Update: see below
With rebel forces surrounding his building and French and U.N. helicopter strikes destroying his remaining army, Ivory Coast's strongman leader Laurent Gbagbo, currently sheltering in a basement bunker, is reportedly in talks with the French ambassador to negotiate a surrender and a transfer of power that may happen as soon as today.
After months of clashes that have grown increasingly bloody, the United Nations and France finally put their military support behind the rebels in what the Washington Post called "a significant escalation of force that effectively placed peacekeepers on one side of the West African country’s deepening civil war." The difference between this kind of international intervention and what we saw with the United States and NATO in Libya is striking, so let's take a look at the two outside forces' justification for such swift and intense military involvement.
The rebels have a defined leadership structure and a political alternative to Gbagbo. This conflict started after Gbagbo refused to concede defeat in a national election, so in some sense the sitting government in Ivory Coast is actually an occupying rebel force. The fighters on the outside of Gbagbo's compound are loyal to the man CNN identifies as "President Alassane Ouattara," who did, in fact, win the election. On a side note, it's interesting that neither the Times nor the Post will call Outtara the president. Both refer to him as Gbagbo's "rival."
The United Nations joined on behalf of civilians, but then to defend its own people. The United Nations has had a force in Ivory Coast for years. It's current mission there started in 2004 as enforcement and implementation of the Ivorian parties' peace agreement. It hasn't taken a very active combat role in the clashes that started on November 28, but in recent days, U.N. spokespeople have been vocal about the force's role in defending civilians, as well as its own personnel, from attacks by Gbagbo's forces. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the use of force on Monday was“in self defense and to protect” civilians, but he said the operation did not constitute the U.N. becoming "a party to the conflict."
As a former colonial power, France feels a bit responsible for making sure the country doesn't dissolve. It didn't take much convincing to persuade the French to intervene in the country they once ruled. According to the New York Times, "In a statement Monday, France said it had joined the operation in Ivory Coast at the request of the United Nations, with the intent of 'neutralizing heavy weapons that are used against the civilian population and United Nations personnel in Abidjan.' "
The conflict was pretty easy to win. This clash has been going on for months, and by the time the outside forces got involved, it was pretty clear which way the fight would go, given a little help. As the Times points out, "The international attacks coincided with a renewed assault by local troops loyal to Mr. Ouattara."
Update, 8:55 a.m.: The BBC is reporting a ceasefire agreement:
Mr Ouattara's representative in Paris says Mr Gbagbo is negotiating his surrender. There has been no word from Mr Gbagbo himself, although his foreign minister, Alcide Djedje, says a ceasefire has been agreed to end the fighting, telling the BBC: "The war is over."
Meanwhile, Reuters tweets that the "French Defence minister says Ivory Coast crisis could be resolved in the next few hours."