CNN reports “President Barack Obama made clear in interviews Tuesday with the three major US television networks that he was open to arming the rebel fighters.” This comes as leaders in London declared they were not unalterably opposed to the Duck of Death going into exile.
Mr. Frattini said “no country” has yet offered the Libyan leader exile, “even the African countries which may be ready” to consider it. Africa’s other pariah despot, Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, may be Col. Gadhafi’s best hope for a comfortable exile on the continent. Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez, another Col. Gadhafi admirer, might also offer the Libyan leader safe haven.
But they are clearly fishing for takers. Italy in particular was reeling from a flood of refugees who have washed up on the island of Lampedusa. Almost 19,000 have arrived since January; three thousand in the last three days. “There are now thousands of North African men living in improvised tent encampments on the hillsides and waiting to be taken to the mainland … ‘The Tunisians have occupied the island and they are starting to go into people’s houses and threaten them.'” The UN has warned of a refugee crisis and Italy has asked its European neighbors to help out.
The Italians would love to see the crisis end, both for energy and refugee reasons.
The only lasting end to the refugee crisis will be a final political solution in Libya. A blog at Council on Foreign Relations says that circumstances suggest President Obama is pursuing a “stealth” program of regime change.
The rebels will need help. The Independent says rebels have retreated a hundred miles from the farthest point of their ecstatic advance. In the face of this pell mell retreat, such professionalism as was exhibited came from a town in Libya with suspected links to al-Qaeda.
The men from Darnah were once again in the lead, as they have been in so many of the recent battles.
Darnah, which has the reputation of being the most devoutly Muslim city in Libya, has been singled out by Gaddafi as playing a central part in the “al-Qa’ida-orchestrated plot against his rule”. It is a place, the regime has repeatedly claimed, that has as its revolutionary leader someone who has met and praised Osama Bin Laden and trained in Afghan “terror camps”.
If indeed the men are from al-Qaeda, then flying in support was the unlikeliest air cover of all: their former nemesis the AC-130 and A-10. Wired reports that A-10s, together with a US destroyer, shot up Libyan coastguard vessels near Sirte. Video shows A-10s and F-16s operating from an air base in Italy. The Virginia Pilot identifies the destroyer as the Barry.
A Navy P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft, an Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt attack aircraft and the guided-missile destroyer engaged the Libyan Coast Guard vessel Vittoria and two smaller crafts after confirmed reports that the vessels were firing indiscriminately on merchant ships in the port.
The Orion fired at the Vittoria with AGM-65F Maverick missiles, forcing it to be beached. The Thunderbolt fired upon the smaller craft using its 30mm GAU-8/ Avenger cannon, destroying one and forcing the other to be abandoned.
The Barry provided situational awareness for the aircraft by managing the airspace and providing the pilots with information about the event.
Ruth Marcus at the Washington Post says that President Obama is now in the process of filling in blanks left by his earlier decisions. But she says that President Obama’s actions are “defensible” and she is crossing her fingers that the president can keep to his promise not to commit any ground troops. Now that he’s proclaimed himself open to arming the rebels, the equation on the ground may change. For as the Bible says, “when a strong man armed, keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace.” Maybe it will be Khadaffi’s goods; or maybe al-Qaeda’s; or perhaps even European countries which shall know their goods at peace. But what’s in it for America; the national interest? Maybe that is the wrong question.
As to power of filling in the blanks, well if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again, as this A-10 shows.