Libya: Latest news and analysis

Dominic Browne reports on the latest news and analysis on the Libyan conflict.


Sky News have reported that the Libyan conflict could prompt a re-think of the cuts to the Defence budget. This afternoon, Sky reported David Cameron as being “actively engaged” in reconsidering the controversial spending decisions made last Autumn in the strategic defence and security review. However Niall Paterson, defence correspondent for Sky, describes any changes to the budget as “highly improbable“.

Meanwhile, NATO refused to apologise for yesterday’s attack on rebel forces near the town of Brega in Libya – though secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen “expressed regret” over the lives lost.

Rear admiral Russ Harding said he would not apologise for the air assault, which killed several rebel fighters. The BBC reports:

“It would appear that two of our strikes yesterday may have resulted in the deaths of a number of [rebel] forces who were operating main battle tanks,” he said on Friday.

“I’m not apologising,” he told reporters.

“The situation on the ground, as I said, was extremely fluid and remains extremely fluid. Up until yesterday, we had no information that the… opposition forces were using tanks,” he added.

“Our role is to protect civilians. Tanks have been used in the past to directly target civilians.”

However the rear admiral’s comments contradict what the BBC was told last night by general Abdelfatah Yunis:

“He (gen. Yunis) said NATO had been informed that the rebels’ tanks would be on the road, and had even been given the necessary co-ordinates. He also said NATO had apologised to the rebels about the incident, although not directly to him.

“Gen Yunis had called on NATO to give a “rational and convincing explanation” about what had happened, but had stressed it would not lead to tensions with the allied force.”

This is the third such incident to take place since NATO took over air operations a week ago.

Left Foot Forward has previously reported on the “fluid” situation on the Libyan coast as Gaddafi loyalist forces use tactics to complicate and confuse NATO operations, while The International Herald Tribune wrote an editorial yesterday on these difficulties and the danger they present to civilians.

The paper proposed that American A-10 and AC-130 aircraft, already used in the conflict and still on stand-by, should be made available to NATO command:

“President Obama should authorise these planes to fly again under NATO command. Unlike the highflying supersonic French and British jets now carrying the main burden of the air war, these American planes can fly slow enough and low enough to let them see and target Colonel Qaddafi’s weapons without unduly endangering nearby populations.”

The BBC adds:

“Rear Adm Harding also refused to back the view of US General Carter Ham – who led the first stage of the coalition air campaign in Libya – that the conflict appeared to have reached a stalemate with rebel forces unlikely to oust Col Gaddafi’s troops.”

“If someone wants to define that as a stalemate that’s fine, all I’m saying is that yes, it’s fluid, but it’s fluid in a relatively small area,” he said.”

This comes after The Guardian reported yesterday that:

“Turkey has proposed a path to a peaceful resolution to the deadlocked conflict in Libya, involving a withdrawal by Muammar Gaddafi’s forces from cities held by the rebels, and democratic reform.”

Meanwhile Gaddafi forces are said to be advancing on Misrata, with reports that Unicef has said it has “reliable and consistent” accounts children are being targeted by Gaddafi’s snipers.

If the situation continues to get closer to outright stalemate and deteriorates through these deliberate and horrific tactics by Gaddafi’s forces, pressure to seek some kind of political solution, through the intervention of Turkey or others, may become harder to resist.

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8 Responses to “Libya: Latest news and analysis”

  1. hans schauer

    RT @leftfootfwd: Libya: Latest news and analysis: by @dbr1981

  2. james freeman

    the UN and its allies are only paying attention on Libya b/c the have oil,why cote de iviore don’t receive speedy attention? because the don’t have oil?

  3. Mr. Sensible

    These kind of incidents involving civilians are hard to avoid in a situation like this.

    However, there should be as few as possible to keep the rebel forces onside.

  4. halima

    accident through the will of God.this may not be the first time but until the war ends.

  5. zuki

    United Nasion tidak melaksanakan undang2 secara adil
    jika libya di serang kerana tidak melaksanakan arahan UN.
    Mengapa Israel tidak di serang dan tidak diambil sebarang tindakan walau berpuluh puluh resolusi UN telah di keluarkan tetapi sentiasa tidak dipatuhi oleh iSRAEL. Saya mengesa semua negara islam keluar dari UN dengan segera kerana UN telah di gunakan untuk menindas umat dan negara islam, terlalu banyak ke Misalnaya bosnia apabila umat islam di bunuh? Un tidak buat apa-apa, Gaza di tindas dan di kurung apa UN buat? berdiam diri dan membisu dan menghalalkan tindakan musuh islam. Oleh itu semua negara islam harus keluar dari UN dan bergabung dalam Agensi Dunia yang lebih adil dan berwibawa.

