Rebels

The question that I posed in my last blog entry, a couple of weeks ago, cannot be more relevant than it is now.

A week ago, the rebel forces in Libya had been pushed back all the way to Benghazi by Gaddafi’s forces, and were quite clearly on their knees.

Today, we are hearing a different story. Largely thanks to the protection afforded by the Allied policing of the no-fly zone, the rebels have managed to claw their way back and now stand at the gates of Surt, birthplace of Gaddafi and of enormous symbolic value. It is impossible to say at the moment, but some are speculating that this could be the Colonel’s last stand.

And it is all thanks superior firepower afforded by the, well, let’s face it, (extremely reluctant) Americans. Plus, I will acquiesce, one or two tag-along European countries.

Now the tables have turned.

The rebels lie at the gates of Surt, a traditional bastion of Gaddafi support, inhabited by people who might not be quite as keen to see the regime fall.

So, the guardians of the Libyan skies, acting under a UN mandate, are faced with a dilemma. Although the Brits have made it quite clear that Gaddafi is a legitimate target – and few in Westminster would be all that sad to see him go – removing the dictator is not part of their mandate. They are supposed to protect civilians.

Which beggars the question: if the rebels are laying siege to a town, don’t the civillians there also have the right to protection?

After all, the UN authorised member states “to take all necessary measures… to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack”.

Could the rebels have gained so many triumphs over the last week without Allied support. Probably not.

This may of course not have been the original intention of the UN resolution, when imposing the no-fly zone. But I’m sure that the bloody butterfly who flapped his wings in Mexico earlier this month didn’t expect to cause a tsunami in Japan.

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