David Cameron yesterday does not rule out “the use of Military Assets” in Libya.
The rebellion has run out of steam, due to a lack of arms, while Gaddafi is now solidifying his position, while seeming to enjoy himself.
So as the attention yesterday switched to diplomacy; the use of words becomes of paramount importance.
It’s therefore worth noting that the Prime Minister’s use of the term “Military Assets” is both a striking and somewhat original use of language.
Military Assets could include arms and equipment, but would be an unlikely term for a politician to describe British soldiers. It is a term that doesn’t restrict the British to a No Fly Zone.
So as we see Libya evolve from a fast moving revolution, to a slow moving stale mate, to the possible resurgence of Gaddafi, the question of supplying the rebels becomes apparent.
As the Prime Minister and foreign Office take sounding from other world leaders, they have been pleased to discover that Gaddafi is friendless in the world. Although in the region it is not as simple as all that.
As a bottom up rather than top down intervention, this is unlike Iraq, which made neighbouring Syria and Iran uncomfortable that they might be next, so they actively encouraged insurgency, ushering Islamists across the border, and causing Saudi Arabia to respond by funding Sunni groups in the quagmire.
However, the nervousness of Saudi Arabia is also apparent by their public promise to lower the oil price, while deliberately keeping it high, to remind the world of the economic consequences of a rebellion in their own country. (See Kaletsky £)
The Egyptians have publicly stated that they are against foreign troops on Libyan soil. However, they have not objected to the arming of the rebels.
The British press became excited by discussion of intervention over the last couple of days. So while the international soundings were made, it seems that the home reaction to intervention was also being tested. The conclusion was restricted to the lack of means of making another major intervention.
The rebels are committed but under armed. Gaddafi is well armed but with relatively little commitment from his army.
Supplying the rebels with military assets would likely be sufficient to tip the balance in favour of the rebels, but with no idea of what would emerge, it would be a very risky venture.