Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Retreating rebels and flickers of Al Qaeda

BBC News reports:
Rebels in Libya are retreating from their former strongholds along the eastern coast as they come under fire from Col Muammar Gaddafi's forces.

The rebels have now lost the key oil port of Ras Lanuf and the nearby town of Bin Jawad, and are also in full retreat from Brega.
One rebel on the edge of Brega was angered that the coalition appeared to have slowed down its campaign.

"We want two things: that the planes drop bombs on Gaddafi's tanks and heavy artillery, and that they give us weapons so we can fight," 27-year-old fighter Younus Abdelghaim told AFP news agency.
How far will Cameron and friends go to achieve regime change? How many civilian casualties will they allow the rebels to inflict in their attempts to overrun cities held by Gaddafi? And if, with Western assistance, the rebels are victorious, will the people of Libya be better off? Will we? Much depends on the nature of those to whom Cameron has so hastily committed our military support.

According to the Wall Street Journal,
In a Senate hearing Tuesday, U.S. Adm. James Stavridis, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's supreme allied commander in Europe, said intelligence agencies had picked up "flickers" of an al Qaeda presence among Libyan opposition fighters. He also mentioned links to Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed, Lebanon-based militant group.
As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Tuesday, the U.S. is still "getting to know" the rebels.

"So far, they're saying the right things," President Barack Obama said Tuesday on "CBS Evening News" when asked about Libyan opposition leaders. "Most of them are professionals, lawyers, doctors—people who appear to be credible. That doesn't mean that…among all the people who opposed Gadhafi, there might not be elements that are unfriendly to the United States and our interests."
I previously noted the opposition to intervention from Daniel Hannan and Norman Tebbit. Today I discovered James Delingpole's list of "10 Reasons Why We Shouldn't Be In Libya". Here's a selection:

1. We cannot afford it. Liberal interventionism belongs to another era: the era when we imagined we had enough money to prosecute wars. Now our armed forces are so straitened by Cameron’s defence cuts that we don’t even have sufficient trained Typhoon pilots. And as for those bloody silly Storm Shadow missiles at £1 million a pop….

2. The Arabs won’t thank us for it – which kind of defeats the object, given that the sole real point of this misbegotten enterprise was to show the Middle East how lovely and caring we were and sensitive to Islamic feelings. Only once we’d secured the Arab League’s approval did we dare launch the mission. And now, guess what: they’ve decided they think it’s a bad idea after all.


4. According to this video from the Cato institute, there are five key questions to be asked before actions of this kind: Is it in the national interest? Is there public support? Have the costs and consequences been considered? Is there are clear military mission? Have we exhausted all available options? The Libya debacle fails on ALL counts.

5. It’s the French’s colonial war, not ours. They sucked us into this. As Jonathan Foreman reports in his superb analysis:

For more than two decades the biggest threat to French dominance of Chad – and other Francophone countries in Central and West Africa has come from Libya. Qaddafi’s forces have battled those of Chad four times since 1978. During the first three invasions, in 1978, 1979 and the winter of 1980-81, the Libyans allied with local rebel forces, supporting their infantry with armored vehicles, artillery and air support. The third invasion resulted in the de facto partition of Chad in 1983 with Libyan forces controlling the country’s northern half, above the 16th parallel.

6. President Obama’s heart obviously isn’t in it and given that US provides the bulk of our military muscle, this doesn’t augur well for a happy outcome.

7. What kind of message does it send out to the Middle East generally? That we’ll only intervene in countries where we have no real strategic interest and which are weak enough to knock about, while leaving the really big nasty regimes – Iran’s, say, or Syria’s – to do what the hell they like. As Melanie Phillips reports in a superb blog post, all we are doing is alienating Middle Eastern moderates through our mixed messages and double standards


8. Britain, France and the US now run a drastically increased risk of a Lockerbie-style revenge atrocity. Obviously we shouldn’t base our international policy on our fear of being punished for doing the right thing. But, er, being punished for doing the wrong thing?

It will be a long time before we know the full consequences of this intervention, and the true motives of those who insisted on it. If things go well, it will be more luck than judgement.

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