The Senate probably won't be debating the Libya war anytime soon. Top senators on both sides of the aisle are still negotiating over language for a resolution to express the Senate's view on the U.S. involvement in Libya, while the budget battle pushes the intervention to the back burner.
Congress was upset with President Barack Obama last month for committing U.S. forces to the international military intervention in Libya without seeking congressional consent or even really telling Congress about it in advance. But now, almost a month after the attack began, the appetite in the Senate for holding a full-fledged Libya debate on the floor, much less passing a resolution, just isn't there.
"I don't know if there will be time" to debate a resolution before senators leave town for a two-week recess next week, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) told The Cable in an interview on Tuesday.
Kerry said he was still working on a resolution with Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) that expresses support for Obama's policy and that Sen. Carl Levin (D-MA) has also had input. But the three of them just can't seem to get together on the final language.
"We've got the language resolved except for two words," Kerry said. He didn't say what those two words are, but several senate sources mentioned "regime change."
Regime change was the focus of the draft resolution circulated by Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) last week. Cornyn's draft is the marker inside the GOP caucus -- but because it outwardly calls for regime change in Libya, it goes farther than the White House's policy and therefore can't be signed onto by the administration's top supporters on Libya, which include Levin and Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL).
Like Cornyn, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) also wants the Senate to officially endorse regime change, a step Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) adamantly opposes.
We're told by multiple GOP senate aides that ultimately, a majority of the GOP caucus could go along with removing the phrase "regime change" from the resolution, but there's still no consensus. Meanwhile, there are also several senators who are just flat out opposed to the Libya war, including Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY) and SFRC ranking Republican Richard Lugar (R-IN).
In a Tuesday interview, Lugar told The Cable that he still had not received any clarity from the administration on the objectives, goals, or costs of the Libya war, which he said is just as important as resolving the issue of congressional authorization for the war.
"There's been no plan, no metrics for success, no budget as to how much will be spent during the conflict nor post conflict," Lugar said. "I think these are all important things and we'll continue to call for it."
The Senate voted late Tuesday afternoon to delay any debate on the Libya war until after the ongoing budget debate. And if the government shuts down on Friday, that debate could be delayed much longer.
Freshman Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) forced the Senate to take a vote on his non-binding amendment expressing the Senate's opposition to the Obama administration's decision to go to war in Libya. But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) didn't want a Libya debate to halt progress on the small business bill that was on the floor, so he convened a vote to table the Ryan amendment. Reid's vote to table the amendment passed overwhelmingly, 90-10. Ten GOP senators actually voted against delaying a vote on Paul amendment, signaling that they are firmly opposed to the president's Libya policy or at least want the debate to happen now.
In an exclusive interview with The Cable, Paul said that he considered the vote to table his amendment as tantamount to a vote on the war itself.
"It's exactly the same thing," said Paul. "It's either you want to consider it or you don't want to consider it. Obviously if you vote to table it you disagree with the resolution. The implication isn't very subtle. We won't get a direct vote because [the Senate leaders] don't want to take the vote, so you get an indirect vote."
Paul's amendment essentially calls on senators to approve or disapprove then-candidate Obama's 2007 statement to the Boston Globe, in which he asserted, "The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation."
"It embarrasses [Senate leaders] because it uses the president's exact language," Paul said. "But it divides our caucus too. Half of our caucus believes in no limitation on war-making...and I strongly disagree with that. Either you believe there needs to be Congressional authority for war or you don't."
The ten GOP senators who voted against tabling the Paul amendment were Susan Collins (R-ME), Jim DeMint (R-SC), John Ensign (R-NV), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Mike Lee (R-UT), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Pat Toomey (R-PA), and Paul himself.
One senior Republican who is adamantly opposed to the Libya war but did not vote for the Paul amendment was Senate Foreign Relations Committee ranking Republican Richard Lugar (R-IN). In an interview with The Cable, Lugar said that the budget debate was preventing the Senate from taking up the Libya debate.
"We're so consumed with the budget debate, whether the government is going to close down, there's almost no audience in the caucus for the time being," he said. "In terms of an effective parliamentary gesture, this is preempted for the foreseeable future."
Lugar said Paul has a good point about congressional authorization but noted that several senators, including Sens. John McCain (R-AZ), John Kerry (D-MA), and John Cornyn (R-TX), are working on ideas on how to express Congress' view on the Libya war.
Lugar said Congressional confusion about its right to authorize the war is a separate issue from lawmakers' demands that the administration present clear objectives for the Libya intervention and detail a plan for the mission going forward.
"This has been going on for weeks. We are moving along day after day spending money... everyone assumes that we know in the back of our minds that Qaddafi must go but that is not the stated objective, nor is there really any plan whatsoever as to what will be done in the aftermath," Lugar said. "Literally, the drift continues."
In an interview with The Cable, Cornyn said he agreed with the plan to delay the Senate Libya debate for now because the Senate needed to move on more pressing business.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told The Cable in an interview that the Libya resolution was discussed at the GOP caucus lunch meeting on Tuesday, but there were still several ideas being tossed around.
"The worst thing would be if we take up a resolution and it fails," Graham said, adding that he wants the final language to explicitly call for regime change in Libya. "We're going to have to sit down and see where our Democratic colleagues are at."
The State Department wants to shift resources toward supporting civil society development in Tunisia, but the top senator on the Foreign Relations Committee is refusing to allow State to transfer money away from an education program in the Middle East for that purpose.
In the wake of the democratic revolutions sweeping the region, the State Department is rapidly trying to reevaluate its approach to Middle East democracy promotion. But without a budget for fiscal 2011, and with no idea of what awaits their budget in fiscal 2012, State is being forced to move money around to speed funds to the Arab countries that are trying to make the difficult transition to democracy.
Three weeks ago, the State Department's Middle East Partnership Initiative sent Congress what's known as a "congressional notification," requesting permission to shift $29 million in funds from other programs in the region. State wants to shift $20 million to democracy promotion efforts in Tunisia and around the region. Another $7 million would go supporting rule of law and political development programs in the Middle East. $1 million would go to youth councils in Yemen.
In order to fund these initiatives, $10 million would be taken away from the "Tomorrow's Leaders" program, which provides scholarships for Arab youth to attend college at three U.S.-accredited universities in the Middle East.
Three powerful GOP congressional offices initially objected to State taking the funds away from the "Tomorrow's Leaders" program. The lawmakers holding up the money were House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), House Appropriations State and Foreign Ops Chairwoman Kay Granger (R-TX), and Senate Foreign Relations Committee ranking Republican Richard Lugar (R-IN).
The Cable confirmed on April 1 that the three committee members had placed "informational holds" on the reprogramming request. That means they sent additional questions back to State about why the money was being taken from the universities, whether State had tried to find the money elsewhere, and whether another source of the money could be found.
On April 4, Ros-Lehtinen and Granger's office told The Cable that they had lifted their holds, but still thought the State Department's request lacked detail.
"State's original justification for the reprogramming was vague, and additional information was requested," said Ros-Lehtinen spokesman Brad Goehner. "As soon as the information was provided, Chairman Ros-Lehtinen authorized the funds to go through."
"We had some outstanding questions about how the State Department was making its reprogramming decision and we now feel those questions have been addressed," a Granger aide told The Cable.
That leaves Lugar's office as the only one keeping the funds from being disbursed. Lugar spokesman Mark Helmke told The Cable that Lugar is unhappy with how State is dealing with the overall regional response, not just this specific reprogramming request.
"Senator Lugar continues to have a number of questions about the administration's strategy for the upheavals across North Africa and the greater Middle East," said Helmke. "Lugar is concerned the administration is just reacting to events without a plan on where we are going. Democracy building in Tunisia is a good thing. But so are scholarships. How does this re-programming affect other projects in Egypt and elsewhere? The lack of a clear end game strategy for Libya, and the refusal to gain congressional authority, only add to Lugar's concerns."
A Lugar committee staffer told The Cable that Lugar would allow State to move enough money to fund the Tunisia program, but not all the programs in the request. Lugar will also not allow, for now, State to take the money from the educational program.
"We are doing due diligence on this, it's pretty routine, making sure they are not robbing Peter to pay Paul, or rushing money out the door without a solid plan," the staffer said. "If [the educational program] is the only place to find money to respond to Tunisia, or to the many urgent needs in the Middle East and North Africa, the [State] Department should make that case."
The three universities that run the Tomorrow's Leaders program are the American University in Cairo, the American University in Beirut, and the Lebanese American University.
The American University of Beirut (AUB) is represented in Washington by William Hoffman, a registered lobbyist for the university who has been in contact with these GOP offices to make the case for defending the funds. According to the website Opensecrets.org, Hoffman's firm Gryphon International was paid $144,000 by AUB in 2010 and has been working for the university, its only client, for several years.
In an interview with The Cable, Hoffman confirmed he had been in contact with both Lugar and Granger's office recently to make the case for the education money.
"The issue is how do we best promote democracy building and sustainable economic development in the Arab world. People with very good intentions can disagree about the best way to do that, but it's certainly my feeling that you can hardly do better than to provide American-style education," Hoffman said. "There is a tendency in government to look at short- term, rather than long-term goals and in some cases that can be a mistake."
President Barack Obama and Israeli President Shimon Peres discussed how the Israeli-Palestinian peace process fits into the wave of democratization sweeping through the Arab world during a working lunch and then a 40 minute one-on-one meeting on Tuesday..
"We had an extensive discussion about what's happened in the Middle East," Obama said at a press conference after the meetings. "I think he and I both share a belief that this is both a challenge and an opportunity; that with the winds of change blowing through the Arab world, it's more urgent than ever that we try to seize the opportunity to create a peaceful solution between the Palestinians and the Israelis."
At the working lunch, Obama was joined by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, NSC Chief of Staff Brooke Anderson, NSC Senior Director Dennis Ross, incoming U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro, Special Envoy for Middle East Peace George Mitchell, and NSC Senior Director Puneet Talwar.
Both presidents expressed the opinion that bringing the Arab-Israeli conflict to a resolution would help the United States and Israel support democratic change in the Middle East.
"We see it as a clash between generations, a clash between those who want democracy and those who want to go backwards," an Israel official who was present at the lunch told The Cable. "One of the ways to make sure the right side wins is if there could be progress in the peace process."
