Revolution is in the Air: 3/29/11: A Debate on U.S. Military Intervention in Libya: Juan Cole v. Vijay Prashad


The WikiLeaks News & Views Blog for Tuesday, Day 122

from The Nation Blogs: Media Fix by Greg Mitchell




Headlines for March 29, 2011

The WikiLeaks News & Views Blog for Tuesday, Day 122

from The Nation Blogs: Media Fix by Greg Mitchell

Iran, Iraq Warn of Gulf Turmoil over Bahrain: Cole in Truthdig

from Informed Comment by Juan

My column at Truthdig is out, entitled “The Sleeping Giants of Tiny Bahrain.”


‘ Risking the radicalization of Bahrain’s Shiite community may be a very bad idea. Worries on that score are what led Vice President Joe Biden to ask again in a phone call Sunday to the king of the island nation for a negotiated settlement between the Sunni monarchy and his repressed Shiite majority. Meanwhile, as Iraqi Shiites demonstrated in favor of their coreligionists in Bahrain, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki warned somewhat apocalyptically this weekend that Saudi intervention against Bahrain’s Shiites could ignite a “sectarian war” in the Persian Gulf region.

Bahrain’s protest movement, inspired by events in Tunisia and Egypt, began Feb. 14. The Bahraini crowds demanded the resignation of the prime minister, whom they accused of ordering severe and persistent human rights abuses. Khalifa Al Khalifa, the uncle of the king, has held the post since Bahrain became independent of Britain in 1971. The largely Shiite protesters, led by the Wifaq Party, also insisted that the constitution be altered to give more power to the Shiite majority, and that the country become a constitutional monarchy. Three small parties (including al-Haq, which had split from Wifaq), began calling in early March for an outright republic, and of course they frightened the Sunni monarchy and its Saudi backers most of all. ‘

Read the whole thing.

For more see this Aljazeera English report, “Bahrain Security accused of Excessive Force.”

And the same channel’s report, “Tensions Rise over Bahrain ‘Land-Grab’ ”

Consider also the following report translated from Persian by the USG Open Source Center, which indicates the depth of anger in Iran over the use of Saudi and other Sunni troops to repress the largely Shiite Bahran demonstrators:

“Iran: Defense Minister Denounces Saudi Arabia’s Military Interference in Bahrain
Iranian Students News Agency
Tuesday, March 29, 2011 …

According to the ISNA news desk, at the end of the government cabinet meeting and in response to a question regarding Saudi Arabia’s military interference in Bahrain’s internal affairs, the Minister of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics, Commander General Ahmad Vahidi, denounced this act and said: “Governments must protect the lives, possessions, and independence of their people and not invite other countries to hurt and kill their own people.” He reiterated: “These kinds of actions increase friction and destroy the region’s stability and security. If these uncalculated and unlawful acts become customary, the region will turn into a center of hostility, conflict, and incendiarism, and the only ones to suffer will be the region’s nations.”

(Description of Source: Tehran Iranian Student News Agency (ISNA) in Persian — Conservative news agency linked to University Jihad, a state-backed student organization generally supportive of government policy and providing conservative reporting. On 19 June 2010, University Jihad Head Dr. Hamid Reza Tayyebi appointed caretaker Ali Mottaqiyan as the director-general of ISNA for three years. URL: )”

For more on the subject, see “Sunni-Shiite Tension Boils in Iraq, Gulf over Bahrain”


“Bahrain Demonstrators Repressed”.

Saudi reforms

“Saudi Arabia is printing 1.5m copies of an edict by religious scholars outlawing protests in the conservative kingdom as un-Islamic, the state news agency said.  Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter and a major US ally, is an absolute monarchy that does not tolerate any form of public dissent.  It managed to stifle an attempt to stage a mass protest on 11 March with a large security presence on the streets.  Religious scholars issued their fatwa, or religious edict, and senior princes issued warnings in advance.  “The grand mufti requested that a number of government and private firms print and distribute more than a million copies,” the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said, adding that 500,000 copies had already been printed.

