INDEX (stories follow)
As the Syrian military headed into the town of Jisr , where 120 members of the security forces died in internecine fighting a few days ago, many Syrians fled across the border to Turkey:
Turkey’s Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, a friend of Bashar al-Asad, seemed to begin breaking with him in comments on Friday in which he complained of the latter’s propensity for dealing with protests violently and disproportionately. Turkey is afraid of the Syrian unrest spilling on to it.
In Yemen, an enormous crowd of 100,000 marched in the capital of Sanaa to demand that President Ali Abdullah Saleh not return to the country. The remnants of his regime arranged for a much smaller counter-demonstration elsewhere in the capital, which went off peacefully. McClatchy reports that the Saleh clan has moved behind the scenes to strengthen its control of key security units, and that Saleh’s son, Ahmad Ali, has moved into the presidential palace.
In Libya, the people of Zlitan near Misrata rose up against Qaddafi’s forces, and heavy fighting ensued in the city. It is a key to opening Tripoli to an advance from the West, and so if it fell to the Free Libya forces, it would hasten the end of the war. Also on Friday, Qaddafi brigades continued their attacks on the city of Misrata, killing over twenty persons with indiscriminate fire. Qaddafi brigades also bombarded Gadamis, in the southwest near Tunisia. The Free Libya forces are puzzled as to why NATO does not attack the forces besieging Misrata, and I share their puzzlement. NATO has been intensively bombarding Tripoli, which may or may not actually be useful (no one seems to be explaining the rationale for these tactics), but Qaddafi forces appear to be able to roll around through the desert at will. My guess is that French and British air forces lack the precision capabilities of the American, and that there is still poor coordination between the Free Libya forces and their air protectors, which could lead to unfortunate friendly fire incidents, and NATO is being cautious. As for Tripoli, given that Qaddafi continues to order attacks on civilian cities who are protesting him, I think it is within the UNSC mandate to attack his command and control centers (how else would you protect the populations being assaulted?) But i know of no instance where ‘shock and awe’ worked to produce a military victory, and suspect that NATO is over-doing this tactic.
The Wifaq demands for a constitutional monarchy in the small Sunni-ruled island kingdom had been met with a brutal crackdown that left 28 dead and hundreds imprisoned, and the declaration of a state of emergency, which was lifted at the end of May. King Hamad at that time called for resumption of dialogue with the opposition, which Wifaq welcomed. The authorities appeared to have OK’d the Sar demonstrations.
Saturday’s large rally signalled that the reform movement has not been crushed and that a will exists among the Shiite majority to challenge. the hegemony of Sunni near-absolute monarchy.
Aljazeera English has video:
The Saudi-supported crackdown angered Shiite-ruled Iraq and Iran. Ahmad Chalabi, the Shiite political operator who provided faulty intelligence to the US in hopes of provoking the American invasion of Iraq, attempted to lead a Mavi Marmara-style aid convoy to Bahrain from Basra recently, but was blocked by the government of PM Nouri al-Maliki. Iranian political figures have also spoken of getting up aid convoys, and have warned the king of Bahrain of reprisals.
The monarchy’s attempt to return quickly to business as usual by hosting the Grand Prix formula 1 race was scotched when many teams declined to participate in Manama in the wake of the crackdown.
Did you express your views to the Egyptians?
A lot of countries in the Gulf did express that view to the Egyptians. What worries me in Egypt is that whatever direction it takes, I hope it doesn’t veer from the direction and line drawn by the late president Anwar Sadat.” (thanks Ahmet)
Pakistan’s security forces are facing criticism after paramilitary troops were caught on camera apparently shooting dead a teenager at point-blank range.
The footage, broadcast repeatedly on local television, is likely to further undermine faith in the country’s powerful security establishment, which is already facing allegations it helped conceal Osama bin Laden.
The video, captured by a cameraman from Pakistan’s Awaz television channel, shows a youth, identified as Sarfaraz Shah, arguing with paramilitary rangers in Karachi. The 18-year-old appears to plead for mercy before being shot at close quarters. He then falls to the ground and screams in pain as blood pools beneath his legs.
