Posted: April 12, 2011 in Social Studies 10


On February 15, 2011, what seemingly began as an offshoot of the successful Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions, thousands of democratic protestors lined the streets of Libya.  Amid pressures to resign, stubborn Libyan “revolutionary leader and guide” Muammar al-Gaddafi ordered troops to fire on the protestors.  The protestors quickly gathered weapons, so Gaddafi’s forces were no longer attacking innocent civilians; they were fighting a war against rebel forces.  The conflict soon escalated to the point of a full civil war, with the rebels based in Benghazi fighting against the ultimately the Arab League called for a no-fly zone over Libya.  The Coalition Forces (United States, United Kingdom, and France) engaged in airstrikes against Libyan forces, with France being one of Gaddafi’s most outspoken opponents.

The Arab League condemned the airstrikes, as it deemed them to be illegal.  Under the UN resolution calling for action against Libya’s government, the airstrikes may indeed have been illegal.  At this point in the civil war, neither side has a clear advantage.  In the early days it seemed like the rebels would have an overwhelming victory over Gaddafi, however the government struck back much harder, and regained much of the lost territory.  In more recent news, Gaddafi attempted to follow the peace deal proposed by the African Union, however the rebels struck down the deal in favor of more bloodshed.  The civil war is currently at a stalemate, and only time will tell who wins the battle for Libya.


Source A


From 2:05 – 2:45,  4:20 – 4:41,  and 9:00 – 10:30

Source B


whole video

Source C:

Concern over the legality of the military action in Libya reignited on Monday as rebel forces surged into the space created by the international bombardment of Colonel Gaddafi’s military.

Philippe Sands QC, professor of international law at University College London, warned that coalition forces were facing a “major problem” to justify their latest strikes on legal grounds and Lord Ashdown, the former high representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, said the coalition forces led by Britain, France and the US were facing “a moment of danger” over the legality of their actions. He said “continued support for this looks as though it is leading to support for regime change, which legally is beyond the [United Nations] security council resolution”.

Legal experts said the international coalition may have overstepped what was agreed by the UN resolution sanctioning military action to “take all necessary measures … to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack”.

Professor Nicholas Grief, director of legal studies at the University of Kent, said it was possible there could be an attempt to bring the matter before the international court of justice. Others said the coalition forces were within the bounds of legality and could continue to attack Gaddafi’s military positions as long as they posed any future threat to civilian populations.

Concern grew as Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, said he believed the military action was in breach of international law. “We consider that intervention by the coalition in what is essentially an internal civil war is not sanctioned by the UN security council resolution,” he said. Russia abstained from the vote which resulted in resolution 1973.

Britain said the strikes remained legal. “The UN resolution’s point of ensuring that civilians could be protected allows the international coalition to take action against those who are threatening civilians,” said Alistair Burt, Foreign Office minister. “The Gaddafi forces have been threatening civilians through the advance of their military machine. In order for that threat to be lifted, action has been taken as we have seen. It is very important for us and for everyone that what has been done is under the terms of the UN resolution.”

But Sands said it was becoming increasingly hard to justify the strikes on the Libyan leader’s forces as pre-emptive.

“The resolution is concerned with the protection of civilians, so a military attack on Gaddafi’s retreating forces could only be justified if it could be shown to be related to that objective,” he said.

“It is difficult in international law to argue for a pre-emptive use of force to protect civilians from a possible threat that might arise in the future. We don’t know if there is evidence to show that a failure to attack Ghadaffi’s forces would lead to a regrouping that would lead in turn to attacks on civilians. Pre-emption is a major problem because it is seen as a slippery slope, and rightly so.”

His concern was echoed by Grief, who said the latest strikes provided evidence the coalition had taken sides and “may have gone beyond the terms of the resolution” which he said must be interpreted narrowly, under international law. “It is almost as if we have entered the fray openly on behalf of the rebels. We have taken sides, Paradoxically, there is a UN arms embargo in place but raiding Sirte is even better for the rebels than if we were arming them.” he said.

He said the most recent actions seemed different from the initial attacks around Benghazi, where a stronger argument could be made that action was immediately necessary to protect civilians in support of the resolution.

“I am not sure the latest strikes are in the same category. That is why I am concerned we are going beyond the terms of the security council resolution.”

He said the only way the coalition could be restrained in the immediate future was if the security council adopted a fresh resolution, but he said that was very unlikely given the permanent membership of the council by the leading members of the military coalition. “There could be an attempt to bring the matter before the international court of justice, but it is very difficult to see that happening.”

But Malcolm Shaw QC, senior fellow at Cambridge University’s Lauterpacht centre for international law, argued the coalition forces were still operating within the bounds of legality.

“We are into elastic now, and how far can you stretch the resolution?” he said. “Where you have concentrations of Libyan troops who still pose a credible threat to civilians or civilian population areas then I think there is still cover for action against military objectives,” he said. “It would be difficult to say that if there are tanks outside Sirte that they are no longer a threat to places further up the road at Ajdabiya or Benghazi. If the rebels were hit and scattered then Gaddafi’s tanks could go in.

