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Tuesday, May 17, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

NATO rethinking strategy as Gadhafi survives,
oil prices soar

LONDON — NATO is seeking options on how to end its no-fly zone mission over Libya.


Officials said the Western alliance has been convening to discuss changes in the conduct of the air war over Libya. They said the assessment by most NATO chiefs was that the current war against the regime of Libyan Col. Moammar Gadhafi could last for at least a year.

Officials said several NATO members were increasing their demands for a deadline for the end of the Libyan mission. They cited the loss of Libyan crude oil exports, believed to have been a major factor in the high price of energy in 2011.

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"If we do not up the ante now there is a risk that the conflict could result in Gadhafi clinging to power," British Chief of Staff Gen. David Richards said.

Richards called for intensified strikes on Gadhafi to ensure his surrender, Middle East Newsline reported. The British military chief said NATO, operating under United Nations mandate, was currently limited in its targets and was avoiding most assets of the Gadhafi regime.

"At present, NATO is not attacking infrastructure targets in Libya," Richards told the British newspaper Sunday Telegraph on May 15. "But if we want to increase the pressure on Gadhafi's regime then we need to give serious consideration to increasing the range of targets we can hit."

The discussions on NATO war strategy were renewed in wake of a series of strikes on Gadhafi's compound in May. On May 13, Gadhafi was said to have been injured in a NATO air attack, a report that turned out to be false. Later, Gadhafi said NATO would not be able to find him.

"The Libyan people will not kneel and will not give in," Libyan Foreign Minister Abdul Ati Obeidi said.

NATO has said it would target Gadhafi's command and control facilities, deemed a code-word for regime headquarters. But so far many of the casualties from these strikes have been civilian, including nine Muslim clerics in the Brega on May 13.

Two days later, a NATO air strike was said to have killed Gadhafi's spokesman, Col. Milad Al Fiqhi. The opposition has deemed Al Fiqhi a key commander in the regime military campaign against the rebels, particularly in Zawiya.

NATO has also sought to expand sanctions on Gadhafi. On May 16, the International Criminal Court ordered the arrest of Gadhafi, his son, Seif, and intelligence chief Abdullah Sanousi on charges of committing crimes against humanity over the last three months.

For its part, the Libyan opposition has urged NATO to expand its mission and directly attack the Gadhafi regime. At the same time, the opposition has expressed confidence that Gadhafi's military was no longer able to quell the revolt.

"People are marching, gaining more confidence," Mahmoud El Warfali, deemed interim prime minister of the opposition's Libyan Transitional National Council, told the Washington-based Saban Center for Middle East Policy on May 12. "They are getting better experienced. They are gaining more ground, more organization. I think that few coming weeks will witness more grounds to be gained by the freedom fighters."

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