Barack Obama on Libya

Last Updated : Aug 07, 2012

Summary

President Obama's association with Libya has obviously been dominated by the Libyan uprising and the overthrow of Muammar Qaddafi. Prior to the uprising, relations with Libya were improving. Diplomatic relations were re-started in 2006 and the Obama administration cited them as a nation where relations would be improved through discussion rather than conflict.

President Obama was initially hesitant to inject the US into the Libyan uprising. In keeping with his campaign discussions on foreign policy, he spoke out against the violence in Libya but did not immediately call for the removal of the Libyan leader or dictate Libyan policies.

However, as fighting increased in Libya the Obama administration sought and recieved a resolution from the UN security council allowing for a no-fly zone. The administration also placed sanctions on the nation and began to call for the removal of Ghaddafi. Over the next few weeks, the administration enforced the no-fly zone, but also bombed targets on the ground in support of rebel forces and bombed and the house of Ghaddafi. During this same time, the President stated that Ghaddafi was not the target of the UN resolution nor the target of the no-fly zone. This bombing caused the Arab League to waiver in its support for the no-fly zone.

Although the UN Resolution expressly states that the only action to be taken was to defend civilians and a previous UN resolution prevents any nation from moving arms into Libya, the Obama administration announced that it would be providing non-lethal aid to the rebels and that it felt the wording in the resolution allowing for the defense of civilians overrode the previous resolution and allowed those rebels to be armed by outside forces if it was in the defense of civilians. It was also determined around this same time that President Obama had signed an intelligence finding to allow for CIA action in Libya.

Initially, the President was questioned as to what authority he was conducting the war in Libya. In a letter sent to Congress, the President asserted that the actions in Libya were consistent with the foreign policy powers granted to him in the Constitution.

The US's role as lead nation in Libya lasted only for a few weeks. By early April President Obama had handed the mission over to other NATO countries. However, US presence remained heavy and the US provided a great deal of refueling and intelligence support through drones. The lack of a viable threat from Libya coupled with US military presence in Libya beyond the War Powers Act prompted Congress to ask the administration to explain its actions. In response, President Obama stated in a letter that authority to conduct military actions in Libya came from the UN Security Council Resolution and since no ground forces were present, there was no need to explain the further involvement in Libya.

Pre-Revolution

When President Obama assumed office, the US's relationship with Libya was getting stronger. Diplomatic relations were restored with Libya in 2006 by President Bush. President Obama was photographed shaking hands with Muammar Qaddafi at a G-8 summit on 2009, and Secretary of State Clinton stated in a 2009 speech that Libya was a country that had altered it's behavior in response to US interaction instead of isolation. 

The Revolution

In January of 2011, protests began in Libya after spreading from Egypt and Tunisia. These protests escalated in size spread to cities around the nation. Calls began for Muammar Qaddafi to step down and allow a democratic rule to be established. When Colonel Qadaffi refused, an opposition force began to claim cities in the northeast of the country. The opposition spread westward and by February 23, the opposition claimed the port city of Misurata. When protests began in the capital of Tripoli the military fired upon the crowd. Pro-government forces began to organize and reclaim some cities around the capital. A failed attempt was made to reclaim Zawiyah.

Condemnation and Sanctions

President Obama made the first statements on February 23, 2011 - three days after the first protestors were fired on in Tripoli. He condemned the use of violence on protestors and asserted that the full range of options were on the table in addressing the Qaddafi regime. The forces loyal to Qaddafi began to push back the opposition forces and numerous cities were reclaimed. On February 25, 2011 President Obama issued an executive order imposing sanctions on Libya and the assets of Muammar Qaddafi in the US were frozen. In imposing those sanctions, President Obama asserted that by any measure, Muammar el-Qaddafi’s government has violated international norms and common decency and must be held accountable.

Suspension of Embassy

On the same day that the sanctions were imposed in Libya, the embassy in that country was shut down and all employees evacuated. The adminsitration stated that this was done in preparation for action in Libya.

Qaddafi Must Go

On March 3, President Obama stated that "Qaddafi must go" as Libyan military actions began to encompass the Libyan Air Force striking against opposition forces. This was the first time that President Obama publically called for the removal of Muammar Qaddafi from power.

UN Resolution Resolution 1973

On March 17, 2011 the UN Security Council issued resolution 1973. This resolution created a no-fly zone in Libya. It also gave permission for members to take all necessary measures, notwithstanding paragraph 9 of resolution 1970 (2011), to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in Libya. It specifically stated that no foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory. UN Resolution 1970 paragraph 9 made it illegal to send arms into the nation of Libya or to arm the Libyan government or people. The resolution therefore allowed for a no-fly zone and the protection of the Libyan people but forbid an army from going into Libya and contunued the prohibition on sending weapons into Libya.

