AjJazeera Live Feed (h/t Momcat) 4:45PM PST:
Early Saturday Morning:
The UN Security Council gives the go-ahead for outside military intervention in Libya, but who will lead the operation and where will be the centre of command and control? Western diplomats insist that Arab League forces must be part of the offensive. Meanwhile, the Gaddafi regime has declared an immediate ceasefire, but will words become action? Inside Story discusses.
AlJazeeraEnglish – 19 Mar 2011
[UPDATES 1,2,3,4,5,6,7 below the fold]
UPDATE 1: France fires on Libyan military vehicle
AP, about 10:30 AM PST
PARIS – A French fighter jet fired Saturday on a Libyan military vehicle, the first reported offensive action in a international military operation against Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s forces, a French defense official said.
French Defense Ministry spokesman Thierry Burkhard says the strike happened at 1645 GMT Saturday.
Burkhard says the target was confirmed as a military vehicle, but it was not clear what kind. He said no hostile fire on the French jet has been reported.
It was the first reported offensive military action against Gadhafi’s troops, since the U.N. Security Council approved a resolution on Thursday, authorizing operations to protect civilians in Libya.
France sent a dozen Mirage and Rafale jets Saturday to survey the one-time opposition stronghold of Benghazi and the 150 kilometer-by-100 kilometer no-fly zone, Burkhard said.
“All aircraft that enter into this zone could be shot down,” he said.
The strike came less than two hours after top officials from the United States, Europe and the Arab world agreed in Paris to launch a risky military operation to protect civilians from attacks by Gadhafi’s forces.
It also came after Libyan government troops forces attacked Benghazi earlier Saturday, apparently ignoring a proclaimed cease-fire.
The Club Med War
by Pepe Escobar, March 19, 2011
It would be really uplifting to imagine United Nations Security Council resolution 1973  on Thursday was voted just to support the beleaguered anti-Muammar Gaddafi movement with a no-fly zone, logistics, food, humanitarian aid and weapons. That would be the proof that the “international community” really “stands with the Libyan people in their quest for their universal human rights”, in the words of United States ambassador to the UN Susan Rice.
Yet maybe there’s more to doing the right (moral) thing. History may register that the real tipping point was this past Tuesday when, in an interview to German TV, the African king of kings made sure that Western corporations – unless they are German (because the country was against a no-fly zone) – can kiss goodbye to Libya’s energy bonanza. Gaddafi explicitly said, “We do not trust their firms, they have conspired against us … Our oil contracts are going to Russian, Chinese and Indian firms.” In other words: BRICS member countries.
It’s quite interesting that UN resolution 1973 had 10 votes in favor, zero against it, and five abstentions. These came exactly from the four BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China), plus Germany. Brazil and Germany had voiced their deep skepticism over military action for days, preferring a diplomatic solution; but in the case of Russia, India and China, other (energy) motivations may have been at play. The top four BRICS members (the other is South Africa, which voted for resolution and formally joins the expanded group in April) tend to coordinate their voting in every major decision.
Fly me to the oil
So cynics have every right to invoke the time-tested mantra: it’s the oil, stupid.
Libya is the largest oil economy in Africa, ahead of Nigeria and Algeria. It holds at least 46.5 billion barrels of proven oil reserves (10 times those of Egypt). That’s 3.5% of the global total. Libya produces between 1.4 and 1.7 million barrels of oil a day, but wants to reach 3 million barrels. Its oil is extremely prized, especially with an ultra-low cost of production of roughly $1.00 a barrel.
When Gaddafi threatened Western oil majors, he meant the show would soon be over for France’s Total, Italy’s ENI, British Petroleum (BP), Spanish Repsol, ExxonMobil, Chevron, Occidental Petroleum, Hess and Conoco Phillips – though not for the China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC). China ranks Libya as essential for its energy security. China gets 11% of Libya’s oil exports. CNPC has quietly repatriated no less than 30,000 Chinese workers (compared to 40 working for BP).
For its part Italian energy giant ENI produces over 240,000 barrels of oil a day – almost 25% of Libya’s total exports. No less than 85% of Libya’s oil is sold to European Union (EU) countries.
