Muammar Qaddadfi’s troops are reportedly making gains in what increasingly looks like a full-blown civil war in Libya. West of the capital, Tripoli, the battle for Zawiya continues to rage, while there are reports that pro-Qaddafi troops have made important gains in the eastern oil port of Ras Lanuf, which had fallen to the rebels.
But there’s promising movement on the diplomatic front toward international recognition of the Libyan opposition as the government of Libya, which could trump the stalemate, delegitimize Qaddafi and provide a legal basis for the United Nations to welcome a new Libyan government into the world community.
Though who’s who in the anti-Qaddafi forces isn’t clear yet, Secretary of State Clinton says that she’ll meet with the Libyan opposition during the Middle East trip from March 13–15, probably in Cairo. “We are reaching out to the opposition inside and outside of Libya. I will be meeting with some of those figures both here in the United States and when I travel next week to discuss what more the United States and others can do,” she said.
Meanwhile, NATO is meeting behind closed doors to discuss the crisis in Libya, reportedly split over whether or not to support a no-fly zone and other military measures, but NATO announced that has already begun twenty-four-hour surveillance of Libyan air space. Significantly, Russia has banned all arms sales to Libya. And France has officially recognized the Libyan rebel opposition, in the form of the Libyan National Council, and two of its representatives, Mahmoud Jibril and Ali Al-Esawi, met President Sarkozy of France in Paris. Qaddafi seems increasingly boxed in, and though he’s sending emissaries around the world and calling foreign leaders, including heads of state in Greece and South Africa, he’s not finding many friends.
Figures on the left and right are battling over interventionism in Libya, with Richard Falk arguing on Al Jazeera that it’s time for the United States to kick the intervention reflex.