Late Night Update: Libya

The “allied forces” have been bombing targets in Libya for a second day. Gaddafi is outraged and has issued multiple threats. Meanwhile, here at home there is quite a bit of criticism of the President’s decision to participate in the UN action.

The Guardian has a pretty detailed description of events in Libya over the past couple of days: “Coalition attacks wreak havoc on ground troops.” I’m leaving out the bloodthirsty-sounding paragraphs–you can read them if you choose.

The barrage of attacks led by France, Britain and the US on Libya’s army, air bases and other military targets drew threats of a prolonged war from Gaddafi himself. But on the ground many of his forces were in disarray and fleeing in fear of further attacks from a new and unseen enemy.

The air assault halted and then reversed the advances by Gaddafi’s army on Benghazi and other rebel-held towns. But the revolutionary leadership wanted more. On Sunday it appealed for an intensification of the air assault to destroy the Libyan ruler’s forces and open the way for the rebels to drive him from power.

The air bombardment is regarded among rebel military commanders as creating a more level battle field by removing Gaddafi’s advantage of heavy armour.

“There must be more attacks, to destroy his forces and heavy weapons,” said Kamal Mustafa Mahmoud, a rebel soldier on the edge of Benghazi. “Then they can leave Gaddafi to us. We know how to fight him but we are afraid of his heavy weapons. I want them to destroy the ground forces of Gaddafi.”

Quite a few people in the US have problems with that notion. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who has opposed the U.S. getting involved in the Libyan uprising had a few words of warning today.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the U.S. military campaign against Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi should be limited to the terms of a United Nations resolution rather than being broadened to target the leader directly.

The coalition with the U.K., France and Arab countries relies on the terms laid out in the UN Security Council resolution adopted last week, Gates told reporters traveling with him to Russia today on a trip he delayed yesterday so he could monitor the start of “Operation Odyssey Dawn.” The resolution backed military action to prevent Qaddafi from using his forces to attack fellow Libyans.

“If we start adding additional objectives, then I think we create a problem in that respect,” Gates said. “I also think that it is unwise to set as specific goals things that you may or may not be able to achieve.”

Here’s a bit more from Gates:

Gates said the mission is backed by a diverse coalition, and adding additional objectives to the mission “create a problem in that respect.” He also said “it’s unwise to set as specific goals things that you may or may not be able to achieve.”

Gates said most nations in the region want to see Libya remain a unified state, and “having states in the region begin to break up because of internal differences, I think, is a formula for real instability in the future.”

The Pentagon chief also cautioned against getting too involved in the internal conflict of that country, saying the internal conflict should be left to be resolved by Libyans themselves.

After Gates made these remarks, Pentagon spokesman Navy Vice Adm. Bill Gortney said that there is no plan to directly attempt to oust Gaddafi. Gortney:

“I can guarantee that he’s not on the targeting list.”

Gortney said Khadafy’s forces were already beginning to crumble, but stressed that the focus of the campaign remains protecting civilians, not taking out the despot.

In addition,

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen acknowledged that Khadafy might remain in power when the mission is over.

“It’s hard to know exactly how this turns out,” Mullen said on CBS. “I recognise that’s a possibility.”

Today French and British forces did “expand” the bombing campaign, and actually targeted a building within Gaddafi’s private compound. Read more below the fold. Read the rest of this entry »


Sunday Reads: Tyrants and Tsunamis

Good Morning or for you later birds…Good Afternoon! Lately the news has been so bad that we usually end with something “light” but today I want to start with something funny to sort of get you all in a laughing mood, at least for a moment until the reality hits… so here is a video from The Tonight Show, featuring Hillary Clinton and Nicolas Sarkozy:

Hillary Clinton knows how to work the French. Watch her in Paris with French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Okay…on with the show. The world seems to be going to hell lately. Don’t you agree? How can you argue with that assessment when you hear something like this on the news:

Physicist Michio Kaku joined Studio B to talk about the efforts underway to cool the nuclear reactors in Japan.