Qaddafi Not the Objective - The US role in Libya

The day after the resolution, President Obama announced that he was going forward with sending air forces into Libya to enforce the UN resolution. In doing this, the President asserted that the US was not going to deploy ground troops into Libya and was not going to use force to go beyond a well-defined goal -- specifically, the protection of civilians in Libya. On March 20, 2011 Secretary of Defense Gates stated that Muammar Qaddafi was not the objective and that the UN resolution did not call for his removal (which was true). 

The following day, President Obama stated that the US would be lessening it's role in Libya and other UN countries would take the lead in assisting in the no-fly role. He stated that the US would be one of many partners.

Support and Arming the Rebels

Before the UN Resolution, on March 14, Secretary of State Clinton met with Libyan opposition leaders in Paris to discuss possible UN or US aid. On the 29th, the president was interviewed by CBS and stated that while the US had not decided to arm the rebels, it was not being ruled out. That same day, Secretary of State Clinton was meeting with Libyan rebel leaders and the leaders of numerous other nations. SoS Clinton also asserted that it was the view of the US that UN Resolution 1973 overrode or amended UN Resolution 1970 to allow for arming the rebels.

Intelligence Finding

On March 30, 2011 Reuters reported that President Obama had signed an intelligence finding allowing for the CIA and other entities to operate in Libya with the objectives of aiding the rebels and removing Qaddafi. 

Aid to Rebels

On April 25, 2011 President Obama ordered that $25 million in aid be sent to the Transitional National Council. The money was to go towards surplus government goods to support Libyan opposition groups and protect civilians threatened by Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi's forces. The order was issued as a memo to Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. The order required that the money be used for non-lethal commodities and services and not to give cash, weapons or ammunition to the rebels. Included in the assistance are medical supplies, uniforms, boots, tents, personal protective gear, radios and meals.  The dates below show the known release of funds taken from press statements and new articles. Not all increments in funding are know at this time.

  • February 28, 2011 - $10 million
  • March 7, 2011        - $15 million - total of $25 million
  • March 10, 2011      - $17 million - total of $47 million
  • June 9, 2011          - $26.5 million - total of $80 million
  • October 18, 2011   - $11 million - total of $135 million
  • July 20, 2012                                  - total of $170 million

The humanitarian aid to Libya is broken down into the following organizations as of June of 2011. This does not include aid to the rebels themselves. 

  • World Food Program (WFP) - $10,000,000
  • International Organization for Migration (IOM) - $27,500,000
  • International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) - $17,700,000
  • United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) - $14,500,000
  • World Health Organization (WHO) - $300,000
  • NGOs and other international organizations - $10,000,000
  • NGOs that specialize in weapons abatement - $957,607

 

Timeline

Although protests broke out all over the country, the northeastern part was the first to be claimed by opposition to Muammar Qaddafi. The protests and opposition spread west until reaching the capitol of Tripoli where Qaddafi began to use force. After that, numerous cities fell back into Qaddaffi's hands. 

  • Jan 13, 2011 - Rioting begins in Libya in response to housing issues and riots in Egypt and Tunisia
  • Feb 20, 2011 - The city of Benghazi is reported to be in opposition hands
  • Feb 20, 2011 - Pro-government forces fire on protestors in Tripoli
  • Feb 23, 2011 - Opposition groups seize control of Misurata (Misratah) 
  • Feb 23, 2011 - President Obama makes first public statement on protests, condemns violence against demonstrators
  • Feb 24, 2011 - Opposition captures Tobruk (Tubruq)
  • Feb 24, 2011 - Government soldiers kill 17 in Zawiyah
  • Feb 25, 2011 - Pro-Qaddafi forces fire on protestors in Tripoli
  • Feb 25, 2011 - Sanctions imposed on Libya, diplomatic relations ended
  • Mar 3, 2011   - President Obama states that Muammar Qaddafi must go
  • Mar 11, 2011 - Brega and Ras Lanuf bombed by Qaddafi planes
  • Mar 12, 2011 - Arab league states that it supports a no-fly zone
  • Mar 13, 2011 - City of Zuwarah attacked by pro-Qaddafi troops
  • Mar 14, 2011 - Secretary of State Clinton meets with Libyan opposition leaders in Paris
  • Mar 18, 2011 - The UN issues a no-fly zone over Libya
  • Mar 19, 2011 - President Obama authorizes military action in Libya

 

President Obama Shakes Hands with Qaddafi

In July of 2009, President Obama was photographed shaking hands with Muammar Qaddfi during the G-8 summit dinner. 

 

SOS Clinton CFR Speech

In July of 2009, Secretary of State Clinton spoke at the Council on Foreign Relations and noted Libya as an example of a country that was engaged with instead of avoided and this lead to better relations with the nations. President Bush restored diplomatic relations with the country in 2006. The full text of the speech can be seen here.

