Strategically Imperative

Washington is hunkering down for potential military action against Libya as Colonel Qaddafi ramps up the violence. Yesterday, U.S. warships were repositioned and some of Qaddafi’s assets were frozen. U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice pulled no punches when asked about the situation. She called the Libyan leader “disconnected from reality” and criticized him for “slaughtering his own people.” This morning, Rice said that Washington is in discussions with its “allies and NATO . . . about planning for all sorts of military contingencies including a no-fly zone.” Though the groundwork for military action is being laid, the administration isn’t yet ready to exercise the military option.

White House spokesman Jay Carney warned Qaddafi’s closest allies to think “very, very seriously” about who they support in this standoff. He added that they “will be held accountable” for their decisions. And State Department spokesman PJ Crowley said that the Libyan government has fired its ambassador to the U.S., Ali Aujali, who made the announcement last week that he was on the side of the protestors. Qaddafi has replaced Aujali with someone a bit more loyal to his cause. 

In the meantime, protests are continuing to erupt across the region. Yemen’s demonstrators have gone back to the streets and Oman saw a round of deadly exchanges between police and protestors yesterday. Crowley said the Obama administration has encouraged the Omani government to exercise restraint. Oman was one of the stops on Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen’s visit to the region last week.

Secretary Clinton used the S word yesterday to describe political transitions in the Arab world. She called U.S. support of the transitions to democracy a “strategic imperative,” saying that “on this our values and interests converge.”

Back at home, Jay Carney is readying his typing fingers. The @PressSec Twitter account has been dormant since Robert Gibbs left his post, but Carney is ready to take over. Yesterday, he tweeted about Libya and encouraged questions.