- CIA Operating in Libya; Obama Authorized Rebel Arms Shipments
- Libyan Foreign Minister Resigns Post
- Gaddafi Troops Advance on Rebels
- Libyan Infant Killed in U.S.-Led Air Strike
- Former Nicaraguan Foreign Minister to Rep Libya at U.N.
- Ohio House Approves Anti-Union Bill
- Walker Gov. Officials Defy Court Injunction to Implement Anti-Union Law
- New York Assembly Approves Budget Amidst Protests
- Obama Energy Plan Calls for Reducing Oil Imports, Affirms Nuclear Use
- Assad Orders Review of Emergency Law, Blames “Foreign Conspiracy” for Unrest
- Reuters Journalists Missing in Syria
- Relatives, Friends of Detained Egyptian American in Syria Stage Cairo Protest
- U.N. Backs Sanctions on Gbagbo
- Egypt to Hold November Elections
- Carter Calls for End to Cuba Embargo, Release of Prisoners
- Organic Farmers, Dealers Sue Agri-Giant Monsanto over Patents
- U.N. Urges Japan to Widen Evacuation Zone
Jeremy Scahill and Ex-DIA Analyst Joshua Foust on “The Dangerous U.S. Game in Yemen” & CIA Ops in Libya
Hundreds of thousands took to the streets of Yemen on Wednesday as part of the unwavering protests for the resignation of U.S.-backed President Ali Abdullah Saleh. We speak to independent journalist Jeremy Scahill, who argues the U.S. secret war has unintentionally played a significant role in weakening Saleh’s regime, and Joshua Foust, who recently left his post as Yemen analyst at the Defense Intelligence Agency. We also get their reaction to the latest news CIA operatives are on the ground in Libya as part of a covert Western force to aid the U.S.-led bombing campaign. [includes rush transcript]
A woman who says she was raped by forces loyal to Libyan Col. Muammar Gaddafi remains missing five days after she was arrested for bursting into a hotel full of international reporters in Tripoli and recounting her ordeal. The woman, Eman al-Obeidi, said she had been held against her will for two days and raped by 15 of Gaddafi’s men. Obeidi’s face and legs were bruised, and she had blood on her right thigh. We speak with journalist Mona Eltahawy about sexual assaults against Libyan women under the Gaddafi regime. [includes rush transcript]
Scottish prosecutors have requested an interview with defected Libyan foreign minister Moussa Koussa over the 1988 Lockerbie bombing, a move hailed by relatives of those killed in the air disaster. (Middle East Online, March 31) Koussa, former head of Libyan intelligence and until recently a member of Moammar Qaddafi’s inner circle, arrived in the UK March 30 and said he was defecting. Popularly known as the “Envoy of Death,” he was secretary of the Libyan People’s Bureau in London—equivalent to Tripoli’s ambassador—in the ’80s. He was declared persona non grata by Britain after two Libyan opposition figures were murdered in London and he told the media that the policy of eliminating “stray dogs” would continue. Campaigners also hold him responsible in the 1984 slaying of Yvonne Fletcher, a London police officer who was apparently shot from inside the Libyan embassy while trying to control a crowd of anti-Qaddafi protesters (mostly Libyan ex-pats) who had gathered there. (The Guardian, March 31) Libyan rebels have arrested a man suspected in the Fletcher murder, one Omar Ahmed Sodani, who worked under Koussa at the embassy, and campaigners want him to face trial in UK. (The Guardian, March 25)
Syrian President Bashar al-Asad gave a major speech to the nation before his parliament on Wednesday, whichlargely disappointed the hopes of reformers . He declined to lift the state of emergency curbing basic civil and human rights that has been in place since 1963. He announced no specific reforms, but just talked about the necessity for some vague ‘reform.’ His language exemplified the paranoia of the typical one-party state. The protests were a ‘conspiracy’ provoked by ‘instigators.’ Some of the instigators were distant, some nearby (likely he meant the US and Israel).
