The International Criminal Court threw a wrench in back-channel talks to get Moammar Gadhafi and his family to leave Libya by issuing arrest warrants today for the dictator, his son Saif al-Islam and intelligence chief Abdullah al-Sanussi.
Gadhafi is accused of ordering attacks on civilians during Libya's four-month revolution, which began as a peaceful Arab Spring protest, but turned into an armed insurrection when Gadhafi's forces and secret police opened fire on demonstrators.
"(Gadhafi) aimed at deterring and quelling by any means, including by the use of force, the demonstrations of civilians against the regime", the court alleged.
His son Saif and Sanussi are accused of carrying out the orders to open fire on the Libyan demonstrators from Feb. 15 to at least Feb 28. Thousands of Libyans are believed to have been slaughtered under Gadhafi's orders.
Gadhafi's spokesman said over the weekend the regime does not recognize the ICC and will ignore the charges.
In an unusual twist, diplomatic sources from NATO-member nations said the ICC at The Hague clearly did the right thing by charging the trio with crimes against humanity, but acknowledged the court probably wiped out some incentive for Gadhafi to leave Libya.
The rebels have said they are willing to consider a plan to get Gadhafi and his family to leave government, but remain in Libya under a sort of house arrest in-country exile.
The diplomatic sources, who spoke this morning after the ruling on the condition of anonymity, said the alliance does not like that idea, but acknowledged it may have to swallow that pill.
Publicly NATO welcomed the court's action. "It reinforces the reason for Nato's mission to protect the Libyan people from Gadhafi's forces," said NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen.
Closer to home, the warrants give President Obama some much-needed cover with peacenik House Democrats, who have joined with conservative Republicans in arguing the administration has failed to make the case against joining the NATO-led air campaign.
At the outset, Obama joined the two biggest U.S. allies, Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain and Nicolas Sarkozy of France, in arguing that the air strikes were necessary to prevent a genocidal slaughter in the city of Benghazi, where Gadhafi's troops had massed in March.
Gadhafi had publicly threatened to wipe out the rebel stronghold of Benghazi, which has since become the de facto capital for the Transitional national Council. Led by French warplanes, the alliance struck March 19, wiping out the armored column outside Benghazi.
"We are extremely happy that the whole world has united in prosecuting Gaddafi for the crimes he has committed," rebel council spokesman Jalal al-Galal told Reuters. "The people feel vindicated by such a response."