Members of a UN-authorized coalition began air strikes March 19 against military assets controlled by Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi, completing an abrupt reversal in relations that until as recently as three months ago involved significant arms sales. With an arms embargo mandated by UN Security Council Resolution 1970 in place since Feb. 26, key coalition members such as
A second Security Council resolution concerning
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates have said that arming the rebels is now permitted but that there has not been a decision to take that step. President Barack Obama said March 29, “I’m not ruling it out. But I’m also not ruling it in.”
The text of the new resolution says the measures to protect civilians are to be taken “notwithstanding paragraph 9” of the February resolution. That paragraph contains the Security Council’s instructions for an arms embargo. The State Department had said it interpreted the first resolution as blocking arms transfers to all parties, a stance that drew criticism from
The embargo is the first action by the United Nations to block arms transfers to Middle Eastern states affected by a surge of unrest beginning in January. Some of those states have been the subject of unilateral or EU-organized arms embargoes, but the Security Council has not moved to expand any of these measures to a global scale.
The embargo will affect European and Russian arms suppliers most heavily. According to annual national and EU reports, the EU countries issuing the largest number of licenses for arms exports to
Sergey V. Chemezov, the director of Rostekhnologii, a Russian state-owned arms company, has been quoted in the media as valuing potential Russian losses from the embargo at $4 billion.
In 2007 the
Measures to halt arms transfers to other Middle Eastern states have been uneven.
In a March 10 letter to Leahy, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs Miguel E. Rodriguez said the Obama administration is reassessing its procedures for reviewing arms sales to states undergoing periods of unrest, specifically including
As the security situation in