So a who’s who of profiteers of the – in theory – UN-sanctioned US/North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)/Arab League military operation in Libya has got to include European Union and Anglo-American Big Oil. Not to mention Wall Street – think about those billions of dollars of Libyan financial assets deposited in Western banks, and now confiscated; and of course US/EU weapons producers.
Depending on how it is implemented, and for how long Gaddafi resists, UN resolution 1973 is intimately linked to severe disruption of oil supply to the EU, especially Italy, France and Germany; and that implies all sorts of geopolitical implications, starting with the US-EU relationship. Everyone wants to be well positioned for the post-Gaddafi energy environment.
Pentagon: U.S. launches missile strike in Libya
BENGHAZI, Libya (AP) – The Pentagon says the United States has launched a missile strike on Libyan air defenses.
American warplanes, ships and submarines prepared to launch a furious assault on Libya’s limited air defenses Saturday, clearing the way for European and other planes to enforce a no-fly zone designed to ground Moammar Gadahfi’s air force and cripple his ability to inflict further violence on rebels, U.S. officials said.
Hours after Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton attended an international conference in Paris that endorsed military action against Gadhafi, the U.S. was poised to kick off its attacks on Libyan air defense missile and radar sites along the Mediterranean coast to protect no-fly zone pilots from the threat of getting shot down.
A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity in order to discuss sensitive military operations, said the Obama administration intended to limit its involvement – at least in the initial stages – to helping protect French and other air missions.
An attack against air defenses with Navy sea-launched Tomahawk cruise missiles was planned for later Saturday, one official said.
- U.S. military fire tomahawk missiles at Libyan air defences
- MoD say British submarine launches tomahawk missiles at Libyan targets
- Several loud explosions heard in Tripoli and fire seen on horizon
- David Cameron confirms British troops are in action over Libya
- 20 French planes patrolling over Libya as world leaders announce action
- Russian foreign spokesman say they ‘regret’ Western decision to take action
- French defence official says fighter has fired on Libyan military vehicle
British troops are in action over Libya tonight David Cameron confirmed, as French fighter jets opened fire on Libyan tanks.
Up to 20 French planes were said to be patrolling the air above Libya enforcing the no-fly zone and had destroyed four Libyan tanks in air strikes.
The U.S. Navy had fired tomahawk missiles at coastal Libyan air defences from their submarines, according to reports.
French Defence Ministry spokesman Thierry Burkhard said the first strike had been reported at around 4.45pm on a military vehicle.
U.S. says five-nation coalition launching Libya strikes
Reuters, Sat Mar 19, 2011 4:28pm EDT
A coalition of the United States and four other nations launched military action against Libya on Saturday, officials said, as the West tries to force Muammar Gaddafi from power.
A U.S. official told reporters on condition of anonymity that a coalition including the United States, France, Britain, Canada and Italy had begun launching strikes on Libya designed to cripple Muammar Gaddafi’s air defenses.
At least some Arab nations are expected to join the coalition later, the official said.
A second U.S. official, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said missiles were launched from a warship against Libyan targets.
U.S. forces and planes will take part in the operation, called “Odyssey Dawn,” that will mainly target air defenses around the Libyan cities of Tripoli and Misrata.
Some 25 coalition ships, including three U.S. submarines armed with Tomahawk missiles, are stationed in the Mediterranean, a military slide showed. Five U.S. surveillance planes are also in the area, it showed.
ITN World News:
Harper calls action on Libya an ‘act of war’
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (R) and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper pose wave upon their arrival on March 19, 2011, at the Elysee presidential Palace in Paris, for a summit on implementing the UN Security Council resolution 1973 authorizing military action in Libya. (PIERRE VERDY/AFP/Getty Images)
PARIS – As the international community launched aerial military missions against Libya on Saturday, [Canadian] Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the action amounts to an “act of war” that is critical to remove Moammar Gaddafi from power before he massacres any more of his own people.
Mr. Harper made the comments after an emergency summit of world leaders who had gathered to discuss how they will implement a United Nations-sanctioned no-fly zone to prevent Col. Gaddafi’s suppression of civilians.
The coalition wasted no time, with French jets becoming the first, on Saturday, to begin enforcing the no-fly zone.
It was the first step in the largest international military exercise in the Arab world since the Iraq war.