Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini on Wednesday called for hostilities in Libya to be suspended immediately, a sign that recent civilian casualties have fueled dissent within NATO. Frattini said a ceasefire would permit humanitarian aid to reach people who need it, and open a window for peace talks. France dismissed the idea of halting the bombing, saying it would just relieve pressure on Moammar Gadhafi. Is this the beginning of the end for the U.N.-sanctioned air campaign in Libya, or merely a sign of healthy debate?
Italy's doubts shows time is running out for NATO: The allies want to "press on, keep firing, until the people of Tripoli rise up against Moammar Gadhafi," says Campbell Clark at The Globe and Mail, but that strategy's "cracks are now clearly visible." With Italy bailing, the mission moved closer to the "tipping point between hope and Plan B," which is to push for a negotiated settlement and ceasefire between Gadhafi and the rebels.
"Cracks showing in NATO's Libya strategy"
NATO can't give up yet: "The death of civilians in a war zone" is always sad, says the Winnipeg Free Press in an editorial. Gadhafi's regime, which says 15 civilians were killed in a recent NATO strike, could be lying, but missiles undeniably do sometimes go astray. Still, giving up would only mean the Libyans who have been killed, by accident or at the hands of their "megalomaniacal leader," will "have died in vain, as Col. Gadhafi resumes his dictatorship and exacts his revenge upon the rebels."
In any case, this friction is bad news for Obama: Italy's objections are throwing NATO's adventure in doubt, says Jonathan Turley at his blog, but they may be an even bigger problem for President Obama. "The White House has used the NATO involvement to try (unsuccessfully) to deflect criticism for entering another war and doing so without congressional approval." Obama's Libya policy is going to be harder to defend with allies saying we're "adding to the humanitarian crisis rather than ending it."
"Basta! Italy breaks with NATO over Libya"