WASHINGTON US Senator John Kerry is urging the Obama administration to back a no-fly zone over Libya, calling for the United Nations to quickly approve a resolution to ground Libyan leader Moammar Kahdafi’s warplanes.
Kahdafi is using his air force to pound the rebels trying to overthrow him.
“The international community cannot simply watch from the sidelines as this quest for democracy is met with raw violence,” said Kerry, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, in a lengthy policy speech today.
The Massachusetts Democrat said the Arab League’s endorsement this weekend of a no-fly zone over Libya is unprecedented.
“The Security Council should act now, in my judgment, to heed the Arab League’s call” and to avert a humanitarian disaster, said Kerry, in remarks to a room packed with foreign journalists at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Washington think tank.
Kerry’s call for action on a no-fly zone marks an evolution in his view on the subject. He did not start out calling for immediate imposition of a no-fly zone; rather, he urged diplomatic and logistical preparation for the zone.
His call also puts him at odds with Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who has said attacking Libya's planes and air defenses would be an act of war.
The speech is the latest of Kerry’s high-profile efforts to guide US policy through the chain of popular uprisings in the Middle East. He urged preparations for a no-fly zone on the CBS News program “Face the Nation” two weekends ago.
Also, at the height of the unrest in Egypt last month, the senator penned a New York Times column encouraging embattled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s to give up power.
President Obama has not endorsed a no-fly zone, though he has “not taken any options off the table,” the president said on Friday.
Another option under consideration is for the US to give some $32 billion in frozen Libyan government assets to the rebels, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said on Tuesday.
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.