What's Washington To Do?

As the situation in Libya worsens, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is getting ready to head to Geneva to discuss a response to the situation at the United Nations Human Rights Council. President Obama made the announcement yesterday. Without mentioning Libya’s leader Colonel Muammar Qaddafi by name—hundreds of Americans were still in the country, unable to leave due to flight restrictions and bad weather keeping a ferry in port and the administration feared retribution—Obama called the violence “outrageous.” Asked about what responses Washington might be contemplating, State Department spokesman PJ Crowley was tight-lipped, saying “we’re looking at a full range of tools and options that are available to us to achieve our goals of seeing an end to the violence in Libya.” When he was pressed further, he responded, “I’m not here to rule anything in, rule anything out.” He did concede that sanctions are on the list of possibilities. Defense Secretary Robert Gates commented on the military situation, saying the force was “fragmenting.” He also described Libya’s future as an “open question.” 

Clinton meanwhile turned her attention to Iran. Protestors have been trying to demonstrate there, but Tehran has deployed police to prevent rallies and reports have emerged of deadly standoffs. As the secretary of state said, “Security forces have beaten, detained, and -- in at least three cases -- killed peaceful protesters.” While criticizing the regime for persecuting its people, Clinton lauded the “bravery of thousands of Iranians who once again took to the streets to exercise their fundamental rights to peaceful assembly and expression.”

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen isn’t just in the Middle East to keep an eye on the revolt situation. Yesterday in Oman, Mullen sat down with the head of Pakistan’s army, General Ashfaq Kayani, and other top Pakistani military commanders to talk about joint efforts to fight insurgents along the Afghan border. The meeting, which also included the head of forces in Afghanistan General David Petraeus, was described as being “very productive.”