The most immediate issue for Israel how to set good relations with the next government in Egypt. Obama said the two presidents discussed ways for both countries to support Egypt's economic development as a means of supporting the Egyptian youth. Peres believes restarting the Israeli-Palestinian peace process would also help Israel navigate its changing relationship with Egypt.
"Peres' message is that Palestinians and Israel now have a common interest to get to negotiations, because both sides want Egypt to continue to support the peace process," the Israel official said.
But Obama, following the breakdown of the direct negotiations he and Clinton worked so hard to push forward in 2010, warned Peres that he would only try again if he first saw increased commitment from both parties.
"Obama said he's willing to help, he's willing to push forward, but... he wants to see that a serious effort is being made and then he will add his weight," the official explained.
Obama and Peres also addressed the issue of Iran at their meetings. Peres noted that dealing with Iran is also a moral issue, because the Islamic Republic heads the anti-democratic camp in the region. The two presidents also agreed on continuing cooperation on missile defense against the Iranian threat and the necessity of maintaining economic sanctions on Tehran. .
According to the Israeli official, Peres told Obama that Israel is increasingly concerned about the flow of Russian strategic weaponry into the region and said that Israel wants to purchase an additional 20 F-35 fighter jets.
U.S. officials at the lunch raised the touchy issue of continued Israeli settlement building, but Peres didn't give any ground.
"Look, our policy hasn't changed," the official said, referring to Peres's position. "We have our differences with the administration but this has been our policy all along. We don't agree on everything."
Peres also asked Obama to consider clemency for convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard, and he reminded the U.S. president that he has an open invitation to visit Israel whenever he wants.
Obama acknowledged both points but gave "no sort of reply one way or the other," the official said.
The U.S. Treasury Department announced on Monday that it was lifting sanctions against Musa Kusa, the former Libyan foreign minister who defected from Libyan leader Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi's regime and fled to London last week.
Kusa was sanctioned as part of Executive Order 13566, which included the freezing of all assets belonging to senior Libyan government officials. Since Kusa is no longer a senior Libyan government official, his name will be immediately taken off the Treasury's Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) List and his funds in international banks will now be unfrozen, the Treasury Department said on Monday.
A White House spokesman quickly sent the Treasury Department's release to reporters. David Cohen, acting undersecretary for terrorism and financial crimes, wrote on Monday that Kusa's defection showed that sanctions can work, although he didn't directly claim that Kusa made his decision based on the sanctions alone.
"One of the intended purposes of sanctions against senior officials in the Libyan government was to motivate individuals within the Qaddafi regime to make the right decision and disassociate themselves from Qaddafi and his government. And today's announcement shows the ability of sanctions to advance our national security and foreign policy goals and objectives," wrote Cohen.
"Sanctions are a powerful tool that we have at our disposal to apply pressure against individuals to influence their decision-making calculus ... Koussa's defection and the subsequent lifting of sanctions against him should encourage others within the Libyan government to make similar decisions to abandon the Qadhafi regime."
Thirteen Libyan government officials remain on the SDN list and more sanctions are on the way, Cohen added.
Since the Libyan crisis began, Kusa has been a major target of the U.S. government due to both his proximity to Qaddafi as a trusted advisor, and his close connections to officials in foreign countries. He was the main interlocutor between the Qaddafi regime and the State Department for weeks at the beginning of the Libyan uprising and often spoke on the phone with Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs Jeffrey Feltman.
The defections are crucial to the White House's strategy of ousting Qaddafi, as it seeks to scale down the U.S. military role in the Libyan intervention.
Last week, President Obama told ABC News, "I think what we're seeing is that the circle around Qaddafi understands that the noose is tightening, that their days are probably numbered, and they are going to have to think through what their next steps are."
The Libyan rebels' representative in Washington, Ali Aujali, called on the United States to stay at the fore of the international effort to oust Libyan leader Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi and to give the opposition leadership weapons and access to billions in frozen Libyan assets.
"The United States is the major player in this crisis. We want the administration and we want your support to keep the role of the United States alive. We want American to be involved," Aujali said at the Center for American Progress on Monday. Aujali previously served as Qaddafi's ambassador to Washington before joining the opposition in February. "For the United States to continue to be a major player in this crisis, this is very important."
He said he understood the domestic considerations in the United States, but insisted that the Obama administration still had a huge role to play in supporting the armed resistance to Qaddafi and continuing aid to Libya's civilian population.
"It will change a lot the image of the United States in the Arab and Muslim world. People will see Americans not only go because they have interests, they go to support freedom, they go to support people who are willing to die for their cause," he said. "This is a great achievement for American foreign policy."
Aujali called on the Obama administration to recognize the National Transitional Council, which is based in Benghazi, as Italy did today. He also called on the international community to give the council access to assets of the Qaddafi regime that were frozen as part of U.N. Security Council resolutions 1970 and 1973.
"If we don't have access to the money, that's a serious problem," he said.
The Libyan opposition has been in contact with the State Department and the Treasury Department to press their case for control of the funds, Aujali said. "It may just be a matter of time, but time means more killing of the Libya people, more suffering, shortages of food and water... We have to move fast if we want to save the Libyan people from this massacre."
Aujali said that he had met with several lawmakers on Capitol Hill, including Sens. John McCain (R-AZ), Joe Lieberman (I-CT), John Kerry (D-MA), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), and others.
Aujali's basic demands mirrored those in his March 31 op-ed in the Washington Post. "If you want the opposition to achieve victory on the ground then we need to help them. They need training, they need armament, they need political support."
He claimed that the Qaddafi regime is collapsing from the inside, and made clear that the Libya people will never strike any deal with Qaddafi that would keep any member of his family in power, as his son Seif al-Islam has reportedly suggested. Aujali also denied reports that there are deep divisions within the opposition.
"There is not a split among the council or among the military leadership at all," he said.
Overall, Aujali's message was that the Libyan rebels will never stop fighting until the entire Qaddafi family is gone from power and, while the no-fly zone is helpful, the international community must not stop there.
"If Qaddafi stays behind, not only will the Libyans be victimized. All of us will be victims. It is time for us now to get rid of this man. It's time for us to give Libyans a chance to rule themselves," he said. "The Libyans have the right to dream. And they are prepared to die."
On this blog, we occasionally give Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) some attention when he veers into the realm of foreign policy -- such as when he repeatedly called Russia the Soviet Union or when he declared that the New START debate shouldn't brush up against Christmas vacation.
But this week, when we asked DeMint for his views on what American should do in response to rising unrest and increasing government violence in Syria, he gave a sharp, salient, one-line response.
"There's a difference between what we should do in Syria and what we can do," DeMint told The Cable.
Responding to reports President Barack Obama secretly authorized covert action to support the Libyan rebels, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee said that actually arming the Libyan rebels would require his approval and he hasn't given it.
Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI) said in a late Wednesday interview that the Obama administration's top national security officials were deeply split on whether arming the rebels was a good idea. In a classified briefing Wednesday with lawmakers, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen, and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, Rogers said it was clear that there were deep divisions between the cabinet officials regarding the wisdom of arming the rebels.
"I've never seen an uneasiness amongst their national security cabinet members as I have seen on this. It's kind of odd," said Rogers. He declined to say which cabinet members were supporting arming the rebels and which were opposed, but he said it was obvious that they disagreed.
"Everything from body language to the way they are addressing members of Congress, it's very clear that there's lots of tension inside that Cabinet right now. This to me is why it's so important for the president to lead on this," said Rogers. "I think [Obama's] reluctant on this, at best. And there are differences of opinion and you can tell that something just isn't right there."
Rogers wouldn't confirm or deny the report that Obama issued what's known as a "presidential finding" authorizing the intelligence community to begin broadly supporting the Libyan rebels, because such findings are sensitive and classified. But he said that if Obama wanted to arm the rebels, the president would need Rogers' support, which he doesn't yet have.
"Any covert action that happens would have to get the sign off of the intelligence chairmen, by statute. You won't get a sign off from me," Rogers said referring to National Security Act 47. "I still think arming the rebels is a horrible idea. We don't know who they are, we only know who they are against but we don't really who they are for. We don't have a good picture of who's really in charge."
Rogers said that the issues of providing covert support and actually arming the rebels are separate issues.
"There is a public debate about arming the rebels... that somehow got intertwined and it probably shouldn't have."
But Rogers has no objections to putting CIA operatives on the ground to gather information on who the rebels are. National Journal reported late Wednesday that about a dozen CIA officers are now on the ground in Libya doing just that.
"That should be happening anyway, through public means, through intelligence, all of that should be happening," he said. "The agencies are by statute and by law allowed to go overseas to collect information, that means any country."
The intelligence committees do need to be notified about major intelligence operations, either before or immediately after in exigent circumstances, a committee staffer said.
Rogers said he was concerned about al Qaeda's involvement with the Libya opposition.
"The number 3 guy in al Qaeda right now is Libyan. They have put a fair number of fighters into Iraq from Libya. So it is a place where al Qaeda is, [but] that doesn't mean this is an al Qaeda effort."
He also said that the Libyan regime, led by Col. Muammar al Qaddafi, still possesses stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction.
"The administration missed a big opportunity when they didn't talk about chemical weapons stockpiles. I've seen it personally with these eyeballs. Their biological weapons program, we think we got it all but we're not sure," said Rogers. I worry a lot about who is safeguarding that material. We believe right now it is in the hands of the regime."
"Mustard gas in the hands of bad guy, you don't have to have a large scale event to have that be an incredibly dangerous terrorist weapon. And there are other things that he has as well."
The White House issued a statement late Thursday from Press Secretary Jay Carney that the Obama administration was not arming the rebels as of now.
"No decision has been made about providing arms to the opposition or to any group in Libya. We're not ruling it out or ruling it in. We're assessing and reviewing options for all types of assistance that we could provide to the Libyan people, and have consulted directly with the opposition and our international partners about these matters," the statement read.
Libyan leader Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi could return to his role as a supporter of international terrorism if he remains in power, Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) said on Tuesday.
Levin is one of the strongest supporters of President Barack Obama's decision to intervene militarily in Libya, and has noted that he agrees with the mission limits that constrain action to protecting Libyan civilians. But when speaking to reporters on Tuesday afternoon, he acknowledged that the mission's goal is a ceasefire, which could leave Qaddafi in a position to kill citizens in areas under his control, or resume attacks in other countries. Qaddafi's regime has been implicated in a 1986 attack on a German disco and the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.
