The Downed Libyan Plane, the UAE, Planning for Libya, Planning for Yemen — Today’s Q’s for O’s WH: 3/24/2011

By Kristina

Mar 24, 2011 1:55pm

TAPPER: Do you guys have any comment on the fact that the no-fly zone was violated for the first time by the Libyan air force, and the French took out a Libyan plane?  Do you have any response to that?

CARNEY:  I would simply say that it proves that it's a bad idea to violate the no-fly zone.

TAPPER: If the no-fly zone is such a complicated process and if we're forging this coalition “on the fly,” as the secretary of defense put it, is the situation — why was it on the fly?  Why was — there had been weeks of discussing the no-fly zone, and then all of a sudden everything changed last Tuesday; President Obama decided he wanted to get more aggressive.  Why was it on the fly, as the secretary of defense put it?  Why had there not been weeks of planning for this?

CARNEY:  Well, there had been discussion of a no-fly zone. The fact of the matter is — and as you know, we've discussed this many times — the — from the first protest to the actions taken by the U.N. nine days later to the actions taken by the U.N. with Security Council Resolution 1973 were unbelievably fast by any historical precedent.

So I think the — you know, when you're talking about a military operation with multipartners like we have in Libya, these are – these are relatively complex in terms of command and control, and I think ideally would allow — you know, in the preparations for them, would allow for more time, potentially.  But the fact is we — the president faced an imminent humanitarian crisis in Libya with the very unequivocal threats that Gadhafi was making about what he would do to the citizens of Benghazi.  And the president and our international partners and the U.N. and the Arab League and others felt that it was absolutely essential to act quickly to save lives.  And I think there is no question that lives have been saved because of the action taken by the United States and by our partners in moving against Gadhafi's forces in the way that we have.

TAPPER: Had there been planning before last week?  I mean

CARNEY:  Of course.  There's no question this has been in discussion, but the — but the fact is we had to move quickly.  And I think that we moved quickly with phase one, we're — again this – we go back into this sort of debate about this sort of surreal world we live in in terms of time frames here, that we're talking six — what? — five days now since this began, and we will resolve very shortly the issues of command and control for the next phase of this operation.  This is — this is very quick, by any standard.

TAPPER: The — last week, the White House was under the impression that the UAE was going to be contributing, making military contributions.  In the readout that you guys provided of the conversation that Vice President Biden had with the crown prince, there was only mention of humanitarian contributions.  What happened to the UAE?

CARNEY:  Well, I — we are very pleased by the offers of help that the UAE and other countries have made.

And, you know, contributions can come in different forms.  The – as you know, Qatar is — has offered to supply and participate with – by supplying aircraft.  We welcome that.  We welcome the interest shown by other Arab governments, including the Jordanians and the UAE – I mean — sorry, Jordanians — to contribute.  And we look — you know, this — these — we're still in the first phases of this operation, and there will be many ways for our partners in this endeavor to contribute going forward.

TAPPER: Why would they change their mind, or was it a miscommunication to begin with?

CARNEY:  Well, I don't want to speak for another government. I think that we welcome this participation that they have indicated they want to provide.

TAPPER: Okay, last question is — Defense Secretary Gates on Yemen said, "We haven't done any post-Saleh planning, if you will."  There's no planning for what might happen if the president of Yemen falls?

CARNEY:  Well, we have said, Jake, many times that the – you know, that the resolution of the situation in Yemen, as is the case with the unrest in so many of these countries, has to be, in our view, peaceful.  It has to be brought about through political dialogue.  And we're not in the business of choosing for the peoples of these countries who their leaders ought to be.

However, the future of Yemen — you know, whatever the leadership of the — in the future looks like for Yemen, that's got to be decided by the — by the people of Yemen and not by the people of the United States.  We do not build our policy in any country around a single person.  And we obviously will look forward to having a solid relationship to the leader of Yemen.

TAPPER: But there's no –

CARNEY:  Well, look, I think — I'm not going to dissect the language here. I just — I mean, the answer I just gave you:  I think that we are focused on offering our judgment that in Yemen, as in other countries, force is not the appropriate response to the unrest.  And we call on all sides to refrain from violence, and we call on all sides to engage in a political dialogue, as President Saleh has indicated he wants to do.  So we think that's a positive thing, and we're not going to prejudge the outcome of that dialogue.

-Jake Tapper


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