03-17-2011 by L. S. Carbonell
By a 10 to 0 vote, with five nations abstaining, the United Nations Security Council approved the imposition of a no-fly zone over Libya and whatever measures are necessary to protect the civilian population, short of a ground invasion. Russia and China, who were hesitant to take action in Libya, both abstained. Now, it comes down to the readiness of the nations that have pressed for this.
There are American warships in the Mediterranean, war planes at NATO and American bases all through Europe. Plans have been in development for the past three weeks, with senior military officers from several countries co-ordinating ideas and materials. It is night in Libya, and there is a strong possibility that the first actions will come by dawn on Friday.
The Qaddafi forces have claimed that they are in control of Ajdabiya and will be at Benghazi, a distance of around 100 miles, on Friday. The civilian population of Benghazi is already fleeing towards Egypt. They say they will not live under Qaddafi again. Egypt is not capable of handling tens or even hundreds of thousands of Libyan refugees with their government in transition and compounding demands for reform in businesses and government agencies.
In an interview on Portuguese public Radiotelevisao broadcast on Thursday, Qaddafi said, “The U. N. Security Council has no mandate. We don’t acknowledge their resolutions.” He has said before, and reiterated in the interview, that any military action by any country would be treated as “colonization with any justification” and promised “grave repercussions” if such an action were to take place. At worst, he was speaking of having his ships and planes return fire against any that approached Libya territory.
The resolution specifically authorizes nations to “establish a ban on all flights in the airspace of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya in order to help protect civilians,” and to take “all necessary measures…to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, including Benghazi, while excluding a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory.” The resolution effectively authorizes the bombardment of military bases to destroy planes and render runways unusable as well as attacking military equipment – tanks, armored SUV’s, rocket launchers – on the road toward Benghazi and surrounding Misrata. Taking out Qaddafi’s equipment does more than level the playing field for the rebels. It appears from reports that came out of Ras Lanouf and Brega that Qaddafi’s ground forces are not large or adequately trained. One of the worries in all this is an impression that Qaddafi has detained soldiers’ families and threatened them if the soldiers don’t crush the rebellion.
On Friday, we will see just how far the plans for this action have actually progressed.