The UN mandate for a No Fly Zone and other measures in Libya has the potential to create breathing space for rebel forces in Libya; though it comes too late and is barely sufficient, it is a welcome step, and welcome too that David Cameron has led the way.
Gaddafi’s attempt to play both sides of the coin – to claim there is a ceasefire and to continue murdering and brutalising rebels, demands a response to cripple his regime and prepare for a solid and effective counteroffensive. RAF and Armée de l’Air forces could interpret the UN mandate as a mandate to drop supplies, weapons and ammunition to rebels; they could interpret it as a mandate to run wild weasel sorties to destroy not just Surface to Air facilities but weapons caches and critical infrastructure for the Gaddafi regime.
The trick seems to be this; the air forces can perform important functions to take the sting out of Gaddafi’s tail and create a significant enough distraction for his intelligence and armed forces as to allow rebels to regroup and prepare for a counteroffensive, fed, armed and perhaps even trained. But if we’re to avoid boots on Libyan soil other than the special forces who are presumably already in theatre, it has to be done quickly and with overwhelming force.
The question of course emerges about the threat Gaddafi appears to have made to the whole Mediterranean area; he must realise that an attack on foreign assets would be the pretext needed for an invasion or devastating airstrikes to entirely wipe him and his regime out. It would seem unlikely that he will simply sit back and wait for the coalition forces to pound the hell out of him and his forces; we can’t expect him to act the lamb, when all his life he has been a lion.