplomacy with Iran and the current version with North Korea puts the former in a good light and makes the latter look disappointing. Those with an interest in curbing the dangers of proliferating nuclear weapons should hope that the North Korea picture will improve with time. But whether it does or not, the process has put into perspective how badly mistaken was the Trump administration’s trashing of the Iran nuclear agreement.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Numerous high profile Trump administration officials maintain close ties with anti-Muslim conspiracy theorists. In today’s America, disparaging Islam is acceptable in ways that disparaging other religions is not. Given the continuing well-funded campaigns by the Islamophobes and continuing support from their enablers in the Trump administration, starting with the president himself, it seems unlikely that this trend will be reversed any time soon.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The Trump administration’s nuclear proliferation policy is now in meltdown, one which no threat of “steely resolve”—in Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s words—will easily contain. It is hemorrhaging in part because the administration has yet to forge a strategy that consistently and credibly signals a feasible bottom line that includes living with—rather than destroying—regimes it despises or fears. Political leaders on both sides of the aisle must call for a new model that has some reasonable hope of restraining America’s foes and bringing security to its Middle East allies.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Congressional midterm elections are just months away and another presidential election already looms. Who will be the political leader with the courage and presence of mind to declare: “Enough! Stop this madness!” Man or woman, straight or gay, black, brown, or white, that person will deserve the nation’s gratitude and the support of the electorate. Until that occurs, however, the American penchant for war will stretch on toward infinity.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

To bolster the president’s arguments for cutting back immigration, the administration recently released a fear-mongering report about future terrorist threats. Among the potential threats: a Sudanese national who, in 2016, “pleaded guilty to attempting to provide material support to ISIS”; an Uzbek who “posted a threat on an Uzbek-language website to kill President Obama in an act of martyrdom on behalf of ISIS”; a Syrian who, in a plea agreement, “admitted that he knew a member of ISIS and that while in Syria he participated in a battle against the Syrian regime, including shooting at others, in coordination with Al Nusrah,” an al-Qaeda offshoot.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The recent appointment of purveyors of anti-Muslim rhetoric to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom exposes the cynical approach Republicans have taken in promoting religious freedom.


RightWeb
share