The part to listen for is around 1:33, where Dr. Kaku says, “Look, we’re gonna lose a good chunk of Northern Japan…” Imagine, an entire half of a country like Japan….completely inhabitable. What are these poor people going to do? What are they thinking about? The emotional despair is truly incomprehensible. Maybe he is on to something…perhaps dumping sand and cement over the entire plant is the right thing to do. (I know that some of you may have seen this link already, but I just thought it illustrated the whole “going to hell” pretty accurately.)

There have been other news reports which reveals TEPCO wanted to pull all their operators out of the Fukushima Nuclear Plant three days after the Earthquake struck. TEPCO was willing to let the Japanese Self-Defense Force and US Military sort things out. This was met with an obvious “hell no” from Japan’s Prime Minster Kan.

TEPCO wanted to withdraw all nuclear plant workers 3 days after quake – The Mainichi Daily News

Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) told the government on March 14 that it wanted to withdraw all of its workers from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, it has been learned.

TEPCO’s suggestion came two days after a cooling system failure caused by the March 11 quake and tsunami triggered a hydrogen blast at the plant’s No. 1 reactor. Though Prime Minister Naoto Kan rejected the proposal, the finding suggests that the power company was aware from an early stage that damage at the plant could develop into a nuclear disaster exposing workers to high levels of radiation. It is believed that TEPCO was prepared to let Japan’s Self-Defense Forces and the U.S. military handle the situation.

Out of Fukushima, into new uncertainty – CNN.com

Tears suddenly welled up in his eyes as the middle-aged Japanese man recalled the longest drive home in his life a little over a week ago.

“Daiichi … my house … six hours,” he said in broken English.

Through an interpreter, he explained that, when a 9.0-magnitude earthquake struck northeastern Japan on March 11, he lost all contact with his family and it took him six hours on damaged roads to reach home, located 50 kilometers (30 miles) away from his workplace inside Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.

Extending his arms as if to hug someone, he relived the moment of relief and excitement when he finally saw his wife and children after fearing the worst.

[…]

The Japanese government has evacuated more than 200,000 residents within a 20-kilometer (12-mile) radius of the Daiichi plant and advised people living between the 20- and 30-kilometer zones to stay indoors.

He decided not to take chances and brought his family to Kashiwazaki, where local authorities have turned community centers into temporary shelters for several hundred Fukushima residents — including employees of the power plant.

“They all say on TV that they give us all the facts, but I have my doubts,” he said of officials from Tokyo Electric Power Company, operator of the stricken Daiichi plant. “I want things to get better but I don’t think it’s going to be easy.”

It does look like there is some stabilization over at the Fukushima plant as electricity is partially restored:  Workers see some success at nuclear plant as cooling efforts continue – CNN.com

Workers began to see some success in their battle to cool down reactors at the quake-damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant Sunday, but Japanese officials said they may need to release additional radioactive gas into the air.

The plant’s owner, Tokyo Electric Power Co., said electricity was being supplied to reactor No. 2 , Kyodo News reported. But officials said they were monitoring reactor No. 3 to determine whether to release gas to reduce mounting pressure in the containment vessel — the steel and concrete shell that insulates radioactive material inside.

Pressure Stabilizes at Japanese Nuclear Reactor, Operator Says – NYTimes.com

At an afternoon news conference, officials from the Tokyo Electric Power Company said venting from Reactor No. 3 at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station would not be needed.