"As long as he's in power, I'm concerned that he could support acts of international terror. That's why it's important to get him out of there," Levin said. "What happens if he [bombs] an airliner? He did that before, what's to stop him from doing that again? Obviously, nothing's stopping him."
But Levin echoed Obama's argument that an expansion of the mission in Libya to topple Qaddafi or arm the rebels could crack the coalition and destroy the international agreement that both Levin and Obama saw as crucial to justify the intervention. But he was skeptical that the economic measures being implemented against Qaddafi would force him to step down.
"If he survives, then the question has to be considered if the international community takes this action again in the future," Levin said.
The question of what to do about Qaddafi will be at the top of senators' minds when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates come to Capitol Hill on Wednesday for a classified briefing on Libya, which all senators are invited to attend. On Thursday, the House and Senate are planning to hold public hearings on Libya. Clinton and Gates have been asked to testify but have not yet been confirmed.
Many senators, including Levin, will also want to know whether or not the administration supports arming the rebels. "I think there are a lot of pros and cons on that, they need to be weighed," Levin said, noting that he's still conflicted on the issue.
While the international intervention in Libya is supposed to be limited to stopping a humanitarian catastrophe in the country, Levin said that it was also having the effect of supporting the rebel advance.
"If you stop [Qaddafi's] attack on civilians you are in effect weakening his grip on power," he said.
While he said he thought Obama's Monday night address to the nation on Libya was excellent, Levin added that he doesn't yet see an "Obama doctrine" on foreign policy or military intervention.
"I think there is something that I would call the hallmarks of his policy," he said. "I don't know whether it rises to the dignity of a doctrine yet."
Levin also said he was condsidering introducing a senate resolution to express support for the Libya intervention but had not yet had a chance to speak about it with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV).
UPDATE: Tuesday afternoon the Senate Armed Services Committee announced that Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen will testify on Thursday, but not Clinton.
In his Monday evening address to the nation, President Barack Obama spelled out the justifications for military intervention in Libya and the structure of the mission going forward. But he chose not to address several lingering questions about the implementation of the policy that lawmakers and reporters have been clamoring for.
"We knew that if we waited one more day, Benghazi -- a city nearly the size of Charlotte -- could suffer a massacre that would have reverberated across the region and stained the conscience of the world," Obama said. "It was not in our national interest to let that happen. I refused to let that happen."
The president emphasized that the American role in the mission would be transitioning to a NATO lead and he made clear that military mission stops short of the goal of ousting Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi, though he reiterated that he will continue to seek Qaddafi's exit through non-military means.. NATO will take over all aspects of the mission command and control on Wednesday.
"So for those who doubted our capacity to carry out this operation, I want to be clear: the United States of America has done what we said we would do," Obama said. "That is not to say that our work is complete."
Most senior Republicans reacted to the speech by claiming there was a lack of clarity as to the objective of the mission and the timeframe. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) criticized Obama on Fox News for not clearly calling for regime change. House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) said through a spokesman that the speech "failed to provide Americans much clarity."
Obama didn't directly address the congressional uproar over his decision not to seek legislative approval or at least consult more widely before authorizing the intervention. He also didn't go into the weeds on the issues of the rules of engagement, how the international coalition identifies combatants, and whether or not the United States is going to arm the rebels.
All of the questions were on the minds of reporters at Monday afternoon's operational briefing at the Pentagon. The briefer, Director of the Joint Staff VAMD William Gourtney revealed several new details about what the coalition is actually doing in Libya to enforce U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973.
"The situation on the ground may be changing, but in the air we keep flying and in the sea we keep patrolling," Gourtney said, explaining that the rebels' recent gains haven't changed the military mission.
"We are not in direct of support of the opposition... and we are not coordinating with the opposition," Gourtney said.
But he also said that A-10 Thunderbolt and AC-130 gunship aircraft had been added to the mix of planes flying sorties over Libya. These planes are often used to provide close air support for ground troops, but Gourtney insisted they were chosen because they carry the correct munitions, not to be used for close air support.
At the same time, he admitted that the coalition had an expansive target list that includes lines of communication, command and control structures, supply lines, ammunition dumps, and storage facilities.
"Maybe it's easier to ask what you're not going after," one reporter at the briefing joked.
Gourtney said that U.S. planes were now flying less than half of the sorties, although they still fly more missions than any other single country by far. The U.S. military is also responsible for 80 percent of the refueling, 75 percent of the surveillance, and 100 percent of the electronic warfare.
These details complicated his message of the day, which is that the U.S. is removing itself as the lead player in the intervention. Gourtney also said the mission would benefit from greater contact with the rebels.
"We'd like a better understanding of the opposition," he said. "We don't have it."
President Barack Obama has touted his emphasis on multilateralism in the U.S. military intervention in Libya, but, for political, operational, and legal reasons, Obama's "coalition of the willing" is smaller than any major multilateral operation since the end of the Cold War.
The Cable compiled a chart listing all the countries that contributed at least some military assets to the five major military operations in which the United States participated in a coalition during the last 20 years: the 1991 Gulf War (32 countries participating), the 1995 Bosnia mission (24 countries), the 1999 Kosovo mission (19 countries), the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan (48 countries), and the 2003 invasion of Iraq (40 countries), at the height of the size of each coalition. As of today, only 15 countries, including the United States, have committed to providing a military contribution to the Libya war.
Experts quickly point out that all of these military interventions happened in different contexts. However, they added that the reason Obama's Libya war coalition has less international involvement than all the others was also due to his administration's behavior in the lead-up to the war, its approach to multilateralism, the speed with which it was put together, and the justifications for the war itself.
Michael O'Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said that the administration's effort to build the coalition was hampered by its stated desire to hand off the leadership of the Libya intervention to NATO.
"[I]f you [focus on the handoff], you don't deserve a lot of credit for leadership," he said. "Obama in his deference to [getting out of the lead] has not only wanted other countries to do as much as they could, he has essentially forgone his responsibility to build the coalition."
The Libya mission is, by definition, smaller in scale than Iraq or Afghanistan; and a no-fly zone doesn't require as many countries as a full-on invasion, O'Hanlon pointed out. However, the relatively few Arab countries contributing military assets could pose a problem for the mission's legitimacy.
Operation Odyssey Dawn now has three Muslim countries with actual military contributions --Qatar, Turkey, and the UAE. "The limits of Arab support are palpable and could be a growing concern in the days and weeks ahead," O'Hanlon said.
While the Libya intervention was endorsed by the Arab League, the endorsement doesn't actually require any Arab countries to contribute materially to the effort, said David Bosco, assistant professor at American University and author of FP's blog The Multilateralist.
Obama put a priority on "formal multilateralism," as opposed to "operational multilateralism," concentrating on getting international political bodies to endorse the Libya attack before he focused on getting individual countries to pledge actual military contributions, Bosco said. That's why the administration, primarily the State Department, is working the phones now to ask countries such as the UAE to chip in a few planes here and there.
"At a certain point the administration is going to have to decide whether just to say this is a coalition of willing countries," said Bosco. "That's not the end of the world."
Bosco also said Obama was practicing "a la carte multilateralism" by trumpeting the endorsement of certain regional international organizations, such as the Arab League, while dismissing the opinions of other groups, such as the African Union, which strongly opposed the intervention.
"There's a legitimacy shopping exercise that's going on here," Bosco said.
Wayne White, a former senior State Department intelligence official now with the Middle East Institute, noted that another problem with the Obama administration's efforts to build a coalition was its own apparent lack of enthusiasm about the war. It was keenly aware of the war-weary U.S. populace, concerned about the burden of its strategic commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan, and unsure how this would play out in an extremely competitive and divisive election next year, White said.
"They were profoundly conflicted internally whether to do this, let alone to lead, which is quite unique," he said.
Obama administration officials have argued that the speed of international action on Libya was much faster than any previous intervention, and that the process was driven by the need to avert a potentially imminent humanitarian disaster.
"I know that the nightly news cannot cover a humanitarian crisis that thankfully did not happen, but it is important to remember that many, many Libyans are safer today because the international community took action," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Wednesday.
Two senior administration officials held a late evening conference call with reporters Thursday night to explain how NATO agreed to take over military operations in Libya and why the U.S. and NATO leadership seem to be giving totally conflicting messages on whether NATO is taking over political control of the war as well:
Two GOP senators opened another line of criticism of President Barack Obama's approach to the Middle East on Thursday, this time calling on the administration to more strongly criticize the Syrian government for its deadly crackdown on popular demonstrations and begin engaging the Syrian opposition.
Government violence against protesters in Syria is escalating, with security forces reportedly killing 15 people on Wednesday during a raid on a mosque in the southern city of Deraa. Some reports put the night's death toll at 37 or more. The State Department put out a statement condemning the deaths and issued a 90-day travel alert on Thursday that warned Americans about the violence surrounding the protests.
"The United States is deeply troubled by violence and civilian deaths in Dara'a at the hands of security forces. We are concerned by the Syrian Government's use of violence, intimidation and arbitrary arrests in Dara'a to hinder the ability of its people to freely exercise their universal rights. We condemn these actions and extend our deepest condolences to the families and friends of those who have been injured or lost their lives. We call on the Syrian Government to exercise restraint and refrain from violence against peaceful protestors," The statement read.
But Sens. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) want to know if the Obama administration is reaching out to Syrian opposition leaders and offering them support, as it did in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya.
"The Syrian people must know that the United States stands with them against the brutal Assad regime. We can ill afford another timid embrace of a democratic uprising," the senators said in a Thursday statement. "We urge the President, Secretary Clinton and Ambassador Ford to publicly condemn the murders committed by the Assad dictatorship and to demonstrate their support for the Syrian people."
By invoking Ambassador Robert Ford, Kyl and Kirk are calling for the administration to make good on its argument that the United States needed an ambassador in Damascus to have maximum influence with the Syrian government. Kyl and others Republicans held up the Ford nomination for 10 months because they saw the appointment of any ambassador as a reward to the Syrian regime, and they wanted the administration to more clearly spell out its Syria policy.
The president used a recess appointment for Ford to circumvent the Senate confirmation process. Kyl and Kirk now want Ford to use his perch to condemn the Syrian regime's crackdown.
"Ambassador Ford should begin a sustained campaign of outreach from the U.S. Embassy in Damascus to the Syrian opposition movement," they said.
The Syrian government and the U.S. embassy in Syria have never been close: An internal report last April stated that the access of embassy officials to those inside the regime is scarce. This makes the danger for Americans in Syria even graver.
