On the Record

NATO Dispute, Cease-Fire Negotiations Hint at Possible Stalemate in Libya

Shadi Hamid

Intense fighting continued between Libyan rebels and Muammar Qaddafi’s forces as NATO nations met in Qatar on April 13 to discuss their next steps in this conflict. Shadi Hamid examines the meeting and the rift within NATO in an interview with PBS Newshour.

GWEN IFILL (PBS Newshour): You can’t help but wonder, is there a stalemate now in Libya?

SHADI HAMID: Yes, there is a stalemate. Neither side can decisively beat the other. So the question is how do we get out of this?

So, the only real solution that I think would be viable for the rebels and also for the Western nations is that Gadhafi has to step down. But he’s made clear he won’t do that. So, I think that’s where we get into a discussion about NATO intensifying its efforts, and America and its European allies more aggressively using airstrikes and so on, arming the rebels. There’s a variety of options that can be considered here.

[…]

IFILL: But it’s a question of priority. Is the priority now for NATO to decide what its common goal is, because everybody doesn’t agree at NATO? Is it to step up the military? Is it to train the rebels? What should be the first option?

HAMID: Well, there’s lack of clarity about what the Western nations are trying to do.

The U.S. says one thing. France says another. And this is really an opportunity for the West to unify its position, but it’s failed to do that so far. And right now, it seems the French and the British are really the ones pushing this forward. What we’re hearing from the U.S., which is kind of odd compared to, say, the Bush administration, is that the Obama administration is trying to minimize its role and say, we’re kind of stepping back, and NATO is stepping in. We’re playing a support role.

And we keep on hearing that rhetoric from the U.S.

GWEN IFILL: Is that a good idea, bad idea? Is that what the U.S. should be doing?

SHADI HAMID: Well, it’s nice for the U.S. not to be so unilateral. That’s good.

But I think there comes a point where the U.S. is the world’s superpower. Whether we like it or not, we’re still the indispensable nation. Things don’t get done without an active U.S. role. And that’s why the no-fly zone and the U.N. resolution wasn’t going to happen until the U.S. declared its support for it.

Watch the full interview or read a transcript at pbs.org »

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