Obama, Cameron and Sarkozy: Anything Short of Regime Change in Libya Would Be ‘Unconscionable Betrayal’

April 15, 2011 - 3:48 PM

Moammar Gadhafi

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, behind bulletproof glass, watching a military parade in Tripoli, Libya, on Sept. 1, 2009. (AP photo/Ben Curtis)

(CNSNews.com) – President Barack Obama joined the leaders of Britain and France to say that it is unacceptable for Libyan dictator Col. Moammar Gadhafi to remain in power and to do so would be an “unconscionable betrayal” of the Libyan people. That goes further than the United Nations resolution for a no-fly zone that stops short of calling for regime change.

In a joint op-ed in the International Herald-Tribune, Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy recognized the U.N. resolution.

“Our duty and our mandate under U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973 is to protect civilians, and we are doing that,” Obama, Cameron and Sarkozy said in the op-ed. “It is not to remove Qaddafi by force. But it is impossible to imagine a future for Libya with Qaddafi in power.”

They went on to call for the International Criminal Court to try Gadhafi.

“It is unthinkable that someone who has tried to massacre his own people can play a part in their future government,” the three leaders said in the newspaper. “The brave citizens of those towns that have held out against forces that have been mercilessly targeting them would face a fearful vengeance if the world accepted such an arrangement. It would be an unconscionable betrayal.”

The op-ed comes as Gadhafi’s forces rolled into rebel-held territory. The assault by Gadhafi forces was the heaviest in the 50-day-old siege of Misrata — the only major remaining rebel stronghold in western Libya, according to the Associated Press. Gadhafi controls the west of the country, while the rebels hold much of the east, with the front shifting back and forth.

In the capital of Tripoli, participants in a Facebook group said snipers were deployed on rooftops in the Tajoura neighborhood and that security was tight around mosques, the AP reported.

“The regime has to pull back from the cities it is besieging, including Ajdabiya, Misurata and Zintan, and return to their barracks,” the op-ed said. “However, so long as Qaddafi is in power, NATO must maintain its operations so that civilians remain protected and the pressure on the regime builds.

“Then a genuine transition from dictatorship to an inclusive constitutional process can really begin, led by a new generation of leaders,” the op-ed continued. “In order for that transition to succeed, Qaddafi must go and go for good.

“At that point, the United Nations and its members should help the Libyan people as they rebuild where Qaddafi has destroyed — to repair homes and hospitals, to restore basic utilities, and to assist Libyans as they develop the institutions to underpin a prosperous and open society,” it added.

While it was important that the leaders made a statement together, it is not a real step beyond what the U.N. resolution called for, said Michael Rubin, a resident scholar with the American Enterprise Institute. Further, Rubin still thinks the mission lacks clarity.

“It sets us up for a huge defeat if Gadhafi remains in power,” Rubin told CNSNews.com. “My fault with Obama, and frankly my fault with Bush is that there is always a danger when there is a gap between rhetoric and reality.

“Let’s hope that the policy is going to hue close to the rhetoric and they’re not going to let this gap develop, because if they do, it’s the end of NATO. So they say they’re not going to let Gadhafi stay. Fine. Then they need a plan, step A, step B, step C on how they’re going to make sure this doesn’t happen. If they can’t express that plan, it’s a real problem,” Rubin added.

Rubin said that being too entangled with lofty mandates from the U.N. could conflict with the facts on the ground. He further believed that vowing to pledge Gadhafi for his crimes could limit the options to deposing him from power.

“The West needs to keep in mind that ICC condemnation limits the policy options from removing people from power,” Rubin said. “The question is whether there are countries he could go to where he would not be subject to the ICC that aren’t signatories to it. Normally aging dictators go to Saudi Arabia. The problem is he tried to kill the Saudi king a couple of years ago. So it’s pretty much sub-Saharan Africa or Venezuela.”