What's on the Libyan rebels' shopping list?

Say you're a poorly trained rebel army battling the ruthless military and hired thugs of a dictator who has said he'd fight to the last drop of blood, you'd probably need some help. So, what would be on your wish list of supplies from the international community?

AK-47s, anti-tank weapons, night-vision goggles, body armor ...and underwear.

Reports this week that France parachuted weapons in to rebel troops in western Libya re-energized the debate over supplying the anti-Qaddafi forces. The African Union and Russia both criticized the French move. So far, Qatar is the only other country that is known to have given weapons to the rebellion. The U.S. has shipped non-lethal aid, including medical supplies, uniforms, boots, tents, personal protective gear, and  "more than 10,000 halal meals ready to eat," according to State Department spokesman Mark Toner. 

Le Figaro reported that the arms from France included rocket launchers, assault rifles, and anti-tank missiles (though France denied sending the latter; a French government spokesman said the supplies included only light arms such as machine guns and rocket launchers). 

In Vienna yesterday, Mahmoud Jibril, the head of the rebel's Transitional National Council (TNC), once again called on the international community to supply weapons.

"The rebels have only light arms," he said. "We need weapons to bring the fight to a quick end."

So, what kinds of weapons are the rebels seeking? In fact, the TNC actually has a shopping list. A State Department official said a third-party broker had approached the United States about supplying weapons, but the U.S. turned the request down because there is an embargo against shipping arms to Libya.

According to a source with ties to the TNC, who has seen the list, it consists of about 25-30 items. Some of the weapons the rebels are seeking include:

All in all, not a bad list of items to jumpstart your rag-tag army.

Last month, Mansour El-Kikhia, a Libyan-American activist with close ties to the TNC and its military leadership, presented a second list to the Pentagon. He said the request came from the senior military leaders of the rebellion.

He asked for the following:

  • Helmets
  • Boots
  • Military fatigues
  • Body armor
  • Assault rifles
  • Hand guns
  • Grenade launchers
  • Ammunition
  • FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank missile (third generation)
  • Third-generation Nag anti-tank missiles

The Pentagon rejected the request, according to El-Kikhia.

The United States and other nations have been more compliant when it comes to providing non-lethal assistance. Nevertheless, there is still a massive need for all kinds of supplies ranging from food to clothing, according to the TNC's envoy to Washington, Ali Aujali. He said supplies being sought for the rebel army range from the most high tech (surveillance equipment) to the mundane (underwear).

Aujali reviewed with Foreign Policy a list of supply needs he recently received from Benghazi. It includes:

  • Shoes
  • Shirts
  • Boots
  • Underwear
  • Helmets
  • Binoculars
  • Laptops and color cartridges
  • Body armor
  • Maps
  • Satellite phones
  • Surveillance cameras with monitors
  • Medical kits
  • Safety glasses
  • Food supplies -- halal, non perishable
  • Night vision goggles

And then of course, there's money.

"That's the most important thing and that's their primary concern," said Dirk Vandewalle, who was recently appointed political advisor to the UN Mission for Libya.

They've asked the U.S. to unfreeze the $30 billion of Libyan assets seized from Qaddafi and release them to the National Council.

Vandewalle said, beyond weapons, they also need trainers. "Otherwise, the weapons can't be used efficiently."

Aujali said he has not tried to seek arms from the United States, though he made clear the rebels certainly have that need as well. "Qaddafi is not killing Libyan people with potatoes," he said. "He's using real weapons."


What does France think about DSK’s release?

After weeks of soul-searching about gender, politics, lusty old men, and sexual violence, France woke to the news today that the New York City rape case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former IMF managing director and one-time front-runner to take Nicolas Sarkozy's seat, was near collapsing since prosecutors no longer believe much of the accuser's story. And just now, he's been released from house arrest.

How do you say oops in French?


Some will certainly embrace Strauss-Kahn as a martyr (like his friend and stalwart defender, Bernard Henri-Levy) on the cross of the U.S. justice system, but some in France seem less willing to give him a hero's welcome. The charges in New York led to other allegations against the former IMF leader that made him out to be -- at the very least -- a cad.

"Even if what he did was not criminal, all this is going to take time," Christophe Barbier, a political commentator and editor of L'Express weekly, told Reuters. "There is everything we have learned about him, the damage to his reputation. All this makes the idea he could be a candidate very hypothetical, it's science fiction."

As one French woman told the Times:  

"People are not going to forgive him. At a political level, he is dead," she said. "It would be terrible for France if he came and if we give him some credit again."


Initially, many in France expressed anger at DSK's treatment, whether or not he was guilty as charged. The infamous "perp walk," in which he was hauled out in handcuffs, looking disheveled before cameras -- something alien to the French justice system -- made the whole thing seem if not barbaric than certainly less genteel.

Doesn't this new revelation simply confirm those stereotypes about the American justice system? The New York Times got mixed reactions:

In several conversations there seemed to be little rancor toward the American justice system, beyond a broad sense that it was, as one French legal adviser put it, "muscular." But Patrice Randé, 50, the manager of an insurance office, said the case risked stoking anti-American feeling with the impression that the New York police had deliberately humiliated Mr. Strauss-Kahn. "We were made to believe he was guilty, we dropped him, we really bought this," Mr. Randé said. "I'm shocked that they didn't take more care," he said, referring to American prosecutors.


Before his arrest, Strauss-Kahn was leading in the polls to win the Socialist Party's nomination and many thought he could ultimately unseat Nicolas Sarkozy. Already, there are segments of the party that are suggesting Strauss-Kahn could return to the race -- even though the field is already crowded with other contenders.

One party  leader, Jean-Marie Le Guen, said his old ally, DSK, would now "be present in the presidential campaign," though he also said it was too soon to speculate on whether he would run. 

Socialist Michele Sabban said the party should postpone the primary calendar, in light of the news. (The current deadline to declare one's candidacy is July 13).

Jean-Louis Borloo, a potential Socialist candidate for president, seemed to endorse a DSK run on French TV. "What's stopping him from coming back if he has the strength and desire?" he asked.

The head of the Socialist Party, Martine Aubry, who announced this week she was running for president, said she hoped "the American justice system will establish the whole truth and allow Dominique to emerge from this nightmare," though she steered clear of questions about his political future.

One politician who doesn't seem likely to embrace DSK any time soon is leader of the far right National Front, Marine Le Pen. "I don't see how he can come back as a candidate in the Socialist primaries, no matter what happens," she said. Of course, this might have more to do with her own political fortunes. Analysts said she benefitted more than Sarkozy when Strauss-Kahn left the race.

And one unnamed senior Socialist told the New York Times the party shouldn't react too quickly.

"What if we all embrace him again and then he turns out to be guilty after all? We have to wait for a clear and definite outcome before making any decisions," he said. "Our voters have lost trust not just in him but the party. We have to be careful."

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