Obama Dithers on Libya No-Fly Zone

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Joining the three American senators in the call for a no-fly zone were the anti-Gaddafi opposition leaders themselves. They are still adamantly opposed to foreign troops becoming involved in the conflict, admirably stating they have to be the ones to depose Gaddafi. But Abdul Hafidh Ghoga, a spokesman for the Libyan National Council, the political body of the anti-Gaddafi opposition, told the New York Times that air assistance is needed.

“We require help to stop the flow of mercenaries into this country,” he said.

The Libyan air force has been called Gaddafi’s “trump card.” A story in the German publication Der Spiegel calls it “one of the main factors still propping up the regime and the most serious threat to the insurgents.” Its 18,000 personnel are made up mostly of men from his own tribe and the allied Magariha tribe. Unlike the 45,000 man Libyan army, the air force has experienced few defections, remaining fiercely loyal to Gaddafi.

The Libyan air force’s 150 warplanes can pack a solid punch, even though 100 of them are older Russian Mig-21 and Mig-23 aircraft. According to the Spiegel story, they have been used sparingly in the conflict so far. But as opposition forces get closer to Tripoli, one can expect their constant appearance over the battle field as well as that of the powerful “Russian attack helicopters,” which have been noticeable by their absence.

But what the opposition is currently most concerned about is the use of the air force’s seven squadrons of transport planes to ferry mercenaries to the conflict from other African countries. This would not only prolong the war, the anti-Gaddafi forces realize, but make victory doubtful. Gaddafi’s mercenary force, called his “parallel army,” is estimated at about 20,000 fighters, which make up for the loss in defections from the regular army.

A story in the military publication Strategy Page reports the Libyan embassy has been offering Tuareg tribesmen in Mali and Niger $10,000 to fight in Libya. With drought and the poor economic conditions in their countries, Tuaregs, who have a history of serving as mercenaries, would be hard-pressed to turn down such a windfall. “For centuries,” they also have had “a hostile relationship with their settled neighbors” and probably would not hesitate to kill Arab Libyans, Strategy Page reported. These are exactly the kind of people Gaddafi is looking for to help suppress the uprising he is facing. If the Gaddafi forces can keep the rebels away from Tripoli for another week, Strategy Page predicts he can assemble “a substantial force of several thousand armed and loyal Tuareg.”

“These mercenaries would prove a difficult force to overcome,” the publication states.

Opposition fighters are also receiving outside help, albeit quietly. Egypt is reported to have sent about a hundred commando operatives to help the “amateur rebel force.” But this is probably not an altruistic move on the part of the Egyptian government. Rather, energy-poor Egypt is casting an eye on the oil and gas fields in eastern Libya in case the country remains divided.

Without Western help, the opposition forces are facing an uphill battle that could last a long time and cost many lives, even ending in their defeat. Yehudit Ronen, a Libya expert at Israel’s Bar-Ilan University, confirms this, saying the anti-Gaddafi opposition is currently facing “an almost invincible force” in the mercenaries and the Libyan air force.  She also predicts a long conflict that will leave Libya badly disfigured.

It is noteworthy that while Clinton has said all options are on the table, none have been chosen. While time is ticking away, the administration appears to be wavering and delaying in making a decision about Libya. In reality, if a quick end is to be brought to the conflict, there is only one option: American and NATO air intervention. The Libyan air force and anti-aircraft missile systems must be taken out. With Western air forces masters of the situation, the opposition would gain an immeasurable advantage as well as confidence, while Gaddafi’s support may begin to erode and the mercenaries will want a one-way ticket home. When Clinton meets the other NATO defense ministers later this week to discuss Libya, it is the only option that should be on the table.

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  • Sergey

    Dear author,

    And if Gaddafi is thrown out, who can guarantee that Lybia won't fall to the hands of Muslim Brotherhood, Al-Qaida and similar Islamic Jihadi groups ? Where is the guarantee that the anti-Gaddafi rebel controlled Lybia won't become heaven for Islamic terrorists ? Haven't US helped already Muslims in Afghanistan against Soviet Union and Kosovars and Bosnian Muslims against Milosevic Serbia ? Did it prevent 9-11 and numerous other attacks against the United States and its allies ? Just recent attack on US Military personnel in Germany was perpetrated by someone with roots in Kosovo. A few years ago there were also an attempt to attack military base in New Jersey (Fort Dix) and the suspects were also Kosovo Albanian Muslims. Do we need to risk American life and spend American treasure on those who look at us as "infidels" and "kafirs" and will seek our destruction as soon as they are out of danger ?

    • Michael Elmore

      Couldn't agree more. When will we learn that we serve our selves better by staying out of every conflict within the Muslim world. Read Daniel Greenfield "Sultan Kinish's" resent article. In order to change the ME we need it to let it completely fail by its own hands. Only then will the Muslim word learn that their 7th century ideas will not work and maybe only then will they figure this out. It sickens me to see America waste treasure on a region that has nothing to offer the world but some oil and an ideology that wants to end Western Civilization. elmore

  • Navy Wife

    I think unfortunatly, no matter what option the leaders take it will be the wrong one to someone. All we can do is hope and have faith. This world is a very small place, I fear we cannot keep fighting others wars, without exposing ourselves to the retaliation. I read an artical where they are protesting the US military ships that are arriving, I do not approve of that, Those brave men and woman are just doing what they are told, and going where they are told to go. They are risking their lives for somone elses, and they are getting a negative responce. I wish that the world could be a peaceful place where the future generations could prosper and grow, but I also fear that will never happen at the rate everything is happening. They Mayan prophosies say our world as we know it is to end in 2012, at this rate, they may be right…

    • CAROLE63

      According to Bible prophecy the world will never end, but will be renewed, after WW111 when Christ comes!!

