Thursday, 24 March 2011

Russia remains bitter about military action in Libya

On 17-8th March, the volunteer groups of lightly-armed revolutionaries - which had largely chased the regime out of Cyrenaica during the preceding weeks – suddenly lost their military dominance on the Gulf of Sirte's littoral highway. The regime's much more heavily armed forces, supported by both lethal air-power and hundreds of foreign mercenaries, regrouped and counter-attacked.

The revolutionaries were driven from much of the road junction and its hinterland at Ras Lanuf and, by 18th March, they appeared to have lost control of the access to the southern route behind the Jabel Al-Akhdar to Tobruq. Worse was to come in subsequent days as Colonel Mu'ammar Qadhafi's army marched on towards Ajedabia which fell after bitter fighting.

This then opened up the road to a final drive to the city of Benghazi – headquarters of the Interim Transitional National Council. An initial assault on Benghazi began when a squadron of tanks and support vehicles pushed into the city's outskirts. At that point, Qadhafi ordered a ceasefire which was, however, only the first of a number which were never implemented.

Events overtook the ceasefire proposals because the advances into the city motivated the international acceptance of the UN Security Council Resolution 1973 which was the product of intensive diplomatic efforts at the UN on the part of France and UK with background support from the US and Arab League.

In essence, the resolution provided for the imposition of a no-fly zone over Libyan air space but no provision to bring in-ground forces at any stage in what was an agreement to force Colonel Qadhafi's supporters to cease their attacks on un armed civilian populations.

Resolution 1973, which was initially given little chance of being implemented, was passed by ten votes to nil in the UN General Assembly. The role of the Russians was singularly unhelpful. On 20th March, Russia demanded that indiscriminate attacks on Libya be abandoned and claimed that 48 civilians were killed in air strikes by “indiscriminate use of force ”. Ultimately, the Russians abstained from the vote but will remain bitter critics of the military action.

For more news and expert analysis about Libya, please see Libya Focus and Libya Politics & Security.

© 2011 Menas Associates

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