“When the Russians say you can’t intervene in civil war to assist the rebel side they are right, because that is international law . But the security council resolution trumps that. The resolution does not say protect civilians from attack, but protect them from the threat of attack, so as long as the Libyan government maintains a fighting force and is maintaining a forcible stance then those forces are legitimate targets. The authorisation to use force is clear-cut. The question is how far you go. The answer for me is far down the line.”

Who is in charge?

Who is running the military operation?

Officially Nato has taken over all military operations. But at the moment it is only running the naval blockade, which is enforcing the arms embargo, and the no-fly zone. The Nato commander, Lieutenant General Charles Bouchard, will assume control of the most controversial operations, the air strikes against Gaddafi’s ground forces, in a few days’ time.

Why is there a delay in Nato taking over air strikes?

Bouchard said that the handover would take some days because it was “complex”. The delay gives more time to the existing coalition, co-ordinated by the US but led by the French and British, to continue to choose their own targets for bombing.

Will the handover to Nato control make any difference?

Nato’s 28-member countries agreed rules of engagement for air strikes on Sunday. As sceptics like Turkey and Germany were involved in the draft, the rules are likely to be more restrictive that those being used by the French and the British, who have been bombing Libyan government forces across the country.

Source D:

The Arab League asked the United Nations Security Council on Saturday to impose a no-flight zone over Libya in hopes of halting Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s attacks on his own people, providing the rebels a tincture of hope even as they were driven back from a long stretch of road and towns they had captured in the three-week war.

The extraordinary move by the 22-nation bloc — an extremely rare invitation for Western military forces on Arab territory — increases the pressure on the Obama administration, which has been reluctant to intervene in a war that could turn out to be prolonged and complex.

However, by inviting the West to take such action, it also clears the way for the United States and Europe to press for a strong Security Council resolution and to counter the objections of China and Russia, which traditionally oppose foreign intervention in a country’s internal disputes.

But the United States has not said whether it would pursue a resolution, and it was far from clear that, even if action were forthcoming, it would be enough to stall the march of Colonel Qaddafi’s troops eastward. As the rebels withdrew from the strategic oil town of Ras Lanuf 100 miles east to Brega, and by nightfall on to Ajdabiya, superior government forces pressed their advantage on an insurgency that began as a disparate protest movement and, despite efforts to build a government and an army, remained chaotic, splintered and largely leaderless.

The government sweep intensified pleas from the rebels for Western military support. Abdul Hafidh Ghoga, the vice chairman of the rebels’ shadow government, the Libyan National Council, said a no-flight zone would give the rebels a fighting chance against Colonel Qaddafi’s better organized and better equipped military.

“We feel we have the right to ask for help,” he said in the rebel’s eastern stronghold of Benghazi, Libya, where a cheer went up when the Arab League vote was announced. “If the international community chooses to play the role of bystander, we will have to defend ourselves.”

Even if the Security Council authorized the measure, American officials have said it would be warranted only if it appeared that Colonel Qaddafi’s forces were effectively relying on warplanes. A no-flight zone, they have said, would have little effect against helicopters or artillery, both of which the Libyan government has used extensively.

The White House, in a statement on Saturday, said it welcomed the Arab League decision, “which strengthens the international pressure on Qaddafi and support for the Libyan people.” But the statement did not mention a no-flight zone.

The defense secretary, Robert M. Gates, has largely dismissed such a zone as ineffective and ill-advised. Other administration officials have said that the level of violence in Libya would have to approach the scale of that in Rwanda or Bosnia in the 1990s before the United States would engage militarily.

An effective no-flight zone would require a leading Western role. No one else, with the possible exception of Russia, has the level of military sophistication, firepower and surveillance ability it would take to first disable Libyan air defenses, and then enforce the zone.

American officials also said that the Arab League would have to do more than endorse action — it would have to participate in it, too. “That doesn’t mean they have to fly airplanes,” one official said, “but there is much they can do, from providing airfields to gas and maintenance.”

At the Security Council, a diplomat from one member nation said the Arab League decision was “helpful, but there are quite a lot of reservations around the council table still.”

The objections, including some from Russia and China, have centered on questions about whether the need for a no-flight zone has been demonstrated, and whether it has a strong legal basis and clear regional support.

The Arab League action checked one condition off the list, the diplomat said, but the others remain unsettled.

The Europeans have also been divided and have said that Arab League backing was critical to their ultimate decision. The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, was expected in Cairo on Sunday to discuss the no-flight decision with the Arab League.

Section 1:

This interview gives the Libyan “revolutionary leader and guide” Colonel Gaddafi’s point of view in regards to the civil war.  While at the time being discounted as the ranting of a madman, Colonel Gaddafi correctly states in this interview that the rebels are in an informal alliance with the terrorist group al-Qaeda.  At first various news sources ridiculed Gaddafi for making this statement, however rebels whose statements were recorded in articles published by various sources including The Washington Post and The Moscow Times later confirmed this fact.  While Gaddafi is constantly criticized by the world media for his handling of the protests, according to his analysis of the situation, his men were protecting themselves from terrorist attacks.  While this may seem far-fetched, so have many things Gaddafi has said that were later proven to be accurate.

