TRIPOLI VOLTE-FACE March 19, 2011Posted by wmmbb in North Africa.
Libya has announced it will halt all military operations in the country following a decision by the United Nations Security Council to back a no-fly zone over the country.
Moussa Koussa, the Libyan foreign secretary, said his government was interested in protecting all civilians and foreigners in a statement televised on Friday.
“We decided on an immediate ceasefire and on an immediate stop to all military operations,” he said, adding “[Libya] takes great interest in protecting civilians”.
Koussa said because his country was a member of the United Nations it is “obliged to accept to UN Secutiry Council’s resolutions”.
Anita McNaught, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Tripoli, said “This is a very carefully crafted statement, very deliberate, almost forensic.
“Clearly the Libyans have been pouring over their United Nations charters to decide which bits to disagree with and on the whole they can’t find very much.”
If such an announcement has such a dramatic effect, the question will be put: Why was it not done earlier? What is Gaddafi’s plan B?
UPDATE (20 March):
The conflict has continued, including the use of snipers shooting people from rooftops. The live blog at The Guardian reports:
2.10PM: Misrata residents have said that government snipers are shooting people from rooftops and the hospital can not operate on the wounded because it has no anaesthetic.
Misrata, about 200km east of Tripoli, is the last big rebel stronghold in the west of the country and people living there say Gaddafi forces are still trying to retake it despite a ceasefire.
People said there was some shelling in the city this morning and that the city was facing a humanitarian crisis because water supplies were cut for a third day.
Meanwhile, there are reports of continuing artillery fire and tank attacks on Benghazi. How all of this carnage is going to end is not clear at the moment because the Gaddafi forces seem to control and use greater military ground weapons than their opponents and because they are being deployed against civilian populations, as in Misarata,there are humanitarian crises.
According to this report from a resident of Tripoli on the BBC, the residents there have been effectively been subjected to totalitarian thought control by the regime to the extent that they are inhibited from watching other than the official news channel.
The use of military force means there is going to be civilian casualties. It appears that the attempt by Gaddafi to encroach in Benghazi with tanks and other military equipment has been unsuccessful.
Robert Naiman, at Common Dreams, notes the UN Security Council resolution is specific. He writes:
Clearly, some people do want foreign military action to assist in the overthrow of the Libyan government, but such action has not been approved by the Security Council.
The text of the UN Security Council resolution can be found here.
Here is the first action item:
1. Demands the immediate establishment of a cease-fire and a complete end to violence and all attacks against, and abuses of, civilians;
The Libyan government has announced a cease-fire. It is certainly true, as Western leaders have noted, that announcing a cease-fire is not at all the same thing as implementing one. But before Western military forces start bombing Libya, efforts to achieve a cease-fire must be exhausted. To do otherwise would be to make a mockery of the Security Council.
. . . There is no doubt that some actors want a foreign military intervention to assist in the overthrow of the Libyan government. But there should also be no doubt that this goal has never been endorsed by the United Nations Security Council. Any foreign military action beyond what is necessary to protect civilians would be a military action that was not approved by the Security Council, and therefore, would be a military action that violates the United Nations Charter. Any foreign military action outside the framework of the UN resolution – in particular, any action that kills civilians – will be prosecutable as a war crime.
If this is correct, then collateral damage will not be acceptable, marking a distinction with Afghanistan. Another problem is that the resolution and the proposed Western violence against the forces of Gaddafi, who have committed humanitarian crimes, will be aided and abetted by governments such as Suadi Arabia. The UN resolution had the imprimatur of Colombia.
Libya runs the risk of becoming another television war, much like the invasion of Iraq, although the escalation of violence has preceded the intervention by external forces. How could that have been avoided?
Paul Woodward, at War in Context, resorts to sarcasm. Gaddafi is not alone in using the method of brutality, as is evidence in Yemen and Bahrain, and by implication Suadia Arabia. Tunisia and Egypt had the good fortune not to be oil-based economies. The same economic position applies to Pakistan, except that it is a nuclear-armed state. How otherwise could have the Libyan opposition played the situation given over forty years of authoritarian oppression and the example of the liberation movement in Egypt in which the army would not be used to attack the population?
Just imagine the case, if the United Nations was a democratically elected body, and the Security Council reflected in that constitution?