Protests in Syria began in a small way in Damascus on March 15. But the epicenter of the protest movement is the southern city of Deraa, where protesters came out beginning on March 18, with 4 of them shoot dead and dozens wounded that day. There were also protests elsewhere on March 18. On March 24 after a major anti-government rally, some 100 were allegedly killed in Deraa when police opened fire on protesters. The following day crowds in Deraa pulled down a statue of long-time dictator Hafez al-Asad, father of the current president for life. On March 26, crowds come out in the northern port city of Latakia. Near Deraa in a small place called Tafas, crowds torched the Baath Party HQ. On March 27, the government sents troops into Latakia, and some 15 were killed by security forces.
The speech did not mollify the crowds. Gunfire broke out in Latakia after it was delivered.
Aljazeera English has more on the reaction to the speech in Deraa and elsewhere.
Syria is a country of about 22 million. It is only about 3/4s Sunni Muslim. Some ten percent of the population is Christian, and 3 per cent belong to the esoteric Shiite group, the Druze. About 13 percent is Shiite of various sorts, including Allawis or Nusayris, Twelvers and Ismailis. Most of these are Allawis, a kind of folk Shiism that emphasizes a central role for the Prophet Muhammad’s son-in-law and cousing, Ali ibn Abi Talib.
The Baath Party in Syria is dominated at the upper echelons by the Allawi ethnic group. But there is strong Sunni support for the party in areas where it has done something for people, such as dams and irrigation works in the countryside.
Deraa is largely Sunni Arab and is suffering a persistent water shortage. Religious ethnicity is not irrelevant to the struggle, but economic and ecological discontents should also not be ignored.
Because the fundamentalist Syrian Muslim Brotherhood would likely do well in a fair election, many Israeli and US government officials prefer al-Asad to remain in power.
Turkey is also acting like a status quo great state in this instance.
Get updates at Syria Comment.
John Torpey writes in a guest column for Informed Comment:
Looking After the Neighborhood in Libya
After much mischief and brutal behavior, the police have finally moved against a vicious druglord and troublemaker in a notoriously rough neighborhood. The beleaguered residents of the neighborhood have been gamely fighting back of late, but they probably can’t contend with the superior firepower of the gangland kingpin who runs the show where they live.
The gangster, of course, is Muammar el-Qaddafi, the drug is oil, and the neighborhood is the Arab Middle East. As with any use of violence by the police, there are many legitimate questions that should be raised about the intervention in this case. But amid all the concerns about what outside forces are doing in Libya, we should not miss one central point: we are witnessing the first true example of what has been called “global domestic policy.”
In a striking shift from the discredited policies and actions of the Bush era, the Obama administration has joined together with a coalition of the well-meaning to stop the potential shedding of a great deal of innocent Libyan blood. Far from the sham “coalition of the willing” that invaded Iraq in 2003, the alliance of forces moving against Colonel Qaddafi is as close to a global endeavor as one can realistically imagine.
The United Nations Security Council has voted, with some dissenters to be sure, to enjoin Qaddafi from slaughtering his citizens. The Arab League – some of whose members the Colonel has needlessly humiliated in the past – has invited outside forces to protect the country’s Arabs. The African Union has been a party to the discussions of the “contact group” meeting in London to develop strategies. Turkey, an increasingly important regional player, has been reassured that no Western occupation will ensue, and has thus been willing to accede to coalition plans. This is in part because “command and control” of the operation has been turned over to NATO, despite the complexities arising from this sort of joint military decision-making. And, of course, many among the opposition have pleaded for outside support.
While the United States is the entity best able to put forces in the field, others have insisted and President Obama agreed that Americans would not send in ground forces, would only be involved in the enterprise for “days, not weeks,” and that it would generally take a back seat with regard to the conduct of the effort. Indeed, Obama was extremely reticent about involving American forces in yet another Muslim country, and only came around after these other parties were committed and he became convinced that American power could be used for a good cause.
From the perspective of only a few years ago, all of this is quite remarkable. At least until the financial meltdown, oceans of ink were being spilled on the character and misadventures of “American empire.” Comparisons to Rome, the first empire spanning the entire world of which it knew, were rife. And the Bush administration seemed to live up to this comparison, seeing Iraq as a playground on which its fantasies of democratic nation-building could be carried out.
