Archive

Archive for March, 2011

Torpey: Support the Libyans but Don’t Arm Them!

March 31st, 2011 Comments off

John Torpey writes in a guest column for Informed Comment:

Looking After the Neighborhood in Libya

John Torpey

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.

Go to Source

"Qaddafi sent a most trusted envoys to London for confidential talks…"

March 31st, 2011 Comments off

“… Mohammed Ismail, a senior aide to Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam, visited London in recent days, British government sources familiar with the meeting have confirmed. The contacts with Ismail are believed to have been one of a number between Libyan officials and the west in the last fortnight, amid signs that the regime may be looking for an exit strategy…… The Foreign Office declined “to provide a running commentary” on contacts with Ismail or other regime officials. But news of the meeting comes amid mounting speculation that Gaddafi’s sons, foremost among them Saif al-Islam, Saadi and Mutassim, are anxious to explore a way out of the crisis in Libya. … According to cables published by WikiLeaks, Ismail has represented the Libyan government in arms purchase negotiations and acted as an interlocutor on military and political issues…”



Go to Source

CIA Officer: "Those Libyan rebels clowns are not able to do anything effective until they are trained and have new weaponry…"

March 31st, 2011 Comments off

“… But the confab stretched from the afternoon into evening–and by the time it wound down, CIA Director Leon Panetta had offered to send CIA personnel covertly to work on the ground in Libya. “Once again, we were the only ones at the table who stepped up,” Panetta later described the offer, according to a source who insisted on anonymity because of the sensitive consultations….

There were many reasons the sudden commitment of personnel came from the CIA, and not the U.S. military. Not surprisingly, political concerns place high on that list, with a war-weary American public skeptical about any more long-term troop commitments in the Arab world… Asked by a committee member if there were any U.S. “boots on the ground” in Libya, Gates responded: “Not that I am aware of,” and then added: “The opposition said they don’t want any.” Gates then fielded another question about the likelihood of a later deployment of U.S. troops on the ground in Libya. “Not as long as I am in the job,” he replied sharply.

So with no U.S. troops in play, the CIA is tasked with gathering intelligence and performing logistical groundwork at a critical stage of the effort …  “They are in there collecting intelligence, deepening our understanding of who the rebels are,” one former U.S. intelligence officer who has worked on the Middle East told The Envoy Thursday on condition of anonymity. It gives intelligence color to what is in fact a covert action, interacting with the rebels. They are not doing quasi-covert diplomacy, they are doing intelligence.”… 

Of course, there’s a disconnect between the White House’s depiction of the Libyan mission as a bid to stave off a humanitarian catastrophe, and the recent reports suggesting deepening covert U.S. involvement on the ground. But the former senior intelligence official said it would be naive to have believed it would have been otherwise once the first U.S. Patriot missiles exploded in Libya last Saturday. “I would hope there was not a single person in the administration [involved in Libya decision-making] who was childish enough to think that anybody who was involved in the first military operation … could ever again be engaged in a relationship with the Gadhafi regime,” the source said. “It ain’t going to happen. Of course we took sides. We crossed that rubicon.”

But another former CIA officer took a different view, saying the disconnect may arise from a certain degree of wishful thinking in the administration’s initial decision-making on Libya. “It’s really simple: we incrementally get involved and [then] don’t know what to do,” the second former CIA officer said. The Obama administration “really thought a little pressure and he [Gadhafi] will fall.” “The model is we [the CIA] go in and do a limited amount of training,” the second former CIA official said. “So there is someone we can work with—as we increase air operations, and eventually hit artillery and armor.” “Those clowns are not able to do anything effective until they are trained and have new weaponry, ” likely from Egypt, the former CIA officer said, referring to the Libyan rebels. He suggested the CIA’s ground-branch division, which includes many personnel who have para-military backgrounds, may also “train the Libyan rebels how to fight, how to shoot, how to organize into groups.”…

At the same time that he outlined the best-case option Gates also cautioned that the United States’ ability to influence such outcomes is extremely limited. “We don’t have any real influence with the tribes.”



Go to Source

"Egypt is pushed to seek debt relief"

March 31st, 2011 Comments off

(Dow Jones) – Egypt’s balance of payments deficit could swell to almost $3 billion as the first quarter ends, and the country could be pushed to seek further debt-relief options, analysts for Roubini Global Economics said Thursday. “We believe that Egypt would turn first to bilateral sources of capital….to the European Union, to the U.S.,” said senior research analyst Rachel Ziemba on a teleconference with reporters. She didn’t completely rule out Egypt turning to the IMF for help with its debt issues…..

“Egypt has been facing more and more difficulty in trying to sell its Treasury bills. The yields have been rising,” says research analyst Ayah El Said. “We’ve seen at the end of February Egypt seeking some debt relief from EU members. Nothing has materialized in this regard, but we expect Egypt to start seeking further debt relief options.”…



Go to Source

Bahrain releases blogger after day in custody (AP)

March 31st, 2011 Comments off

AP – Bahraini blogger Mahmoud al-Youssef, a fierce critic of the government, says he is free after a day in custody.
Go to Source

Categories: Arab News Tags: Al, Bahraini, blogger, Mahmoud

Kuwait government resigns to avoid parliament grilling

March 31st, 2011 Comments off

The Kuwait government resigned Thursday, the official news agency KUNA reported, after parliament filed an application to question three ministers.
Go to Source

Gaddafi army ‘not at breaking point’

March 31st, 2011 Comments off

Col Muammar Gaddafi’s forces are not at breaking point yet, US military chiefs warn, saying allied air strikes have wiped out up to 25% of their strength.
Go to Source

New Editors for Al-Ahram, Rose al-Youssef, Other State Press

March 31st, 2011 Comments off

Egyptian Prime Minister Essam Sharaf has named new editors and other key administrators at the state-run flagship Al-Ahram, the influential opinion weekly Rose al-Youssef (once a satirical magazine known for its biting cartoons, lately a sycophantic tool of the regime) and some other state-run publications. In thre case of both Al-Ahram and Rose al-Youssef, the journalists on the staff had already revolted against the Mubarak-era editors. Sharaf moved while many of the young revolutionaries were planning to demand such changes this coming Friday.


Go to Source

Amr Hamzawy Forming New Party

March 31st, 2011 Comments off

More Egypt: the Carnegie Endowment’s man in Beirut, Amr Hamzawy, who with Michele Dunne in Washington has made Carnegie a go-to place for Egypt, has been back in Cairo since the revolution and has now announced the formation of a new Egyptian Liberal Democratic Party.

Sometimes Think Tank democracy activists go beyond just Thinking.

Politics is breaking out in Egypt. Again, I’m not seeking to overemphasize Egypt, but a whole lot of stuff is happening there, as the revolution starts to feel its way forward, sometimes with and sometimes independent of the Army. And most of the world isn’t noticing.


Go to Source

Dialect pronunciation on Al-Jazeera [del.icio.us]

March 31st, 2011 Comments off

Some interesting remarks here.
Go to Source