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Regime change via Western bombing : Libya on the brink

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          • ....The president was scheduled to go to a dinner with military veterans that night; he told his aides to draw up military plans. And he instructed Ms. Rice to move forward with a broader resolution at the Security Council. She already had one ready — drawn up the week before, just in case, officials said....
            WASHINGTON, March 18, 2011 — In a Paris hotel room on Monday night, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton found herself juggling the inconsistencies of American foreign policy in a turbulent Middle East. She criticized the foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates for sending troops to quash protests in Bahrain even as she pressed him to send planes to intervene in Libya. Only the day before, Mrs. Clinton — along with her boss, President Obama — was a skeptic on whether the United States should take military action in Libya. But that night, with Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s forces turning back the rebellion that threatened his rule, Mrs. Clinton changed course, forming an unlikely alliance with a handful of top administration aides who had been arguing for intervention. Within hours, Mrs. Clinton and the aides had convinced Mr. Obama that the United States had to act, and the president ordered up military plans, which Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, hand-delivered to the White House the next day. On Thursday, during an hour-and-a -half meeting, Mr. Obama signed off on allowing American pilots to join Europeans and Arabs in military strikes against the Libyan government. The president had a caveat, though. The American involvement in military action in Libya should be limited — no ground troops — and finite. “Days, not weeks,” a senior White House official recalled him saying.

            The shift in the administration’s position — from strong words against Libya to action — was forced largely by the events beyond its control: the crumbling of the uprising raised the prospect that Colonel Qaddafi would remain in power to kill “many thousands,” as Mr. Obama said at the White House on Friday. The change became possible, though, only after Mrs. Clinton joined Samantha Power, a senior aide at the National Security Council, and Susan Rice, Mr. Obama’s ambassador to the United Nations, who had been pressing the case for military action, according to senior administration officials speaking only on condition of anonymity. Ms. Power is a former journalist and human rights advocate; Ms. Rice was an Africa adviser to President Clinton when the United States failed to intervene to stop the Rwanda genocide, which Mr. Clinton has called his biggest regret. Now, the three women were pushing for American intervention to stop a looming humanitarian catastrophe in Libya.

            Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, one of the early advocates for military action in Libya, described the debate within the administration as “healthy.” He said that “the memory of Rwanda, alongside Iraq in ’91, made it clear” that the United States needed to act but needed international support. In joining Ms. Rice and Ms. Power, Mrs. Clinton made an unusual break with Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, who, along with the national security adviser, Thomas E. Donilon, and the counterterrorism chief, John O. Brennan, had urged caution. Libya was not vital to American national security interests, the men argued, and Mr. Brennan worried that the Libyan rebels remained largely unknown to American officials, and could have ties to Al Qaeda. The administration’s shift also became possible only after the United States won not just the support of Arab countries but their active participation in military operations against one of their own. “Hillary and Susan Rice were key parts of this story because Hillary got the Arab buy-in and Susan worked the U.N. to get a 10-to-5 vote, which is no easy thing,” said Brian Katulis, a national security expert with the Center for American Progress, a liberal group with close ties to the administration. This “puts the United States in a much stronger position because they’ve got the international support that makes this more like the 1991 gulf war than the 2003 Iraq war.”

            Ever since the democracy protests in the region began three months ago, the Obama administration has struggled to balance America’s national security interests against support for democratic principles, a struggle that has left Mr. Obama subject to criticism from all sides of the political spectrum. And by taking a case-by-case approach — quickly embracing protesters in Tunisia, eventually coming around to fully endorse their cause in Egypt, but backing the rulers in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Yemen — the administration at times has appeared inconsistent. While calling for Colonel Qaddafi’s ouster, administration officials indicated Mr. Obama was more concerned with unfolding events in Yemen, Bahrain and Egypt than with removing the Libyan leader.

            There was high drama right up to the surprising Security Council vote on Thursday night, when the ambassador for South Africa, viewed as critical to getting the nine votes needed to pass the resolution, failed to show up for the final vote, causing Ms. Rice to rush from the chamber in search of him. South Africa and Nigeria — along with Brazil and India — had all initially balked at authorizing force, but administration officials believed they had brought the Africans around. Mr. Obama had already been on the phone pressing President Jacob Zuma of South Africa to support the resolution, White House officials said. Eventually, the South African representative showed up to vote yes, as did the Nigerian representative, giving the United States one vote more than required. Brazil and India, meanwhile, joined Russia, China and Germany in abstaining. The pivotal decision for Mr. Obama came on Tuesday though, after Mrs. Clinton had called from Paris with news that the Arab governments were willing to participate in military action. That would solve one of Mr. Gates’s concerns, that the United States not be viewed on the Arab street as going to war against another Muslim country. Mrs. Clinton “had the proof,” one senior administration official said, “that not only was the Arab League in favor, but that the Emirates were serious about participating.”

