UN Action on Libya Will Support Rebels, ANU Lecturer Gray Says

Matthew Gray, senior lecturer as the center for Arab and Islamic Studies at Australian National University in Canberra, comments on the United Nations decision to impose a no-fly zone and other military action in Libya.

The UN Security Council authorized the action, providing the legal basis for the U.S., France, the U.K. and several Arab nations to intervene in the Libyan conflict to avert a feared bloodbath if leader Muammar Qaddafi defeats the opposition. The Libyan dictator this week said he would show “no mercy” to “traitors” who don’t surrender.

Gray, who has worked in intelligence and policy roles with the Australian Department of Defence, spoke with Bloomberg Television by phone today.

On why the UN took the action:

“It was starting to look like the rebels would be defeated very shortly and Col. Qaddafi would have a military victory over those insurgents. A lot of these countries started to think ‘Well, what can we do about this? Are we going to be in position where we are going to be very much weakened and look bad because of the positions that we took?’ I think that caused some, especially the U.S., to reconsider the no-fly zone.”

On whether it will work:

“It’s going to be effective up to a point. It can help to give the rebels a psychological boost. It can help send a message to Col. Qaddafi and his allies and it removes the Libyan airforce from the equation. However, to really control things you have to be on the ground, so this is by no means a guarantee that the tide is going to turn against Qadaffi. It’s very late, but whether it’s too late remains to be seen. This depends partly on what the initial actions are, as it seems to be the case that the British and the French in particular could be over the Libyan sky within hours. Then they are going to be in a position to support the insurgents in Benghazi.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Robert Fenner in Melbourne rfenner@bloomberg.net; Susan Li in Hong Kong at sli31@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Iain Wilson at iwilson2@bloomberg.net

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