Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Canada to Recognize Rebels as Siege is Broken in Misurata

Updated 11 p.m. edt

NATO warplanes returned to the skies over Tripoli this evening while the rebel force's main army in the east moved on Moammar Gadhafi's thinly stretched forces in the oil patch town of Brega -- a region that has gone back and forth between both sides in three months of fighting.

Libyan TV reported that NATO bombed at least two areas around Tripoli, as the rebels also moved on two other fronts. Rebel brigades in Misurata moved a couple of miles closer to Zlitan (see below), while a third opposition force captured the town of Kikla 90 miles southwest of Tripoli, Reuters reported.

In an unsual twist of fate, one of the best-preserved antiquities left behind by the Roman Empire may be at risk of attack, CNN first reported. There is concern that Roman ruins at the site of the ancient city of Leptis Magna in Libya are being used to store Gadhafi's weapons, as the rebels have claimed, Salon writes.

NATO has refused to rule out bombing the site, if necessary, Time blogs.

In Ottawa, the Canadian parliament late today extended its commitment to the combat in Libya for another three months, as expected, The Montreal Gazette reports.

Meanwhile, a few friends at Code Pink are still hoping Gadhafi and his record of human rights violations against his own people can be stopped with a drum circle and a few boxes of Ben & Jerry's Peace Pops (So do I, but unfortunately prayers have not worked).

end update

Canada will become the latest western nation to recognize the rebel Transitional National Council as the legitimate government of Libya in a stepped up diplomatic offensive that includes the U.S. pressuring the African Union to sever its relationship with the well-hidden Moammar Gadhafi.

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said Ottawa will join France, Spain, Italy, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates in formally recognizing the rebel government. The U.S., Germany and Turkey, among others, are waiting for Gadhafi to fall before they make a move toward recognizing the council.

With Russia and China already doing an about-face on Gadhafi, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on the African Union, Gadhafi's only viable if not nominal ally, to renounce the friendless dictator and expel any diplomats from their countries who remain loyal to him. Gadhafi has pumped millions of dollars into the AU, often at the expense of the needs of his own people.

Those checks are no longer in the mail, Clinton explained.

"I urge all African states to call for a genuine ceasefire and to call for Qadhafi to step aside. I also urge you to suspend the operations of Gadhafi’s embassies in your countries, to expel pro-Gadhafi diplomats, and to increase contact and support for the Transitional National Council," Clinton told the 53-member African Union during a stop in Ethiopia.

"Your words and your actions could make the difference in bringing this situation to finally close and allowing the people of Libya, on an inclusive basis, in a unified Libya, to get to work writing a constitution and rebuilding their country. The world needs the African Union to lead," she added.

Some Western governments are getting antsy about the costs and length of the British- and French-led NATO air campaign, but are committing to spending at least the summer to put heavy fire down on Gadhafi forces and installations.

The hope is the defiant Gadhafi will go or be overthrown much sooner than the recently extended September deadline for the mission.

"We are conducting this operation with all the means we have, and the best we can. If the operation were to last long, of course, the resource issue will become critical," NATO Gen. Stephane Abrial said at a NATO conference in Belgrade.

"But at this stage, the forces engaged do have the means to necessary conduct the operation. If additional resources are needed this will be a political decision. I am confident that this operation will be successful in implementing the UN Security Council resolution," Abrial added.

But NATO also has sent some mixed signals to the rebels themselves, asking them to hold their ground in Misurata instead of pushing westward toward Tripoli. More than 100 rebels and civilians have been killed during Gadhafi's latest siege of Misurata.

NATO aircraft have been missing in action for most of the weeklong siege, though they have been dropping leaflets overnight on the outskirts of Zlitan, warning that anyone who can read the leaflet is probably about to die.

Frustrated and worried they are sitting ducks in Misurata without NATO air cover, a rebel brigade broke through Gadhafi's siege forces to the west of Misurata and were moving slowly toward Zlitan, but despite being outgunned are making progress.

Gadhafi's elite 32nd Brigade is based and the rebels hope people there will rise up from inside the city before the battle is joined.

The rebels were stymied by a rocket attack yesterday on fuel tanks at a depot in Misurata, but were scrambling to get gasoline from alternative sites.

Rebels quickly bolted from their new frontline positions when they picked up the leaflets and realized NATO thought they were Gadhafi troops, fearing they would come under fire from allaince warplanes and attack helicopters.

Libyans, meanwhile, have risen up west and south of Tripoli, making it difficult to Gadhafi to get supplies through the few routes he has left.

At any other time it would be seen as a successful campaign, given how quickly Gadhafi forces were depleted and unable to counter the NATO warplanes. But with the other wars in Iraq and Afghanistan still draining the American treasury, President Obama is under pressure from a minority of U.S. lawmakers to explain where he envisions that the mission is going. An even smaller minority wants the U.S. to pull out of Libya immediately.

House Speaker John Boehner, who supports the Libyan mission, nonetheless sent Obama a letter today, arguing that after Sunday he will be in violation of the War Powers Act of 1973.

"Either you have concluded the War Powers Resolution does not apply to the mission in Libya or you have determined the War Powers Resolution is contrary to the Constitution," Boehner wrote. "The House and the American people whom we represent deserve to know the determination you have made."

Obama insists contingency money is in the budget for the Libya campaign, but privately sources close to Obama say he wants to see Gadhafi toppled as soon as possible. Obama is, however, convinced he is on the morally correct side of history on this campaign -- and is even more resolute that Gadhafi will go, or he will go down.

Britain, meanwhile, may have to move some assets away from the Afghan war if the Libya mission is not concluded by September. "If we do it longer than six months, we will have to reprioritize forces," said Adm. Mark Stanhope, Britain's top naval officer.

No comments:

Post a Comment