Libya Risks 'Civil War,' Clinton Says; U.S. Weighs Options
As armed clashes escalate in Libya, the country is on the brink of a "protracted civil war," according to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. And the U.S. is considering military options such as a no-fly zone, Clinton told a House committee Tuesday morning.
Saying that all options are being considered as possible ways to stop the bloodshed, Clinton said, "We have also, with our NATO allies and with the Pentagon, begun to look at potential planning.... One of those actions that is under review is a no-fly zone," she said.
Speaking about Libya to the House Foreign Policy Committee, Clinton also said that any U.S. military role would have to be considered very carefully.
Clinton discussed some of those options when she sat for an interview with Michele Kelemen in Geneva Monday. Following is a transcript of the interview, in which Clinton says U.S. and European response to the situation includes planning that "runs across a full range of potential options."
KELEMEN: You have targeted sanctions and an arms embargo. What more did you talk about with your partners here about – specifically how to stop this bloodshed?
CLINTON : Well, we spoke at some length with our European colleagues because they have a much greater connection with Libya than we do. They have many more economic relationships. They have many more of the assets of the Gadhafi family that are being located in Europe. So they're going to be announcing their own sanctions, and I don't want to jump the gun on them. They get to do that for themselves. But I think it will further increase the pressure.
Part of what we're trying to do is to send a message to those around [Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi] that the cost is getting intolerable, that if you want to get out and end the bloodshed, you need to move now. And I think that would be a powerfully delivered message by the Europeans. And also, we are looking at all other options. The decision made by NATO at the North Atlantic Council a few days ago was to direct the military command, the supreme commander in Europe, to begin prudent planning. And that runs across a full range of potential options. So there's a lot going on.
KELEMEN : A no-fly zone?
CLINTON : Well, that's on the list of things that need to be considered. It is, in the view of some, a very cumbersome, not very effective approach. It is, in the view of others, an effort worth making. But the military planners are the ones who have to really get into the details of what assets there are, whose assets they are, what would be an appropriate mix, and the like. So it's one of the many issues that are being examined.
KELEMEN : Sanctions work on, sort of, rational people, but this is Moammar Gadhafi that we're talking about, "the mad dog of the Middle East," as President Reagan once put it. So, I mean, what's the end game with him?
CLINTON : Well, it's uncertain, which is one of the reasons why much of what we are doing now is not focused only on delivering a message to him. He has family members, he has close regime supporters, he has business supporters; they have to know there's a price to pay. The longer this goes on, the more bloodshed and violence there is, the more likely that they are going to be at risk – be at risk physically, be at risk financially, be at risk of not having a place to go. So this is a message not only directed at him – and who knows how receptive he is to it – but it is a clear, unmistakable message, but also to the remaining support system that he has.
KELEMEN : The Libyan government, such as it is, was really built around him. What are you worried about in a post-Gadhafi government or a post-Gadhafi scene?
CLINTON : Well, we're worried that there isn't any institutional support for what comes next. Unfortunately, he did a quite thorough job in destroying and discrediting all the institutions that one would expect to see in a state. Look at the difference between Egypt and Libya. The military in Egypt played a very constructive role in navigating through the protests. It is still managing a government. Gadhafi made sure he didn't have a strong military that had any respect of the people.
So we are very conscious of the uncertainty that lies beyond Gadhafi. If you look at power centers within Libya, you have mostly a tribal base for that. Somebody told me, who has studied Libya, that if you look at the opposition, there are monarchists, there are tribal leaders, there are Islamists, there are some representatives of a very small civil society. You really don't have anyone emerging. But there is an effort in the east around Benghazi to try to begin putting together what is called an executive council, and we'll be certainly along with others reaching out to them to see how we can help.
KELEMEN : Libya is by far the bloodiest of all these changes we've seen in the Middle East. What other countries are you really worried about now?
CLINTON : Well, I think that no country is immune, and each country has unique characteristics and is responding in a particular way. As I said in my speech to the Human Rights Council, we see the efforts in Jordan and Bahrain as moving in the right direction. They're trying to open a dialogue. They're trying to make reforms. There still is a lot of work to be done, but we support both the King of Bahrain and the King of Jordan. In Yemen, that was already a very fractured society, and what will happen in the future is extremely hard to predict.
One thing the United States knows is that al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula poses a threat to the region, to Europe, to us, and that's where it's headquartered, in Yemen. So we think that this is still evolving, and it's way too soon to predict what the outcomes will be.
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