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Friday, April 1, 2011

Libyan Rebels Friends or Foes?

NATO took over control of operations in Libya yesterday but the coalition don't all agree on what should be done. NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the alliance did not support arming the rebels and France agreed with him. But the British and the US say the UN has a mandate to go ahead and it should be done.

Remember what the original intervention was all about? It was to stop Gaddafi from killing his own people but now the situation has changed, instead of an expected swift defeat, Gaddafi is winning the war and the US and the UK want to change the game plan.

But the UN won't budge "We are there to protect the Libyan people, not to arm the people," Mr Rasmussen said "As far as NATO is concerned, we will focus on the enforcement of the arms embargo, and the clear purpose of an arms embargo is to stop the flow of weapons into the country." He added "We are there to take action with the aim to protect civilians against any attack."

Gaddafi has repeatedly said that the rebellion is an al-Qaida operation, but who can believe him? But now a cable from the US embassy in Tripoli has emerged, published by WikiLeaks which says there was a real fear of Islamic extremism in Libya. "Libyans were apparently more fired up to travel to Iraq to kill Americans than anyone else in the Middle East," said Andrew Exum, a counter-insurgency fellow at the Centre for New American Security. That fact "might give pause to those in the United States so eager to arm Libya's rebels" he said.

A spokesman for the rebels played down the allegations but did not deny them. He said "If there are any Libyans who were associated with al-Qaida around the world and are now in Libya, they are fighting on behalf of Libya".

CIA operatives are reported to be at rebel headquarters in Benghazi to offer help and find out if they are friendly to US interests. Britain has also sent Special Air Service commandos and MI6 agents into rebel-held territory. I guess it's time to try and find out who our real friends are.