Iraqi protests at US bases

This is not in the US press, of course.  Protests against US bases? How dare they protest against their “liberators”? (thanks Ali)

Meet the new US/Saudi supported leader of Libya

I just saw it on Al-Arabiyyah TV (the news station of King Fahd’s brother-in-law, run by his son, Prince `Azzuz who squandered millions of his people’s wealth on wooing Yasmeen Bleeth).  The US/Saudi-selected Libyan opposition leader, the lousy Mustafa `Abdul-Jalil has just said–KID YOU NOT–that “dismay with decisions made in the national interest is forbidden”.  He denied borrowing the statement from Orwell.  HE really really said that.  Get me the link NOW.

Who can arrange for a “dignified exit” for a tyrant better than Saudi king?

“The Saudis have been involved in efforts to secure a “dignified exit” from power, according to an Arab diplomat who spoke on the condition of anonymity in line with diplomaticprotocol.”

Important achievement for the US in Iraq, brags the New York Times. Only 184 people were killed last month

New York Times’ desperate attempt to improve the image of Iraq:  “Nevertheless, overall violence in Iraq has dropped sharply, especially since the height of the sectarian civil war in 2006 and 2007, but also compared with last year. In February, for example, 184 people were killed in attacks around the country, with the exception of the semiautonomous Kurdish region in the north, according to statistics from the Ministry of Interior. In February 2010, 435 were killed.

So while the daily thrum of smaller attacks goes on, the drop in violence has allowed a version of everyday life to blossom. A new Ferris wheel just opened in one of Baghdad’s largest parks, rising above the blast walls, and on Sunday, the first day of the workweek here, it was packed with families.”  And notice that they decided to exclude the Kurdish region.

Syria Detains Egyptian American Accused of Spying, Refuses to Release Details of Charges Against Mohamed Radwan

Play__radwanThe death toll in Syria since protests erupted 10 days ago has passed 60, and according to some estimates, more than 280 people have been arrested, including an Egyptian American engineer named Mohamed Radwan. On Friday, Syrian state television aired what it called a “confession” by Radwan, in which he says he visited Israel in secret and took money in exchange for providing photographs and video about Syria. Radwan’s family says the statement is false and must have resulted from coercion. We play an excerpt from an interview in February with Radwan while he participated in protests in Egypt, and we speak to his brother Tarek Radwan in Washington, D.C. [includes rush transcript]


Debate on Libya: Cole at Democracy Now!

from Informed Comment by Juan

My debate over intervention in Libya with my esteemed colleague Professor Vijay Prashad is available as a transcript and podcast at Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now!.

Here is the embedded video:

And here is part 1 via YouTube for the Adobe Flash challenged:

And Part 2:

A Debate on U.S. Military Intervention in Libya: Juan Cole v. Vijay Prashad

Play_libya_debateAs President Obama defends the U.S.-led military attacks on Libya, we host a debate. University of Michigan Professor Juan Cole has just published an article titled “An Open Letter to the Left on Libya.” Cole defends the use of military force to prevent a massacre in Benghazi and to aid the Libyan rebel movement in their liberation struggle. In opposition to U.S. intervention in Libya, University of Trinity Professor Vijay Prashad warns the United States has involved itself in a decades-long internal Libyan struggle while it ignores violent crackdowns by U.S.-backed governments in Bahrain, Yemen and other countries in the region. [includes rush transcript]

British voters fear another Iraq following Libya action

There are only so many troops and so much money to go around. There may be a moral obligation to prevent the slaughter of civilians but there’s also a moral obligation to think about the people back home that are shouldering a heavy economic burden. The economy stinks in the US and UK and that’s not likely to change any time soon. If the US was prepared to unload the costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan it might be a lot easier to accept this latest war effort, but that does not appear likely. Looking at the direction of other countries in the region, one can see the potential for more Libya-like scenarios.

