The push toward a post-Qaddafi regime in Libya is raising questions in Washington about how far a US commitment extends to ensuring a peaceful transition to democracy. The rationale for US and NATO engagement in Libya was to avoid a massacre of civilians in March. Now, as the civil war moves toward a resolution, the Obama administration and Congress appear to be taking a wait-and-see approach.
But with an eye to lessons from regime change in Iraq, some lawmakers are urging steps now to help shape the transition in Libya, including some moves that put them at odds with the Obama administration. Here are five.
A priority for some lawmakers is ensuring that 42-year dictator Muammar Qaddafi and his son, Saif-al-Islam, answer to charges of crimes against humanity before the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, Netherlands.
“Justice for the US victims of terrorists attacks committed by Qaddafi and his regime must remain a top priority for our country,” said Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D) of New Jersey in a letter to US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Monday.
But Mustafa Abdel Jalil, the head of the National Transitional Council (TNC), which the US and more than 30 other countries recognize as the official government of Libya, on Wednesday publicly offered Qaddafi the option of renouncing power and seeking asylum in another country not under ICC jurisdiction.
The Obama administration is avoiding appearing to dictate such decisions to a new Libyan regime. “The future of Libya is now in the hands of the Libyan people,” President Obama said in a statement on Monday. “Going forward, the United States will continue to stay in close coordination with the TNC. We will continue to insist that the basic rights of the Libyan people are respected.”
Asked whether the US will call on a new regime to put Qaddafi on trial in Libya for terrorist acts in the 1980s, US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters in a briefing on Wednesday: “That’s obviously a decision for the Libyan people to make.”
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