Obama Secretly Asks Saudis to Arm Libyan Rebels
The United States has asked Saudi Arabia if it can supply Libyan rebels with weapons in their bid to overthrow Muammar Gaddafi. According to Britain’s Independent, the Obama administration is “desperate to avoid US military involvement in Libya” and has turned to its longtime ally Saudi Arabia for help. Saudi Arabia is the only remaining US Arab ally that is capable of providing meaningful arms assistance to the Libyan rebels. But so far, Riyadh has not responded to Washington’s “highly classified” request, even though Abdullah, the Saudi king, despises the Libyan dictator, who attempted to have him assassinated just over a year ago.
But helping the United States, their number one ally and oil customer, poses serious risks for the Saudi monarchy, which faces “Day of Rage” protests scheduled for March 11. The monarchy has banned public protests, but it’s highly unlikely that demonstrators will obey this prohibition.
If the Saudis decide to grant Obama’s request, it wouldn’t be the first time the kingdom plays America-by-proxy. Saudi Arabia played a significant role in the Iran-Contra scandal during the Reagan administration. During the Reagan years the kingdom also provided weapons to Afghan guerrillas fighting against Soviet occupation, and Saudi financing greatly aided the Taliban regime as they brutally seized control of Afghanistan in the 1990s.
The Libyan rebels desperately need anti-tank rockets and mortars to counter Gaddafi’s armored vehicles. They also need surface-to-air missiles to defend against aerial bombardment. There has also been much talk of a US or NATO-imposed no-fly zone over Libya in order to negate Gaddafi’s air superiority and lessen the number of civilians and rebels killed by the dictator’s forces, but so far the Obama administration has been reluctant to use military force of any kind to resolve the North African country’s three-week old civil war. Many Libyans would certainly welcome the no-fly zone, much as the Kurds in northern Iraq did when such a zone allowed them to live without fear of attack from Saddam Hussein’s air force in the 1990s and 2000s.
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