For the latest info on Japan remember these websites:

Kyodo News

Reuters

NHK World News

NHK Live News Stream

On to Libya. Operation “Odyssey Dawn” is in full swing, and as Boston Boomer observed yesterday…why do they always come up with such cheesy names for any military action? Personally this one sounds like a stripper name…in line with “Misty Delta Dream” and “Sugar Velvet.”  (Sorry, my defense mechanisms have been switched on…and I have to joke about all these horrible events to be able to comprehend the real violence and tragedy we are witnessing this week.)
Read the rest of this entry »


Libya: French Air Strikes on Tanks Near Benghazi

Enforcement of a no-fly zone over Libya has begun, with French military jets taking the lead. According to al Jazeera breaking news, “French warplanes have destroyed four Libyan tanks near the city of Benghazi.” You can follow the al Jazeera Libya live blog here.

The BBC also has a live blog on Libya that is frequently updated. The latest update is this tweet from a Libyan opposition group:

1758: Activist group Liberty4Libya tweets: “#Libya #Zintan, heavy shelling into the city of #Zintan, #Gaddafi troops’ tanks advancing under the fire cover.”

The BBC page is also running video reports.

Voice of America has this report: Allied Warplanes Patrol Libyan Skies. According to VOA Canadian planes are also on the way to launching point in Sicily.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy says allied warplanes are flying over Libya to enforce a no-fly zone and protect civilians in the city of Benghazi, where forces loyal to leader Moammar Gadhafi have been bearing down on rebels trying to bring down his government.

U.S. President Barack Obama confirmed a short time later that the United States has joined a coalition with its European and Arab partners to take action in Libya.

Obama spoke to reporters during his visit to Brazil. He said the allied coalition’s “resolve is clear,” and that all members are “prepared to act with urgency.”

Gaddafi has already responded as follows:

Gadhafi sent urgent messages to world leaders Saturday, including U.S. President Barack Obama and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. In a letter read to reporters by a government spokesman in Tripoli, Gadhafi noted the rebels had seized control of Benghazi, and asked rhetorically how Obama would “behave” if there was a similar situation in the United States.

Addressing the U.N. secretary-general, Gadhafi said the Security Council’s resolution on Libya is “invalid,” and predicted that any Western action against Libya would be seen as “clear aggression.”

Here is a report on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s statement last night in response to Gaddafi’s supposed “cease-fire.”

The BBC also has video of Hillary’s remarks after the Paris Summit today. You can watch it here. You can read the full text of her statement below the fold. Read the rest of this entry »


Libya: UN Air Strikes Coming; Gaddafi Threatens to “Get Crazy”

Gaddafi’s radio address from earlier today:

I know you’ve all heard that the UN Security Council has approved international intervention in the Libya conflict. What does it mean? What will happen next? Your guess is as good as mine, but we might as well talk about it anyway, right? Here are a few links to get us started.

The Guardian UK: Libya: UN security council backs no-fly zone and air strikes

British and French military aircraft are preparing to protect the Libyan rebel stronghold of Benghazi after the UN security council voted in favour of a no-fly zone and air strikes against Muammar Gaddafi’s forces.

With Gaddafi’s troops closing in on Benghazi, the French prime minister, François Fillon, said “time is of the essence” and that France would support military action within hours of the vote. But US sources were more cautious, speaking of action in days rather than hours.

Fighter jets and bombers could take off from French bases along the Mediterranean coast, about 750 miles from Libya. Several Arab countries have promised to join the operation. Washington supported the resolution, a complete turnaround after weeks of resisting no-fly zone proposals, but has not yet said what role, if any, it would play in military action.

The 15-member security council voted in favour of a resolution authorising all necessary measures, other than occupation, to protect civilians under threat of attack, including Benghazi. Ten members voted in favour, with five, including China, Russia and Germany, abstaining. The resolution ruled out putting troops on the ground.

Reportedly, the opposition forces were heartened by the decision. I hope it won’t be to late to make a difference.

Simon Tisdall, Guardian: Libya finally forces Barack Obama’s hand as he goes for broke

With a boldness that the world had begun to believe he lacked, Barack Obama has gone for broke. The US wants Muammar Gaddafi’s head. It will not rest until he is deposed and there is regime change in Libya. And it will fight to get it.

