In the backdrop of continuing violence inflicted by Libyan forces against protestors in Tripoli the United States military and its European allies were reported to be repositioning naval and air assets for “various contingency plans,” including a no-fly zone and humanitarian evacuations and assistance.
Quoting unnamed Pentagon officials the Washington Post reported on Tuesday that the “range of possibilities,” included moving two aircraft carriers in the Red Sea and Persian Gulf area and that that “U.S. and NATO forces had sufficient resources in Italy and elsewhere in the Mediterranean to take a number of actions if necessary.”
It was also reported that a U.S. destroyer had crossed through the Suez Canal over the weekend Sunday and taken up a position in the south-western Mediterranean and an amphibious assault ship, the USS Kearsarge, with helicopters aboard, was in the Red Sea and heading toward the Canal. Anonymous official sources added that the USS Ponce amphibious assault vessel was “moving toward the area.”
The strategic repositioning by Western military forces came even as top Obama administration officials refused to rule out military intervention in Libya, given the steady deterioration in the security situation in that country.
In media interviews Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, “We know that this violence must end. And if we can take action that would expedite its end, we have to consider that.”
In a speech at the Human Rights Council in Geneva over the weekend she further said, “Nothing is off the table so long as the Libyan Government continues to threaten and kill Libyans.”
Similarly in a read-out of the conversation between President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper the White House said that in addition to “tough unilateral sanctions against the Libyan government,” the leaders agreed to coordinate closely in consideration of “other options should they become necessary.”
Susan Rice, U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN said in a briefing that the UN Security Council’s unanimous adoption of Resolution 1970 implied that “a tough and binding set of sanctions” would be aimed at stopping the Libyan regime from killing its own people.
Not only would the resolution refer the situation in Libya directly to the International Criminal Court and include a travel ban and assets freeze on key Libyan leaders, she said, but it would also impose a complete arms embargo on Libya and take new steps against the use of mercenaries by the Libyan government to attack its own people.
Action against the Libyan regime by the U.S. and its allies has intensified following reports that the Qadhafi regime attempted to “direct certain actions from the air against targets on the land,” in the words of Ms. Clinton.
The Secretary suggested in a media interview that while such reports of the Libyan authorities’ use of helicopters to attack ground targets could strengthen the case for imposing a no-fly zone, the drawback of doing so was that “sometimes absolutely horrible regimes decide that that means it is [acceptable] to open fire on the ground.”