Nearly 3,000 have crossed the border from Syria into Turkey in recent days as the Syrian army has moved to put down an uprising in the northern town of Jisr al-Shughur. The government alleges 120 of its soldiers were killed in the town last weekend, and it has since been flooded with 5,000 troops, backed up with several tanks. Large tent villages have been set up by refugees across the Turkish border. Meanwhile, Friday protests were held in over 50 cities and towns across the country June 10, according to a count by the Local Coordination Committees of Syria, an umbrella opposition organization. In Deraa, security forces fired on protesters, wounding at least eight people, while in the town of Busra al-Harir government forces killed two protesters. (Foreign Policy, The Telegraph, June 10)
news worthy, i’ll send you and email.”
The International Criminal Court not only has evidence that Libyan soldiers have been using rape as a way of punishing and humiliating rebel populations, it has credible evidence that the policy was ordered by Muammar Qadhafi himself, and that the soldiers were provided with viagra to make them better rapists. The state provision of such drugs for this purpose is unprecedented, though rape as a tool of war and repression is common.
A UN Human Rights commission headed by Cherif Bassiouni has found the Qadhafi regime guilty of war crimes. Fighting, mainly consisting of attacks by Qadhafi forces on dissident populations, may have killed 10,000 to 15,000. Qadhafi forces have used heavy weapons against civilian noncombatants, have made people disappear, have engaged in torture. The commission also found war crimes on a lesser scale among the rebel forces. The report recommends that Qaddafi be referred for prosecution at the International Criminal Court.
Aljazeera English reports on the UN findings:
China has had direct contact with the TNC, and is offering itself as an intermediary between Tripoli and Benghazi.
Meanwhile, the Socialist government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero newly recognized the Transitional National Council in Benghazi, as did Australia. Foreign Minister Trinidad Jimenez attended the Contact Group meeting of some 20 nations in the United Arab Emirates on Thursday, where the TNC picked up nearly $1 bn. in pledges of aid, $600 mn. from Italy alone. Details are given here.
Spain put forward some enlightened principles about how to go forward, and since it had its own democratic transition only three decades ago, it has a lot of experience to offer the Libyans. The emphasis on including former regime figures, and on partnership rather than a Western leading role, would be all to the good. The USG Open Source Center translates from the semi-official Spanish account:
‘ Spain proposes political, economic, security aid plan for Libya
Thursday, June 9, 2011 …
Document Type: OSC Translated Excerpt…
Excerpt from report by Spanish news agency Efe
Abu Dhabi, 9 June: Today Spain proposed implementing an aid plan for Libya, once Mu’ammar al-Qadhafi has been overthrown, with the aim of giving the country democratic institutions and training a new army in collaboration with the Interim National Council which groups the rebels together.
Spanish Foreign Minister Trinidad Jimenez made this proposal at the meeting of the Contact Group on Libya held in Abu Dhabi today.
At a news conference before the session began, Jimenez said that this proposal of a “pact” between the international community and the Libyan opposition will be put into effect once Al-Qadhafi leaves power.
In her view it is difficult to make predictions concerning the fall of the dictator, but the allied countries believe that it will take place “within a short period of time”.
“We have seen that diplomatic, political, economic and military pressure is leaving Al-Qadhafi more isolated every day,” she said.
Jimenez explained that the aid plan which Spain is proposing, which would complement the road map set out by the Interim National Council, would incorporate three spheres: political, economic and security.
In the first, the goal would be to draft a constitution and establish new institutions to build a “democratic, united, independent” state.
According to Jimenez, the European Union “could lead this task” and the economic one, which would be a matter of cooperating to ensure that the wealth generated by Libya’s natural resources, mainly gas and oil, benefit the Libyan people.
The third goal, bound up with security, would mean setting in progress a programme to train the Libyan police and army so that they serve “the principles of the law-based state”.
In each of the three spheres, the 20 or so countries participating in the Contact Group on Libya would contribute their experience and knowledge, although Jimenez emphasized the particular contribution which could be made by the EU.
