LIBYA AT A TURNING POINT – AT 8:25 A.M. ET: Libya is fast becoming a consuming issue in American foreign policy because it such an acid display of the Obama administration's inability to conduct policy under pressure. More on that later.
This morning the rebels are attempting to regroup after taking a beating yesterday. From Fox:
RAS LANOUF, Libya -- Libyan rebels said Monday they will regroup and bring in heavy weapons after forces loyal to Muammar Qaddafi pounded opposition fighters with helicopter gunships, artillery and rockets to stop the rebels' rapid advance toward the capital.
An airstrike hit Ras Lanouf, a key oil port held by the rebels, on Monday but there were no casualties. A day earlier, a heavy assault by pro-regime forces stalled the rebel advance.
Mohamad Samir, an army colonel fighting with the rebels, told The Associated Press that his forces need reinforcements from the east after Sunday's setback.
"The orders are to stay here and guard the refinery, because oil is what makes the world go round," said rebel fighter Ali Suleiman, speaking at one of the checkpoints set up around Ras Lanouf.
Sunday's fighting appeared to signal the start of a new phase in the conflict, with Qaddafi's regime unleashing its air power on the rebel force trying to oust the ruler of 41 years. Resorting to heavy use of air attacks signaled the regime's concern that it needed to check the advance of the rebel force toward Sirte -- Qaddafi's hometown and stronghold.
COMMENT: The good news is that the rebels appear willing to stand and fight, not always the game plan in Mideast conflicts. The bad news is that major parts of the Libyan military have remained loyal to Qaddafi, at least for now. The rebels are outgunned, and they apparently have no planes.
As we've said, there may come a point when the West will have to intervene, simply to prevent a catastrophe. The White House chief of Staff, William Daley of the Chicago House of Daley, tried to throw cold beer on that prospect yesterday, but policy will evolve, we assume, to fit conditions on the ground.
March 7, 2011