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Posts Tagged ‘ali abdullah saleh’

Oil pipeline sabotage cost Yemen $4 bln

July 3rd, 2012 Comments off

Attacks on pipelines since the start of the uprising that ousted Ali Abdullah Saleh have cost Yemen more than $4 billionRepeated attacks on pipelines since the start of the uprising that ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh have cost Yemen more than $4 billion in lost revenues since February last year, the oil minister said in remarks published late Monday.

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Yemen’s Transition

June 28th, 2012 Comments off


Yemeni interim president Al-Hadi/

Yemen’s transition: a model to be followed?

by Helen Lackner, Open Democracy, June 19, 2012

What is actually happening in Yemen? It is either presented as a ‘solution’ which could be a model for Syria, or as a ‘phoney’ change that only conceals continuation of the previous regime

In the current environment where the success of the ‘Arab revolutions’ to bring about genuine democracy to their countries is more than doubtful, there is value in examining in some detail the situation in Yemen. Where Egypt seems to be poised between a military or a fundamentalist regime, Libya is at risk of being divided between a multiplicity of various armed factions, Bahrain continues on its bloody confrontation between a minority regime and the demands of the majority of its people, early hopes for Tunisia are dwindling in the face of more aggressive fundamentalists and Syria is suffering civil war with a death toll of hundreds each weak, what is actually happening in Yemen? It is either presented as a ‘solution’ which could be a model for Syria, or as a merely cosmetic change which conceals a continuation of the previous regime.

After many months of procrastination, Ali Abdullah Saleh was forced to sign the so-called Gulf Cooperation Council Transitional agreement on 23 November 2011. While he attempted to continue ruling from behind the scenes, his power has been very dramatically reduced over the months. First, his former Vice President, Abdul Rabbo Mansour Hadi was elected president through an overwhelming popular endorsement on 25 February 2012 when more people came out to vote for him than had participated in the previously ‘contested’ presidential elections of 1999 and 2006. While the outcome was in no doubt as he was the only candidate, the fact that over 6 million Yemenis bothered to come out and queue to vote showed their desire for change and to get rid of the old regime – even if many of them were voting more against AAS than for ARMH – gave him a popular legitimacy which helps him develop a genuine power base which he previously lacked.

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Saudi-Egypt Crisis Points to Conflict between New Democracies, Old Autocracies

April 29th, 2012 Comments off

The closure of the Saudi embassy and consulates in Egypt, and the continued demonstrations in Cairo in front of the Ministry of Interior, point to a coming crisis in the Arab world between the revolutionary states and the conservative ones.

So far that potential conflict has not riven the Arab League, because there have not been clear lines dividing the two. Saudi Arabia was opposed to the fall of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt. But it supported the revolution against Muammar Qaddafi in Libya, and against the Baath Party in Syria. It played a role in easing Ali Abdullah Saleh out of office in Yemen. So the assumption that Saudi Arabia is always reactionary and is solidly a status-quo power is given the lie by any thorough consideration of their actual role in the Arab Spring. Of course, they have tried to bribe their own demonstrators to go home, and have largely succeeded, in Saudi Arabia itself.

But the norms of governance of the new Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Yemen are diametrically opposed to those of the Saudi monarchy, especially in the realm of freedom of speech.

The crisis was kicked off by the Saudi arrest of outspoken attorney Ahmed El-Gizawi, an Egyptian national, in the kingdom. There is a large Egyptian guest-worker population in Saudi Arabia, whom Egyptians feel are not well treated.

Crowds gathered to demonstrate at the Saudi embassy and used insulting slogans, demanding the release of El Gizawi.

Given that the Israeli embassy was invaded, the Saudi authorities abruptly pulled out. They may have feared exposure of important secret records if the embassy were taken over (the diplomatic correspondence over their support for Mubarak is likely in there). The Saudis are saying they don’t mind some demonstrations but that the demonstrators should treat them with respect (i.e. they don’t get it).

The likelihood that the Egyptian government is going to prevent demonstrations in front of an embassy is low. It might be possible to up the level of Egyptian government guards for the facilities.

At the moment, the dispute is over how free people will be to demonstrate and name-call.

Saudi Arabia has offered some $4 billion in aid, which may or may not hang in the balance. Some leftist Egyptians are celebrating that it might be possible to dislodge Saudi influence from the journalism and politics of the new Egypt.

