Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Der Spiegel: 'Gadhafi Is Facing a Coalition of the Unwilling'

NATO is split over whether it should take over command of the coalition military operation against Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi. German commentators warn that the alliance could be playing into the despot's hands with its dithering.

he coalition military operation against Moammar Gadhafi has made good progress toward its goals of destroying the Libyan dictator's air defenses and establishing a no-fly zone over the country. But that, it seems, was the easy part. Far more difficult are the questions of who should now lead the mission and what the operation's ultimate objectives should be.

The US government, wary of getting stuck in another war in a Muslim country, would like to hand control of the mission over to NATO, but the alliance is divided. At a meeting on Monday, NATO ambassadors failed to agree on whether the alliance should take control of the mission. NATO involvement would require approval by all 28 members.

France has opposed handing control to NATO because of Arab skepticism about the alliance, which is perceived as being dominated by the US. Paris would prefer the current coalition of France, Britain and the US to keep political control of the mission, with operational support from NATO, according to sources quoted by Reuters. Turkey, an alliance member which sees itself as a bridge to the Muslim world, is opposing NATO control of the operation. On Tuesday, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that the United Nations should be in charge of an entirely humanitarian operation in Libya.

Britain and Italy want the alliance to be in charge of the operation, however. Rome has threatened to restrict access to its air bases, which are crucial to the mission, if NATO does not take over control. US Defense Secretary Robert Gates has suggested that Britain or France could also take control of the mission, but some NATO officials doubt if either country could handle the operation by itself, according to Reuters. (read more)