Arab League May support No-Fly Zone, as Qaddafi Retakes Territory

On Saturday morning, wire services are reporting that the Arab League has decided to back a no-fly zone over Libya. Earlier reports indicated divisions in the Arab League, as Libyan protesters demonstrated outside the HQ in Cairo. Secretary-General Amr Moussa was among those supporting the move. Even before the vote, he had told the German news magazine Der Spiegel, “”The United Nations, the Arab League, the African Union, the Europeans – everyone should participate.”

The report on the Arab League vote is also being carried by CNN but is not confirmed. It is not clear what mechanisms would be invoked to implement it. NATO states have insisted that a no-fly zone would need the authorization of the United Nations Security Council, where Russia and China are said to be reluctant.

On Saturday morning, pro-Qaddafi troops launched an assault on Misrata (Misurata), the city of some 600,000 due east of the capital of Tripoli, which has been in rebel hands for weeks. In the wake of government victories at Zawiya and Ra’s Lanuf, it is clear that the pro-Qaddafi military is hoping to parlay its momentum into complete control of the coast from the Tunisian border all the way to the eastern front, now at Uqail.

Qaddafi loyalists finally took the downtown square of Zawiya on Friday. The city is half an hour to the west of the capital, Tripoli, and was the last major stronghold of the rebels on the Mediterranean coast to the west. Reports indicate a massacre of the rebels, with the large mosque having been destroyed (it is customary for dissidents to take refuge in mosques, which traditionally were considered off-limits to violence), and rumors of bodies bull-dozed away.

Government forces also pushed rebels out of the eastern refinery town of Ra’s Lanuf to its east at Uqail.

Aljazeera English reports on Friday’s advances by Qaddafi forces:

On Friday morning I cautioned against seeing the see-saw fighting as sign of Qaddafi momentum, but after the events on Friday it seems indisputable that government forces have rallied effectively and are reasserting control over territory, pushing back the rebels.

Posted in Libya | 8 Responses | Print |

8 Responses

  1. I have read that someone (possibly Robert Gates) has pointed out that any serious military plan for a “no fly” zone has to begin with attacks destroying the Libyan anti-aircraft defense system which would effectively be an act of war. I wonder if any of these politicians realize this and whether they would seriously consider such a measure.

    • As I recall when the UN mandated NFZ was in operation over southern the Iraqi defence systems were not bombed unless they fired at US/UK planes. On the odd occasion they did launch a missile, the planes were able to take evasive action, before destroying the missile launch sites. I don’t recall any US/UK planes being hit – but I may be wrong.

      Likewise with Bosnia, I don’t think the Serbs even bothered trying to use their air defence systems. Their air force was actually superfluous to their needs.

      One of the few times (maybe the only time) that air power gained and held territory was when the US dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima & Nagasaki. Otherwise it can only weaken the enemy, if you have stronger ground forces then air power is nice to have, but not essential.

      Also NFZ’s are not as effective in keeping helicopters on the ground as they are at keeping regular fighter/bombers on the ground.

      Gate’s is playing to crowd who don’t want the US involved in yet another middle east war. Can’t say that I blame them, Lebanon 1983, Somalia 1993 …. ad-infinitum.

  2. Your wire services must be different to mine as all bulletins on BBC in the UK have highlighted how the Arab League will consider a no fly zone but the chances of agreement are slim. Syria for one is named as a country that may not agree.

    I feel that the Libyan revolt is tragically a lost cause.
    The earthquake in Japan has eclipsed North Africa in the news and while the talking heads of the West kick the can down the road Gadaffi moves Eastwards.

    A massacre of Serbian/Bosnian proportions is the only ‘media event’ that can capture decision makers now

    • BBC ? James, I assume you mean the Bolshevik Bunkum Contrariat, or is there another one, if so pray tell where we can find it.

      On Friday they reported Australia would be hit by the tsunami. Maybe don’t they have a map, there’s all of the Philippines, Borneo, Indonesia and a thumping great island called New Guinea between Japan & Australia. They just didn’t bother to go the Aussie Met Bureau website.

      The once excellent BBC-World Service is not even a mere shadow of its former self, and that’s not just because of recent cuts. It’s been going down hill since it found a market for it’s output in the US, and decided to target a US audience. I’m sorry, but that means its been dumbing down its output for years. It should change its name to the TABC – Trans Atlantic Broadcasting Corporation.

      The BBC started to go pear shaped in 2003 when Lyse Doucet was favored over Kate Adie to report on the 2003 Iraq invasion. Doucet set up shop in one of the camps on the Iraq/Jordan border, I can still recall her bemoaning the fact that the Iraqi’s were not fleeing across the border in fear of the US forces. Adie would have been in Baghdad waiting for the Marines to offer them a cup of tea.

  3. CNN BREAKING NEWS: Arab League unanimously backs Libya no-fly zone, asks U.N. Security Council to impose one, Oman’s foreign minister says.

    watch what happens ….

    is already too late to do what it’s ‘spose to do?

    can it be implemented quickly enough, forcefully enough to “save lives”? assuming that’s the justification

    or is it a ploy, merely an attempt to force Gadhafi to quit?

  4. The Japanese tragedy has unfortunately greatly reduced coverage of Libya.

    The Arab League, to be precise Egypt, has the equipment to enforce a no-fly zone. Indeed, the Egyptians could quite readily settle this issue.

    On a different note: I cannot read he non-English sources. Can you tell if Gaddafi is someplace between Ra’s Lanuf and Uquaiyla, or if he has manage to capture Brega?

    Most of these places are very small. Ra’s Lanuf would perhaps make a small subdivision in many places. Misrata, however, is apparently 20 times the area and population of Zawiya, and should be more challenging to capture.

    Finally, while it is true that Gaddafi has artillery, the opposition could largely neutralize this advantage if they would fall in the habit of digging in (shovels, sweat) whenever they reach a location. Alas, they are largely teenage boys who have watched movies on TV, and have had little military training.

  5. I never imagined that the Arab League would be be able to reach any sort of a consensus on this. They’re to be congratulated. Perhaps the fact that EU failed to do so, gave the Arabs the impetus to out do the EU.

    But will the Arabs actually participate in any overt military action, I doubt it, but maybe I’ll be wrong on that too.

    Personally I don’t think the NFZ matters much, territory is won and lost on the ground, not in the air. The Arabs are smart enough know this too.

    But nothing is going to happen without a UN-SC resolution.

    The Arabs have leverage over China – oil. Will they use it to force China to vote yes to a UN resolution sanctioning military action – that’s the next question.

    But neither the Arabs, nor anyone else seems to have much leverage over Russia. Putin will want a lot more than visa-less travel with the US to sign up to a robust UN-SC resolution. Japan is going to need a lot of gas & oil from Russia whilst its nukes are out of action.

    Long way to go yet.

    Meanwhile Qaddafi continues the attacks on Misrata and Brega.

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