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Saleh nephew ‘quits Yemen army’

April 27th, 2012 Comments off

The nephew of former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh is reported to have agreed to stand down as head of the Presidential Guard.
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Tribal Governance and Stability in Yemen

April 27th, 2012 Comments off


Nadwa Al-Dawsari (with her tribal shiekh colleague)

by Nadwa Al-Dawsari, Carnegie Paper, April 2012

The power-sharing deal signed by Yemen’s President Ali Abdullah Saleh in November 2011 mentioned presidential elections, the formation of a national unity government, and a military commission to reform the armed forces. It was at best the first step in Yemen’s recovery from the protracted turmoil and instability that wracked the country for months.

In this uncertain period of transition, as the new government struggles to establish legitimacy and address its most pressing issues, tribal law and traditions will play an important role in restoring a degree of stability because government capacity is extremely limited. This is particularly true given increasing conflicts and emerging sectarian and political divisions in the country. State and rule of law institutions are not only weak and ineffective outside of the main cities but also widely untrusted.

Yemenis have relied on indigenous tribal traditions to regulate conflict and establish justice for centuries, if not millennia. Tribal law has effectively handled conflicts between various tribes, between tribes and extractive companies, and between tribes and the government. It has successfully prevented and resolved conflicts over resources, development services, and land, and has sometimes managed to contain complex revenge-killing cases. Nationally, tribal mediators have played an important role in promoting political dialogue and building consensus among political groups. During the past year, where government forces withdrew, tribes took responsibility and managed to provide a reasonable level of security within their territories and along the main roads that connect tribal governorates.

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How the north-south relationship in Yemen is changing

April 19th, 2012 Comments off

This piece was contributed by Bilal Ahmed, a student and activist completing his senior year at Rutgers University who has spent time in Yemen. This piece was primarily written during his stay in Tahrir Square, Egypt. As always with guest contributors, their opinions are their own.

There are flags hanging in many buildings in the southern Yemeni city of Aden. These flags, in addition to the standard Yemeni red, white, and black, contain a light blue triangle with a red star within it. They are seen everywhere, from tea shops, to private homes, to the crowds of protestors that have been marching on Aden’s streets for the past year.

These are the flags of the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen, colloquially known as “South Yemen.” The PDRY was an avowedly Stalinist-Marxist single-party state, though its classification as such is a matter of debate. More significant than Marxism in the history of South Yemen was the state’s mobilization of dormant nationalism among South Yemenis.

“North Yemen” extends from the Saudi Arabian border to the de facto border between North and South signed by the Ottoman and British Empires in 1905. South Yemeni nationalism is rooted in the different histories that birthed the two former states, with North Yemen initially ruled by Imamates and finally an autocratic Yemen Arab Republic (YAR) “President” in Ali Abdullah Saleh.

South Yemen has an entirely different past that must be understood in the wake of its growing geopolitical focus.

The two histories diverge in the 19th century, when British East India Company forces seized control of Aden in 1832 and established it as a coaling station for British ships traveling to and from colonial India. British holdings in South Yemen expanded beyond the city over the following decades, spurred on by a desire to reduce pirate attacks and gain a stronger strategic base for reinforcing the Suez Canal.

The British, mainly extending their administrative control through local monarchs in an approach similar to that undertaken in the Persian Gulf, finally reorganized South Yemen in 1937 as an independent crown colony.

South Yemen’s encounter with foreign imperialists is markedly different from that of North Yemen, which was mainly in conflict with its own monarchs after its 1917 independence and Egyptian-Saudi Arabian proxy war.

Although violence in North Yemen had a significant effect on events within South Yemen, an insistence of South Yemeni “modernity” would prevail over the following decades. The attitude began as a minor characteristic that would accentuate significantly during later years. However, the bleeding of serious anti-royalist action into South Yemen points to both nations being united in their hatred of the old ‘Order’ in spite of this. Escalating tensions between royalists and anti-monarchists challenged the narrative of North Yemen as broadly “traditionalist”.

South Yemenis felt emotionally connected to a North issuing many allegedly “Southern” demands, which established links of solidarity among the two colonial states. This phenomenon of prejudices being challenged by revolutionary facts would continue to define the North/South dynamic.

