Thursday, May 05, 2011

Aid To Libyan Rebels: Should The U.S. Do More?

Since the Libyan crisis began, the United States has seized $30 billion in assets from Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi. The authoritarian ruler refuses to step down from power and continues to resist the Libyan rebel forces, backed predominantly by NATO. As a result, the United States plans to to help the Libyans in rebel controlled areas by releasing these assets to them.

NATO officials along with many Arab countries and international organizations said they would come together to create a special fund for humanitarian and other financial assistance to flow into the rebel areas. This is being done despite the UN sanctions that apply to Colonel Qaddafi's government. Kuwait has pledged a total of $180 million to this fund, while Qatar also said it would contribute between $400 and $500 million.

The rebel political and military forces are loosely organized and would not have the necessary resources to confront Qaddafi if they were not backed by NATO and these other international organizations. Washington has pledged $53 million in humanitarian aid along with $25 million in non-lethal assistance, but this is a great deal less than that of even Kuwait and Qatar.

Italy, France and Qatar have all formally recognized the rebel opposition in Libya and on Thursday, Mr. Franco Frattini, the Italian foreign minister, called on other countries to do so as well. The crisis in Libya is not a civil war stated the Frattini, "Rather it could be defined as the Libyan people's resistance to the aggression of Qaddafi's personal army" and authoritarian, tyrannical rule.

Italy and France have proven to greatly support the rebel's in Libya, yet the United State's has already stepped back from the front line and handed off the mission completely to NATO. Also, when Libyan rebel forces requested more international assistance, Mrs. Clinton did state that she would request Congress to allow some of the frozen assets to help them. Yet, an executive order to unfreeze these assets and legislation is still required by the Treasury Department, stalling needed aid and assistance. Many European countries have even called for a clearer strategy from the U.S.

The United States economic interest in Libya is low. Egypt and the Gulf are its main focuses now, but the United States will not have chance to fix the Mideast if Libya, a divided, conflict ridden country poses as a gaping black hole in the middle. As Frattini stated, we cannot leave a "divided and insecure Libya as a playground for Qaddafi's mercenaries."

--Gabrielle Gurian