NATO has now decided to take on full command of all military operations in Libya, though this will not come without diplomatic challenges. Over the weekend, coalition air forces attacked Gaddafi’s hometown of Sirte, and rebels are said to have regained control over many locations, including key oil export sites. However, on Tuesday, 29 March, reports said that Gaddafi’s forces appeared to be pushing rebel forces back in Sirte.
On Sunday (27 March), NATO member countries met in Brussels to pave the way for NATO to resume full command over both air and ground operations, where it previously only enforced the no-fly zone and the UN arms embargo. With NATO assuming full command, it is possible that Germany and Turkey (which as the second largest armed forces in NATO) could use their veto power within the Alliance to stop ground force operations in Libya, fearful of mission creep in what may turn out to be a long drawn-out conflict.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has expressed his concerns of Libya turning into another Iraq or Afghanistan and is hoping to be able to mediate in the conflict. Erdogan told the UK’s Guardian newspaper that Ankara was in talks with Gaddafi to this end. Turkey and Germany have clashed with France, which has been at the forefront of the military intervention in Libya, seeking the targeting of Gaddafi himself. At the onset, Turkey was against military intervention, though now it has agreed to participate under the NATO umbrella.
“We have been opposed to any unilateral action and we could never accept appeals such as that by the French minister for a new crusade,” Erdogan told the Guardian. “But for Turkey, it’s out of the question to shoot at Libyan people or drop bombs on the Libyan people. […] Turkey’s role will be to withdraw from Libya as soon as possible [and] restore the unity and integrity of the country based on the democratic demands of the people.”
There is also another geopolitical dynamic, further afield, developing. North Korea is certainly keeping a close eye on events in Libya, which has been put before Pyongyang as an example of how cooperation over nuclear weapons programs could be beneficial. It is not lost on Pyongyang that there would have been no military intervention in Libya if Gaddafi had been able to provide a nuclear deterrent. What is unfolding today in Libya will have great implications for the future of six-party talks over North Korea’s nuclear program. After all, Libya, at the beginning of this decade, had become the poster boy for US efforts to curtail “rogue” nuclear weapons programs. In return for aid and other diplomatic concessions, Libya halted its nuclear weapons program. Today it is being crushed by US-led coalition forces.
On Monday (28 March), South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan left for China for a three-day visit to discuss China’s opposition to a South Korea and the US initiative to obtain a UN Security Council presidential statement condemning the new North Korean nuclear program. In light of the unfolding situation in Libya, any progress with North Korea over the issue is unlikely, with Pyongyang referring to the international military intervention in Libya as a clear message of why it should maintain its ability to “defend” its “peace.”
–by Jen Alic for the Global Intelligence Report, an ISA Intel partner organization