  6. Daijhi

    Launching a war and killing hundreds of people in a cause to ‘save civilian lives’ when those ‘civilians’ have taken arms against their government is difficult to justify – but launching a war to gain control of resources and execute regime change can never be justified. Adolf Sarkozy and Josef Cameron have now written their place in history with this needless campaign of death.

  7. Chic Macgregor

    To Arm or Not to Arm
    Just when I was beginning to think that those damned politicians had a shred of humanity my joy is short lived. Following the recent campaign to assert a no fly zone over Libya it turns out my admiration for David Cameron and his motley crew was a tad optimistic. Although not a supporter of Mr Cameron or his elitist polices and his elitist party, I was impressed by his efforts to protect the civilians in Libya. That was until I discovered that this administration and the previous Labour administration were providing arms to the feckers in the first place. It appears that the Brtish government had approved the sales of arms to Libya up until a few months ago. It is very likely that the weapons Gaddafi’s forces are using against civilians are the very same ones imported from the British arms trade. The people in this government and the previous governments must be scratching their heads and asking themselves how could this have happened. So too must all the executives in the arms industry wondering why they didnt anticipate the possibility of a brutal dictator using those weapons against his own people. The fact that Gaddafi and all the other dictators in the region are renowned for it may have been a clue but who are we to cast aspertions?

    It seems that neither this administration nor the previous one had any idea that those weapons of crowd control would be used for, guess what? Yep, crowd control. Things like tear gas, sniper rifles, armoured personnel carriers, thermal imaging night vision technology were all imported to countries such as Libya, Bahrain, Yemen, Syria and one of the most totalitarian regimes in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia. All the afore mention countries have serious issues regarding human rights but Syria and Libya in particular have used brutal force in the past to crush peaceful protests. It begs the question why the United Kingdom arms trade was issued licences to sell weapons known to be used for crowd control to authoritarian regimes known to use brutal methods of crowd control against unarmed civilians. Surely it was a no brainer and even the most optimistic would realise that selling arms to ruthless dictators could result in the deaths of many innocent people or did they just not give a fecking toss.

    Then again it really does depend on how you look at the situation and what your motives are in the first place. In the last four years Britain’s export of arms have apparently gone up by a staggering 70% with the United States being the main destination. Yet as a whole countries in Asia and the Middle East have been the main clients to the British manufacturers. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) has reported that Britain has been the fifth biggest arms exporter after the United States, Russia, Germany and France. It is also suggested that the British government is looking towards the British arms exports as a major priority in tackling its deficit in particular with regard to the military sector. The official line from the British arms trade in response to any criticism is “The UK is widely seen as a model for how to strike the right balance between effective control and facilitating legitimate exports”. Since the recent uprisings in the Middle East, 156 export licences to Libya, Bahrain, Egypt and Tunisia have been revoked. The Commons Committees on Arms Export Controls has also heavily criticized successive British governments for misjudging the risk that UK arms exports to nations like Libya and Bahrain would be used to suppress their own people.

    It is estimated that the British arms trade made a staggering £7.2 billion last year on arms exports and they themselves state that they employ 300,000 people in the industry and provide £35 billion each year to the British economy. Libya alone has spent £63 million on light weapons such as sniper rifles, tear gas, armoured personnel carriers and night vision since 2009. We can probably assume that this is the tip of the iceberg since Tony Blair welcomed Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in from the cold in 2003. Reports suggest over one thousand civilians have been killed in Libya since he turned his troops on the people in February and there have been deaths in other states such as Syria, Bahrain and Yemen. It is difficult to estimate just how many have died as those dictatorships are doing their very best to keep a tight lid on events. However, it is not difficult to imagine the suffering inflicted on unarmed civilians by ruthless armed forces and mercenaries who are more than likely using the very weapons we provided.

