Interview With Evan Davies of BBC Radio 4's Today Program

Philip H. Gordon
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs
London, United Kingdom
March 30, 2011

QUESTION: The policy of the U.S. and the UK and France on Libya is to be as non-interventionist as possible, as long as that gets the right outcome -- departure of Colonel Gadhafi. If it doesn’t, we might intervene a little bit more, according to President Obama, last night he said it was possible the U.S. might arm the opposition.

Well this all raises many questions and we can discuss them with America’s Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs, Philip Gordon. He’s in London at the moment for that conference yesterday and joins us from a radio car now. Hello there.


QUESTION: Good morning to you.

Potentially arming rebels, that would be a very major step on from what we’re doing at the moment, wouldn't it?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: I think we should be clear about the issue. It was hardly the focus of the talks in London. The President has said that he has not ruled that out, but he also made very clear he hasn’t ruled it in.

The Security Council Resolution provides for such a measure --

QUESTION: Does it? That’s the key thing. Does it provide for that measure?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: Well, Resolution 1973, amended Resolution 1970 by saying that in the context of arming civilians such a measure could be applied if member states chose to do so. But again, I think there’s, to be perfectly honest, far too much focus on this issue. It is not something the United States has decided to do and it’s not something the coalition partners have decided to do.

QUESTION: I’m interested, though, in whether you think everyone who voted on that Resolution 1973 understood that it might imply the level of partiality of our interventions in this battle, or whether they thought it was really about trying to be very impartial in Libya and just to prevent humanitarian massacre and murder.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: I think the strong international support for Resolution 1973 reflected the absolute commitment of the international community to stop what the Gadhafi regime’s forces were doing against civilians. What they said is that the international community could take all measures necessary to do so, and they specifically wrote into the resolution that the previous resolution’s ban on arms imports into the entire country would be superseded by the new resolution.

But once again, I think that, and let me just be clear, the United States hasn’t decided to take this step; the international community hasn’t decided to take this step, it is out there as a potential option if the other measures which are currently being undertaken -- and by the way there’s a full range of them, military and non-military, and they’re actually having a very significant effect -- if all of that were not to work this could technically be an option but it’s not one that we’re exercising at the moment.

QUESTION: By work you mean in getting rid of Colonel Gadhafi. I suppose the question is, is it possible that the U.S., UK, Europe in general, is it possible they would accept any outcome of this other than the departure of Colonel Gadhafi?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: President Obama I think was very clear in his speech the other night that the military mission of the United States is designed to implement the Security Council Resolution, no more and no less. And by implementing the Council Resolution, I mean protecting civilians against attacks from Gadhafi’s forces, and delivering humanitarian aid.

We’ve also been very clear that Gadhafi needs to go. It’s difficult to imagine a political future in that country with him in power. It’s difficult to imagine civilians across the country feeling safe with him in power. But that is not a military objective of the United States. It’s not a military objective of the coalition. I think the 40-some leaders around the table yesterday were clear about what their objectives are.

QUESTION: Just very very briefly. Recognition of the transitional government. France has recognized it. I think Qatar has recognized it. Any chance that the U.S. will? Just in 20 seconds.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: We have been in touch with the Transitional Council. Secretary Clinton met with one of its leaders here in London. We want to stay engaged, but we think it would be premature to decide at this point who the representation of the state of Libya are.