 

Full Range of Options

On February 23, 2011 President Obama spoke at a press conference about what was happening in Libya and stated that he was looking and the full range of options to respond to the crisis in Libya.

 

Libya Sanctions

On February 25, 2011 President Obama issued a press statement noting his support for sanctions on Libya.

 

Executive Order - Blocking Transactions with Libya

On February 25, of 2011, the Obama administration issued an executive order noting that any property of Libya may not be transferred or dealt.

 

Suspension of Embassy

On February 25, 2011 the White House spokesman stated at a press conference that the embassy in Tripoli was being closed and that embassy operations were being suspended.

 

Muammar Gaddafi Must Go

On March 3, 2011 President Obama stated in a press conference that Muannar Gaddafi must go. He stated that those who perpetrate violence against the Libyan people will be held accountable.

 

Diplomatic Relations with Opposition

On March 14, 2011 Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with leaders of the Libyan opposition force in Paris, France. Secretary Clinton also met with leaders of other nations to discuss the situation in Libya. A spokesman noted that the leaders met and discussed ways to assist the opposition leaders in overthrowing Muammar Gaddafi.

 

UN Resolution

On March 17, 2011 the United Nations passed Resolution 1973, which authorized a no-fly zone over Libya. The resolution demanded the immediate establishment of a ceasefire and a complete end to violence and all attacks against, and abuses of, civilians. The resolution banned the presence of an occupation force, and called for the freezing of assets of Muammar Qaddafi.

 

Reaction to UN Resolution

On March 18, 2011 President Obama spoke at a press conference and stated that the Muammar Gaddafi had lost the legitimacy to lead and expressed intentions to harm his own people even further. He noted the authorization of a no-fly zone over Libya from the UN and stated that the US would not be committing ground troops and that the US would not use force without specific goals.

 

Use of Force in Libya

On March 19, 2011 President Obama announced that he was authorizing the use of force against Libya under the authority of the UN resolution authorizing a no-fly zone. The President also wrote a letter to the Speaker of the House.

 

Muammar Qaddafi not Objective

On March 20, 2011 Secretary of Defense Robert Gates stated that the UN resolution calling for a no-fly zone did not give the US the authority to remove Muammar Qaddafi from power. He also stated that President Obama felt strongly that the US role should be limited.

 

US to Tone Down Role

On March 21, 2011 President Obama stated that the US would be one of many in a coalition of countries but that it would not have the preeminent role in the actions in Libya. The President stated that a transfer of responsibility from the US to other countries would be taking place.

 

Letter to Congress

On March 21, 2012 President Obama sent a letter to Congress informing them of the actions he was taking in Libya and explaining that authority to conduct these actions was granted to him as part of his foreign policy powers as President.

 

Policy Speech - Role in Libya

On March 28, 2011 President Obama gave a major address to bring the American people up to date with the events in Libya and what the role of the US would be in the future. In the transcript, he asserted that America's role in that nation was not complete, but that we were meeting our obligations in Libya. 

 

Not Ruling Out Arming Rebels

The day after the policy speech, President Obama was interviewed by CBS. He stated in that interview that while he was not going forward with arming the rebels, he was not ruling it out either. He also stated that the people around Qaddafi would soon begin to see that his time was limited and begin to turn against him.

 

UN Resolution Provides Authority

That same day that President Obama stated that arming the rebels was not out of the question, Secretary of State Clinton was at a meeting in London with a leader of the rebel group from Libya and numerous other nations. She stated that in the US's interpretation that the UN Resolution gave the US the right to arm the rebels.

 

Intelligence Finding

On March 30, 2011 Reuters reported that President Obama had signed an intelligence finding on Libya. This finding authorized the CIA to work covertly in Libya towards the goal of assisting the rebels in removing Muammar Qaddafi. It is not known exactly when he signed that order or what it authorized the CIA to do.

 

Financial Aid for Rebels

On April 25, 2011 President Obama ordered that $25 million in aid be sent to the Transitional National Council. The money was to go towards surplus government goods to support Libyan opposition groups and protect civilians threatened by Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi's forces. The order was issued as a memo to Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. The order required that the money be used for non-lethal commodities and services and not to give cash, weapons or ammunition to the rebels. Included in the assistance are medical supplies, uniforms, boots, tents, personal protective gear, radios and meals. 

 

Response to War Powers Issues

On June 15, 2012 President Obama sent a letter to Congress addressing concerns that he was past the time alloted within the War Powers Act to carry out military operations in response to a threat. In that letter, the President asserted that since only drones and similar items remained in Libya US military personnel were out of harms way and the War Powers Act did not apply.

