The Cable

State Department: Arming Libyan opposition would be 'illegal'

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been reaching out to the Libyan opposition, with some mixed results, but the State Department still has not officially withdrawn its recognition of the Qaddafi regime despite President Barack Obama's public call for him to step down.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 Cable

State Department's training program falls short

The State Department spends over $250 million a year to train its professionals but lacks a good overall strategic plan to ensure that training is efficient and achieving the desired results, according to a new report.

The State Department lacks a comprehensive process to evaluate its training needs around the world, doesn't have overall guidance for how training should be organized and doesn't adequately measure whether or not its training is effective, the Government Accountability Office found in a report being released Tuesday, but obtained in advance by The Cable. The report is the subject of a Tuesday hearing of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce, and the District of Columbia, chaired by Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-HI).

"The events in the Middle East and North Africa over the past few months underscore the need for robust and agile State Department capabilities," Akaka will say at the hearing, according to his prepared remarks. "Iraq and Afghanistan also will continue to present complex, long-term diplomatic and development challenges. Meeting these critical challenges requires investment in professional education and training so that State Department employees have the skills needed to effectively advance U.S. foreign policy interests."

In his remarks, Akaka will praise the State Department for increasing its investments in training, but will also say that if State wants to defend this funding, more work needs to be done to justify these investments and show they are paying off.

Akaka also will also defend the State Department and USAID budgets, which were cut 16 percent from the president's fiscal 2011 request in the House's initial spending proposal for the remainder of the fiscal year.

"I believe this cut is short-sighted, and could lead to greater long-term costs. Around the world, the work of the State Department helps build more stable societies, which minimizes the potential for conflict - lowering the human and financial costs of military engagement," Akaka said. "It is essential to the Department's operations and our national security to give State the resources it needs for staffing and training."

Congress passed a two week extension of the last stopgap spending bill, which expires March 18, but these short-term temporary funding measures are damaging to agencies' ability to manage programs, according to Akaka.

"Congress must do its job to eliminate the funding uncertainty - we cannot expect Federal agencies to efficiently or effectively implement long-term strategies with short-term funding extensions," he will say.

The witnesses at the hearing's first panel will include Nancy Powell, State Department director general of the Foreign Service and director of human resources; Ruth Whiteside, director of the Foreign Service Institute; and Jess Ford, director of the GAO's international affairs and trade team.

On the second panel will be Susan Johnson, president of the American Foreign Service Association and Ronald Neumann, president of the American Academy of Diplomacy, which called for increased State Department training resources in a recent report of its own.

Freshman Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) is the new ranking Republican on the panel, replacing retired Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH), who had worked closely with Akaka. Johnson was not expected to attend the hearing and didn't have a comment on the report or the issue when contacted by The Cable.