It is still unclear who has organized the demonstrations in Syria, so the Obama administration may find it difficult to engage with opposition figures, even if it wanted to.
Pressure on the administration to get tough with the Syrian regime is growing. The Washington Post printed an editorial today that called on Obama to demand an investigation into the killings in Deraa and tighten sanctions on Damascus.
"After Wednesday's massacre, Syrians are likely to feel still angrier - but they also will be watching the response of the outside world," the editorial stated. "That's why it is essential that the United States and Syria's partners in Europe act quickly to punish Mr. Assad's behavior. Verbal condemnations will not be enough."
UPDATE: Late Thursday afternoon, the office of White House Press Secretary Jay Carney put out the following strongly worded statement on the violence in Syria:
The United States strongly condemns the Syrian government’s brutal repression of demonstrations, in particular the violence and killings of civilians at the hands of security forces. We reject the use of violence under any circumstances. We are also deeply troubled by the arbitrary arrests of human rights activists and others. Those responsible for the violence must be held accountable. The United States stands for a set of universal rights, including the freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, and believes that governments must be responsive to the legitimate aspirations of their people. We call on the Syrian government to exercise restraint and respect the rights of its people and call on all citizens to exercise their rights peacefully.
Congress may hold a vote on President Barack Obama's decision to attack Libya when lawmakers return from recess next week, according to Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL).
Durbin, along with Sens. Carl Levin (D-MI) and Jack Reed (D-RI) held a conference call with reporters on Wednesday afternoon as part of the White House's damage control effort following the widespread and bipartisan criticism over of the lack of congressional consultation before the intervention in Libya, and the lack of clarity over the mission's goals.
"None of us can say with any certainty what will happen when we return, but under the War Powers Act, any senator can ask under privilege of the Senate to call this question, as to whether or not we will support these actions taken by the president," Durbin said. "I think it's consistent with our constitutional responsibility to take up that question," through a vote
Asked by The Cable how Congress plans to pay for the Libya intervention, the costs of which are approaching $1 billion, Durbin said, "I haven't heard anything on that score yet."
The War Powers Resolution of 1973, which Durbin said provides for a vote, allows the president to commit U.S. forces for 60 days without the explicit authorization of Congress, with another 30 days allowed for the withdrawal of those forces.
"The constitutional powers of the President as Commander-in-Chief to introduce United States Armed Forces into hostilities, or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances, are exercised only pursuant to a declaration of war, a specific statutory authorization, or a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces," the law states.
The law also stipulates that if both chambers of Congress pass a resolution calling for the withdrawal of U.S. forces, the president must comply. If such a resolution is introduced, it must be reported out of that chamber's foreign relations committee within 15 days. After that it automatically becomes the pending business of that chamber and must be voted on within 3 days.
"There may be some people who will try to end the [Libya] effort, if they try they won't come anywhere near success in the Senate," Levin said. "The reason I think the president will gain bipartisan support for his action is because he's proceeded in a way which is cautious, thoughtful. He has put the ducks in a row before deciding to put the United States in the lead for a short period of time."
Durbin and Levin each made one of the two arguments the White House has used for why the military intervention in Libya was justified -- that the intervention was necessary to halt a humanitarian crisis in Libya, and that it was needed to support the democratic revolution in the Arab world.
"The short term military goal had to be taken very, very quickly or there would have been a slaughter in Benghazi, which has been avoided," Levin said.
"The United States is trying to make sure our position is consistent with our national values," Durbin said.The senators also defended the White House's consultations with Congress, referring to a March 17 classified briefing at the Capitol, which occurred while the administration was already pressing for intervention at the United Nations, and a March 18 briefing at the White House, only 90 minutes before the plan to attack was announced.
The Senate will have its first chance to press the administration on the Libya war on Tuesday, when Adm. James Stavridis, commander of U.S. European Command (USEUCOM), testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee, which Levin chairs.
Levin acknowledged that while the major military operations to establish the no-fly zone may end soon, the U.S. military commitment to the overall mission is open ended. Chief of Naval Operations Gary Roughead also said Tuesday he did not know exactly what the transition of command would mean for U.S. military involvement.
"Involvement in terms of being the lead in establishing the no-fly zone will be very short. Involvement in terms of supporting the continuation of the no-fly zone I think will be ongoing," Levin said.
The U.S. military does not know when it will hand off control of the intervention in Libya to an international coalition, or whether a transfer of power will allow it to reduce its role in the war, according to the Navy's top military officer.
Adm. Gary Roughead, the Chief of Naval Operations, said that he has received no guidance on the path ahead for command and control of the no-fly zone, no-drive zone, no-sail zone, arms embargo enforcement, and any other missions currently being managed by U.S. Africom Commander Gen. Carter Ham, who is in Germany. NATO has been battling internally over whether to take command, while the French government's latest proposal is to set up a "political steering committee" made of Western and Arab foreign ministers.
Diplomatic sources told The Cable that the United States has communicated to its European partners that it wants to hand off command of the Libya war by the end of this week. But the White House hasn't said whether it supports the French plan. Meanwhile, the Navy, which is conducting the bulk of the operations, has no idea what the transfer of control will look like, or when it might take place.
"We are very mindful of the transition to another command and control lead or structure," Roughead told a meeting of the Defense Writers Group, a set of reporters who interview senior officials over greasy eggs and bacon. "There are a lot of political aspects to it.... Obviously I'm interested in the transition to a different command and control structure."
"Do you have any clarity at all on what the follow-up transition command structure is going to be?" Wired's Spencer Ackerman asked Roughead.
"They're still working that," Roughead said, adding that he doesn't believe the absence of a future command structure has a negative impact on the ongoing operations. He said previous models of international command and control don't apply.
Roughead also said there's no guarantee that U.S. military forces would be able to decrease their presence or activities when the transition takes place. In other words, the U.S. military might give up control, but still be doing most of the work.
"We have to look at what the design is going to be... and then you'll make your force structure decisions based on that," Roughead said.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton promised a quick handover of control in a Tuesday interview with ABC News.
"It will be days. Whether it's by Saturday or not depends upon the evaluation made by our military commanders along with our allies and partners," she said.
Asked who the mission will be handed over to, Clinton said, "That is still being worked out."
Clinton also left open the possibility that Libyan leader Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi could stay in power even after the military mission in Libya is complete, as President Obama did in a Tuesday interview with NBC.
"Now obviously, if we want to see a stable, peaceful, hopefully someday democratic Libya, it is highly unlikely that can be accomplished if he stays in power as he is," Clinton said.
"It may sound like I'm trying to minimize it and I'm not... when you look at the expenses of what we in the Navy incurred, given the fact that the forces were already there, those costs are sunk for me," he said. "The Growlers [U.S. navy electronic jamming warplanes] we brought in were being flown in Iraq anyway."
Following two days of intensive discussions in Brussels, NATO has agreed to support -- but not command -- operations in Libya. Meanwhile, France has proposed a high-level international "political steering committee" to actually run the war. But does the Obama administration support that idea?
"NATO has now decided to launch an operation to enforce the arms embargo against Libya," NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said in a statement from Brussels on Tuesday evening. He said U.S. Admiral James Stavridis was activating NATO ships and aircraft to "monitor, report and, if needed, interdict vessels suspected of carrying illegal arms or mercenaries."
NATO has also "completed plans to help enforce the no-fly zone" that will be brought into force "if needed, in a clearly defined manner," to support the effort to protect the Libyan people," Rasmussen said.
Rasmussen didn't say whether NATO would perform the command-and-control function of the no-fly zone, something that Turkey has objected to because the "all necessary measures" language of Security Council Resolution 1973 includes the bombing of Libya. France objected to NATO being in command of the war operations on a day-to-day basis and has now proposed a new "political steering committee," made up of foreign ministers from the United States, European, and Arab states, to oversee the war.
A French diplomat told The Cable that the details of the proposal would be worked out over the next few days. "It was always understood that there would be two stages of operations. The one that started on Saturday and a second phase in which NATO would play a role," the French diplomat said.
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé announced on Tuesday that the British are in agreement with the proposal but the French government has not said anything about the position of the Obama administration.
So is the Obama administration on board? White House spokesman Tommy Vietor did not respond to a request for comment on the French proposal. Obama spoke with Sarkozy Tuesday and "the two Presidents agreed on the means of using NATO's command structures to support the coalition," the French government said in a read out.
It's not clear how the French steering committee would be in operational control of the war, but the proposal includes that the committee would be in charge of the "strategic decisions" involving military action, the diplomat said.
If enacted, the proposal would allow President Barack Obama to fulfill his pledge to transfer leadership of the war out of American hands within "a matter of days," as he said Monday.
The French position is that the steering committee idea would allow NATO to bring its military capabilities to bear without putting an exclusively Western label on the military intervention. Qaddafi has called the campaign a "colonial crusade" by western nations.
"The only constraint is that we need to keep the Arabs involved," the French diplomat said. "In order to do that we need to use NATO capabilities and we need to [provide so that] Arab countries stay involved."
The NATO meetings on Monday were contentious. The French and German representatives reportedly stormed out of the meeting, albeit for very different reasons. France was upset at Rasmussen for openly criticizing France in the meeting and questioning their reliability as an ally. Germany is opposed to the military intervention altogether.
"We do not want to be sucked into a position of eventually seeing German soldiers fighting in Libya," Germany's foreign minister Guido Westerwelle said.
"There was confusion yesterday but we are safely now going in the right direction," the French diplomat reported.
Our sources also report that Washington has made it clear that they want to see the transfer of leadership for the Libya mission leave U.S. hands by the end of the week. Whether the Obama administration and the Defense Department are comfortable with a French led international steering committee making decisions about the actions of U.S. military forces remains to be seen.
The head of U.S. Africa Command, charged with running the operation in Libya, said that the international coalition in Libya will not help the rebels' military units, only civilians targeted by Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi's forces -- assuming they can tell the difference between the two.
"We do not provide close air support for the opposition forces. We protect civilians," Gen. Carter Ham, the top military official in charge of the operation, told reporters in a conference call on Monday. The problem is, there is no official communication with the rebel forces on the ground and there is no good way to distinguish the rebel fighters engaged against the government forces from civilians fighting to protect themselves, he said.
"Many in the opposition truly are civilians...trying to protect their civilian business, lives, and families," said Ham. "There are also those in the opposition that have armored vehicles and heavy weapons. Those parts of the opposition are no longer covered under that ‘protect civilians' clause" of the U.N. Security Council resolution that authorized military intervention.