 

Reaction to Qaddafi's Death

On October 20, 2011 Muammar Qaddafi was killed by fighters in Libya. President Obama spoke at the White House about the news and stated that the nation could now move on. He also asserted that the nation had suffered from four decades under Qaddafi's rule while they were denied basic human rights and the wealth of the country was squandered.

 

 

Sponsored and Cosponsored Legislation

This representative has not been identified as sponsoring or cosponsoring significant legislation related to this title.

References

[1] Website: CBS News Article: Sec. Clinton meets with Libyan rebels in Paris Author: AP Accessed on: 03/21/2011

[2] Website: Fox News Article: Obama Shakes Hands With Libya's Qaddafi Author: NA Accessed on: 03/21/2011

[3] Website: CNS News Article: As Clinton Cites Libya As Example, Gaddafi Attacks U.S. Author: Patrick Goodenough Accessed on: 03/21/2011

[4] Website: Council on Foreign Relations Article: Council on Foreign Relations Address by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Author: NA Accessed on: 03/21/2011

[5] Website: Reuters Article: Obama breaks silence, condemns Libya crackdown Author: Alister Bull and Arshad Mohammed Accessed on: 03/21/2011

[6] Website: Jewish World Review Article: First Libyan city falls to Gadhafi's opponents Author: Jonathan S. Landay, Warren P. Strobel and Shashank Bengali Accessed on: 03/21/2011

[7] Website: The LA Times Article: Libyan opposition reportedly seizes key western city Author: Bob Drogin and Raja Abdulrahim Accessed on: 03/21/2011

[8] Website: Bloomberg Article: Gates Says Targeting Qaddafi Goes Beyond UN Resolution on Libya Author: Viola Gienger Accessed on: 03/21/2011

[9] Website: BBC Article: US 'to tone down role in Libya' Author: NA Accessed on: 03/21/2011

[10] Website: The United Nations Article: Resolution 1973 Author: United Nations Accessed on: 03/21/2011

[11] Website: Hot Air Article: Video: Meet the man who took Tobruk from Gaddafi; Author: ED MORRISSEY Accessed on: 03/21/2011

[12] Website: CNN Article: Doctors report 17 dead in Libyan city of Zawiya Author: NA Accessed on: 03/21/2011

[13] Website: Human Rights Watch Article: Libya: End Violent Crackdown in Tripoli Author: NA Accessed on: 03/21/2011

[14] Website: Reuters Article: Libyan warplanes bomb rebels in east - Al Jazeera Author: NA Accessed on: 03/21/2011

[15] Website: Christian Science Monitor Article: Qaddafi rout of Libya rebels pulls morale to a new low Author: Dan Murphy Accessed on: 03/21/2011

[16] Website: Outside the Beltway Article: U.S. Moves To Aid Libyan Rebels As Evidence Mounts Of Their Ties To Al Qaeda Author: DOUG MATACONIS Accessed on: 08/06/2012

[17] Website: CNN Article: Obama signals willingness to arm Libyan rebels Author: CNN Wire Staff Accessed on: 08/06/2012

[18] Website: The Independent Article: Clinton: UN resolution gives us authority to arm Libyan rebelsrn Author: Oliver Wright Accessed on: 08/06/2012

[19] Website: CBS News Article: Obama directs $25M to support Libyan rebels Author: AP / Carolyn Haster Accessed on: 08/06/2012

[20] Website: Reuters Article: Exclusive: Obama authorizes secret help for Libya rebels Author: Mark Hosenball Accessed on: 08/06/2012

[21] Website: The Guardian Article: US paves way to arm Libyan rebels Author: Nicholas Watt Accessed on: 08/06/2012

[22] Website: The State Department Article: Update: U.S. Government Humanitarian Assistance in Response to the Libya Crisis Author: NA Accessed on: 08/07/2012

[23] Website: The State Department Article: U.S. Government Humanitarian Assistance in Response to the Libya Crisis Author: NA Accessed on: 08/07/2012

[24] Website: The State Department Article: Humanitarian Assistance for Libya Author: NA Accessed on: 08/07/2012

[25] Website: The State Department Article: Humanitarian Response to Violence in Libya Author: NA Accessed on: 08/07/2012

[26] Website: ArmyTimes.com Article: Obama increases humanitarian aid to Libya Author: AP Accessed on: 08/07/2012

[27] Website: The New York Times Article: White House Defends Continuing U.S. Role in Libya Operation Author: CHARLIE SAVAGE and MARK LANDLER Accessed on: 08/07/2012

[28] Website: NPR Article: Arab League Wavers On U.N.-Sanctioned Airstrikes Author: LIZ HALLORAN Accessed on: 08/07/2012

[29] Website: The White House Article: Letter from the President on the War Powers Resolution Author: The Obama Administration Accessed on: 08/07/2012

[30] Website: bilateralist.com Article: Text of Obama letter to Congress on Libya Author: NA Accessed on: 08/07/2012

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