The minister explained that it is not a plan for “tutelage”, but for collaboration between the allies and the Interim National Council to enable the Libyan people to decide their future.
She also specified that it is not intended to copy the model applied in other countries, such as Afghanistan. ”
We are working in a totally new way,” she added.
As she did yesterday during her visit to Benghazi, the de facto capital of the rebels, Jimenez emphasized that the Interim National Council is the legitimate representative of the Libyan people and that it must lead the process of reconciliation without Al-Qadhafi.
The Spanish foreign minister said that the “post-Al-Qadhafi” stage should involve the participation of Libyan representatives of “all currents of thinking”, including those of “people who have belonged to the circle” of the dictator.
Jimenez praised the “serious, solid” work by the Interim National Council since the civil conflict began last February.
With regard to Spain’s participation in the financial mechanism to help the rebels, Jimenez said she trusted that the allied countries will reach agreement today on how it should be implemented…
(Description of Source: Madrid EFE in Spanish — Spanish semi-official independent news agency)
The yearly State Department report provides totals of U.S.-authorized arms sale agreements between U.S. defense companies and foreign governments. The latest tally showed a $112 million rise in licensed defense sales to Bahrain, home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet, between the 2009 and 2010 budget years.”
We’ve already noted claims that mercenaries recruited by an Israeli firm are fighting for the embattled regime of Moammar Qaddafi in Libya. Now a Reuters report of June 3 cites unnamed officials saying that “private contractors” are hiring mercenaries for the rebels. Although the officials asserted that no actual US government funds are involved, the report cites a classified “covert action finding” signed by President Barack Obama earlier this year as authorizing the CIA to conduct a wide spectrum of operations in support of the rebels. From the report:
The Obama administration is leading a global effort to deploy “shadow” Internet and mobile phone systems that dissidents can use to undermine repressive governments that seek to silence them by censoring or shutting down telecommunications networks.
The effort includes secretive projects to create independent cellphone networks inside foreign countries, as well as one operation out of a spy novel in a fifth-floor shop on L Street in Washington, where a group of young entrepreneurs who look as if they could be in a garage band are fitting deceptively innocent-looking hardware into a prototype “Internet in a suitcase.”
Financed with a $2 million State Department grant, the suitcase could be secreted across a border and quickly set up to allow wireless communication over a wide area with a link to the global Internet.
There’s more in the article.
About that “Internet in a suitcase,” do you think the thing will have a secret listening port for NSA ears only, or a backdoor kill-switch, just in case the thing comes home?
With reports of Egypt’s government completing shutting down the Internet in the country, talk aboutan “Internet kill switch” bill in the U.S. has reemerged. Could it happen here?
The bill in question is the Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act of 2010, a cyber-security measure introduced in June by Sen. Joseph Lieberman. It was an over-arching cyber-security measure that, among other things, would create an office of cyberspace policy within the White House and a new cyber-security center within the Homeland Security Department.
A provision that got the most attention, however, was one that gave the president the power to “authorize emergency measures to protect the nation’s most critical infrastructure if a cyber vulnerability is being exploited or is about to be exploited.”
Some interpreted that to mean that the president would have the authority to shut off the Internet at random.
With my little mind, I’d settle for some of that “foolish consistency.” At some point, the liar convinces only himself.
Sunday’s report by the NYT on the ‘shadow internet’ being funded by (a paltry) $2 mn. in State Dept. money iis either a psy-ops plant or another sign that the US government can’t help but undermine itself.
Joe Lieberman has advocated an internet kill switch. Members of the Senate keep introducing bills to censor the Internet, pushed by the entertainment industry. Luckily, a few, like Oregon’s Ron Wyden, care about freedom of speech. The NSA and other spy agencies keep trying to expand their access to your private mail.
So either State doesn’t realize that the techniques they are developing for dissidents can be deployed in the US, or the small program is being trumpeted in a desperate attempt to mollify groups such as Anonymous.
