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revolt like an egyptian

Kerry Speaks Up on Libya While Fighting Continues in the East

Libyan rebels embrace in Ras Lanuf.

While President Obama hopes that the Libyan people will succeed with an "organic" revolution, some in the Senate aren't so sure and are pushing the president to take a stronger stance. Obama said on Monday that "the violence that has been taking place and perpetrated by the government in Libya is unacceptable." And he warned that Muammar Qaddafi's regime "will be held accountable for whatever violence continues to take place there."

But John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and one of Obama's strongest allies, pushed the president to action. “Showing reticence in a huge public way is not the best option. ... What haunts me is the specter of Iraq 1991,” explained Kerry, speaking of how former President George Bush “urged the Shia to rise up, and they did rise up, and tanks and planes were coming at them — and we were nowhere to be seen.” Kerry warned that a lack of definitive action may make the U.S. appear ill-prepared in the case of a major attack from Qaddafi's side. The Libyan people would “look defenseless and we would look feckless — you have to be ready.”

A major concern is whether imposing a "no-fly zone" would actually hurt the anti-Qaddafi forces, who are requesting military intervention from the West. And besides, some doubt the effectiveness of no-fly zones anyway. “No-fly zones are more effective against fighters, but they really have limited effect against helicopters or the kinds of ground operations we’ve seen,” said Ivo Daalder, the American ambassador to NATO.

Meanwhile, Qaddafi's forces clashed with rebels in the eastern oil-depot city of Ras Lanuf, and at least 10 rebels died and 30 were injured in the fighting. Qaddafi utilized his fleet of jets to launch at least one bomb on the rebel forces — it landed in an ethylene refinery. At the end of the clash, rebels maintained control of the city. In response to the fighting, former prime minister Jadallah Azous al-Talhi appeared on national television to appeal to the rebels in Benghazi. "Give a chance to national dialogue to resolve this crisis, to help stop the bloodshed, and not give a chance to foreigners to come and capture our country again," he said. That seems close to impossible right now.

Barack Obama raises pressure on Gaddafi as no-fly zone gains support [Guardian UK]
Gaddafi forces attack rebels anew, even as regime appears to seek talks [WP]
Discord Fills Washington on Possible Libya Intervention [NYT]

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Photo: Roberto Schmidt/Getty Images