The interview with Mustafa Abdul Jalil was very enlightening about the situation.  Jalil describes the rebel’s willingness to not prosecute Gaddafi if he steps down within 72 hours.  Jalil stresses the importance of democracy by stating that he would rather have all citizens of Libya dead than under the rule of Colonel Gaddafi.  He called for western nations to help in the struggle, and for a no-fly zone to be implemented.  These requests were later met by NATO after the interview.

Section 2:

Source A and source B agree on very little.  They are from the leaders of two different governments who are currently engaged in a war.  Gaddafi is claiming that Jalil is a terrorist, or at least supporting terrorists, while Jalil is calling Gaddafi a tyrannical dictator.  Both claims come with some truth, and some points that can be debated.  Jalil’s affiliation with terrorism for example, while his soldiers are currently fighting alongside al-Qaeda fighters, is very unlikely that he actually believes in the ideology of the terrorist organization.  On the opposite end of the spectrum, Gaddafi’s dictatorship is not a point of debate, it’s a simple fact that the man has been an autocrat for the past 42 years, however his tyranny is disputable.  Before the protests began he was hailed by the United Nations as a champion for human rights.  Gaddafi is a firm opposer of Islamic fundamentalism and within his Green Book he coherently details his belief that the people of his nation should rule themselves, rather than a parliament or republic rule.  Unfortunately for Gaddafi’s supporters, recent events have irreparably tarnished his image.  Unfortunately for the people of Libya, neither Gaddafi or Jalil is willing to make compromises.  In recent events, Gaddafi supported a peace deal drafted by the African Union, however the rebels denied it, as it did not call for Gaddafi’s removal from office.  Likewise, the rebels have offered peace to the government of Tripoli, but Gaddafi rejected it as it called for him leaving his post, and likely his execution by the rebels.  Because the men behind sources A and B are unwilling to find similarities between themselves, there will unlikely be a peaceful resolution to the problem, and the war will end when one side is victorious.

Section 3:

Source C came from a British newspaper, and it features a discussion with an American law professor, as he discusses world laws.  The purpose of this article was to inform the readers about the coalition bombings of Libya, and their legal status.  Another purpose was to possibly hold a criticism on the attacks, and potentially claim that they were unnecessary.  There are not many limitations with this article.  It really was an exceptional source.  However, as a secondary source, there are a very small number of limitations that it must deal with.  None of the featured individuals had actually been to Libya during the crisis and none of them were official United Nations lawyers.  That’s as far as the limitations go, and this source has a much larger amount of strengths than weaknesses.

Source D came from the highly respected newspaper The New York Times.  It seems to have the purpose of describing world events to the readers.  In this case, the Arab League’s endorsement of imposing a no-fly zone over Libya.  Hillary Clinton described this endorsement as “a real game-changer”.  This article also has few limitations, and its limitations are the same as source C’s.  The author was not present at the Arab League’s meeting, and therefore is only a secondary source.

Part 4:

What are the regional ramifications of the ongoing Libyan civil war?

The war between Colonel Gaddafi’s forces and the democratic rebels is currently at a stalemate, with both sides claiming small victories almost daily.  Gaddafi recently captured one of the rebels strongholds, however they still retain control of Benghazi and the involvement of NATO will certainly change the tide of the battle.  One of the immediate effects of the conflict on the surrounding areas is the large diasporas of refugees fleeing to neighboring – and recently liberated – Tunisia.  This will likely cause strain on the weak Tunisian economy and their fledgling government will be forced to deal with the issue in due time.  Other ramifications that are present, though not quite as direct as the previously mentioned effect, is a shift in power in regards to the energy sector.  The Russian Federation failed to veto any of the UN resolutions dealing with Libya, and it’s been speculated that this is because they are enjoying a massive increase in revenue for their energy dealings with European customers who are unwilling to buy from Libya.  Should the rebels win the civil war the African Union’s unity will be challenged with their founding member and long-time ally being removed from power.  A gloomy possibility of a Libya under fundamentalist rule will persist until either Gaddafi solidifies his power once more, or the vast majority of democratic rebels cease relations with the terrorist groups.  If Gaddafi regains control of Libya, the morale of protesters in nations such as Bahrain and Yemen will take a crushing blow, as will the morale of the rogue state Iran, which has been supporting the majority of these revolutions. Libya’s diplomacy with other nations in the region, as well as globally, will be heavily influenced by the victors of the civil war.  Gaddafi’s alliances with Russia and China will be secured, and his relationship with the United States of America will be far from cordial, although he has expressed a fondness of President Barack Obama.  Nations that Libya will lose some of its formerly amiable relations with include Tunisia, Egypt, and Iran.  If the rebels take Libya over then their alliance with democratic nations will improve drastically, although they are growing discontent for the nations in NATO.  Their fellow revolutionary states of the Middle East and the United  Nations will most likely support them heavily in the nation building process.  No matter which side wins however, it will take time for Libya to regain its status as the most desirable African nation to live in that it first developed under the leadership of Colonel Gaddafi.


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