France Admits to Arms Drops in Libya
France has admitted to giving arms to Libyan rebels. Theoretically, under UN Resolution 73, this could be considered acceptable, if France is running on the presumption that arms given to rebels would be used in defense of civilians on the ground. However, two problems arise from the situation as it stands.
First, obviously one cannot assume that the weapons in question would be used purely by or in defense of civilians. Rebels are engaged in offensive campaigns against the Qaddafi Regime. Giving weapons to anyone on the ground in Libya could be construed as breaking the arms embargo. Second, because the weapons were delivered via air drops, France can't even guarantee that they ended up in the hands of rebels - fighters defending civilians, or engaging in offensive attacks against Qaddafi's forces. African Union Commissioner Jean Ping is concerned that these arms drops are contributing to the destabilization of the African region in general, and that arms are getting into the wrong hands. Citing a specific situation where Al-Qaeda members had managed to get their hands on weapons presumably from the French air drops, Ping is making a strong case against Western intervention in the form of arms air drops. While France took care to drop the weapons in areas that were known to be held by rebels, there is no way to be certain who recovered them. NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen stated that the military alliance was not involved in France's airdrop, and that he had no knowledge of any other nations completing similar missions.
The political climate in Libya is unstable. The ideologies and political loyalties of the rebels are still in question. While it may be tempting to follow "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" logic when it comes to offering support on the ground, previous experience in the region shows that is not wise. Whether or not France will be held criminally responsible for these weapons drops remains to seen. That is entirely possible, if it is later proven definitively that the French rifles, ammunition, anti-aircraft missiles, or light armor vehicles included in the drops were used in offensive attacks against the Qaddafi regime.