"It's a very problematic situation," Ham admitted. "Sometimes these are situations that brief better at the headquarters than in the cockpit of an aircraft."
So how are pilots in the air supposed to tell the difference? If the opposition groups seem to be organized and fighting, the airplanes imposing the no-fly zone are instructed not to help them.
"Where they see a clear situation where civilians are threatened, they have... intervened," said Ham. "When it's unclear that it's civilians that are being attacked, the air crews are instructed to be very cautious."
"We have no authority and no mission to support the opposition forces in what they might do," he added.
What's more, the coalition forces won't attack Qaddafi's forces if they are battling rebel groups, only if they are attacking "civilians," Ham explained. If the Qaddafi forces seem to be preparing to attack civilians, they can be attacked; but if they seem to be backing away, they won't be targeted.
"What we look for, to the degree that we can, is to discern intent," said Ham. "There's no simple answer."
One thing that the coalition is clear about is that there is no mission to find or kill Qaddafi himself.
"I have no mission to attack that person, and we are not doing so. We are not seeking his whereabouts or anything like that," Ham said.
He acknowledged that the limited scope of the mission in Libya could result in a stalemate, which would achieve the objective of protecting civilians but allow Qaddafi to remain in power.
"I have a very discreet military mission, so I could see accomplishing the military mission and the current leader would remain the current leader," Ham said. "I don't think anyone would say that is ideal."
He said the United States was looking to transfer leadership of the mission to an international organization or structure within a few days. U.S. planes flew about half of the 60 sorties above Libyan airspace on Sunday and are expected to fly less than half of the sorties Monday.
The attack on one of Qaddafi's compounds over the weekend targeted a command and control building inside the compound, and did not represent a widening of the mission to attack Qaddafi's core military infrastructure, Ham said.
President Obama laid out the rationale for military action against Libya Friday afternoon, arguing that the coming attacks would be limited to protecting the Libyan people and preventing the violence there from destabilizing the region.
Obama repeatedly emphasized that the military intervention will be led by Europe and the Arab states, based on the U.N. Security Council resolution passed 10-0 Thursday evening.
"Muammar Qaddafi has a choice," Obama said. "The resolution that passed lays out very clear conditions that must be met. The United States, the United Kingdom, France and Arab states agree that a cease-fire must be implemented immediately. That means all attacks against civilians must stop. Qaddafi must stop his troops from advancing on Benghazi; pull them back from Adjadbiya, Misrata and Zawiya; and establish water, electricity and gas supplies to all areas. Humanitarian assistance must be allowed to reach the people of Libya."
"Let me be clear, these terms are not negotiable. These terms are not subject to negotiation. If Qaddafi does not comply with the resolution, the international community will impose consequences, and the resolution will be enforced through military action," Obama said.
Many in Washington have called for Obama to spell out exactly why military intervention in Libya is related to U.S. core national interests, including Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN), who came out against attacking Libya Thursday. Obama directly addressed this point in his remarks.
"Now, here's why this matters to us," he said. "Left unchecked, we have every reason to believe that Qaddafi would commit atrocities against his people. Many thousands could die. A humanitarian crisis would ensue. The entire region could be destabilized, endangering many of our allies and partners. The calls of the Libyan people for help would go unanswered. The democratic values that we stand for would be overrun. Moreover, the words of the international community would be rendered hollow."
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will travel to Paris on Saturday to meet with her European and Arab counterparts to coordinate enforcement of the resolution, Obama said. The resolution also strengthens the arms embargo on the Libyan regime. British, French, and Arab League leaders have agreed to take the leadership role in enforcing the resolution, Obama added.
The military action will explicitly not be used to drive Qaddafi from power, the president said.
"The United States is not going to deploy ground troops into Libya, and we are not going to use force to go beyond a well-defined goal, specifically the protection of civilians in Libya," said Obama.
In remarks Friday morning, Clinton indicated that more may have to be done beyond the no-fly zone and no-drive zone currently being set up over Libya. "While this resolution is an important step, it is only that -- an important step. We and our partners will continue to explore the most effective measures to end this crisis," she said.
Qaddafi's foreign minister Musa Kusa Friday declared a cease fire and a halt to all military operations, but Clinton rejected that declaration. "We are going to be not responsive or impressed by words. We would have to see actions on the ground. And that is not yet at all clear," she said.
At the start of this week, the consensus around Washington was that military action against Libya was not in the cards. However, in the last several days, the White House completely altered its stance and successfully pushed for the authorization for military intervention against Libyan leader Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi. What changed?
The key decision was made by President Barack Obama himself at a Tuesday evening senior-level meeting at the White House, which was described by two administration officials as "extremely contentious." Inside that meeting, officials presented arguments both for and against attacking Libya. Obama ultimately sided with the interventionists. His overall thinking was described to a group of experts who had been called to the White House to discuss the crisis in Libya only days earlier.
"This is the greatest opportunity to realign our interests and our values," a senior administration official said at the meeting, telling the experts this sentence came from Obama himself. The president was referring to the broader change going on in the Middle East and the need to rebalance U.S. foreign policy toward a greater focus on democracy and human rights.
But Obama's stance in Libya differs significantly from his strategy regarding the other Arab revolutions. In Egypt and Tunisia, Obama chose to rebalance the American stance gradually backing away from support for President Hosni Mubarak and Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali and allowing the popular movements to run their course. In Yemen and Bahrain, where the uprisings have turned violent, Obama has not even uttered a word in support of armed intervention - instead pressing those regimes to embrace reform on their own. But in deciding to attack Libya, Obama has charted an entirely new strategy, relying on U.S. hard power and the use of force to influence the outcome of Arab events.
"In the case of Libya, they just threw out their playbook," said Steve Clemons, the foreign policy chief at the New America Foundation. "The fact that Obama pivoted on a dime shows that the White House is flying without a strategy and that we have a reactive presidency right now and not a strategic one."
Inside the administration, senior officials were lined up on both sides. Pushing for military intervention was a group of NSC staffers including Samantha Power, NSC senior director for multilateral engagement; Gayle Smith, NSC senior director for global development; and Mike McFaul, NSC senior director for Russia. .
On the other side of the ledger were some Obama administration officials who were reportedly wary of the second- and third-degree effects of committing to a lengthy military mission in Libya. These officials included National Security Advisor Tom Donilon and Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough. Defense Secretary Robert Gates was also opposed to attacking Libya and had said as much in several public statements.
Not all of these officials were in Tuesday night's meeting.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called into the meeting over the phone, a State Department official confirmed. She was traveling in the region to get a first-hand look at how the new U.S. Middle East strategy is being received across the Arab world. Denied a visit with Egyptian youth leaders on the same day she strolled through Tahir Square, Clinton may have been concerned that the United States was losing the battle for the hearts and minds of the Arab youth at the heart of the revolution.
When Clinton met with the G8 foreign ministers on Monday, she didn't lay out whether the United States had a favored response to the unfolding crisis in Libya, leaving her European counterparts completely puzzled. She met Libyan opposition leader Mahmoud Jibril in Paris but declined to respond positively to his request for assistance. This all gave the impression that Clinton was resisting intervention. In fact, she supported intervention, State Department official said, but had to wait until the Tuesday night meeting so that she didn't get out ahead of U.S. policy.
At the end of the Tuesday night meeting, Obama gave U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice instructions to go the U.N. Security Council and push for a resolution that would give the international community authority to use force. Her instructions were to get a resolution that would give the international community broad authority to achieve Qaddafi's removal, including the use of force beyond the imposition of a no-fly zone.
Speaking before the U.N. Security Council following Thursday's 10-0 vote, Rice made the humanitarian argument that force was needed in Libya to prevent civilian suffering.
"Colonel Qaddafi and those who still stand by him continue to grossly and systematically abuse the most fundamental human rights of Libya's people," Rice said. "On March 12, the League of Arab States called on the Security Council to establish a no-fly zone and take other measures to protect civilians. Today's resolution is a powerful response to that call-and to the urgent needs on the ground."
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon also said on Thursday that the justification for the use of force was based on humanitarian grounds, and referred to the principle known as Responsibility to Protect (R2P), "a new international security and human rights norm to address the international community's failure to prevent and stop genocides, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity."
"Resolution 1973 affirms, clearly and unequivocally, the international community's determination to fulfill its responsibility to protect civilians from violence perpetrated upon them by their own government," he said.
Inside the NSC, Power, Smith, and McFaul have been trying to figure out how the administration could implement R2P and what doing so would require of the White House going forward. Donilon and McDonough are charged with keeping America's core national interests more in mind. Obama ultimately sided with Clinton and those pushing R2P -- over the objections of Donilon and Gates.
Congress was not broadly consulted on the decision to intervene in Libya, except in a Thursday afternoon classified briefing where administration officials explained the diplomatic and military plan. Rice was already deep in negotiations in New York.
Obama's Tuesday night decision to push for armed intervention was not only a defining moment in his ever-evolving foreign policy, but also may have marked the end of the alliance between Clinton and Gates -- an alliance that has successfully influenced administration foreign policy decisions dating back to the 2009 Afghanistan strategy review.
"Gates is clearly not on board with what's going on and now the Defense Department may have an entirely another war on its hands that he's not into," said Clemons. "Clinton won the bureaucratic battle to use DOD resources to achieve what's essentially the State Department's objective... and Obama let it happen."
UPDATE: A previous version of this story stated that Vice President Joseph Biden pushed for the imposition of a no fly zone in Libya. Friday afternoon, a senior White House official told The Cable that, in fact, Biden shared the same concerns of Gates, Donilon and McDonough and that those concerns have been addressed by the policy announced by the president.
Freshman Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) lashed out at the Obama administration's Libya policy on Thursday, saying that the United States looked weak and naïve in hoping that the U.N. Security Council would act to protect the Libyan people.
"The United States, quite frankly, looks weak in this endeavor, it looks unwilling to act," he said at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Thursday, highlighting that Britain, France, the Arab League, and the Libyan opposition are all calling on the United States to support stronger measures to stop Libyan leader Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi's assault on rebels and civilians.
"The president has specifically said that Qaddafi must go but has done nothing since then except for having general debates about it for a week and a half or two," Rubio said. "Congressional leadership has strongly called for a no-fly zone and nothing has happened."
