Editor’s Note: The article below was originally posted at Carne Ross’s blog. For another perspective, read Robert Dreyfuss’s “Obama Administration Right on Libya, So Far.”
I am, like many, disappointed by the lack of debate about nonviolent alternatives to the situation in Libya. A no-fly zone is extremely risky venture, has no current legal basis and may backfire. Above all, imposing NFZs, as Defense Secretary Gates has said, means attacking Libya—i.e., entering a war. That means killing Libyans.
Before any violent military action is contemplated, there are other steps available to put pressure on Qadaffi’s regime to step down. These are additional to the welcome steps imposed by the UN Security Council this weekend in UNSCR 1970: ICC referral, assets freeze, travel bans, etc. Some ideas involve the military, but not force.
These are ideas for discussion, but discussion followed by deliberate action is what’s needed right now. A lot of these ideas flow from my—very mixed—experience of working on sanctions on Iraq and indeed Libya (when the UN imposed sanctions to get Libya to hand over the Lockerbie accused), as well as some recent thinking about so-called “smart sanctions.” I should add that in this debate I bow to Libyans on the ground—their views on what’s needed should be heeded very carefully.
1. Establishment of an escrow account for Libyan oil revenues: this would require further UNSC chapter VII authorization. At present, it appears that all oil revenues, including from oil produced from rebel-held areas, flows to the Libyan government. All payments should instead be paid into a UN-run escrow account, the proceeds of which would be released as soon as a representative government is established in Libya. While the account is in operation, proceeds might in the interim be used for humanitarian purposes in rebel-held areas or to aid refugees. This would be a short-term measure to exert maximum pressure on the regime. My suspicion is that governments are not discussing this for fear of the effect on oil prices (this is uppermost in US debate in particular). To deal with this problem, Saudi Arabia should be asked to make very public commitments to increase its daily production to cover any shortfall of Libyan production.
2. Listing all Libyan personnel involved in repression for sanction under SCR 1970. Paras 22-23 of this resolution encourage states to nominate individuals to whom the asset freeze and travel ban would apply. At the moment, the list is very short and comprises only prominent regime members. The UN or Security Council members should make public this encouragement to Libyans on the ground to nominate members of the security forces. Why not publish an e-mail address for such nominations or set up a wiki for Libyans to compile evidence? I realise the potential downsides of this, but the point would primarily be to act as a deterrent. There is also nothing to stop individual states declaring that those named under paras 22-23 will be subject to these measures in perpetuity. For a start, why not nominate all Libyan diplomats who have not defected for these sanctions? Why not take the names of all senior Libyan army officers and stick them on the list too?