American military power remains overpowering, greater than that of all the rest of the world’s forces put together. Yet this is largely a technological matter of little relevance to the kinds of wars that are being fought today. Hence, like other rich societies, the United States can get along with an all-volunteer force rather than a mass conscript army. The wars that are now being fought are often going to be “wars of choice,” because no one in his right mind would attack the United States. These wars will be fought to tamp down conflict and violence in the world’s many rough neighborhoods.
Choosing which neighborhoods invite intervention will be guided by interests, of course. During the first Gulf War, protesters asked, “What if Kuwait’s main export was broccoli?” They had a point. There are many hard questions that should be asked about any use of military force. And questions of the abuse of power must always be answered; military intervention abroad is an intrinsically dubious proposition unless one is engaging with a force comprising a clear and present danger to oneself.
Still, we have turned a corner in international affairs with the Libya intervention. We will look back on it in future years as a return to the internationalism of the pre-Bush years and a re-dedication of American foreign policy to the international institutions it helped build up after World War II. The coalition forces can claim with good reason to have averted major loss of civilian life. The ghost of humanitarian failures past may finally be put to rest.
The difficulty now concerns what to do from here on in. Regime change is not the policy of the United States government, although everyone clearly wants Qaddafi out. Should we supply weapons to the rag-tag, untrained, and ill-armed rebels? This sort of step has a long and often counter-productive history in the annals of American foreign power; just recall the contras in Nicaragua and Osama bin Laden. We know practically nothing about who the rebels are and want they may ultimately want. The region is already awash in American arms. Arming the rebels looks like a very risky bet, but it is hard to leave them hanging as Qaddafi’s forces re-group and beat them back in various places.
Global domestic policy probably shouldn’t include handing out guns to lots of unknown forces, even if we may be heartbroken that the Libyan people can’t fight back as effectively as they might otherwise. If we supply them with weapons, the fight may start to look more like ours than theirs, and that may backfire down the road. But the coalition should surely provide intelligence, logistical, and political support, and hope that the neighbors can find a way to clean up the neighborhood as best they can.
John Torpey is Professor of Sociology at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.
The United States is ending its active involvement in the UN-authorized air raids to stop dictator Muammar Qaddafi from massacring dissidents. NATO says it is against arming the rebels or fomenting a civil war. The slow, cautious war of attrition from the air against Qaddafi’s forces that undertake attacks on civilians in rebel-held cities will continue. Qaddafi’s closest associates are fleeing from Tripoli in terror of being held accountable for his crimes against humanity when his regime ultimately falls.
Some of these developments on Thursday drew howls of outrage from hawks such as Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, which is how you know that they are promising developments. It is better that the intervention in Libya not be branded a US one, but rather be seen as the effort of the 28 nations of NATO plus the Arab League. It is true that the US is a big part of NATO, but it doesn’t have to be a big part of the air war. (One of the reasons President Obama authorized covert operations in Libya is that US personnel are trained in painting lasers on targets for precision aerial bombing, which will allow NATO and UN allies to be more effective.)
The news that the disorganized civilians who picked up a gun and drove to Brega and Ra’s Lanuf last week are being pushed back by the Libyan military is not actually interesting, surprising, or indicative of the way the intervention in Libya is going. The push-back was only possible because weather made it difficult for NATO to do any bombing raids in the past few days, exposing the untrained rebels to superior firepower and the maneuvers of trained troops. The weather will improve, and the bombing raids will resume, and Qaddafi will have fewer and fewer heavy weapons over time. Those who wanted to see 1500 rebels sweep in from the east without air cover are being unrealistic, and also unwise. It is better if there isn’t an eastern conquest of the west.
The defection of Libya’s foreign minister, Moussa Kussa came after he and other regime elements around Muammar Qaddafi were threatened by US assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, Jeffrey Feltman, with being “held accountable.” This defection demonstrates that the UN-sanctioned intervention in Libya is already yielding fruit in splitting the elite around Qaddafi in Tripoli and inspiring in some of them the fear of being tried for war crimes. The first few to act on this fear will defect. Later on, they may well be numerous and powerful and desperate enough to put the Qaddafis under chloroform and just drive them to the airport and wish them a bon voyage to Caracas.