    William Hague addressed parliament and assured them that the government had no intentions of providing lethal weapons to the rebel forces in Libya. Why in the name of the wee man can’t we supply weapons to the rebels when we have already supplied weapons to Gaddafi and his military henchmen? Surely the very least we can do is provide the rebels and civilians with decent weapons so they can defend themselves. William Hague also stated that the British government will be providing equipment such as communications technology which is necessary to protect civilian lives and also to provide humanitarian support. There are some politicians and pundits who are concerned that if we provide weapons to the rebels we will automatically be taking sides in the conflict and will be drawn in even deeper. Perhaps we are a bit late for that concern given that we have already armed most of the feckin dictatorships in the region including Libya.

    When the United Nations decided to enforce a no fly zone the coalition forces seemed to be able to pick out Gaddafi’s military with expert precision day or night. It was only a matter of days before his air force was grounded and his tanks were destroyed as soon as they came out in the open. This allowed the rebels to move more freely and swiftly to recapture or take control of several key cities. They were actively encouraged to do so by the British and the Americans in particular but also other members of the coalition such as France and Italy. At that point the United States was in command of all operations and was achieving the objective to stop Gaddafi attacking civilian populations. Then the United States decided to hand over control of operations to NATO. Since then the air strikes seem to have decreased over Libya and Gaddafi forces have stepped up attacks on civilian areas such as Misrata, Brega, Ras Lanuf, Bin Jawad, and Ajdabiya east of Benghazi. At the same time rebel forces have begun to export oil from Benghazi and the hope is that the much needed revenue will enable them to purchase weapons that will defeat Gaddafi forces. Perhaps that is the real reason why we are delaying any decision to arm the rebels. Perhaps we are merely waiting until they have enough cash to buy the weapons from us thus further boosting the already lucrative British arms export industry. Maybe I am being a tad cynical and there is genuine concern about the wider implications of arming the rebels. Then again!

    The head of the Transitional National Council of Libya has pleaded for more air attacks from NATO forces in order to protect civilians in particular in and around Misrata. The city of Misrata has been under seize from Gaddafi forces for weeks with snipers reported on roof tops firing indiscriminately at civilians and heavy bombardment from tanks hiding inside shops and houses. Rebel forces have insisted that the areas controlled by Gaddafi forces are not populated by civilians and have even provided coordinates so that air strikes can take them out. They are growing increasingly frustrated and desperate that the NATO forces are not attacking those military targets and hundreds if not thousands will perish as a result. The rebels are also asking for more assistance on the ground in the form of up to date weapons that will at least match the weapons used by Gaddafi forces. They are vastly outnumbered by Gaddafi forces and out gunned as well with antiquated light weapons. The rebels are not lacking in courage and they are prepared to die for their freedom but they are no match for Gaddafi forces who have tanks, missile launchers and heavy artillery.

    Britain, France and the United States are apparently giving serious consideration to arming the rebels although it is not certain that will happen. I for one just cannot imagine what the hell seems to be causing the delay. Perhaps the fact that civilians are dying at the hands of snipers and missile attacks that we more than likely provided isn’t good enough reason. Ex United States Intelligence Officer Bob Ayers told Sky News that arming the rebels would be a mistake because we would be seen as taking their side. He claims that once we did that we would be drawn further into the conflict and would have no choice but to fight alongside them to prevent them from losing. When we decided to supply arms to a brutal dictator like Gaddafi knowing full well that he had a history of brutality against his own people then we automatically took sides. In light of this and recent events on the ground in Libya and elsewhere we have a moral duty if not a legal one to make amends by helping the rebels to protect themselves against weapons we supplied.

    It is now suggested that Gaddafi was sold weapons designed for crowd control by the previous labour government whilst negotiations were under way to free the Lockerbie bomber. We may not have been aware of that fact then but we are now and we are also aware that this administration were also approving the sale of weapons right up until about four months before Gaddafi cracked down on the protestors. We must ask this administration to explain how they intend to avoid a potential conflict of interest as they focus on maximising exports of arms to Brutal regimes yet at the same time promote human rights in those same totalitarian and brutal states. Meanwhile as rebels are forced back by superior weaponry that we helped to provide and civilians are slaughtered by sniper rifles that we most certainly provided there is one question on everybody’s mind. To arm or not to arm?

  8. ram

    Gaddafi must leave power for welfare of the people of Libya .

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