News Brief – March 18, 2011
After much foot dragging by the Obama administration, the United Nations finally reached agreement on the need for military action in Libya, where Moammar Gadhafi’s regime is pressing to eliminate any opposition.
This follows days of cautious diplomacy from the U.S. administration as Britain and France pushed for the imposition of a no-fly zone while Gaddafi’s forces advanced on towns and cities held by rebels.
While details of any U.S. military involvement are still unclear, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz told Congress it would take as much as a week to impose an exclusion zone over Libya.
“It would undoubtedly require resources in Europe as well as those that are based in the U.S.,” Schwartz told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Speaking in Tunisia on Thursday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said a no-fly zone could include ”bombing targets like the Libyan defense systems.”
The critical turnaround came with the surprise support of the Arab League on Thursday, which after British and French persuasion agreed to participate in the imposition of a no-fly zone.
It could not have come more quickly for Libyan rebels, as Gadaffi vowed on Thursday to launch a final assault on the opposition’s capital Benghazi and his forces advanced on the city even as the United Nations debated the imposition of a no-fly zone.
The effort will probably involve French, British and American aircraft, officials said, along with the active participation of Arab countries such as Jordan, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. Norway has also agreed to participate in the operation.
Five nations abstained on the vote, including Russia, Brazil, India, Germany and China, with Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu calling for a peaceful resolution of the conflict.
Air bases in southern France will likely be used with Italy announcing that its military bases in Sicily would also be used in the operation.
British military bases in Cyprus are also likely to support the operation with Tornados and Typhoons being used to enforce the no-fly zone.