The military industrial complex always loves more war, because they profit from it. For everyone else? Not so much. The Independent:

David Cameron has insisted that Libya is “not another Iraq”, but voters are not convinced and appear scarred by the long, bloody aftermath of the 2003 invasion. Seven out of ten people (71 per cent) are concerned that the action in Libya could result in Britain being “dragged into a prolonged conflict like the Iraq war”, while 24 per cent are not. The fears are greater among Labour supporters, 77 per cent of whom are worried that Libya could turn into another Iraq. That view is shared by 67 per cent of Conservative supporters and 70 per cent of Liberal Democrat supporters.

The findings chime with the private views of many MPs who support the intervention in Libya but want to see an “early exit strategy”. Mr Cameron may come under pressure to spell out an “end game” when he addresses the private weekly meeting of Tory MPs at Westminster tomorrow. One senior Tory said: “Our MPs are supportive of going in but there is anxiety about being stuck there for a long time.”

By a margin of 47 to 43 per cent, people do not believe the Government was right to commit British forces to action in Libya. A majority of Conservative voters (58 per cent) back the intervention, compared to 46 per cent of Labour and 45 per cent of Liberal Democrat supporters. Despite that, 46 per cent think the operation would be justified in targeting Colonel Muammar Gaddafi himself; 40 per cent do not.

Syrian shooting versus Jordan shooting (at people) in the New York Times

As I have been on the road for the last few days, I have been reading the issues of New York Times.  The hard issue of the New York Times from Saturday had this headline: “Syria kills protesters” on its front page.  In the inside pages, on p. A 8, you read: “Riot police in Jordan clear camp of protesters”–no mention in the headline that people were shot at and beaten.

“We Have Intervened to Stop a Massacre”: Obama Defends the U.S.-Led Military Action in Libya

Play_libya_obamaIn his first major television address since ordering the bombing of Libya earlier this month, President Obama defended his decision, citing Libyan leader Col. Muammar Gaddafi’s repeated human rights violations, an international consensus for interventions, the revolutions sweeping the Middle East and North Africa, and the threat of a massacre in the Libyan rebel stronghold in Benghazi. [includes rush transcript]


That Arab League

It took the Arab League 10 years (from 1964 to 1974) to accept to deal with the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people.  Under orders from the US, it took the Arab League weeks to deal with the Saudi-supported, Mustafa `Abd-Al-Jalil as the representative of the Libyan people.

What international law?

“The constraints imposed on Libyan forces are similarly radical and far-reaching, going well beyond the obligations imposed by general international law on governments responding to insurgencies. The resolution demands ‘the immediate establishment of a ceasefire and a complete end to violence’, and bans all flights in Libyan airspace unless their sole purpose is ‘humanitarian’. If the expansive authority granted to international forces and the novel obligations imposed on Libya by Resolution 1973 are sanctioned by international law, what kind of law is this? And does it deserve our fidelity?

Resolution 1973 is the latest stage in a political experiment stretching back to the mid-1950s, when the UN and other international actors began to develop and systematise new forms of international executive action designed to fill what they saw as the ‘political vacuum’ emerging in the Middle East and Africa as a result of decolonisation. In claiming the political authority to take executive action independent of the interests of Great Powers, Dag Hammarskjöld challenged other 20th century visions of world order, such as those projected by Britain and France at Suez or Belgium in the Congo. The effect has been to create a long-term policing and managerial role for the UN in the decolonised world.
The idea that the Security Council might have jurisdiction to manage the conduct of a civil war has slowly taken shape, as international lawyers have loyally interpreted the UN Charter in ways that have authorised the new roles adopted by the Security Council, the Secretary-General and the Secretariat. There is little in the Charter that suggests its authors envisaged the creation of a powerful international executive that could undertake such wide-ranging forms of police action as fact-finding, peacekeeping or territorial administration. But this has never been treated as a constraint on UN involvement in such activity. Instead, generations of UN officials and international lawyers have argued that the UN and its organs must be deemed to have whatever powers are necessary to perform their functions. Over time, as the powers considered necessary for maintaining peace and security have been interpreted ever more broadly, an expansive apparatus of international rule has been established.” (thanks Laleh)

This entry was posted in Afghanistan, Background & Analysis, Bahrain, Events, Human Rights, Imperialism, Imperialist Interference & Views, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Libya, Saudi Arabia. Bookmark the permalink.

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