The stance of Rubio, the committee's newest Republican, it exactly opposite of the committee's top Republican Richard Lugar (R-IN), who said at the same hearing that a no fly zone was not a good idea and would require a Congressional declaration of war.
Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Bill Burns emphasized that the United States was pushing for stronger action at the Security Council, with new resolution coming as early as today. He said the United States was "leading the effort," along with France and Britain, to get authorization for a number of military actions -- short of boots on the ground.
But Rubio was extremely skeptical that the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council would endorse military intervention in Libya.
"To say that we're pressing the United Nations and that's energetic action is to basically say... that the United States may feel strongly about something but we're not doing anything that the Chinese and Russians don't agree to," said Libya.
Burns said the measures would be more effective with international support.
"But Russia and China don't care about this stuff, they're never going to get involved in these things, and they don't care if Muammar Qaddafi is trying to massacre people," Rubio said. "So if Russia doesn't care and China doesn't care and we care but won't do anything about it, who's it up to, the French?"
Burns said he didn't share Rubio's assessment that the U.N. Security Council won't be able to come up with a new resolution.
"When is that resolution going to happen, after the bloodbath?" Rubio shot back.
Burns predicted a resolution could come as early as today.
But Rubio wasn't done. He asked Burns how China and Russia would respond if America shows it doesn't "have the guts" to act on behalf of opposition groups. He also asked Burns about the U.S. message to Libyan opposition fighters, who are clamoring for U.S. support while the United Nations deliberates.
"Our message to them is, ‘you guys go ahead and do this stuff and if we ever get the Russians and the Chinese to come around, we may or may not join you?'" Rubio wondered.
Rubio then pressed Burns to describe the administration's backup plan, in the event that the United Nations can't agree on a resolution.
"We have lots of ideas about what we might do, we just don't assume it's going to fail," Burns said.
"Are there any ideas you can share with us?" Rubio demanded.
"We'll continue to step up economic pressure and sanctions," Burns suggested.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's meetings in Paris with the G8 foreign ministers on Monday left her European interlocutors with more questions than answers about the Obama administration's stance on intervention in Libya.
Inside the foreign ministers' meeting, a loud and contentious debate erupted about whether to move forward with stronger action to halt Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi's campaign against the Libyan rebels and the violence being perpetrated against civilians. Britain and France argued for immediate action while Germany and Russia opposed such a move, according to two European diplomats who were briefed on the meeting.
Clinton stayed out of the fray, repeating the administration's position that all options are on the table but not specifically endorsing any particular step. She also did not voice support for stronger action in the near term, such as a no-fly zone or military aid to the rebels, both diplomats said.
"The way the U.S. acted was to let the Germans and the Russians block everything, which announced for us an alignment with the Germans as far as we are concerned," one of the diplomats told The Cable.
Clinton's unwillingness to commit the United States to a specific position led many in the room to wonder exactly where the administration stood on the situation in Libya.
"Frankly we are just completely puzzled," the diplomat said. "We are wondering if this is a priority for the United States."
On the same day, Clinton had a short meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, in which Sarkozy pressed Clinton to come out more forcefully in favor of action in Libya. She declined Sarkozy's request, according to a government source familiar with the meeting.
Sarkozy told Clinton that "we need action now" and she responded to him, "there are difficulties," the source said, explaining that Clinton was referring to China and Russia's opposition to intervention at the United Nations. Sarkozy replied that the United States should at least try to overcome the difficulties by leading a strong push at the U.N., but Clinton simply repeated, "There are difficulties."
One diplomat, who supports stronger action in Libya, contended that the United States' lack of clarity on this issue is only strengthening those who oppose action.
"The risk we run is to look weak because we've asked him to leave and we aren't taking any action to support our rhetoric and that has consequences on the ground and in the region," said the European diplomat.
British and French frustration with the lack of international will to intervene in Libya is growing. British Prime Minister David Cameron said on Tuesday that Arab sentiment was, "if you don't show your support for the Libyan people and for democracy at this time, you are saying you will intervene only when it's about your security, but you won't help when it's about our democracy."
France sent letters on Wednesday to all the members of the U.N. Security Council, which is discussing a Lebanon-sponsored resolution to implement a no-fly zone, calling on them to support the resolution, as has been requested by the Arab League.
"Together, we can save the martyred people of Libya. It is now a matter of days, if not hours. The worst would be that the appeal of the League of the Arab States and the Security Council decisions be overruled by the force of arms," the letter stated.
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe wrote on his blog, "It is not enough to proclaim, as did almost all of the major democracies that ‘Qaddafi must go.' We must give ourselves the means to effectively assist those who took up arms against his dictatorship."
In an interview with the BBC on Wednesday in Cairo, Clinton pointed to the U.N. Security Council as the proper venue for any decision to be made and she pushed back at the contention by the British and the French that the U.S. was dragging its feet.
"I don't think that is fair. I think, based on my conversations in Paris with the G-8 ministers, which, of course, included those two countries, I think we all agree that given the Arab League statement, it was time to move to the Security Council to see what was possible," Clinton said. I don't want to prejudge it because countries are still very concerned about it. And I know how anxious the British and the French and the Lebanese are, and they have taken a big step in presenting something. But we want to get something that will do what needs to be done and can be passed."
"It won't do us any good to consult, negotiate, and then have something vetoed or not have enough votes to pass it," Clinton added.
Clinton met with Libyan opposition leader Mahmoud Jibril in Paris as well, but declined to make any promises on specific actions to support the Libyan opposition.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman John Kerry (D-MA) also doubled down on his call for a no-fly zone over Libya in a speech on Wednesday at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
"The international community cannot simply watch from the sidelines as this quest for democracy is met with violence," he said. "The Arab League's call for a U.N. no-fly zone over Libya is an unprecedented signal that the old rules of impunity for autocratic leaders no longer stand... The world needs to respond immediately to avert a humanitarian disaster."
And Clinton's former top aide Anne-Marie Slaughter accused the Obama administration of prioritizing oil over the human rights of the people of Libya.
"U.S. is defining ‘vital strategic interest' in terms of oil and geography, not universal values. Wrong call that will come back to haunt us," she wrote on Wednesday on her Twitter page.
Former senior State Department official Anne-Marie Slaughter, who has emerged as one of the fiercest critics of the Obama administration's response to the crisis in Libya, today accused the U.S. government of prioritizing oil over human rights.
"U.S. is defining ‘vital strategic interest' in terms of oil and geography, not universal values. Wrong call that will come back to haunt us," she wrote on Wednesday on her Twitter page.
She didn't specifically mention Libya, but her criticism echoes what she sees as the failure of the international community to support popular revolutions in the Arab world.
The G8 foreign ministers met in Paris on Monday to discuss the crisis in Libya, but failed to agree to move forward on a no-fly zone. France and Britain pushed hard for more forceful action, Germany and Russia pushed hard against intervention, while the United States declined to take either side, according to a European official who was briefed on the meeting.
Afterward, British Prime Minister David Cameron said that Arab sentiment was, "if you don't show your support for the Libyan people and for democracy at this time, you are saying you will intervene only when it's about your security, but you won't help when it's about our democracy".
Slaughter, who had kept her personal opinions private during her approximately two years inside the Obama administration, has been increasingly vocal about her concerns regarding the U.S. government's approach to Libya ever since she left her post as the State Department's director of policy planning in January. She used one of her first tweets to call for international intervention in Libya back on Feb. 24, going further than the U.S. position on a no fly zone at the time.a
"The international community cannot stand by and watch the massacre of Libyan protesters. In Rwanda we watched. In Kosovo we acted. #Libya," she wrote.
By invoking Rwanda, Slaughter compared the situation in Libya to the 1994 bloodshed that saw 800,000 Rwandans murdered in about 100 days -- a clear case of genocide. Likewise in 1999, NATO bombed the Serbian capital of Belgrade following that government's actions in Kosovo, although a U.N. court in 2001 decided the situation did not technically constitute genocide.
Then on March 13, she penned an op-ed in the New York Times titled "Fiddling While Libya Burns," which sought to rebut various arguments against imposing a no fly zone over Libya. "President Obama says the noose is tightening around Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi. In fact, it is tightening around the Libyan rebels, as Colonel Qaddafi makes the most of the world's dithering and steadily retakes rebel-held towns," Slaughter wrote. "Any use of force must be carefully and fully debated, but that debate has now been had. It's been raging for a week, during which almost every Arab country has come on board calling for a no-flight zone and Colonel Qaddafi continues to gain ground. It is time to act."
Republican proposals for cutting the international affairs budget would harm the U.S. ability to respond to the political changes and humanitarian crises throughout the Arab world, according to two top officials dealing with the issue.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Cairo on Tuesday, becoming the highest-ranking U.S. government official to visit the region since the tide of revolutions swept across the Arab world in January. She will also visit Tunisia and meet with leaders of the Libyan opposition. One senior official from State and one from USAID who just returned from the region are warning that now is the wrong time to slash funding for diplomacy, humanitarian assistance, and refugee assistance, as House Republicans are proposing.
"We have, around the world, ongoing humanitarian responses to protracted situations, situations that are not emergency but are protracted and require our engagement, and we have emergency situations, and we have accounts for both. And it is the future funding of both of those accounts that are so seriously imperiled by some of these proposals," said Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) Eric Schwartz at a Monday press conference.
The U.S. government has sent teams to the Tunisian and Egyptian borders of Libya to asses humanitarian needs and help coordinate the response. 140,000 migrant workers have streamed across the Libyan border with Tunisia, and about 110,000 people have headed east into Egypt, Schwartz said. The United States has also chartered flights to bring these migrants back to their homes, flying workers to third countries .
"We will do what is necessary," Schwartz said, explaining that $47 million has already been devoted to the effort. He said that, for now, State will come up with the money to support urgent needs, but the GOP spending plan would cut PRM's $2 billion budget in half for the rest of fiscal 2011. The legislation "would impact both these emergency accounts which have been put to use in this crisis as well as our regular accounts which also have been put to use in this crisis," Schwartz said.
On March 12, Schwartz co-authored an op-ed in the Washington Post, in which he said that he was "deeply concerned by the prospect of U.S. humanitarian aid reductions of historic and devastating proportions."
On Capitol Hill, the negotiations about the remainder of the fiscal 2011 budget are a long way from over, and it is clear that Congress will have to pass yet another short-term extension when the current continuing resolution expires March 18. Negotiations over the fiscal 2012 budget have not yet begun.
