Libya: Operation "Odyssey dawn", day 1



Operation Odyssey Dawn began Saturday March 19, in the afternoon with the announcement, shortly after 03:00 PM that French jets were flying over Libya in reconnaissance operation for “hours”. By the end of the afternoon came the news of a first engagement with French planes “treating” 4 or 5 tanks near Tripoli. This was the real beginning of the military operations. After this, air-strikes lasted until the early morning and are due to continue today.





1)    Military strategy



It must be noted that this first attack targeted ground forces and not anti-air or air capacity.


The symbol is crystal-clear: the main aim of the operation is to protect civilian “by all necessary measures”, as provided by the U.N. S.C. resolution, and not to implement the No Fly Zone which is seen as a part of this humanitarian choice but not as a primary goal of the operation.



Most of the allies share the same goal even if it not publicly said: the best way to “protect civilian” is to have colonel Gaddafi leaving the power (as quickly as possible) with his clique. So, the highest levels of the power (both military and political) are and will remain obvious targets.



In this perspective, striking the forces on ground makes sense as this is clearly a “Shock and Despair” operation.



As General Sir David Richard Dannatt[1] writes in The Telegraph, today: “When Gaddafi’s army commanders in the field realise that , like the Wehrmacht in north-west Europe in early 1945, they could move nowhere without deadly attacks upon them they will think quickly about their loyalty. Will they want to continue to show loyalty to their eccentric leader, or will they think about their loyalty to their country, their families, their tribes, their homes and themselves?



So far, France, the United Kingdomand the United States conducted combat operations. Italy conducted reconnaissance operations and Canadian, Danish and Spanish planes arrived on the theatre and will be ready to intervene in the coming hours. 



It is crucial now that the Arab countries supporting the operation (Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Iraq and Morocco) enter the game as soon as possible to avoid this operation to be seen as a Western aggression.





2)    Next move of Gaddafi’s regime



THE question today is clearly: How Libya will now react?



For the moment, Tripoli’s reactions have been rather pathetic. We’ve seen authorities arguing that the so-called “unilateral cease-fire” was “effective” and “solid” while the loyal troops were attacking Benghazi and other places in the very same moment. We have seen them pledging they “had never and will never fired one bullet” on their own people, while their forces were bombing rebels and civilians. We’ve seen a vice-minister (Khaled Kaim, Foreign Affairs) saying that colonel Gaddafi has “no power” and is purely symbolic figure, while the same colonel Gaddafi was issuing inflammatory threats.



Saturday night, a defiant colonel Gaddafi said he will “open the depots” and “arming civilians to defend Libya against the “colonial crusader aggression”. He clearly threatened to extend the war: “the interests of countries face danger from now in the Mediterranean, because of this aggressive and mad behaviour […] Unfortunately, marine and air targets, whether military or civilian, will be exposed to real danger in the Mediterranean, since area of the Mediterranean and North Africa has become a battleground because of this blatant military aggression.



We assess that, as colonel Gaddafi as very few capacities to really oppose and confront the modern armies he is now in war with, he will very likely act on two main lines:



-          Try to inflict as much pain and destruction possible to the rebels and to the civilians, and blame the “crusaders” for this



-          Play with his old favourite tool: terrorism. This includes the possibility of hostages taking (journalists for instance) attacks against military or civilian “targets” in the area and even, if he has the capacity to do it, which is difficult to assess, attack military targets far from the theatre (for instance military bases in Europe)



It must be noted that Libyan forces continued to attack Misruta and bombed Benghazi this morning.





3)    A chronology




Sunday Morning:



-          It was announced that the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle will depart today from Toulon with the frigates Le Dupleix and L’Aconit and the oil tanker La Meuse. The Charles de Gaulle will carry 14 jets (8 Rafale and 6 Super-Etendard)


-          In the first hours of Sunday, U.S. sources said that Libyan Air Defense was “severely disabled”



-          Russiasaid military action is “deplorable” and based on a “hastily passed” resolution



-          Turkey which was first opposed to the intervention said it will participate in implementation of Resolution 1973



-          African Union called for an “immediate halt to all attacks”



-          Libya announced it “suspends” its cooperation with Europe against illegal immigration




Saturday evening and night:



-          During the night, Libyan State television announced that 48 civilians have been killed and 150 others wounded in air-strikes. This was not independently confirmed and is generally seen as propaganda



-          In the evening, hundreds of civilians – including many women and children regrouped near Gaddafi’s compound to form a “human shield”



-          Danish F-16 and Canadian F-18 landed in Sigonella



-          In the evening, Spain announced it will join the operation and provide 6 aircraft, a frigate and a submarine. The planes arrived in Sigonella (Nato base in Italy) a few hours later



-          More than 20 sites were targeted so far



-          After the French attack, U.S. and U.K. ships fired missiles on radar, communications, fuel tanks, C3I targets and air defense. More than 110 missiles were fired only by the U.S. Navy



-          UK’s RAF jets were engaged against a number of Air defense facilities



-          From west to east the towns of Zawiya, Tajura, Tripoli, Misruta and Sirte were targeted



-          During the afternoon it was announced that a blockade was effective around the Libyan coasts


[1] Gegeral Lord Dannatt was the U.K. Chiedd of the General Staff, 2006-2009.

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