UPDATE (6:40): The Security Council has voted to approve “all necessary measures” other than invasion to halt the Libyan government’s assault on its own citizens.
The UN Security Council is supposed to vote this evening on whether to authorize a no-fly zone — and perhaps even a no-drive zone, targeting tanks and other military vehicles — in Libya, as requested by the Arab League. Fears that China or Russia would veto the resolution have apparently been overcome.
Moammar Ghadhafi, on the other hand, seems eager to crush the remaining opposition, warning that “there will be no mercy.”
“We are coming tonight,” he warned the rebellious city of Benghazi. “You will come out from inside. Prepare yourselves for tonight. We will find you in your closets.”
U.S., French, British and perhaps Arab forces are reportedly prepared to enforce the resolution almost immediately upon passage.
Ghadhafi has an answer for that too.
“Any foreign military act against Libya will expose all air and maritime traffic in the Mediterranean Sea to danger and civilian and military facilities will become targets of Libya’s counter-attack,” the Libyan government warned. ““The Mediterranean basin will face danger not just in the short-term, but also in the long-term.”
There’s an element of humanitarianism in the move, which is being depicted by some as an intervention on behalf of democracy. However it’s hard to ignore the contrast with what’s going on in Bahrain, where the U.S. Fifth Fleet is based. Pro-democracy Shiite protesters are being killed in the streets by Saudi troops sent to Bahrain to make sure that the ruling Sunni royal family stays in power there. That in turn has inspired street and government protests in majority-Shia Iraq.
“In Bahrain in recent weeks, I’ve seen corpses of protesters who were shot at close range, seen a teenage girl writhing in pain after being clubbed, seen ambulance workers beaten for trying to rescue protesters — and in the last few days it has gotten much worse. Saudi Arabia, in a slap at American efforts to defuse the crisis, dispatched troops to Bahrain to help crush the protesters. The result is five more deaths, by the count of The Associated Press.
One video from Bahrain appears to show security forces shooting an unarmed middle-aged man in the chest with a tear gas canister at a range of a few feet. The man collapses and struggles to get up. And then they shoot him with a canister in the head. Amazingly, he survived.”
Here’s the video in question:
This “spreading of democracy” is a complicated piece of business.
– Jay Bookman