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Obama Green Lights missile strikes on Libya

published  First Published: 19/03/2011
Article written by: Nigel Brookson

Obama Green Lights missile strikes on Libya

Hours after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton attended an international conference in Paris that endorsed military action against Gaddafi, the coalition attacked.

At a news conference in Paris, Clinton said Gaddafi had left the world no choice but to intervene urgently and forcefully to protect further loss of civilian life, and that the world has every reason to fear that, left unchecked, Gaddafi would commit unspeakable atrocities.

Clinton said there was no evidence that Gaddafi's forces were respecting an alleged ceasefire they proclaimed and the time for action was now.


"Our assessment is that the aggressive action by Gaddafi's forces continues in many parts of the country," she said. "We have seen no real effort on the part of the Gaddafi forces to abide by a ceasefire."

President Barack Obama approved the US missile strikes on Libya in a mission code named "Operation Dawn," while warning Muammar Gaddafi that "actions have consequences"

"Today, I authorised the armed forces of the United States to begin a limited military action in Libya," President Obama said.

Pentagon officials then said US and British warships and submarines fired 110 Tomahawk cruise missiles at Libya's air defence systems in what will be the first phase of military action against Libya to impose the UN-mandated no-fly zone.

Western forces hit targets along the Libyan coast on Saturday, using strikes from air and sea to force Muammar Gaddafi's troops to cease fire and end attacks on civilians. French planes fired the first shots in what is the biggest international military intervention in the Arab world since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, destroying tanks and armoured vehicles in the region of the rebels' eastern stronghold, Benghazi.
Hours later, U.S. and British warships and submarines launched 110 Tomahawk missiles against air defences around the capital Tripoli and the western city of Misrata, which has been besieged by Gaddafi's forces, U.S. military officials said.

The US president stressed, however, that the operation would not expand into US boots on the ground in Libya.

"I want the American people to know that the use of force is not our first choice, and it's not a choice that I make lightly,"..."But we cannot stand idly by when a tyrant tells his people that there will be no mercy, and when his forces step up their assault on cities like Benghazi and Misrata where innocent men and women face brutality and death at the hands of their own government."

The President then went on to say U.S. troops were acting in support of allies, who would lead the enforcement of a no-fly zone to stop Gaddafi's attacks on rebels. "As I said yesterday, we will not, I repeat, we will not deploy any U.S. troops on the ground," said President Obama.

The Pentagon said the barrage of Tomahawk cruise missiles struck more than 20 targets, including surface-to-air sites, early warning sites, and communications facilities. The first missile struck at 1900 GMT following air strikes carried out earlier by French warplanes.

Among the US Navy ships in the Mediterranean were two guided-missile destroyers, the USS Barry and USS Stout, as well as two amphibious warships, the USS Kearsarge and USS Ponce, and a command-and-control ship, the USS Mount Whitney. The submarine USS Providence was also in the Mediterranean.


Responding to the attack Gaddafi says will arm civilians to defend Libya

"It is now necessary to open the stores and arm all the masses with all types of weapons to defend the independence, unity and honour of Libya," Gaddafi said in an audio message broadcast on state television just hours after the strikes began.

He then went on to say that Libya would exercise its right to self defence under article 51 of the United Nations charter, adding the Mediterranean and North Africa were now a battleground.

"Unfortunately, due to this marine and air targets, whether military or civilian, will be exposed to real danger in the Mediterranean, since the area of the Mediterranean and North Africa has become a battleground because of this blatant military aggression" and called the attack "mad behaviour".

Gaddafi then called on Arab, Islamic, African, Latin American and Asian countries to "stand by the heroic Libyan people to confront this aggression, which will only increase the Libyan people's strength, firmness and unity."

Gaddafi had previously warned France, Britain and the United States that they will regret interfering in his country's affairs, following a UN resolution that allowed the use of force to protect civilians from advancing pro-Gaddafi forces.

The U.N. Security Council passed a resolution authorizing a no-fly zone over Libya and the use of "all necessary measures"; which is diplomatic wording for military action, to protect civilians.

Reports on Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya did not give a source or give details, but said Libya seeks a meeting of U.S. Security Council

Libyan state TV reported that Muammar Gaddafi said the U.N. Security Council had a responsibility to halt the aggression against Libya but reported nothing on the prospect of a meeting.

Leaders meeting in Paris announced the start of military intervention after Gaddafi's troops pushed into the outskirts of Benghazi in spite of a U.N. resolution passed on Thursday calling for an end to attacks on civilians.

"Those taking part agreed to put in place all necessary means, especially military, to enforce the decisions of the United Nations Security Council," French President Nicolas Sarkozy said after the meeting of Western and Arab leaders.
"Colonel Gaddafi has made this happen," British Prime Minister David Cameron told reporters after the meeting. "We cannot allow the slaughter of civilians to continue."

Some analysts have questioned the strategy for the military intervention, fearing western forces might be sucked into a long civil war despite a U.S. insistence -- repeated on Saturday -- that it has no plans to send ground troops into Libya.

"It's going to be far less straightforward if Gaddafi starts to move troops into the cities which is what he has been trying to do for the past 24 hours," said Marko Papic at the STRATFOR global intelligence group.
"Once he does that it becomes a little bit more of an urban combat environment and at that point it's going to be difficult to use air power from 15,000 feet to neutralise that."

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper suggested that outside powers hoped their intervention would be enough to turn the tide against Gaddafi and allow Libyans to force him out.

"It is our belief that if Mr. Gaddafi loses the capacity to enforce his will through vastly superior armed forces, he simply will not be able to sustain his grip on the country."


Hundreds of cars full of refugees are fleeing Benghazi towards the Egyptian border after the city came under bombardment overnight.




Related Article: Libya attacked by French fighters


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