  • Chezwick_Mac

    This is one time when Obama's innate caution and spinelessness works to our advantage. Intervening in Libya's civil war means taking ownership for what happens afterwards. Any number of scenarios – particularly a humanitarian crises – can and would facilitate mission creep and end up with American boots on the ground in the vain effort to civilize yet another Islamic hell-hole.

    This is one of those occasions when discretion is the better part of valor.

  • suprkufrB

    if we do risk the lives our military personnel, I hope we're keeping in mind the fact that we've taken the side of many hundreds of thousands of moslems who in that public square spent hours chanting "death to israel" and "death to america." The most sophomoric and surely most dangerous logical fallacy is "the enemy of my enemy is my friend."

  • aspacia

    This author's whole argument can easily be turned against Israeli Air Force attacking rocket shooting Hamas.

    Be careful!

  • Greg

    Obama, Biden and Clinton show themselves to be spineless rookies on the world stage almost daily now. If the US stands back and watches the ruthless slaughter of thousands of people when all we had to do was lob some tomahawks on their runways to make it an almost fair fight, then what does that make us? That makes us worse than the UN, a supporter of Gaddafi's madness and in my opinion, guilty of the genocide we sit back and watch. We either lead or fall in line and let the incompetent continue to tell us what to do.

  • Steve Chavez

    "Now stare closely at the Nobel Peace Prize. Lose all your thoughts and concentrate only staring at it. Back and forth. Back and forth. You're getting sleepy. Back and forth. You're getting sleepy. On the count of three, you will be totally asleep. One—two—- three. Just relax. Yes. Do not take action anywhere and for any reason. If the U.S. is attacked, convene a commission. If U.S. interests are attacked abroad, blame it on a ghost. We gave it to you so we can finally takeover the world without fear of U.S. intervention. You are a man of peace. Peace. Peace. Peace. No action. Peace. No wars. You will be a hero and will be praised for the rest of all time. (Obama smiles.) Peace. Peace. On the count of three, you will awaken a Man of Peace. One—two—three. Well hello Mr. President. While you were, were, well ah, whatever, a bomb went off at Times Square." Obama: "I'm late for my game of hoops and then I have a lesson with Arnie Palmer. Man this job is tiring!"

  • Wesley69

    Naturally, Obama dithers. Gaddafi is a dictator that hates the US. That is fine by Obama.

    In Egypt, Mubarak was an ally for 30 years. That Obama couldn't have, so he supported his ouster. Now, Egypt is going to get the Muslim Brotherhood as its leaders. That is fine by Obama.

    In 2009, the Iranians protested the corrupt reelection of Ahmadinejad. As the Mullah's security forces busted heads, Obama said nothing. Ahmadinejad has said he will destroy the country of Israel. Obama talks, while the Iranians get closer to developing nuclear weapons. It would seem that it is fine by Obama.

    HAVE YOU PICKED UP A PATTERN HERE???

  • http://apcnational.wordpress.com/ Mike in VA

    Isn't it about time the Arab League and/or OIC stepped forward and made themselves useful for once?

    Let them clean up this mess…..

    • Jim_C

      Exactly–I mean, what do we sell them all that weaponry for? Neighborhod problem–not our concern.

  • BLJ

    Obama couldn'f find his a-hole with a flashlight. This guy is in so far over his head that no lifeline can save him. He is at best a TA for one of those head in the clouds college profs at a liberal arts school.

    Maybe he could send some his SEIU thugs over there instead of Madison, Wisconsin. Just a thought.

  • Jim_C

    Stay out of Libya. Period.

    If the area turns into a "Killing Fields" or Rwanda, yes, we can play cop again–I suppose.

    But I think it's time the world started figuring out how to play cop.

  • Catmann

    There is an aphorism that, I think, will describe the leadership change in Libya; "The manure is the same only the flies have changed". If there is a change it will only mean a scaling down of the internal killings. Their attitude toward the west, Israel and the desire to implement Sharia law and a Caliphate will not change.

    Let them fight and annihilate each other. I just don't care.

  • rick

    Obama looks at all the options before going to the golf course..he has no clue what to do..and neither do his cohorts Biden and Hillary..they are in way over their heads..they are in limbo..and they can't even spin their way out of it…they are the epitome of indecision..

  • Jim_C

    I must say it is oh so charming to see conservatives finally coming around to a (semi-)mature perspective on getting involved militarily in the Middle East. Guess we're finally separating the "neo" from the conservative! Took almost 10 years, but hey. It was worth it, right?

    And THEN to also spin Obama's staying out of the conflict as "spinelessness" though that's what they themselves advocate–why THAT is absolutely precious!

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