Bill the spouse and I had an informative, short conversation today with the longtime MB spokesman Dr. Esam El-Erian, who is also the deputy head of the newly emerging, MB-backed Freedom and Justice Party. (You can find descriptions of interviews I conducted with Dr. El-Erian in early 2007 and early 2009, and a lot of other useful background on the Muslim Brotherhood and other aspects of Egyptian politics, here.)
The Muslim brotherhood were major participants in the democratic uprising that toppled Egypt’s 30-year president, Hosni Mubarak, from power back in February. From 1954 until the end of last February the MB was banned from operating as a political movement. Sometimes its people were “allowed” by Mubarak to run in the notably constrained “elections” he staged– but they had to do so as independents or in the framework of another party. Meanwhile, his regime launched successive waves of arrests, financial expropriation, and other grossly abusive and intimidating acts against the MB. Dr. El-Erian is one of many MB leaders who spent many years in Mubarak’s prisons– that, though the movement definitely renounced the use of violence back in 1982.
The most intriguing points in today’s conversation were:
~ Some of his observations on Egyptian political developments in the run-up to September’s parliamentary elections:
- “We’re hoping to go into the elections with a broad coalition of the forces from the revolution… Yesterday we had a good meeting with the leader of the Wafd Party…
“We face a number of very big challenges. The role of the military is a big one, but we are delaying dealing with it because they were our partners in the revolution. Secondly, there’s the role of the police, who were the main supporters of Mubarak for the past ten years. We have to figure out how to establish a new form of policing appropriate to a democracy. The first challenge that we’re able to deal with is to get all the politicians together in a new coalition. It’s true, we will need to discuss this with the military. Currently, they hold the presidential powers, but they’re going to have to step back and allow a new face in… And we need to find a better balance between the presidency and the parliament…
“Turkey’s president, Abdullah Gul, was the first head of state to come and visit us after the revolution. He told us in a meeting I was in that he thought Egypt could have an even better democracy than the one they have in Turkey– because, he said, at least in Egypt the military was with the popular movement, not against it…
“I have not had much contact with the military leaders here– there was just one meeting I was invited to. But on the ground, out around the country, the brotherhood has good relations with the military. For example, right now, the tawgihi (school-leaving) exams are being held nationwide and with the collapse of much of the police, security would have been a big concern, except that we and other parts of the popular movement cooperated with the military to keep the whole process safe.”
~ A degree of opposition to the policies of the Saudi government that I found surprising:
- “Without a change in the policies of Saudi Arabia, these current revolutions won’t succeed… In Egypt, Saudi Arabia is
- main force of counter-revolution. They’ve been pushing and pushing to keep Mubarak out of prison. He was a pillar of their policy. But Mubarak
- go to prison…”
~ A nuanced form of outreach to Western countries:
- “I am asking Europe and America for an apology. For the last 150 years they have blocked any development in this area… We believe that we have a lot to contribute to world civilization in terms of spirituality and values, but we want the help of the west in allowing our democracy to flourish. We want an apology that they supported dictatorship here for so many years, and then when the revolutions challenged the dictators, they tried to find a safe exit for some of the dictators…
“So please don’t intervene in ways that corrupt our new politicians. Westerners corrupted so many of our local NGO’s and even human-rights organizations in the past. (But I want to note that Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch did a great job! They are my friends!)”
El-Erian said the Brotherhood, which has long been shunned by many Western countries, has started since the revolution of January-February to have some contacts with European parliamentarians, diplomats, and business executives. But he was eager to strengthen its contacts with Americans, too, and made a special pitch for American tourists to return to Egypt in large numbers.
PS Nir Rosen added this: “there is also the iraq and zarqawi factor syria was a key staging area for zarqawi types, they had safe houses in damascus and allepo, they had a network of facilitators, as the americans like to say and i’d love to know whats happening in the border area with iraq’s anbar where families have close ties on both sides and where zarqawi people had safe houses. the town of abu kamal for example, which borders the iraqi town of husseiba in al qaim. the americans raided abu kamal a couple of years ago and killed some key al qaeda guy. abu kamal had an uprising against the regime a couple of weeks ago. i think the zarqawi factor is an important one. these people always spoke about how the final battle will be in Sham”.