The Obama administration continues to be behind the power curve on the evolving uprisings in the Middle East, particularly those in Libya and Iran. One of the worst despots in the world is the mercurial Moammar Gadhafi of Libya. He is followed closely by the rogue regimes of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Iran. Both governments have been leaders in state-sponsored terrorism. Both have more American blood on their hands than does Osama bin Laden.
Why the administration continues to equivocate on calling for the removal of these two rogue regimes is mind-boggling. It appears not to recognize that what’s going on in the Middle East is a paradigm shift. The uprisings should be seen as an opportunity to rid the world of these corrupt and evil authorities. With Col. Gadhafi’s imported mercenaries firing on and murdering his own people, drastic action by the United States as leader of the Free World and its allies is urgently needed.
As a first order of business, we should reposition an aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean. The USS Enterprise and the USS Kearsarge, both in the Red Sea, and perhaps the USS Ponce as well, should be turned around to re-transit the Suez Canal and take a position off the coast of Libya. The Enterprise is to relieve the USS Carl Vinson, which currently is in the Gulf of Aden. This relief could take place in the Mediterranean, which would result in two carriers off the coast of Libya. U.S. Air Force B-2 strike bombers also should be repositioned in the region. The USS Kearsarge and other amphibious ships from our allies should be positioned to assist in evacuating Americans and other nationalities by sea if evacuations cannot be accomplished by air charter flights or other means.
As German Chancellor Angela Merkel stated, Col. Gadhafi’s rambling, incoherent TV speech “amounted to him declaring war on his own people.” Calls for reimposing sanctions and suspending Libya’s membership in the United Nations Human Rights Council, plus other cosmetic actions, are ridiculous and will do nothing to help the protesters who are trying to take back their country. Incidentally, Libya having a seat on the Human Rights Council illustrates the need for restructuring of the U.N. and its bylaws.
It has been reported that many members of the Libyan army and police force are supporting the protesters and demonstrators. We and our allies who have a relationship with the Libyan military need to encourage them to support the protesters by preventing Col. Gadhafi’s imported mercenaries from interfering with this dramatic uprising. With a carrier battle group positioned off the cost of Libya, a no-fly zone over Libya could then be declared and enforced.
Libya’s air force should be encouraged by the United States and its allies to support the demonstrators by refusing to have pilots fly missions against their own people. Libyan pilots flying their planes to Malta also should be a welcomed option. To encourage the Libyan air force to take this bold action, it should be conveyed to the air force leadership that should they continue to conduct airstrikes against their own people, they will be subjected to a devastating strike from U.S. and allied resources. Cruise-missile strikes also should be planned against government control and communications centers.
We should recall that when Saddam Hussein was about to be forced out of Kuwait he torched the Kuwaiti oil fields. We should anticipate that Col. Gadhafi, as unbalanced as he seems to be, might take similar action as one of his last desperate acts of defiance. Special Forces working with our allies who have relations with the Libyan forces need to assist them in taking the necessary action to protect the oil fields from being torched by Col. Gadhafi’s mercenaries or loyalists.
If we are to live up to our stated principles, statements condemning Col. Gadhafi’s barbaric acts against his own people will be seen as hollow gestures unless concrete actions, as proposed above, are taken.
With regard to Iran, the administration should declare our unequivocal support for the “green revolution.” Iran has declared war on the United States several times, starting with the takeover of our embassy in Tehran in November 1979, and the Oct. 23, 1983, bombing of our Marine barracks in Beirut, and has continued to train and provide material to the insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan. They have earned our just retribution.
As part of the next demonstration, we should use the opportunity to implement our strategic strike plan to destroy Iran’s key nuclear infrastructure and other military facilities. We can successfully carry out such a strike because we will have a unique “window of opportunity” with four carrier battle groups in the region. Such action should provide the necessary support for a successful green revolution.
By Retired Navy Adm. James A. Lyons, commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet and senior U.S. military representative to the United Nations.