Samia Nakhoul reports:
By the time the outside world agrees on a response to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s bloody onslaught against a popular revolt, it could all be over.
The advance of Gaddafi’s better-armed forces, who seem to have shown little regard for civilians when storming in to retake rebel strongholds, has outrun the slow pace of hesitant initiatives being discussed by European, U.S. and Arab leaders.
An Arab League call for the United Nations to impose a no-fly zone to protect the revolt, was welcomed by France, which has taken a lead in backing the rebels and will host G8 foreign ministers in Paris Monday.
But others, notably the United States and other European Union states such as Germany, remain very cautious about military engagement. No U.N. Security Council meeting had yet been scheduled, despite events racing in Libya.
“The international community is dragging its feet,” said Saad Djebbar, a London lawyer and expert on Libyan affairs. “The diplomatic pace is very slow. There is an urgency to act quickly before those people are finished off by Gaddafi’s forces.”
“The international community has to act now — not only to protect Benghazi from an onslaught but because of what it means for the rest of the world if Gaddafi is allowed to remain the leader of Libya,” said Geoff Porter, a U.S.-based political risk consultant who specializes in North Africa.
After the relatively peaceful and speedy overthrow of Arab strongmen in Egypt and Tunisia, Western disarray on Libya may persuade other authoritarian rulers facing unrest, from Yemen to Bahrain, that the best antidote to revolt is violence.
“If they allow Gaddafi to win, that would encourage other Arab despotic regimes to use brutal force against their people to stamp out revolt,” Djebbar said. “This will erase the gains of the people power we have seen in Egypt and Tunis.
“It sends a very bad signal to other movements.”
Muammar Gaddafi’s troops seized the strategic Libyan oil town of Brega on Sunday, forcing rebels to retreat eastward and putting extra pressure on world powers still deliberating on a no-fly zone.
The government offensive had already driven the rebels out of Ras Lanuf, another oil terminal 100 km to the west on the coast road, and the seizure of Brega and its refinery deprived the rebels of more territory and yet another source of fuel.
The government, in a message on state television, said it was certain of victory and threatened to “bury” the rebels, who it linked to al Qaeda and “foreign security services.”
Riad Kahwaji writes:
Some Arab defense experts believe it is time for the Arab States to stand up and take responsibilities in their own hands and come to the aid of the Libyans. Retired Major General Khaled Al-Bu Ainnain, former commander of the United Arab Emirates Air Force and Air Defense, believes that some GCC states and Egypt can mount a joint operation and successfully enforce an NFZ over Libya. “The UAE Air Force can deploy couple of squadrons – one F-16 Block 60 and another Mirage 2000-9 – the Saudi Air Force can deploy a couple of F-15S squadrons and Egypt a couple of F-16 squadrons out of Mersi Matrouh Air Base in western Egypt,” Al-Bu Ainnain said. “This would provide 120 fighters and attack aircrafts that would be backed with airborne early warning planes like Egyptian E-2C Hawkeye or Saudi AWACS, some unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) for reconnaissance, and air-refueling tankers from Saudi Arabia and couple of Egyptian or UAE helicopter squadrons comp osed of Apache Longbow gunships, Blackhawks and Chinook helicopters, for search and rescue missions.” Crews and troops needed for the operation could be quickly airlifted to western Egypt, and even Algeria, within hours using a large fleet of UAE and Egyptian C-130 and Qatari C-17 transporters.
Observers believe the area of operations for any force executing an NFZ over Libya now would be confined to the area between the capital Tripoli and the City of Cert and down south to Sebha in the center. The rest of the country is under rebel control. The Libyan Air Force is comprised of aging Cold War-era Soviet supplied fighters like Su-22, MiG-21 and MiG-23 and one remaining operational Mirage F-1 and some 30 MiMi-24 Helicopter gunships. According to reports out of Libya, only few Su-22 and MiG-23 aircrafts were seen involved in the air raids in addition to MiMi-24 gunships. As for Air Defense, Gadhafi’s forces are believed to be in possession of a few batteries of Soviet-era SAM-2, SAM-3 and SAM-6 surface to air missiles. “All of the Libyan Air Defense SAM’s and radars can be taken out swiftly by the arsenal of smart weapons and cruise missiles in possession today by GCC and Egyptian Air Forces,” Al-Bu Ainnain said. “Runways can be destr oyed with bunker-busters to ground all the jets, and the gunships can be easily destroyed on the ground.” He pointed out that GCC and Egyptian Air Forces have considerably enhanced their joint-operations capabilities as a result of almost annual exercises they have done together along with the U.S. and some EU countries. “Issues related to command and control and interoperability would be resolved quickly which would ensure a smooth running of NFZ operations.”
The Washington Post reports:
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said Saturday that the U.S. military, already fighting two wars in Muslim nations, would have no trouble enforcing a no-fly zone over Libya if President Obama orders one.
The comments appeared designed to counter the criticism surrounding his earlier remarks on the issue and came as the Arab League endorsed a no-fly zone to protect Libya’s civilians from forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi.
Gates indicated earlier this month that the creation of a no-fly zone would be a “big operation.” NATO would need to deploy an array of air power to target not only defense systems and fighter jets, but also the low-flying attack helicopters that Gaddafi has used against rebels and civilian protesters.
The assessment drew criticism, in particular, from those who favor a more aggressive American response to the Libyan conflict, now tilting back in favor of Gaddafi’s better-armed forces. Some accused Gates of inflating the dangers and scope of a no-fly zone mission over a large desert country with a small population.