Control of Libyan campaign to go to NATO – Turkey

The control of the military campaign in Libya will be passed from the coalition forces to NATO in 1-2 days, the Turkish media reported on Thursday, with reference to the country’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

­“Our demands have been met on Libya, the operation will be handed over to NATO,” he was quoted as saying on TRT television.

Earlier on Thursday, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan criticized France for using the term 'crusade' to describe the mission and came out in favor of NATO control of the military operation in coordination with the Arab League. He added, though, that Turkey would not participate in direct combat.

"Turkish planes, Turkish soldiers will never be the ones firing bullets and dropping bombs on our brothers in Libya," AP quoted Erdogan as saying.

NATO has been discussing the issue of taking over command for the past week, with France opposing the idea. Instead, Paris has proposed the creation of a political body that would take over the control of the mission and would be comprised of the countries already participating in the campaign, the Arab League and members of the African Union.

To take command of the mission, NATO needs the approval of all 28 of its members, and Turkey had set conditions that were a stumbling block. However, its demands have apparently  now been met.

On Wednesday, the NATO Council approved the alliance’s participation in maintaining the arms embargo on Libya. Sixteen war ships and submarines are expected to be involved.

Turkey, which previously ruled out its participation in the operation, has rendered five ships and one submarine, making the most significant contribution of all NATO members, RIA Novosti reports. Ankara has also agreed to provide a squadron of fighter jets, should France agree to pass the command to NATO.

­“I see it as an attempt by the western powers, particularly the US, but obviously with Britain and France in the first rank of supporting powers, to get a hold in the situation in the Middle East where you have popular revolts – clearly not something the US wanted,” believes Jim Brann from the Stop the War Coalition.

"After Hamas was freely elected in Palestine all talks about promoting democracy in the Middle East  stopped – obviously because the results failed the expectations, so now the West seeks to get the leverage it has lost in the Middle East,” Brann concluded.

­Intervening in civil wars is a tricky business and history has lots of proof of this, Ben Cohen, founder of the independent bloggers network Banter Media Group, points out.

“We are bombing another Arab country for reasons we do not really understand. Gaddafi is now apparently a bad guy, before that he was [in turn] a bad and a good guy according to the media, so what is the game’s end is anybody’s guess and it doesn’t look good if we’re pouring millions of dollars into this, potentially without the end in sight.”

­ Lawrence J. Korb from the Center for American Progress says NATO controlling the no-fly zone signals the beginning of major combat  – despite the fact there is no unanimity in the alliance – because “the leading countries in NATO, the US, UK, France and Italy, have been pushing for this.”

“We’ll have to see exactly what role NATO is going to play in the command structure when the US hands over command.”