What started out in Libya a few weeks ago as street protests by people demanding jobs, an end to political oppression and a fair share of oil revenues is developing into a bloody, full-scale civil war.
The rebels and pro-Gaddafi forces both experienced successes and reverses over the weekend as back-and-forth battles continued to rage across the North African country. Rebel forces recaptured the oil town of Ras Ranuf but had their advance halted when they were ambushed and pushed out of Bin Jawaad. Pro-Gaddafi troops attacked several rebel-held points, including the city of Zawiyah, which they had failed to capture last Friday. But like Friday’s attack, the Zawiyah offensive was also reported a failure.
Besides the ground war, the outside world focussed on the Gaddafi government’s use of its modern air force to bomb the poorly armed rebel fighters who lack air power. This one-sided aspect of the conflict has increased international concerns about Libyans, both rebels and civilians, being massacred from the air. Even worse, Gaddafi’s air force and superior weapons could cause the war to become a protracted one that could destroy the Libyan state and eventually give a revenge-filled Gaddafi the upper hand. All of which has increased the pressure on the White House to establish a no-fly zone over Libya.
Adding to this pressure, three senators representing both parties, John Kerry, Mitch McConnell and John McCain, have also called for the establishment of a no-flight zone. But despite the fact President Obama has demanded that Gaddafi step down and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stating all options are on the table, the White House is still expressing caution.
“Lot’s of people throw around phrases like a no-fly zone – they talk about it as though it’s just a video game,” said William Daley, the new White House chief of staff, on NBC’s “Meet The Press” television show.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates also spoke carefully when he addressed the risks of the no-fly zone option last week before a House subcommittee, saying it would require “a big operation in a big country. Gates said: “A no-fly zone begins with an attack on Libya to destroy the air defenses. That’s the way you do a no-fly zone.” Senator John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, however, challenged Gates’ statement.
“That’s not the only way,” Kerry said. “You could crater the runways.”
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