March 30th, 2011
05:00 PM ET

Western leaders consider arming Libyan rebels

CNN Wire Staff

(CNN) - European and American leaders weighed the pros and cons of arming Libya's rebels Wednesday - a possibility made more urgent by a series of new military setbacks for forces seeking to topple strongman Moammar Gadhafi.

Government forces have been pushing from Bin Jawad to Ras Lanuf, a critical eastern oil town that the opposition seized on Sunday. Gadhafi's military has also launched escalated strikes in the western town of Misrata.

The new offensive was launched in the wake of an international arms embargo and airstrike campaign designed to establish a no-fly zone and provide humanitarian relief for civilians threatened by the Libyan military.

British Prime Minister David Cameron told the House of Commons Wednesday that the United Nations Security Council mandate "allows all necessary measures to protect civilians and populated areas (and) this would not necessarily rule out provision of assistance to those protecting civilians in certain circumstances."

"As I've said before, we do not rule it out but we have not taken the decision to do so," he said.

U.S. President Barack Obama said Tuesday he is also open to the possibility of arming rebel fighters.

"I'm not ruling it out, but I'm also not ruling it in," he told NBC.

In a separate interview with ABC, Obama said that "if we wanted to get weapons into Libya, we probably could. ... We're looking at all our options at this point."

One significant problem, however, is the need to train opposition forces on how to use advanced weaponry.

"The notion of the gang that couldn't shoot straight might be lived out," retired Maj. Gen. James "Spider" Marks told CNN Tuesday night.

"There must be some degree of training associated with arming this force," said Marks, a former commanding general of the U.S. Army Intelligence Center. "However, some weapons systems, clearly they can get a handle on and they can use immediately. It's the more lethal weapon systems that would require training, and I don't think there's time to do that."

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soundoff (3 Responses)
  1. Nelly

    Yes, any effort to stop Kadafi's troops moving east is a must! and that is one way of accomplishing that...

    March 30, 2011 at 11:32 pm |
  2. Annie Kate

    If the US and its allies give the rebels arms it needs to do some training; otherwise, the rebels will continue to lose to Gadhafi's forces and those much needed arms may wind up arming Gadhafi's army as they advance and take over previously rebel held territory.

    March 30, 2011 at 11:18 pm |
  3. Luis Carlos Aviles

    Arming the rebels is an act of irresponsibility, first because we do not know who they really are the rebels, if they are professional bakers, common people do not have the training capacity to handle a gun. If the controversial response from the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who said they have no information on who's these individuals, we are concerned if they are mercenaries, terrorists rather than do something good for democracy in Libya would bring more violence and instability for this country and the entire Middle Eastern region.
    I'm really confused, I ask my consciousness as everything happened so fast? Where did come these rebels to protest and defeat the regime of this government? If they are actually doctors, lawyers etc ... where they got the weapons? very good question that I asked the representative on the Security Council of the United Nations and he replied that gave them by NATO. and I believe it because the international news paper said a rebel representatives met in Spain asking for aid and arms. That is all this was planned and according to what my reliable source told me it was ready a year ago. I answered will unleash a civil war? He answered the goal is to defeat Khaddafi and secure the oil. We need the Oil. So I answered my dudes of ​​why not go to Syria, Yemen, Iran etc ...
    I am still confused Nato and the coalition are encouraging and protecting the rebels and what will happen when the rebels with the help of the CIA and the weapons submitting by the coalition will hand over to Tripoli? Will be an intense civil war, what would think about? is genocide?, serious war crimes!!! and who is the attribute Khaddafi or interventionist countries?
    Still do not know what will be the reaction of Russia, China, Germany, Iran, India, the same Turkey that do not agree to a land military intervention. I agree that the people choose their rulers, free of oppression and have a genuine democracy, but I disagree that we should invade, bomb, to a nation to change the philosophy of a people, much to influence change Libya, never going to change their customs, their way of thinking and erase from their minds the pain, suffering and death of this war, we have unleashed in the wrong time when we are in economic recession, and a 8% unemployment, cut the school budget, the social security, and the failure of health reform has only increased costs to consumers. I hope we do not have a mistake as happened with Osama Binladen that the CIA trained him, gave him financial support and weapons to them to fight against Russia in the cold war, that lasted almost 10 years and later became the most dangerous man in America and that even fugitive is maybe planning a new attack against us.
    We pray to God that this international conflict has a diplomatic solution and avoid losse of innocent blood, which, although muslims are people are people, are human beings with values, with dreams, with family. God bless America, our leaders, the whole world!
    Luis Carlos Aviles, New York

    March 30, 2011 at 10:17 pm |