Thursday, April 14, 2011

NATO Chief Asks for More Planes

Updated 6:15 p.m. est

The Emir of Qatar says his oil state is ready to provide weapons to the Libyan rebels if they ask -- and they have.

"If they will ask for weapons we are goiing to provide them," Emir Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer today. "Of course they asked, but it will take some time, some training."

There are reports that Qatar, the first state to recognize the rebels' Transition National Council as a legitimate government, has already funneled French-made anti-tank weapons to the rebels. The emir did not deny those reports.

President Obama praised the Qatari leader for helping the rebels.

"We would not have been able I think to shape the kind of broad-based international coalition that includes not only our NATO members but also includes Arab states without the Emir’s leadership. He is motivated by a belief that the Libyan people should have the rights and freedoms of all people," Obama said after meeting with the emir at the White House.
"And as a consequence, Qatar is not only supportive diplomatically but is also supportive militarily, and we are very appreciative of the outstanding work of that the Qataris have done side by side with the other international," Obama added.

Meanwhile, Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid says he would like to use the frozen $33 billion of Moammar Gadhafi's money to pay for the air campaign and Naval blockade to cover the more than $600 million the U.S. has spent so far on Libya.

"Not only the United States should do this, NATO should do it. France should do it. The countries that are involved there on the ground and in the air - yes.  The answer is yes," Reid said ion another interview with CNN (Wolf scored big guests on The Situation Room today).

The idea of Arab oil to pay for American warfare is not new: the Bush administration argued Iraqi crude would help finance the war there. Now, after spending $1 trillion to depose Saddam Hussein, that claim turned out to be just another one of the whoppers the Bushies used to sell that war to the American people.

"I for a long time advocated and its been lost in the shuffle that the wealth of Iraq, and it's a wealthy country, they should with their oil resources be paying us back for what we've done. Well, I've tried. They should," Reid said.

"What people don't realize is Iraq is still making a lot of money. And we should get part of it," Reid added.

It is a delicious idea, but deducting military costs from Gadhafi's frozen assets may be unseemly in the eyes of the world. Now, if the rebels want to give the U.S. and allies some gratuity for the military assistance once they get Gadhafi's ill-gotten booty, that may be a palatable alternative.

end update

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen asked the alliance's foreign ministers today in Berlin for "a few more" attack aircraft for the mission in Libya.

So far there are no offers to send more jets, including from the U.S., which has done more than the lion's share of work in attacking Moammar Gadhafi's forces and defenses.

"To avoid civilian casualties we need very sophisticated equipment so we need a few more precision fighter ground-attack aircraft for air-to-ground missions," Rassmussen said. "I am confident that nations will step up to the plate."

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