From Micah Zenko, CFR: The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) assumed command and control over the western-led intervention in the Libyan civil war four months ago with three stated military missions: enforce an arms embargo, enforce a no-fly-zone, and protect civilians and civilian populated areas.

As I have noted often on this blog, NATO has selectively enforced the arms embargo by looking the other way when the rebels were caught red handed violating it. Furthermore, after NATO ally France was exposed by Le Figaro for violating the arms embargo by air-dropping rocket launchers, machine guns, and anti-tank grendaes to Libyan rebels, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen responded: “I don’t consider the so-called arms drop a problem.” Alliance spokesperson Oana Lungescu added, despite all public evidence to the contrary, that “the arms embargo is effective.”

Now, there is growing evidence that NATO is also selectively enforcing the no-fly-zone over Libya. The international mandate for NATO’s intervention is UN Security Council Resolutions 1970 and1973, the latter of which establishes “a ban on all flights in the airspace of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya in order to help protect civilians.”


UN Security Council Resolution 1973 contains an important caveat: it does not apply to humanitarian flights, “such as delivering or facilitating the delivery of assistance, including medical supplies, food, humanitarian workers and related assistance.”

However, Libyan rebels acknowledge that these flights are being used for military purposes, in clear violation of the resolution. “The importance of this airport is bringing humanitarian aid and military supplies for our rebel brothers… in the Nafusa Mountains,” said Mohammed al-Bujdidi, a rebel commander near the airport. This is consistent with countless reports of a rebel tactic for smuggling weapons into Libya—namely within supposed humanitarian aid shipments.


The truth of NATO’s intended strategic objective in Libya was articulated with rare candor last week by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta: “The objective is to do what we can to bring down the regime of [Libyan leader Muammar] Qaddafi.” Increasingly, and more overtly, the three military missions that NATO claims to be conducting in Libya are being utilized in a coordinated effort to remove Qaddafi from power.  As a local rebel commander in Libya’s western mountains told CBS Evening News on Friday: “When we get permission from NATO we will advance forward.”

Photo: David Brunnstrom/Reuters