Aljazeera English reports that 4 or 5 other senior Libyan officials appear to have fled to Tunisia or Egypt and do not intend to come back, including the current head of Intelligence, the Oil Minister, the deputy foreign minister, and the head of the people’s congress. (The Intelligence Minister subsequently appeared on state t.v. to deny this claim, but the others are unanswered so far).
This truly great AP article by Hadeel al-Shalchi and Lee Keath explains that the significance of Kussa’s defectionlies in its being a sign of the winds shifting against Qaddafi with his inner circle, which will affect the loyalty of his outer circle of tribal leaders. Many key members of the powerful Warfalla and Megarha tribes have already declared against Qaddafi, and Firjan and others are wavering. Tribes as loose systems of kinship politics, are volatile and fluid, and their allegiances can change rapidly. (Americans might remember that many members of the Dulaim tribe in Iraq fought tooth and nail against US troops in 2004-2005 but by 2006-2007 many were joining pro-American militias, the ‘Sons of Iraq.’) The tribes could turn on Qaddafi in a second, aside from his own and a few loyalists.
In announcing the end of US bombing raids in Libya, Gates “noted that the air attacks are a central feature of the overall military strategy; over time they could degrade Gadhafi’s firepower to a point that he would be unable to put down a renewed uprising by opposition forces…”
That is, Gates hopes that over time, Col. Muammar Qaddafi will simply have fewer and fewer tanks, artillery pieces, and armored vehicles. He has already lost the ability to bomb Benghazi and other cities from the air.
Gates’s premise seems to be that most Libyans don’t want to be under Qaddafi’s rule, and that the only way he subdued Zuara, Zawiya, Tajoura, Ra’s Lanuf, and other cities that had thrown him off was by main force. When his main force is subjected to sufficient attrition, his advantage will suddenly disappear and the opposition to him of the liberation movement will suddenly cascade. I don’t personally think that this cascade requires military means. It happened once largely peacefully, as in Egypt in Tunisia, and can happen again if Qaddafi’s heavy weapons can be neutralized.
People who want the attrition of Qaddafi’s forces to be visited in only a week or two are just being unrealistic. It would happen over weeks and maybe months.
In the meantime, the UN allies (NATO and the Arab League) have as their most urgent mission the protection of Benghazi from any major attack, which can be done aerially.
What bad thing would happen if NATO and the Arab League just proceed deliberately and with patience?
Impatience makes for bad policy. Those who urge Western military troops the ground are making a huge error– that development would never be acceptable to most of the Libyan people nor to the Arab League, nor to the majority on the UN Security Council.
Others of the tribe of the impatient want to put sophisticated weapons in rebel hands. Those who think the US or NATO should arm the rebels, however, are simply paving the way for a civil war and for a long-term cycle of violence. Having a rebel army conquer reluctant cities like Sirt, which still support Qaddafi in the main, is undesirable. Let pro-Qaddafi cities alone. The main task should be to protect the anti-Qaddafi populace from his attacks.
NATO agrees. NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Thursday that his organization differs withthose who have suggested that UNSC Resolution 1973 allows the arming of the rebels. In other words, NATO’s leadership concurs with the column published here yesterday by John Torpey.
US Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates clearly has a model in his mind somewhat like Serbia in 1999-2000. In spring 1999 Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic sent troops into Kosovo, which began committing a massacre. NATO intervened to roll that back. During that war, Milosevic was indicted at the International Criminal Court for war crimes.
Milosevic’s attempt to tinker with the presidential election of October 1999 provoked massive street protests against him. His military informed him that they would not support him. By spring of 2001 he was arrested by his own people and that summer he was surrendered to the United Nations.
NATO’s aerial bombing missions were what stopped the advance into Kosovo of Serbian troops. But it was the world community’s relegation of Milosevic to pariah status that helped the Serbian elite turn against him.