Obama spent weeks pondering, prevaricating and posturing, infuriating Britain and France, arch advocates of military intervention. He used public appearances to prate professorially about plans, contingencies and downsides. He allowed senior administration officials such as Pentagon chief Robert Gates to give full vent to their doubts and misgivings about a possible Libyan quagmire.

Obama finally made his mind up. The US would intervene to stop him. And there would be no half measures. All steps short of boots on the ground, as the US under-secretary of state William Burns put it are now urgently contemplated, with a view to immediate implementation.

Whatever. My hypothesis is that Obama couldn’t take the criticism or the worldwide attention that Hillary has been getting during her recent travels.

Gaddafi is not happy.

Whoa! WTF?!

Muammar Gaddafi has pledged to retake the rebel stronghold of Benghazi and warned that any foreign attack on Libya would endanger air and maritime traffic in the Mediterranean area, as the UN security council voted for military intervention.

In a defiant and menacing radio address, the Libyan leader sought to pre-empt the UN. “No more fear, no more hesitation, the moment of truth has come,” he declared. “There will be no mercy. Our troops will be coming to Benghazi tonight.”

The defence ministry in Tripoli issued its threat of retaliation in the Mediterranean in the apparent hope of influencing deliberations in New York that approved an assault on Libya’s air defences and ground forces.

The Independent UK reports tough talk from the British and Americans:

After the vote, British Foreign Secretary William Hague reiterated the case for the resolution. “We have said all along that Gaddafi must go,” he said.

“It is necessary to take these measures to avoid greater bloodshed, to try to stop… attacks on civilians and the people of Libya.”

His US counterpart Hillary Clinton took a similar stance, speaking during a visit to Tunis. “Gaddafi must go,” she said. Calling him a “ruthless dictator,” she added: “If Gaddafi does not go, he will just make trouble. That is just his nature. There are some creatures that are like that.”

Defence sources in London meanwhile indicated that the coalition’s first targets would be the tank convoys closing on Benghazi or ships attempting to bombard the city. Arab participation is likely to be provided initially by Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, although there were already reports as the resolution was passed of Egypt shipping arms to the rebels across the border.

In the wake of the UN decision, Gaddafi has stepped back a bit: After pounding rebel hub, Gaddafi calls for truce as UN action looms

Libya’s army said it would halt operations from Sunday to allow rebels to lay down their arms, softening repeated threats by Muammar Gaddafi to crush them, as world powers edged towards adopting tough measures to shut down the strongman’s military machine.

Libyan troops pushed forward towards the insurgent stronghold of Benghazi on Thursday and launched air raids on its outskirts as Washington raised the possibility of air strikes to stop the forces. The international debate on what action to take may have dragged on too long to help the anti-Gaddafi uprising, now struggling to hold its ground one month after it started.

What do you think? Is is too little, too late? Or are we getting ourselves into another Iraq?

UPDATE: Dakinikat called my attention to this article at the Foreign Policy blog: Inside classified Hill briefing, administration spells out war plan for Libya

Several administration officials held a classified briefing for all senators on Thursday afternoon in the bowels of the Capitol building, leaving lawmakers convinced President Barack Obama is ready to attack Libya but wondering if it isn’t too late to help the rebels there.

Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Bill Burns led the briefing and was accompanied by Alan Pino, National Intelligence Officer for the Near East, Gen. John Landry, National Intelligence Officer for Military Issues, Nate Tuchrello, National Intelligence Manager for Near East, Rear Adm. Michael Rogers, Director of Intelligence for the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Rear Admiral Kurt Tidd, Vice Director of Operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Several senators emerged from the briefing convinced that the administration was intent on beginning military action against the forces of Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi within the next few days and that such action would include both a no-fly zone as well as a “no-drive zone” to prevent Qaddafi from crushing the rebel forces, especially those now concentrated in Benghazi.


