U.N. Security Council Approves Libyan No-Flight Zone (UPDATED)
UPDATE, 6:30 AM ET March 19
The New York Times Reports:
Forces led by Moammar Gaddafi entered the eastern rebel stronghold of Benghazi Saturday after airstrikes and fierce fighting as the United States and its allies prepared to launch military attacks on Libya.
A warplane was shot down over Benghazi. Government troops — some reportedly in tanks — entered Benghazi from the west, in the university area. The city of 1 million quickly became a ghost town, with residents fleeing or seeking cover in barricaded neighborhoods. A Washington Post reporter saw the aircraft go down in flames. It was not known who shot it down.
On Friday, President Obama warned that the Libyan leader faced imminent military action unless his troops were withdrawn from all disputed cities in the country. But assaults on rebel-held towns continued despite government promises of a cease-fire.
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UPDATE, March 18, 16:00 ET
The President’s Statement on Libya
In addition to demanding that Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi cease attacks on the eastern city of Benghazi and withdraw his forces from the towns of Ajdabiya, Misrata and Zawiyah, and in addition to making it clear that the terms of the UN resolution are not negotiable, the President has just finished stating at the White House that if Qaddafi does not comply with the resolution, the international community will impose consequences, and the resolution will be enforced through military action.
Below are excerpts of his speech, after the introduction and background leading up to the UN resolution:
Yesterday, in response to a call for action by the Libyan people and the Arab League, the U.N. Security Council passed a strong resolution that demands an end to the violence against citizens. It authorizes the use of force with an explicit commitment to pursue all necessary measures to stop the killing, to include the enforcement of a no-fly zone over Libya. It also strengthens our sanctions and the enforcement of an arms embargo against the Qaddafi regime.
Now, once more, Moammar Qaddafi has a choice. The resolution that passed lays out very clear conditions that must be met. The United States, the United Kingdom, France, and Arab states agree that a cease-fire must be implemented immediately. That means all attacks against civilians must stop. Qaddafi must stop his troops from advancing on Benghazi, pull them back from Ajdabiya, Misrata, and Zawiya, and establish water, electricity and gas supplies to all areas. Humanitarian assistance must be allowed to reach the people of Libya.
Let me be clear, these terms are not negotiable. These terms are not subject to negotiation. If Qaddafi does not comply with the resolution, the international community will impose consequences, and the resolution will be enforced through military action.
In this effort, the United States is prepared to act as part of an international coalition. American leadership is essential, but that does not mean acting alone -– it means shaping the conditions for the international community to act together.
That’s why I have directed Secretary Gates and our military to coordinate their planning, and tomorrow Secretary Clinton will travel to Paris for a meeting with our European allies and Arab partners about the enforcement of Resolution 1973. We will provide the unique capabilities that we can bring to bear to stop the violence against civilians, including enabling our European allies and Arab partners to effectively enforce a no fly zone. I have no doubt that the men and women of our military are capable of carrying out this mission. Once more, they have the thanks of a grateful nation and the admiration of the world.
I also want to be clear about what we will not be doing. The United States is not going to deploy ground troops into Libya. And we are not going to use force to go beyond a well-defined goal — specifically, the protection of civilians in Libya. In the coming weeks, we will continue to help the Libyan people with humanitarian and economic assistance so that they can fulfill their aspirations peacefully.
Now, the United States did not seek this outcome. Our decisions have been driven by Qaddafi’s refusal to respect the rights of his people, and the potential for mass murder of innocent civilians. It is not an action that we will pursue alone. Indeed, our British and French allies, and members of the Arab League, have already committed to take a leadership role in the enforcement of this resolution, just as they were instrumental in pursuing it. We are coordinating closely with them. And this is precisely how the international community should work, as more nations bear both the responsibility and the cost of enforcing international law.
This is just one more chapter in the change that is unfolding across the Middle East and North Africa. From the beginning of these protests, we have made it clear that we are opposed to violence. We have made clear our support for a set of universal values, and our support for the political and economic change that the people of the region deserve. But I want to be clear: the change in the region will not and cannot be imposed by the United States or any foreign power; ultimately, it will be driven by the people of the Arab World. It is their right and their responsibility to determine their own destiny.
Let me close by saying that there is no decision I face as your Commander in Chief that I consider as carefully as the decision to ask our men and women to use military force. Particularly at a time when our military is fighting in Afghanistan and winding down our activities in Iraq, that decision is only made more difficult. But the United States of America will not stand idly by in the face of actions that undermine global peace and security. So I have taken this decision with the confidence that action is necessary, and that we will not be acting alone. Our goal is focused, our cause is just, and our coalition is strong. Thank you very much
UPDATE, March 18, 14:45 ET
New York Times
President Obama has warned Libya on Allied action, but says no U.S. ground troops will be used in Libya:
President Obama set forth non-negotiable conditions that he said Libya must immediately meet to avoid military action to enforce a no-flight zone and block attacks by the regime on civilians and rebels, but suggested that allied nations would carry much of the burden and declared that no American ground forces would be used in Libya.
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UPDATE, 20:11 ET, March 17
The Cable – Foreign Policy reports that several senators who attended a classified briefing “in the bowels of the Capitol building” this afternoon are “convinced that “the administration [is] 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.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told reporters:
I learned that it’s not too late, that the opposition forces are under siege but they are holding, and that with a timely intervention, a no-fly zone and no-drive zone, we can turn this thing around.
About the first wave of attacks: “We ground his aircraft and some tanks start getting blown up that are headed toward the opposition forces.”
As for when the attacks would start: “We’re talking days, not weeks, and I’m hoping hours, not days…”
Both Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Sen. Graham said that they “had thrown their support behind Obama’s new Libya policy.”
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UPDATE 19:14 ET, March 17:
In the wake of the U.N. Security Council vote to authorize “all necessary measures” to protect civilians in Libya, European backers of the resolution said enforcement actions could follow “within hours,” according to the Washington Post.
A French foreign ministry official said France and Britain, with cooperation from one or two Arab countries, would be prepared to start carrying out a resolution as soon as it was approved, within a matter of hours. NATO planners this week presented alliance political leaders with final plans for various military options in Libya.
The United States has five warships off the Libyan coast in the Mediterranean, and it was unclear what role, if any, U.S. forces would play in any initial enforcement actions. The French official, who spoke anonymously under conditions laid out by the foreign ministry, said Britain and France were prepared to act without U.S. direct participation, or with a limited U.S. role.
Italy has told NATO that its land bases could be used for enforcement of a no-fly zone and “France has said its air forces would be ready to commence operations — most likely targeting runways and air defenses — as early as Thursday evening.”
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The United Nations Security Council has just approved a measure authorizing “all necessary measures” to protect Libyan civilians from harm at the hands of forces loyal to Colonel Muammar el-Qaddafi.
According to the New York Times:
The measure allows not only a no-flight zone but effectively any measures short of a ground invasion to halt attacks that might result in civilian fatalities. It comes as Colonel Qaddafi warned residents of Benghazi, Libya, the rebel capital, that an attack was imminent and promised lenient treatment for those who offered no resistance.
The vote was ten for the resolution, zero against, with five nations abstaining, including Russia and China
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