South Yemenis, already mobilizing against British rule due to political strife and economic stagnation, were now seen as a major threat. Fearing another serious revolt against a colonial European power, the British Empire reorganized South Yemen into a series of protectorate states known as the Federation of South Arabia on 4 April 1962. The British scheduled South Yemen’s independence for 1968, hoping that a government of allied royalists would protect its remaining interests in the region.

The plan was marked by ambivalence towards the wishes of South Yemenis, valuing notions of “stability” in the face of the broad existential chaos of “instability.” Instability was defined by parties opposed to colonial interests and allies in the Arabian Peninsula just as terrorism is rhetorically exploited in present day. South Yemenis reacted to the plan with disdain, as many correctly recognized it as an attempt to continue exploitation of the colony through independence.

Their distress was quickly mobilized into organized insurrection, culminating in the 1963 formation of anti-British military factions such as the National Liberation Front (NLF) and the Frontier for the Liberation of Occupied South Yemen. The speed and effectiveness of this organization was highly affected by violence in North Yemen, once again reinforcing ties between the two states. British forces responded by declaring the Aden Emergency, a period of intense violence between South Yemeni paramilitary forces and the British colonial presence with allied support within South Yemen.

The success of these initiatives were pronounced in the early withdrawal of British forces and the People’s Republic of South Yemen’s independence on 30 November 1967. The national consciousness began to revolve around using violent mechanisms to forcibly remove the exploitation of the old Order. This removal was pronounced in an assertion of South Yemeni interests through opposition to the control of sultans, emirs, and other royalist entities.

Royalists and monarchs were seen as an exploitative influence that needed to be combatted, as they prevented wider political and economic participation by South Yemenis. Marxism became a mechanism for instigating this removal just as Islamism in later decades, though in reality the eventual state was Stalinist. Marxist (Stalinist) wings of the NLF gained control of the country and renamed it the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY) on 1 December 1970.

Dormant anti-royalist sentiment became attached to PDRY nationalism, with a strong sense of distinction from the renamed Yemen Arab Republic (YAR) reemerging after the 1978 election of the North Yemeni strongman Saleh. As the PDRY exported a Marxist-inspired ideology of anti-monarchism to the rest of the Arabian Peninsula, cosmopolitan pedagogies became attached to Southern nationalism.

While the PDRY’s status as “Marxist” is a matter of debate, there is certainly a direct line between its revolutionary anti-monarchical stances and the current popularity of federalized democracy in South Yemen. South Yemenis, particularly in Aden, express a strong desire for their interests to be represented in the greater Yemeni state through federalized democratic structures. The influence of leftist democratic ideas during the PDRY’s lifespan certainly contributed to this phenomenon.

Interestingly, these ideologies required South Yemenis to be defined in opposition to an external force. The PDRY began to echo colonial behaviors, as its progressive behaviors needed to be seen in opposition to counterrevolutionary patterns elsewhere. Although Saudi Arabia and the predominantly monarchist GCC often filled this role, the increasingly autocratic YAR began to increasingly dominate this dynamic. The ‘civilized’ South Yemen began to be seen in opposition to the ‘uncivilized’ North Yemen, and slurs such as ‘savages’ entered the South Yemeni lexicon.

As a result, the YAR and PDRY entered their 1990 unification with significant caution on the part of South Yemenis. Although dialogue between the two states was consistent despite periods of strain, many South Yemenis were wary of a YAR that seemed oppressive and autocratic. The mood in 1990 was one of nervousness as many felt as though their interests would not be represented in the greater Yemeni state. However, the 1989 fall of the Soviet Union prevented South Yemen from being a viable entity, leaving South Yemenis no choice. The Republic of Yemen was formed on 22 May 1990.

South Yemenis immediately noted an exploitative relationship between North and South emerging in the new state. Saleh implemented counterrevolutionary policies throughout the South, particularly in agriculture. Previously nationalized land was seized and distributed to exploitative landlords and sultans. Tribalism and fundamentalism exploded as a response to this retreat of the state from public life. These groups and ideologies filled a void created by the decline of a planned economy in the South. This is mainly because Saleh, after his 1978 ascendancy to power, had precariously balanced himself on a loosely cohesive tribal state with neither central power nor infrastructure. Saleh attempted to integrate South Yemen into this dynamic, which greatly alienated the new provinces.

Fearing permanent marginalization in the new Yemeni state, South Yemenis reorganized their political structures. The 1993 Yemeni national elections reflect this divide, with South Yemen predominantly voting for Yemen Socialist Party candidates.

