Time to Quit Power
Military attack and diplomatic means are simultaneously put at stage to end Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi's longtime dictatorship. NATO's war against Qaddafi's government has produced no tangible results as his forces are obstinately resisting against public opposition and the NATO strikes. To dismantle resistance, fresh NATO air strikes on Tripoli early on Saturday targeted the district where Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi has his residence. On the other hand, in addition to military pressures and the long running domestic opposition, Qaddafi's regime is losing her last friends at the international level. On Friday, Russia joined Western leaders in urging Colonel Gaddafi to step down and offered to mediate his departure, providing an important boost to NATO powers seeking to end his long rule.
The US and France are committed to finishing the job in Libya, President Barack Obama said on Friday at a G8 summit that saw Russia finally join explicit calls for Muammar al-Gaddafi to go. Russia's dramatic shift — and an offer to mediate — came as British Prime Minister David Cameron said the NATO mission against Gaddafi was entering a new phase with the deployment of helicopter gunships to the conflict. "We are joined in our resolve to finish the job," Obama said after talks with French President Nicolas Sarkozy at the G8 summit of industrialized democracies in the French resort of Deauville. But the US leader warned that the "UN mandate of civilian protection cannot be accomplished when Gaddafi remains in Libya directing his forces in acts of aggression against the Libyan people." G8 leaders from Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the US called in their final statement for Gaddafi to step down after over 40 years, in the face of pro-democracy protests turned full-fledged armed revolt.
The West's drive to oust Gaddafi was boosted on the military front, with France and Britain vowing a "new phase" of operations, and on the diplomatic, with Russia joining calls for him to step down and head into exile. Presidents and prime ministers of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States had met in the French resort of Deauville on the second and final day of the annual Group of Eight summit. They took a tough line with the regimes resisting pro-democratic revolts, warning Libya and Syria to halt the violent repression of their own peoples. "We demand the immediate cessation of the use of force against civilians by the Libyan regime forces as well as the cessation of all incitement to hostility and violence against the civilian population," the statement said. "Qaddafi and the Libyan government have failed to fulfill their responsibility to protect the Libyan population and have lost all legitimacy. He has no future in a free, democratic Libya. He must go," it warned. Sarkozy said there would be an intensification of military action against Gaddafi and Prime Minister David Cameron confirmed that Britain would send Apache helicopter gunships to target Libyan forces at close quarters. US President Barack Obama said after talks with Sarkozy that "We have made progress on our Libya campaign" — referring to NATO's air strikes in support of rebel forces — and vowed: "We are joined in resolve to finish the job."
Ahead of the summit, Russia — which had criticized the NATO air war on Qaddafi's regime — was seen as reluctant to take a hard line, but it too toughened its stance on Libya during the Deauville meeting. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said: "Yes, we are ready to admit... he needs to go. We believe that Colonel Qaddafi has forfeited legitimacy due to his actions... indeed we need to help him go." President Dmitry Medvedev said later Russia would send its senior Africa envoy to the Libyan rebel bastion of Benghazi to contact the insurgents, and had offered to mediate an end to the conflict. "There are signs that the momentum against Qaddafi is really building. So it is right that we are ratcheting up the military, the economic and the political pressure," British Prime Minister David Cameron said at a Group of Eight summit in France. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Colonel Qaddafi, who seized power in a 1969 coup, no longer had the right to lead Libya. "The world community does not see him as the leader of Libya," Mr. Medvedev told reporters at the summit, adding that he was sending an envoy to Libya to begin talks. But he presented no plan to remove Colonel Qaddafi from power.
As Britain and France announced they were preparing to deploy attack helicopters over the Arab North African state for the first time to increase the pressure on Colonel Qaddafi's forces on the ground, the US House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly Thursday to bar US forces and private contractors from operating on the ground in Libya, where rebels are fighting to oust Qaddafi. The measure, passed in a 416-5 vote, was an amendment to a $690m defense bill that also limits President Barack Obama's authority on handling terror suspects and reducing the US nuclear weapons stockpile under the new START treaty with Russia. The amendment barred the Obama administration from using funds being approved in the overall defense bill to "deploy, establish or maintain" US ground forces in Libya except to rescue a US service member from "imminent danger." Previous administrations have ignored the law, and both the president and the authors of the resolution maintain that the congressional green light is not necessary for "limited" military operations like the Libyan intervention. Anti-war Congressman Dennis Kucinich said the votes indicated "growing" opposition to the now NATO-led air war in Libya, which the Pentagon says will cost the United States an estimated $750 million by the end of September. "Congress is not satisfied with the blank check that this administration has written for itself to conduct the Libyan war," said the Ohio Democrat, who has proposed a resolution due to be debated next week that directs Obama to withdraw all US forces from the fight. The United States has played a supporting role in the NATO-led campaign since April 1, providing refueling tankers, surveillance aircraft and munitions but not fighter jets.
As a clear sign of increasing pressure against Qaddafi regime and emergence of an immense change in the world, Libya's regime offered a truce but not the departure of Qaddafi. "We have asked the United Nations and the African Union to set a date and specific hours for a ceasefire, to send international observers and take the necessary measures" to end combat, Prime Minister Baghdadi al-Mahmudi said. African leaders gathered at a Libya-focused summit in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa called Thursday for an end to NATO air strikes to pave the way for a political solution to the North African nation's protracted conflict. But NATO insisted it would keep up its air raids in Libya until Gaddafi's forces stop attacking civilians and until the regime's proposed ceasefire is matched by its actions on the ground. At any rate, the intensifying military strikes led by NATO member countries, increasing international consensus on removal of Colonel Gaddafi, escalating political stance against the dictator inside Libya and the country's growingly frayed government will, soon or later, pave the way for another breakthrough in the course of pro-democracy protests. That will surely mark a new era of success for democratic reformists who have waited long to see the decades-long tyrannical regimes fall down.