Libya airstrikes could start ‘within hours of resolution’
Mark Mardell | 20:06 UK time, Thursday, 17 March 2011
The United Nations seems on the brink of taking a momentous decision. After hanging back for days the Americans have now not only backed the British and French resolution on Libya but beefed it up. The fact that the French foreign minister, Alain Juppe, will be here in person is a sign of French confidence that the Russians and Chinese won’t block the resolution.
The latest draft I have seen goes well beyond calling for a no-fly zone. It says that the Arab League, individual nations and organizations like Nato are authorized to “take all necessary measures…to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat…including Benghazi, while excluding an occupation force.”
I am told the first strikes will be unilateral ones by British and French aircraft. They could be in the air within hours. It is likely five Arab air forces will take part. Hillary Clinton has said it will mean bombing Libyan air defences. Nato will step up if asked but could take a while.
Although there have been other recent UN operations this would be the most serious intervention in a crisis for a long time, a marked contrast to the division over Iraq. That does not ease the worries of some in the administration that this will still be labeled an American war and they will be dragged deeper and deeper into the affairs of another Arab nation.
Strikes Could Come Within Hours…
Day after saying no second term, a big win for Hillary Clinton
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In private, Hillary Clinton speaks of looking forward to a lower-stress lifestyle. | AP Photo Close
By GLENN THRUSH | 3/17/11 5:34 PM EDT Updated: 3/17/11 7:01 PM EDT
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s revelation that she won’t be staying on if there is a second Obama term may have been news to those who don’t know her, but did not surprise her friends, who say she’s spending an increasing amount of time considering her post-government options even as challenges mount at Foggy Bottom.
Clinton has made similar “I’m not here forever” comments before – but it was the timing of her remarks to CNN on Wednesday that raised eyebrows, coming at a critical moment in her fierce internal battle to push President Barack Obama to join the fight to liberate Libya from Muammar Qadhafi.
Clinton’s position was vindicated early Thursday evening when the United Nations Security Council – at the urging of the United States – approved a resolution authorizing “all necessary measures” to protect Libyan civilians, including a no-fly zone. U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice told reporters that such a move could involve direct attacks on pro-Qadhafi forces now bearing down on the rebel stronghold of Benghazi in eastern Libya.
Clinton’s persistence in the anti-Qadhafi cause has been such a constant in the White House in recent days that Obama, according to reports, joked about Clinton lobbing rocks through his window during his remarks at Saturday night’s Gridiron dinner.
“Stay tuned,” said one Clinton friend when asked if the secretary would ultimately prevail.
Two Clinton friends, who speak with her regularly, told POLITICO she wasn’t trying to send any message to Obama with her interview with Wolf Blitzer Wednesday and she has no plans to leave earlier than the end of the president’s first term.
But they say her Sherman-esque statement reflects a growing sense of crisis fatigue that friends can read in her face, hear in her voice and recognize in her wistful talk about the future.
Moreover, her chat with Blitzer took place during an especially draining week that saw her spokesman, P.J. Crowley, forced out for publicly criticizing the Pentagon over its treatment of WikiLeaks suspect Bradley Manning and during week-long trip to Europe and North Africa, where her triumphant visit to Cairo’s Tahrir Square was tarnished somewhat, by a snub at the hands of some pro-democracy leaders.
“She’s tired – she still likes what she’s doing – but she’s tired,” said one longtime Clinton friend, who noted that Clinton is still regarded as a relative outsider in Obama’s tight-knit inner circle.
In private, Clinton often tells friends she’s looking forward to a new, lower-stress life, which might include writing another autobiography – this one covering her epic 2008 primary campaign loss to Obama and tumultuous tenure as the nation’s top diplomat – teaching, and possibly starting her own foundation which might be focused on promoting international women’s rights.