Tensions culminated in the the 1994 Yemeni Civil War that was marked by brutal violence as Saleh preserved his authority over the Southern states.

The war is remembered with intense bitterness in South Yemen today, as it was seen as the last chance for the Southern states to protect their sovereignty and pride in exercising core interests. South Yemenis will today argue that in the fallout of the war, Saleh intensified his ‘oppression’ of the South as a form of collective punishment. There is certainly record of many South Yemeni leaders being driven from their positions in favor of North Yemenis, and the profits of dwindling oil reserves being centralized in Saleh’s inner-circle. Animosity became rampant against the construct of North Yemenis as tribal, anachronistic, and vicious.

The independence movement was forced underground, but the aspects of distress in unmet political and economic requirements still dominated the national consciousness. Demands for renewed independence quickly became the main politicization of this distress. Increased numbers of South Yemenis supporting the initiative as the structures of Saleh’s Yemen proved inaccessible into the 2000’s.

The current Southern liberation movement began in 2007, when small protests were spearheaded by disenfranchised military officers forced into retirement. The Society of Retired Military Officers demanded reinstatement and guaranteed pensions, quickly gaining the support of lawyers, journalists, academics, and other sections of South Yemeni society. Most South Yemeni activists, in a prelude to the 2011 Yemeni Uprising, distanced themselves from violent methods and continued to advocate for peaceful social change.

South Yemeni tribes found themselves in an especially intriguing position. While many tribes traditionally strayed away from government affairs in the interest of self-autonomy, others expected to gain government services and access to its infrastructure. Saleh’s strategy of balancing himself precariously among a cocktail of allied, ambivalent, and hostile tribes failed to sufficiently address these needs. Yemeni tribes began to embrace a new strategy in the late 1990’s of using human collateral in order to goad these needs from Sana’a. Kidnappings of foreign tourists became more common, with tribes surrendering their hostages after receiving access to government services.

South Yemeni tribes were given a unique opportunity to hold collateral after policing efforts in Saudi Arabia pushed Al-Qaida in Saudi Arabia into the South. Al-Qaida in Saudi Arabia merged with Al-Qaida in Yemen to form the now infamous group Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). International pressure on Sana’a and domestic concerns regarding the group caused a drive to alleviate AQAP’s influence as quickly as possible.

Tribes began to associate themselves with AQAP in order to place themselves in a better bargaining position with the central government. As AQAP began to launch higher profile attacks into 2010, most notably with “underwear bomber” Umar Farouk Abdulmatallab, the label became even more effective a bargaining chip. A desperate Sana’a would increasingly acquiesce to the demands of individual tribes in order to regain their allegiances. The strategy appeared to be working, especially since a stagnated Southern liberation movement was making little success against an ‘anti-modern’ North. However, it has backfired since then as AQAP gains have been used to make Saleh’s power structure appear indispensable to international interests during the 2011 Yemeni Uprising.

The 2011 Yemeni Uprising has been crucially impacted by events in South Yemen. Saleh recognized that linking the uprising to chaos was essential in securing international support for his political base. He therefore withdrew military and policing forces from the South in order to reassign them to crackdowns in North Yemeni cities such as Sana’a, Ta’iz, and Ib. The result was that Islamist militants, rhetorically linked to AQAP, seized control of large portions of the Southern provinces.

Remaining army units, who defied orders to withdraw due to their allegiances to the South during the 1994 Yemeni Civil War, were completely overwhelmed. Ultimately, militants posted a high-profile victory in the provincial capital of Zinjibar, which permanently altered perception of the uprising. Obama Administration officials especially, who previously had trouble settling on a policy towards the revolutionary movements, pointed at Zinjibar as proof of the AQAP victories that would allegedly result from a successful Yemeni Revolution. The recent attack on the city of Lawdar has reinforced these concerns, even if realities of the assault place an Islamist takeover in doubt. As a result, the United States reacted to this narrative with attacks in South Yemen that rose significantly during the Arab Spring. The most notable case of this is the 30 September 2011 assassination of AQAP leader Anwar al-Awlaki, in addition to dozens of other attacks.

Saleh has successfully exploited the South in order to preserve power for himself as honorary President and his close associates in the new government of Abd-al Rab Mansur al-Hadi. These parties have successfully argued itself to be an essential part of the War on Terrorism, securing crucial international support and severely isolating ongoing revolutionary activity in Yemen. Al-Hadi’s tensions with Saleh, such as his firing of close Saleh allies in the country, do not challenge this reality.

