By Colum Lynch, Foreign Policy via Global Policy Forum

April 4th, 2012

A UN Panel of Experts has released a report that lists the military supplies that flowed into Libya after an arms embargo was issued through the UN Security Council Resolution 1970. Although the report is a big step forward in terms of transparency, the report is incomplete because several suppliers, including NATO, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates, have refused to provide a full account of their contributions.

As the late Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi‘s forces prepared to crush the Libyan uprising last summer in Benghazi, Britain, France, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, the United States, and other allies moved quickly to reinforce the beleaguered rebel forces.

With military supplies, training, advice — and of course the backing of NATO war planes — this coalition of governments provided critical support to change the course of the conflict, ultimately leading to Qaddafi’s downfall.

The U.N. Security Council‘s arms embargo was primarily intended to constrain Qaddafi’s capacity to use its massive oil wealth to import new stocks of weapons and foreign mercenaries to help put down the rebellion. But it also placed restraints on the supply of weapons to the rebels, prompting the Security Council to later introduce an exemption — providing significant cover for governments seeking to arm the rebels.

A new report by a U.N. panel of experts responsible for monitoring the arms embargo in Libya sought to itemize a list of military supplies — everything from sandbags to shouldered propelled rockets — that flowed into Libya after the U.N. Security Council imposed an arms embargo on Libya in February 2011. The list, however, is incomplete because NATO and some of the insurgents’ chief military backers, including Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, have refused to provide a full account of their contributions.

The report identified numerous attempts by the Qaddafi regime “to secure arms deals and use mercenaries from neighboring countries,” citing reports in the Globe and Mail about a July 2011 visit to Beijing by Libyan officials seeking to purchase military supplies from three Chinese arms manufacturers. (China denied that the talks led to any deals.) The panel also cited reports that much of Libya’s military capacity had been reconstituted after 2004, following years of Western and U.N. sanctions, with the aid of Western European countries and ex-Soviet states (The panel also noted that is conducting an ongoing investigation into Qaddafi’s use of mercenaries, adding that so far it had found “no conclusive evidence.”)

But the 78-page report provides insights into how the international community combined diplomatic pressure, military airpower, and clandestine arms deliveries, to topple a regime. It would not be surprising if some of those countries considering backing the Syrian campaign to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad in Syria are drawing from the same playbook…Read more.