The International Criminal Court has been charged by the UN with looking into whether Qaddafi can be charged with crimes against humanity (and if not he, who could?) The ICC seems likely to return an indictment before too long. Such indictments have powerful real-world effects, as seen with Milosevic. Although this development might make it more difficult to find a place of exile for the Qaddafis, it would almost certainly hasten the fracturing of the Tripoli elite and an end to the conflict.
The Libyan conflict could never have been resolved militarily. It will wind to its end over time because of political shifts. Kussa’s defection is not the first from Qaddafi’s inner circle, and it won’t be the last.
by Murat Cem Mengüç
During a recent workshop entitled “Violence in Ottoman Anatolia” at New York University, Christine Philliou summed up the emergence of the Turkish Republic and its leading architect Mustafa Kemal Atatürk with an allusion to Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan. She rightfully suggested that Atatürk resembled Hobbes’ Leviathan, who was in search of bringing order to a chaotic environment. The richness of this allusion is obvious to all of us who are familiar with the history of late Ottoman Empire and the Turkish Republic. Hobbes’ prominence in European Enlightenment literature and his usefulness for the intellectual construction of Western imperialism make it an even more captivating metaphor.
As we all know, Hobbes’ description of the human political realm as a chaotic environment sprang from not just his belief that human beings were evil by nature, but also from the fact that he was writing during the English Civil War (1642-1651). Similar ideas and similar epochs of history furnished many other intellectuals to cut clean slates for their favorite authoritarian rulers. But, in the Turkish case, depicting the early Turkish Republican regime and particularly Atatürk as legitimate leviathans of their people also helps generate, what I will call for the lack of a better term, a reverse orientalism. This reverse orientalism, especially, helps official Turkish historiography to depict Atatürk and his people as the subjects of a chaotic environment, which resulted from the evil nature of other people and argues that they were rightfully fighting to create a zone of order, stability and self-expression. Most primary and secondary schoolbooks in Turkey to date narrate the Turkish Independence War (1919-1923) accordingly.
The most convenient aspect of this reverse Orientalist narrative is the fact that it transforms the Ottoman Turks into subjects of Western imperialism, making them a part of the so-called Third World, which lost its sovereignty and had to fight for its freedom from the yoke of Western Imperialism. In doing so, the Ottoman Turkish genocide of the Armenians, as well as the prosecution of other civilian masses like Kurds, Greeks and Arabs, become either fabrications of Western imperialism, or isolated episodes of an Hobbsian chaos that was about to swallow the Turkish nation.
On another level, the same reverse orientalism also allows the Turkish intellectuals to comfortably navigate diverse ideologies. In fact, some of the expressions encountered in the Turkish media regarding the recent Middle Eastern revolutions suggest that the old camps of the Turkish progressive left and the Turkish republican left can be easily altered in the radius of this reverse orientalism. For example, a leading columnists of the progressive left, Ahmet Altan, from whom we would expect a more careful language and a deeper sympathy towards the developments in the Middle East, openly writes that “Turkey is not like the other countries in the Middle Eastern garbage heap.” This statement indicates that the status of Turkey is somewhat different than its underdeveloped neighbors who continue to live in political slums. Similarly, a leading columnist of the republican left, Banu Avar, argues that the recent NATO supervised war on Gaddafi is nothing less than a European imperialist project designed to subjugate the innocent Muslim masses. Avar is outrageous enough to quote the Lybian state television as a viable source for her claims and show that her heart beats for the Muslim masses of the world, as long as they do not run for the government in her country. It seems that Hobbsian expressions of chaos not only speak about the absence of clear ideas and ideologies, but also may lack clear ideas and ideologies in themselves. Ignoring the legacy of the Ottoman Turkish imperialism in the Middle East, Turkish opinion makers of the progressive and republican left carve special statuses for themselves, whether hiding behind fake statuses of oppressed masses or distancing themselves from these masses by thinking that they have achieved something better already.
Interestingly enough, the Turkish Islamist political camp, the camp that is most deeply dedicated to the legacy of the Ottoman Empire, does not suffer from such an identity crisis. Not only that it openly supports the NATO actions against Gaddafi, but also it keeps winning elections.