However, the 2011 Yemeni Uprising has been a crucial argument against calls for independence. The South Yemeni national consciousness relied on a flawed mental construct of North Yemeni savagery in order to advocate for total independence. However, the willingness of North Yemeni protestors to martyr themselves for a federalized democracy in Yemen has completely challenged this narrative.

Just as anti-royalist sentiment during the North Yemeni Civil War shifted the perception of the North away from anti-modernity, pro-democratic movements are once again active in the same fashion. It is difficult for a South Yemeni to call a North Yemeni “savage” when they are challenging the same autocratic tendencies as Southern liberation movements. New bonds of solidarity are forming in spite of the bitterness that arose in the fallout of the 1994 Yemeni Civil War. These bonds present an opportunity to ease secessionist attitudes through a truly revolutionary rearrangement of Yemeni power structures and popular access to them.

Despite this, South Yemenis have proven themselves more than willing to mobilize for their interests if necessary. The main challenge facing the government of al-Hadi is whether or not it can represent these interests while quelling growing violence in the South. This requires broad reform throughout Yemeni institutions without exception to Saleh’s associates. Whether or not al-Hadi is able to implement this reform is be a crucial speculation in the coming years.



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Cherif Bassiouni: The FP Interview

April 19th, 2012 Comments off

The United Nations should establish an investigation commission to collect evidence about war crimes in Syria to prepare the ground for any future investigation, leading Arab international law expert Cherif Bassiouni told Foreign Policy during a wide-ranging interview yesterday following his talk at George Washington University’s Institute for Middle East Studies [videos of both the interview and the talk will be posted shortly]. He warned that Yemen’s Ali Abdullah Saleh should not count on his immunity deal holding up, discounted the ability of Libya’s courts to try Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, and blasted Egypt’s post-revolutionary trials as focusing on flimsy, marginal cases which avoided dealing with systemic, institutionalized corruption.   

Also, he explained that Moammar Qaddafi was a sex addict whose heavy use of Viagra badly affected his decision-making — which could complicate the ICC’s efforts to convict Saif al-Islam (FP‘s web editors wanted that to be the lead, for some reason). [[BREAK]]

Bassiouni chaired Bahrain‘s Independent Commission of Inquiry, which documented and reported on the violations of human rights during last year’s crackdown on the protest movement and offered a set of recommendations for reform (it can be downloaded here in PDF form; nobody should be opining on Bahrain these days without reading and internalizing its details). Our conversation began there.

Bassiouni naturally defended the efforts and impact of the BICI. He argued that the creation of the BICI itself deserved some credit: "this is the first time in the Arab world in which a national government established a totally independent international commission to investigate its own violations." The Commission had total independence and access, he argued, even when his team knocked on prison doors at 2am to interview prisoners, and at the end "we produced a report which we read in the face of the King and the Prime Minister and 600 senior officials, which felt like reading an indictment." I tend to agree with Bassiouni that the report’s documentation of the regime’s abuses will be an enduring contribution, regardless of the implementation of the recommendations — those violations can never disappear down the memory hole or be denied by regime apologists. They bear witness, and that matters. 

Our evaluation of the Bahraini government’s implementation of the BICI recommendations differed, however. I pointed to the regime’s very
limited reforms
, the regime’s refusal to concede in
the
face of Abd al-Hadi al-Khawaja’s hunger strike
, and Amnesty
International’s blunt conclusion
that not much has changed. I
relayed the view of many Bahrainis that the government’s response to the
Commission’s recommendations might check off the boxes while stripping
them of their meaning, and the ongoing examples of repression and abuse.
But he pleaded for a case by case approach. Where efforts have lagged, he pointed to limited institutional capacity,
such as a thinly staffed and trained Attorney General’s office. "There has not been a single reported case of torture" since the Commission began its work, Bassiouni argued, while also pointing to the
release of some detainees, the establishment of a follow-up commission,
and other efforts by the government to respond to the BICI
recommendations. "I know we did some good." 

But if he offered a sympathetic view of the Bahraini government’s "treatment of the symptoms," he offered scathing critique of its failure to undertake any deeper political or social reforms.

