Gaddafi government declares cease-fire

It didn’t even take a day for an international show of force to have an impact on Libya’s civil war.  Moammar Gaddafi’s foreign minister announced earlier today that the government would “cease all military operations” and observe a cease-fire after the UN authorized a no-fly zone over Libya (via Tammy Bruce):

Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa says Libya is declaring an immediate cease-fire and stopping all military operations.

Friday’s decision comes after the U.N. voted to authorized a no-fly zone and “all necessary measures” to protect the Libyan people, including airstrikes.

Koussa says the cease-fire “will take the country back to safety” and ensure security for all Libyans.

Imagine if the UN had been pressed into action two or three weeks ago.  Rebels would still hold a large portion of Libya, and Gaddafi’s military would be forced to make a choice between an aging tyrant rapidly losing leverage and a populace clearly ready to seize its own destiny.  Even a week ago, rebels still held key positions and Gaddafi was having trouble mounting any large-scale offensives.

Now Gaddafi can afford to offer a cease-fire.  It protects his air force while changing very little on the ground.  He has the main rebellion cut off in Benghazi and has secured his control over the other rebellious areas.  He can afford to wait out the rebels and lay siege to Libya’s second-largest city, secure in the knowledge that the West won’t further intervene.  It took them this long to arrange the no-fly zone, and Gaddafi knows that the West has no interest in another ground war in the region (and for good reasons).

The end of military action may still motivate rebellion again in Libya, but unless the rebels can break out of Benghazi and push back Gaddafi’s tanks, it seems like a long shot — and a missed opportunity.

Update: Gaddafi managed to get a few last licks in, killing 25 people in Misrata:

Twenty-five people, including several children, were killed during heavy bombardments by forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi on the western city of Misrata on Friday, a doctor in the city told Reuters.

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