In the meantime, several lawmakers are putting forth ideas for ways to speed some extra money to the region to support U.S. democracy promotion efforts.
Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) supports the creation of a "Middle East stability fund" that would appropriate money at the levels of the full fiscal 2011 request for Arab countries and Israel, in addition to the full year continuing resolution whenever it goes through.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman John Kerry (D-MA) proposed an $80 million enterprise fund for Egypt and Tunisia last week, which would encourage economic development and foreign investment in those countries. His idea is supported by Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT).
"These new enterprise funds will allow us to do what the people of Egypt and Tunisia are calling for - and that's to provide investment capital so their entrepreneurs and private businesses, so that their economies can stabilize, can prosper," said Kerry.
State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley is already the subject of one controversy today due to remarks he made about the treatment of alleged WikiLeaks source Bradley Manning. But Crowley is also in trouble due to a tweet he sent out this morning -- and later deleted -- comparing the situation in the Middle East to the disaster in Japan.
"We've been watching hopeful #tsunami sweep across #MiddleEast. Now seeing a tsunami of a different kind sweep across Japan," Crowley tweeted Friday morning, a State Department official confirmed to The Cable. Crowley's Twitter site no longer includes the tweet, suggesting that he deleted it after the fact. Crowley didn't immediately respond to a request from The Cable.
Multiple administration sources told The Cable that the Defense Department leadership was very upset with Crowley about both incidents.
Meanwhile, President Barack Obama was asked at his Friday press conference if he agreed with Crowley's statements at MIT on Thursday that Manning's treatment by the Defense Department was "ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid."
Obama said that he had personally asked the Pentagon if the conditions imposed on Manning were really necessary.
"They assured me that they are," Obama said. He wouldn't go into detail but added that, "some of this has to do with Private Manning's safety."
Reached by The Cable, Crowley confirmed that he did in fact make the remarks. "What I said was my personal opinion. It does not reflect an official USG policy position. I defer to the Department of Defense regarding the treatment of Bradley Manning," he said.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told a Senate committee on Thursday that he believed Libyan dictator Muammar al-Qaddafi and his regime would prevail in their struggle against opposition forces, that China and Russia pose the greatest threat to the United States, and that Iran has not restarted its nuclear weapons program.
"I just think from a standpoint of attrition that over time, I mean, this is kind of a stalemate back and forth, but I think over the longer term that the regime will prevail," Clapper said to Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) at Thursday's hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee. The comments so surprised Lieberman that he asked Clapper to confirm them.
"You said you were concerned or thought that in the long run the regime might actually prevail because of its superiority in logistics, weaponry, and the rest. Did I hear you correctly?" Lieberman said.
"Yes, sir," Clapper responded.
Both Clapper and Defense Intelligence Agency Director Ronald Burgess said they believed the opposition could not displace Qaddafi.
"He's in this for the, as he said, long haul," said Burgess. "So right now he seems to have staying power unless some other dynamic changes at this time."
Later in the hearing, when Sen. James Manchin (D-WV) asked Clapper what two countries presented the greatest "mortal threat" to the United States, Clapper said China and Russia.
Committee chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) interrupted to say he was "taken aback," and that he would have picked North Korea and Iran. Clapper said that China and Russia have the greatest capability but he could not judge their intent. "By that measure, the U.S. represents the biggest threat" to China and Russia, Levin shot back.
Clapper also said at the hearing he has high confidence in his assessment that Iran has not restarted its nuclear weapons program and the intelligence community does not know if it ever will.
After the hearing, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) called for Clapper to be fired, telling Fox News, "Three strikes and you're out." Graham was referring to Clapper's past gaffes, such as when the director of national intelligence appeared to be unaware of a London terror plot in an interview with ABC News and another gaffe when Clapper said the Muslim Brotherhood was "mostly secular."
The White House immediately went into damage control mode, with Jay Carney trying to clarify Clapper's statements and saying that President Obama has "full faith and confidence," in his ability to continue in his post.
National Security Council Tom Donilon told reporters on a conference call Thursday afternoon that Clapper was looking at a snapshot of the situation without properly considering everything the international community was doing now to isolate Qaddafi.
"A static, unidimensional analysis does not take into account steps that can be taken in cooperation with the opposition going forward here," Donilon said. "I would just caution that a dynamic in a multidimensional analysis is more appropriate in the circumstance."
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told a congressional panel on Thursday morning that the State Department is "suspending our relationship with the existing Libyan embassy" in Washington. Her announcement is only the latest episode in the saga of what is now, essentially, two competing Libyan diplomatic posts in Washington.
On one side of town is Libyan Ambassador Ali Aujali's residence, nestled in the luxurious Kalorama neighborhood where dozens of foreign envoys retire when they go home from a day's work. There was a big celebration at the residence on Feb. 25, when Aujali denounced Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi and with the help of some embassy staff replaced Libya's green Qaddafi-era flag with the red, green, and black pre-Qaddafi flag, which the Libyan opposition has adopted as its standard.
On the other side of town, behind a non-descript door marked "Libyan Liaison Office" inside the Watergate office complex, is the actual Libyan embassy -- a relic of the pre-2006 era when the United States and Libya did not have formal diplomatic relations.
Aujali claimed that the embassy was "under my control" in an interview with Foreign Policy last week. But his assistant, Katie White, told The Cable at that point that Aujali was "working from home" that week and hadn't been to the actual embassy office in a while. White said that the embassy's second in command was running the embassy office, a man named Mr. Fatih, who doesn't speak English. (The spelling of his name cannot be confirmed.)
But Fatih hasn't renounced Qaddafi, so is the embassy office still loyal to the regime? White wouldn't say. So your humble Cable guy went there today to find out.
The Libyan embassy office, which is guarded by uniformed secret service guards and armed private security, shows no indications that there has been any change in Libya whatsoever. A large picture of Qaddafi hangs on the wall in between the green regime flag and the flag of the United States. A stack of copies of Qaddafi's manifesto, known as The Green Book, sits on the table. Embassy officers file in and out, as if going about their regular business.
Eventually, an embassy staffer came past. Gracious but uncomfortable, she said that Fatih was out of the office for a few days on "personal business." Asked who was in charge of the embassy, Aujali or Fatih, she responded, "It's very confusing, even to us."
"It's like a classroom, if the professor is away the assistant is in charge," she continued, trying to explain that both Ali and Fatih were still involved in the embassy's management. But didn't the fact that one of them had rejected Qaddafi and one had not affect how the post functions? So who was in charge of the Libyan embassy and its staff?
"Honestly, I don't want to know," she said.
The State Department has only added to the confusion over who represents Libya in Washington. After Aujali denounced Qaddafi, the State Department initially transferred recognition to whoever was left at the Qaddafi-loyal embassy office.
On March 1, the same day protesters unsuccessfully struggled to physically tear down the Qaddafi flag from the embassy office, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Aujali "no longer represents Libya's interests in the United States."
Two days later, The Cable reported that the State Department had changed its mind and now considered Aujali as Libya's "chief of mission" in Washington and, as such, would deal with him directly. Libyan Foreign Minister Musa Kusa had sent the State Department a fax telling them not to deal with Aujali, but State decided to ignore the communiqué because they were not able "verify its authenticity," a State Department official told The Cable.
That explanation was viewed by the State Department press corps as being too clever by half. Couldn't State just call Musa and confirm the fax? Was there really a suspicion that the fax could have been a fake? State was able to avoid that question: Musa stopped returning their calls.
But on March 7, Crowley confirmed that Kusa had called Assistant Secretary of State Jeffrey Feltman on March 4 to talk about the situation in Libya. As for the status of the Libyan embassy in Washington, it never came up.
"Musa Kusa called to say hello, and he did not bring up the status of the ambassador. Neither did the Assistant Secretary Feltman. So our review is ongoing," Crowley said.
The "review" is an illustration of the balancing act the State Department has been playing as it tries to reach out to the Libyan opposition -- while still maintaining its relationship with the Qaddafi government.
Particularly following France's decision today to recognize the anti-Qaddafi movement as the "legitimate representative of the Libyan people," the Obama administration is under pressure to engage the opposition. Clinton will meet with Libyan opposition leaders when she travels to Egypt and Tunisia later this month.
But if the Libyan embassy in Washington is no longer able to talk to the State Department, what should they do? "We expect them to end operating as the embassy of Libya," Clinton said this morning.
What that means for Ali, Fatih, White, and all the other embassy staff caught up in this mess is just as unclear as the future of Libya itself.
Though the Obama administration hasn't yet decided whether or how to aid the Libyan opposition, the White House is working to stop the flow of mercenaries fighting for Qaddafi entering the country from countries surrounding Libya like Chad and Niger.
"We've been working to ensure there isn't a flow of people into Libya," said Samantha Power, the National Security Council's senior director for multilateral affairs, on a Wednesday conference call with non-governmental groups. The call was off the record, but a recording was provided to The Cable.
Power didn't go into detail about whether or not the administration believes that Qaddafi is still trying to import mercenaries and she didn't going into detail about what the U.S. was doing to stop the flow of people into Libya.
Power was responding to a question about what the White House was doing to make sure violence in Libya didn't spill over into other countries, such as Sudan. She responded that the White House was monitoring the flow of migrant workers as well as those who might be coming to Libya to fight in the conflict.
"There's always danger of flows in both directions that we're very much on the lookout for," she said.
There are still thousands of migrant workers trapped in Libya and non-governmental organization leaders on the call were also concerned that the flow of goods through Libya to its neighbors might also be disrupted.
Power also said that the administration was increasingly reaching out to opposition groups in Libya, with the goal of setting up reliable communications to better understand the situation on the ground.
"Our contacts with the Libya opposition are expanding," she said, but added that the opposition leaders the White House was speaking with were having problems setting up reliable ways to keep in touch.
That's complicating the administration's drive to provide assistance to civilians trying to leave Libya and also to prevent potential fighters who are trying to get in, Power said.
"We are looking at ways to make sure that message is out there but it's a very challenging problem right now," she said.
The administration has been stepping up its assistance to migrant workers who want to leave Libya, sending Assistant Secretary for Population, Refugees and Migration Eric Schwartz and USAID Assistant Administrator for Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance Nancy Lindborg to Tunisia and Egypt this week.
They are meeting with government officials, international organizations, and nongovernmental organization representatives, according to the State Department, and the American officials will have role in deciding how to disperse the $30 million that the United States has allocated for humanitarian assistance to the victims of the crisis in Libya.