Finally. Obama Breaks Silence on Libya but Doesn’t Say Much

Earlier today, Politico’s Glenn Thrush told us that President Obama would not be speaking about Libya. Period. That was apparently the word from press secretary Jay Carney this morning. That article has now been rewritten as an explanation for Obama’s slow response.

This evening, Carney announced that Obama would speak after all; and couple of hours ago, the President made what Al Jazeera termed “a strongly worded statement” (see video above) about the intense violence that has been unleashed on the Libyan people for the past few days and the resulting bloody carnage in the streets of Libyan cities.

I’m not sure why the President changed his mind about speaking. Perhaps it’s because they have managed to get American citizens out. Perhaps Obama finally realized he was be criticized all over the world for his lack of action.

So far the response to the statement hasn’t been that enthusiastic. The Washington Post wants to know why Obama was the last to speak about the situation in Libya.

By late Wednesday only one major Western leader had failed to speak up on Libya: Barack Obama. Before then, the president’s only comment during five days of mounting atrocities was a statement issued in his name by his press secretary late last Friday, which deplored violence that day in three countries: Yemen, Libya and Bahrain. For four subsequent days, the administration’s response to the rapidly escalating bloodshed in Libya was measured and relatively mild statements by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Administration officials explained this weak stance by saying they were worried about U.S. citizens, hundreds of whom were being extracted by ferry Wednesday afternoon. There were fears that the desperate Mr. Gaddafi might attack the Americans or seek to take them hostage. But the presence of thousands of European citizens in Libya did not prevent their government’s leaders from forcefully speaking out and agreeing on sanctions.

Late Wednesday afternoon, Mr. Obama finally appeared at a White House podium. He said “we strongly condemn the use of violence in Libya,” but he did not mention Mr. Gaddafi or call for his removal. He said the administration was preparing a “full range of options” to respond but didn’t say what those might be; he made no mention of the no-fly zone that Libya’s delegation at the United Nations has called for. He stressed that the United States would work through international forums – and said Ms. Clinton would travel to Geneva for a meeting of the notoriously ineffectual U.N. Human Rights Council, which counts Libya as a member.

[….]

Shouldn’t the president of the United States be first to oppose the depravities of a tyrant such as Mr. Gaddafi? Apparently this one doesn’t think so.

The New York Times also noted that Obama did not “castigate” Gaddafi, but they meekly explained that the President was worried about getting Americans out of Tripoli.

Mr. Obama made no mention of the Libyan strongman, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, reflecting the administration’s worry about the safety of American diplomats and their families in Tripoli, where a ferry meant to evacuate Americans was still stuck at the port, penned in by high winds in the Mediterranean. Mr. Obama has been coming under fire from critics who said he has not been tough enough against Colonel Qaddafi in the wake of the violent crackdown by pro-Qaddafi forces against demonstrators.

Chris Matthews apparently didn’t feel a tingle in his leg this time.

“This statement could have been put out by the first President Bush. It has the aspect of an Arabist statement. I shouldn’t be too strong here, but it doesn’t have any dignity. I mean – Ronald Reagan – to his credit, said ‘evil empire’ before the fall of the wall.”

Huh? Oh well, it doesn’t make sense, but he didn’t like the statement anyway.

At Foreign Policy, Peter Feaver is losing patience with the President. Based on Jay Carney’s lead-up to the statement, Feaver wrote:

I can think of only two plausible explanations for the weak White House response thus far:

Perhaps the Gaddafi regime is blocking the evacuation of U.S. citizens so as to intimidate the White House into making only muted statements — and this intimidation is working (note to President Obama, this is closer to what real hostage-taking feels like).

Or perhaps the administration is paralyzed with indecision because of debates between internal factions, some wanting a stronger Bush-like response and others wanting to stick with the Obama 2009 approach that guided the weak response to the Iranian post-election protests in June 2009.


What did you think of the “strongly worded statement?” Will we see any action in the near future?