Danger in lethargy on Libya 

Last week the House gave President Obama a sharp foreign policy rebuke. A resolution critical of president's Libyan adventure passed with bi-partisan support.

Now the action shifts to the Senate, where John Kerry (D-Mass.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) have crafted a rally-round-the Libya mission resolution. Word is it will move to mark-up in the Foreign Affairs Committee this week.

But the administration may be no more pleased with the Senate than the House. It is far from clear that Kerry-McCain will garner enough votes to pass.

Moreover, both Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY, appear indifferent to the measure's fate.

Meanwhile, Senators Jim Webb, D-VA, and Bob Corker, R-TN, today offered an "anti-measure" that looks more like what passed the House.

Hill sources tell me that many in the upper chamber would prefer to see neither measure brought up for a vote, but that's no longer an option now that the House has weighed in.

Expect a vote "on something" in the next two weeks. But don't expect to see the Kerry-McCain resolution brought up unless there are enough votes to get it over the goal line.

Meanwhile, the war drags on. The real sticking point seems to be the referral of Gaddafi to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The administration backed the referral to the ICC in the UN Security Council early on, because it seemed like an easy way to "send a message" to Tripoli.

Gaddafi, however, has sent signals he won't leave because of the threat of ICC prosecution. Bottom line: Obama's backing of the ICC just made it harder to get rid of Gaddafi.

And all the while, concern lingers that Libya still may become a new battleground for foreign al Qaeda fighters. In a taped eulogy of Bin Laden released yesterday, al Qaeda deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri characterized the fighting in Libya as part of the "struggle" against the United States.

Also this week, Mauritania's President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz said he was worried about arms from the Libyan conflict falling into the hands of al Qaeda showing up his backyard.

These tidbits follow on incidents previously noted in "Beltway Confidential" of suspected activity by al Qaeda affiliates on the Tunisian border and in Benghazi.

The longer the conflict drags on, the more likely we'll see a new "foreign fighter" pipeline open up into the region.

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Staff Report

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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