March 17, 2011: The United Nations Security Council approves a ‘no-fly zone’ over Libya, starting NATO involvement in the Libyan civil war.

The US and Britain vote in favor of a no-fly zone in Libya, on March 17, 2011. (Credit: Foreign Policy Journal)

The US and Britain vote in favor of a no-fly zone in Libya, on March 17, 2011. (Credit: Foreign Policy Journal)

A widespread Libyan uprising against long-time Libyan ruler Muammar el-Qaddafi began in mid-February 2011, but the rebels lack weapons and are getting defeated. By a vote of ten to five, the UN Security Council approves a resolution authorizing “all necessary measures” to protect civilians there. (United Nations, 03/17/2011) 

No country uses ground forces, but a NATO-led air war begins three days later, targeting el-Qaddafi’s forces. 17 countries are involved, with most of the forces belonging to the US, France, and Britain. (Al Jazeera, 3/25/2011) The civil war will continue for most of the rest of 2011 before the rebels win.

May 5, 2011—May 6, 2011: Blumenthal and Clinton worry about the French government developing business ties with the Libyan rebels.

On May 5, 2011, Sid Blumenthal emails Clinton with a warning about a “French economic grab” in Libya. With the rebels likely to eventually take over the oil-rich country due to NATO air support, Blumenthal worries that the French government is establishing strong ties with the rebel Transitional National Council (TNC). The French government is sending medical and humanitarian supplies to the rebels, and also having them meet with French business leaders, including oil company executives.

The next day, Clinton emails Blumenthal back, saying, “Just met w TNC again, but signed no contracts!” (US Department of State, 1/29/2016)

July 15, 2011: The US officially recognizes the rebels as the legitimate rulers of Libya.

Clinton meets with TNC Executive Bureau Chairman Mahmoud Jibril on July 15, 2011. Credit: US Embassy of Libya)

Clinton meets with TNC Executive Bureau Chairman Mahmoud Jibril on July 15, 2011. Credit: US Embassy of Libya)

Clinton announces that the US recognizes the rebel Transitional National Council (TNC) as “the legitimate governing authority for Libya,” and says long-time Libyan leader Muammar el-Qaddafi’s government “no longer [has] legitimate authority.” The rebels are still fighting a civil war in Libya, supported by the US and NATO, but are gaining ground against el-Qaddafi’s forces. Clinton says US recognition should help the rebels gain more funding. (US Department of State, 7/15/2011)