Normal.dotm
0
0
1
27
154
The George Washington University
1
1
189
12.0

0
false

18 pt
18 pt
0
0

false
false
false


Such broader issues lay outside the BICI’s mandate, which only extended to specific human rights violations. Bassiouni’s defense of Bahrain’s response to the BICI recommendations may be music to the ears of a regime eager for international rehabilitation, but they should pay equal heed to his pessimistic views about the Kingdom’s political future. He is clearly disturbed by the emerging trends towards radicalization and the disappearance of the political center in Bahrain, and disappointed with the regime’s failure to offer genuine political reform. The core of the problem remains the absolute hold on power by the Sunni
minority. "That can’t be. Things have to change. These are the causes. Unless you change the causes, they are still going to have these
problems."

On Yemen, Bassiouni argued that the immunity arrangements for former President Ali Abdullah Saleh would not likely stand up any more than did promises made to former Liberian President Charles Taylor. The demands of justice might have to wait for a new political constellation, in Yemen and internationally, but the GCC immunity deal had no real legal standing. "The fact that there is a political deal at a certain time… is not binding." International law now demands individual accountability for certain crimes, which states do not have the power to waive. Nor does any sort of "former President" status protect him even if offered at home. Those outraged by the impunity granted to Saleh and his people might find some comfort in this view of the transient nature of such guarantees.

Should Syria‘s Bashar al-Asad be indicted by the International Criminal Court? Not until the evidence has been collected, argued Bassiouni. "I was very concerned with having the Security Council refer the Libya matter to the ICC before the investigation. I have a sense of orderliness about things. Do the investigation first, see what the evidence is, and then indict. You don’t start by indicting without getting the evidence." Evidence collected only from abroad and from partisan sources could not suffice, he warned. "Mr. Okampo never had the opportunity to go to Libya to investigate, never had the opportunity to investigate in Darfur. When indictments come out on some evidence gathered from abroad, it undermines the legitimacy of the court. Me fear is that if we do the same with Syria it is simply going to add to it." Such a warning is well taken given the intense politicization of information about the violence in Syria today.

But this problem should not take the instruments of international justice out of the crisis in Syria. Instead of an ICC referral, Bassiouni "would strongly recommend having an investigative commission as was established by the Security Council in the former Yugoslavia." That commission, which Bassiouni chaired for several years, produced a 3500 page report backed by massive documentation which ultimately formed the basis for the efforts of the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia. He urged the same for Syria. But he also warned about repeating the mistakes of the troubled Special Tribunal for Lebanon were such a Special Tribunal for Syria to be established — a warning which all advocates of international justice in Syria should take seriously. 

Finally, about Qaddafi’s Viagra. This came up in our discussion about the competing claims on Saif al-Islam Gaddafi by the ICC and the Libyan interim government, and whether Libyan courts could possibly be "capable and willing" to try him and other top regime officials. "Absolutely not" at the current time, he answered, though it would not be impossible to create an effective body with 5-10 good judges and some training, capacity building, and international support. Such a trial would be conducted according to local law, however, which would not necessarily accord with the statutes of the ICC.  

But Saif personally posed another problem for prosecutors: establishing his role in his father’s demonstrably paranoid and capricious decision-making. And here Bassiouni did, indeed, begin to speak about Qaddafi’s sex addiction. (I started coughing right about then, as you’ll see in the video). Qaddafi, he argued, had serious psychiatric problems for which he had long been self-medicating. He was extremely secretive and paranoid. On top of that, well, let’s go to the tape: "Most people don’t know, he was almost addicted, he had sexual addiction, consumed enormous amounts of viagra and other similar pills, which had a very serious negative effect when combined with his other medication." How did Bassiouni know this? Sometimes, it’s perhaps better not to ask. 

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Yemen airport shutdown after threat from fired general

April 7th, 2012 Comments off

Yemeni forces patrol the capital SanaaThe airport in Yemen’s capital was shut down on Saturday after forces loyal to a sacked general close to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh surrounded it and threatened to shoot down planes, an airport official said.

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Yemen leader ‘fires army chiefs’

April 7th, 2012 Comments off

Yemen’s President Hadi dismisses two army chiefs who were close to his predeccessor, Ali Abdullah Saleh, according to official media.
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The Arab Revolutions Continue, its Just not Mostly on American TV

March 24th, 2012 Comments off

Friday is a traditional day of protest in the Arab world, and yesterday did not disappoint. In addition, there were some important developments in the two post-revolutionary societies of Egypt and Tunisia.