Ambassador Gene Cretz, the same U.S. diplomat who was forced to leave Libya after WikiLeaks released cables signed by him referring to Qaddafi's "voluptuous" blonde nurse, met with Libyan opposition leaders in Rome and Cairo this week, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the administration's internal debate over whether to take more aggressive steps to aid the Libyan opposition continues. President Barack Obama and White House staff continue to say that all options remain on the table, while the Defense Department and the State Department continue to express logistical and legal justifications for why actions such as arming the rebels or imposing a no fly zone might not be a good idea.
On Tuesday, the White House sent out a read out of Obama's call with British Prime Minister David Cameron that maintained planning was going forward on several options for intervention in Libya.
"The President and the Prime Minister agreed to press forward with planning, including at NATO, on the full spectrum of possible responses, including surveillance, humanitarian assistance, enforcement of the arms embargo, and a no fly zone," the readout said.
Earlier that day, senior U.S. defense officials warned senators that the no-fly zone would be a full-combat operation, requiring extensive commitments of manpower and resources. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday that a no-fly zone means "you would be entering into combat operations there."
"The first element, I believe, of entering into a no-fly zone is likely combat operations on Libya. And so I think in talking about a no-fly zone, there are some precursor steps that have to be taken," said Roughead, "And then it's also the issue of what are the forces that would be used, where are they postured, what are the basing, the over-flight issues. I think all of those have to be sorted through. We've done no-fly zones before, and there is a significant infrastructure that backs them up, whether it's naval or land-based."
Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) also struck back on Tuesday at the State Department's claim that arming the Libyan opposition would be "illegal" under U.N. Security Council Resolution 1970.
"The President has consistently and correctly said that ‘all options are on the table' in Libya. If the State Department's statement today is correct, however, it means one of the most effective options to help the Libyan people has been taken off the table. We urge the Administration to clarify its position on this important issue," the senators said in a statement.
The U.S. intelligence community has been behind events throughout the Arab world for over a month and producing deficient work, the Senate's top leader on intelligence issues complained to the head of the CIA.
"Our intelligence, and I see it all, is way behind the times. It is inadequate. And this is a very serious problem," Senate Intelligence Committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) told The Cable in an interview on Tuesday.
Feinstein criticized the U.S. government's intelligence products in Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, and Libya, saying that the intelligence community has given her "nothing that we didn't read in the newspapers" since January.
"The only one where there was good intelligence was Tunisia," she said, "but really no intelligence on any of the others, whether it was Yemen, or Bahrain, or Egypt... nothing."
Feinstein said she recently raised her unhappiness over the intelligence community's work directly with CIA Director Leon Panetta, who promised to produce better information for lawmakers.
"It's going to be improved. Mr. Panetta is aware of this and is going to take action," she explained.
She attributed the shoddy work product to a lack of human intelligence assets on the ground in the Middle East as well as the intelligence community's failure to maximize the use of open source information, including social networks, which Feinstein said accounts for an increasing amount of raw intelligence.
"I'm not a big computer person but I just went up on one of these sites and all I had to do was look," Feinstein said.
Feinstein said that she has not spoken about the issue with the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.
Feinstein also joined the growing chorus of senior Democratic senators who oppose any type of military intervention in Libya, including arming rebel groups or imposing a no-fly zone.
"This is a civil war. It is not Qaddafi invading another country. I think [arming the rebels] is an act of war and particularly the no-fly zone is [an act of war]," she said.
The U.S. government shouldn't set a precedent for intervening in Arab civil wars, Feinstein said. She said that such a step could lead to more interventions by the U.S. military, which is already strained by the missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"The Saudis -- Do you put a no fly zone up there if this happens there? Bahrain -- Do you put a no-fly zone up there? We've got our hands full," she said.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman John Kerry (D-MA) has repeatedly called on the administration to work with allies to set up a no-fly zone over Libya. But Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) is also against the idea for now.
"There are a lot of questions that need to be answered before that option can be exercised," Levin told The Cable. "Not only what is the mission, what are the risks, but also who are the supporters of it. If there is no support in the Arab and Muslim world or neighboring countries, what it could result in would be a very negative outcome."
Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA), an Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committee member and former secretary of the Navy, also said on Tuesday that armed intervention in Libya on behalf of the rebels was not wise at this time.
"We all know that military commitments, however small, are easily begun and in this region particularly very difficult to end," said Webb. "I am of the opinion that it's not a good idea to give weapons and military support to people who you don't know."
The State Department believes that supplying any arms to the Libyan opposition to support its struggle against Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi would be illegal at the current time.
"It's very simple. In the U.N. Security Council resolution passed on Libya, there is an arms embargo that affects Libya, which means it's a violation for any country to provide arms to anyone in Libya," State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said on Monday.
Crowley denied reports that the United States had asked Saudi Arabia to provide weapons to the Libyan opposition, and also denied that the United States would arm opposition groups absent explicit international authorization.
Pressed by reporters to clarify whether the Obama administration had any plans to give arms to any of the rebel groups in Libya, Crowley said no.
"It would be illegal for the United States to do that," he said. "It's not a legal option."
Crowley's blanket statement seemed to go further than comments on Monday by White House spokesman Jay Carney, who said, "On the issue of … arming, providing weapons, it is one of the range of options that is being considered."
Crowley maintained that U.N. Security Council Resolution 1970, which imposed international sanctions on Libya that included an arms embargo, applied to both the Qaddafi regime and the rebel groups.
"It's not on the government of Libya: It's on Libya," he said.
Britain and France are drafting a new Security Council resolution that would authorize a no-fly zone over Libya. The United States still might support such a resolution, but U.S. Ambassador to NATO Ivo Daalder argued on Monday that a no-fly zone wouldn't likely do much to protect Libyan civilians anyway.
The United States and its international partners have been reaching out to the Libyan opposition, with some mixed results, but the State Department still has not officially withdrawn its recognition of the Qaddafi regime despite President Barack Obama's public call for him to step down.
"As we've said, we think that the Qaddafi regime, having turned its weapons on its people, has lost its legitimacy," Crowley noted. "But as I said last week, there are also legal issues involved in recognizing or de-recognizing governments."
UPDATE: Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) issued a statement Tuesday evening refuting Crowley's claim that arming the Libyan opposition is "illegal" under U.N. Security Council Resolution 1970:
Earlier today, the spokesperson of the U.S. Department of State said that, because of the arms embargo imposed by UN Security Council Resolution 1970, it would be ‘illegal' for the United States or any other country to provide military assistance to the opposition forces fighting for their survival against a brutal dictatorship in Libya. In fact, the text of the UN resolution does not impose an arms embargo on ‘Libya,' but rather on the ‘Libyan Arab Jamahiriya,' which is the self-proclaimed name of Qaddafi's regime. We believe this language should be construed narrowly in order to hold open the possibility of providing military aid to the opposition, which presumably does not consider itself part of the ‘Libyan Arab Jamahiriya.'
The President has consistently and correctly said that ‘all options are on the table' in Libya. If the State Department's statement today is correct, however, it means one of the most effective options to help the Libyan people has been taken off the table. We urge the Administration to clarify its position on this important issue.
The Obama administration has decided switch the focus of its Libya diplomacy toward dealing with Libyan representatives in Washington and New York who have decried the regime, after the Libyan government in Tripoli stopped taking its calls.
The Obama administration, and especially the State Department, had been maintaining its relationship with the government of Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi until early this week. Even when President Barack Obama imposed sanctions on Qaddafi on Feb. 25, the State Department did not break diplomatic relations.
Undersecretary of State Bill Burns and Assistant Secretary of State Jeffrey Feltman were in regular contact with Libyan Foreign Minister Musa Kusa for the first two weeks of the crisis. But as of yesterday, Kusa won't come to the phone. The State Department therefore has now decided to ignore Kusa's request, sent via fax, that the administration stop dealing with Amb. Ali Aujali, Libya's top representative in Washington, who State had announced they would no longer deal with only days ago.
The United Nations is taking a similar approach, refusing to act on Qaddafi's fax to the U.N. that it expel Libya's two top diplomats in New York, Mohamed Shalgham and Ibrahim Dabbashi.
At first, State appeared willing to honor Qaddafi's request to cut off dealings with dissident Libyan diplomats. On March 1, State Department P.J. Crowley told reporters that Aujali, who had publicly resigned his post on Feb. 22, "no longer represents Libya's interests in the United States" and that State would now deal with the charge d'affaires, who is still loyal to the regime.But yesterday, a State Department official told The Cable that Aujali is still regarded by the administration as the chief of mission at the Libyan embassy, and is now State's top interlocutor there. The official said that State is not acting on a fax it received from Kusa demanding they stop dealing with Aujali.
"We received the fax but we have not been able to verify its authenticity," the State Department official said. "Normally the fax is followed by a diplomatic note, which has not occurred."
But can't State simply verify that the fax is genuine by asking Kusa himself?
"We have tried to reach him since receipt of the fax. He is not taking calls," the State Department official said, implying that if the fax could be verified, they might honor it.
Similarly, in New York, the U.N. and the U.S. mission there have yet to act on Qaddafi and Kusa's demand that they stop dealing with Shalgham and Dabbashi, who have both disavowed the Libyan regime. Dabbashi accused Qaddafi of war crimes on Feb. 21. Shalgham, an old friend of Qaddafi's, followed suit Feb. 25 in an impassioned speech before the Security Council, where he urged the United Nations to act swiftly to save Libya.
Now several days later, Shalgham and Dabbashi are still in charge of the Libyan mission at the United Nations, and are still meeting with senior U.N. and U.S. officials. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice met with Shalgham earlier this week, according to a U.S. official based at the U.N.
The official said that Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's office had also received a fax from Kusa, but had not acted on it. Therefore, the U.S. mission still regards Shalgham and Dabbashi as Libya's credentialed representatives -- until Ban's office tells them otherwise.
"It's not entirely clear how it will play out," the U.S. official said. "It's not actually our determination whether they are the representatives to the U.N."
Farhan Haq, a spokesman for the secretary general's office, confirmed to The Cable that Ban had not acted on Kusa's request to strip Shalgham and Dabbashi of their credentials. However, he said that they were expected to be replaced and were no longer attending all U.N. meetings.
"We have formally received the request from the Government of Libya and are studying it. That's where we stand. While that happens, the existing officials remain in their current positions," he said.
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