1. Tens of thousands of Syrians demonstrated in a number of Syrian cities on Friday, including in Idlib province and in the capital The regime continued to rain mortar fire onto some districts of the rebellious cit of Homs. Meanwhile, the European Union applied sanctions to first lady Asma al-Assad, now seen as a Marie Antoinette figure after her private emails on shopping were hacked and released.

2. Thousands of Yemenis protested Friday against the continued influence of deposed president Ali Abdullah Saleh. Saleh is said to work through his party’s cabinet ministers. He also continues to have support in the officer corps, where one of the generals is his son. Saleh had been president for life before last year. In February, his vice president ran unopposed and was elected president. But Saleh can’t let go, provoking Friday’s big demonstrations.

3. Police in the island nation of Bahrain used tear gas and riot gear to break up a demonstration near the capital of Manama.

4. NYT says that Egypt’s MusliM Brotherhood, whose Justice and Development Party dominates the new parliament, is intent on lifting the blockade on the Gaza Strip. The article alleges that the Brotherhood is trying to broker a national unity government between fundamentalist Hamas and the secular Palestine Liberation Organization, in the belief that only a united front can bring about a meaningful two-state solution.

5. Tunisia’s large number of small secular and leftist parties are forming a big coalition to contest the next parliamentary elections. The Nahda or Renaissance Party, Tunisia’s fundamentalist movement, captured 42% of the seats in parliament last October and so elected the current prime minister. One problem the small leftist parties faced was that they had been allowed to function, if under severe restrictions, during the reign of dictator Zain al-Din Ben Ali. All the parties that did well in the elections had been in exile. The fractured character of the left allowed them to lose the elections decisively, even though they have a great deal of support among unions, students and urban populations.

6. On Libya, the glass can be seen as half full or half empty. Despite the raft of negative reporting on Libya, its security situation is generally just all right, and tour operators are reviving tourism, saying they’ve had “zero problems.” Security and administration are good enough that Libya’s oil exports are set to reach pre-revolution levels again in April, earlier than expected. This would not happen in a country that is a basket case (Iraq took years to accomplish this feat). There have been pressures for decentralization in the east, but moving from a highly centralized dictatorship to more of a federal system is only natural and parallels after all what happened in the early United States. No one is talking about breaking up the country. The third-largest city, Misrata, pulled off grassroots municipal elections, and several other cities have or will follow suit. Building democracy from the ground up is a good idea. There has been very little reporting on these electoral achievements in cities that had been ruled by idiosyncratic fiat for 40 years.

There have been serious human rights abuses, but on a small scale compared to those of Qaddafi, and most of the population feels liberated. This is not to minimize them; the human rights situation needs to improve if the revolution is to be honored. Attempts are being made to rebuild a national army, but it will take time; in the meantime, its social peace will be a bit fragile– but that is to be expected after a revolution. Libya is nowhere near the mess that France was after its revolution in 1789, and there is nothing like a Vendee or a Terror. There hasn’t been a civil war, though there are still a few pockets of insecurity. Those hoping for bad news really haven’t had all that much considering that the country had been left with no functioning institutions after decades of personalistic Qaddafi totalitarianism.

As for those who blame the recent military coup in Mali on the civil unrest in the north of that country caused by returning Tuareg mercenaries from Libya, surely the blame should be put on Muammar Qaddafi for forming a corps of lawless Tuareg mercenaries in the first place. Qaddafi promoted militias and mercenaries and civil strife all over Africa, and it is not unexpected that some of his minions will go on being troublesome after his death. It isn’t Free Libya’s fault except if you think 6.5 million Libyans should have preferred to live under brutal tyranny in order to keep foreign Tuareg mercenaries employed and happy. Moreover, there were other ways for Mali’s officer corps to deal with the Tuareg unrest than to make a coup; the military is taking advantage of the turmoil to take power, which is also not Libya’s fault. And, it is not as if the Libyan Revolution invented a Tuareg problem for Mali. There have been two major Tuareg rebellions before.

Some people can’t forgive Libya for revolting against Qaddafi, or for taking outside help to do so, and seem to seek some Schadenfreude in Libya’s post-revolution problems. But that isn’t social or political analysis, it is just point scoring and a sort of moralistic story-telling. People who are interested in the welfare of Libyans are pulling for them.

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