            During a meeting with Mr. Obama and his top national security aides — Ms. Rice was on video teleconference from New York; Mrs. Clinton from Paris — Ms. Rice sought to allay Mr. Gates’s concern that a no-fly zone by itself would not be enough to halt Colonel Qaddafi’s progress, recalled officials attending the meeting. “Susan basically said that it was possible to get a tougher resolution” that would authorize a fuller range of options, including the ability to bomb Libyan government tanks on the road to Benghazi, the rebel stronghold in the east, administration official said. “That was the turning point” for Mr. Obama, the official said. The president was scheduled to go to a dinner with military veterans that night; he told his aides to draw up military plans. And he instructed Ms. Rice to move forward with a broader resolution at the Security Council. She already had one ready — drawn up the week before, just in case, officials said. Besides asking for an expanded military campaign, Ms. Rice loaded up the resolution with other items on the American wish list, including the authorization to use force to back an arms embargo against Libya. “We knew it would be a heavy lift to get any resolution through; our view was we might as well get as much as we could,” Ms. Rice said in a telephone interview.

            On Wednesday at the Security Council, Russia put forward a competing resolution, calling for a cease-fire — well short of what the United States wanted. But the French, who had been trying to get a straight no-fly resolution through, switched to back the tougher American wording. And they “put it in blue” ink — U.N. code for calling for a vote. “It was a brilliant tactical move,” an American official said. “They hijacked the text, which means it could be called to a vote at any time.” On Thursday, the South Africans, Nigerians, Portuguese and Bosnians — all of them question marks — said they would support the tougher resolution. Even after getting the Security Council endorsement, Mr. Obama made clear that the military action would be an international effort. “The change in the region will not and cannot be imposed by the United States or any foreign power,” the president told reporters at the White House on Friday. “Ultimately, it will be driven by the people of the Arab world.”

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            • March 18, 2011 -- The African Union (AU) committee on Libya will meet in Nouakchott on March 19th, Journal Tahalil reported on Thursday (March 17th). The presidents of Mauritania, South Africa, Congo, Mali, Uganda and the AU Commission aim to "facilitate an inclusive dialogue between the parties on Libyan appropriate reforms", the AU said in a statement. The goal of the ad-hoc committee is to co-ordinate efforts by the AU, the League of Arab States, the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, the European Union and the United Nations to reach "an expeditious resolution of the crisis".

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              • March 18, 2011 -- There are no hotels and few shops in Debdeb, but the desert home to 3,000 Algerians has seen a spike in population since war broke out just a few kilometres away in Libya. Lines of bedraggled foreign refugees arrive on foot, lugging their belongings and hoping to find someone who speaks their language. Libyan vehicles come and go all day; they are in Algeria to stock up on fuel and food. "In Ghadames, on the other side in Libya, there's nothing," one driver explains as he rushes back to the border. A Libyan family is also heading the other direction, to Benghazi. For the whole of the journey, from Ouargla to Durant, they have been calling relatives in Ghadames. "They're scared. Kadhafi's been arming his partisans," one woman says. "All our possessions are there, and our relatives are stuck there," says Omar, the youngest of the family. He admits that he is afraid. "But we have to go back."

                On the road leading up to the border post, across from the Gendarmerie Nationale's road-block, the new Rouabah High School serves as a reception centre for foreign nationals who fled Libya and now wait for repatriation. Civil Protection officers, young men on national service, police officers, medical personnel and Red Crescent workers make sure that the refugees lack for nothing. Coaches queue up to collect dozens of Egyptians and a few Moroccans, Mauritanians and Pakistanis. Trucks have been requisitioned to transport their luggage and possessions. They will be taken to In Amenas, known for Algeria's largest liquefied natural gas project, where three reception centres have been set up for them to await flights home.

                Most of the Egyptians brought just what they could carry. One man insists on taking his black-and-white television with him onto the bus, explaining that it was the only link he had with his country since moving to Libya. "The boss just abandoned us at work, without even paying us; so we picked up whatever we could find on the site," Mahmoud tells Magharebia. "To be honest, I was afraid of coming into Algeria," he says."I was expecting them to mistreat us after all that happened last year. But since arriving here, I've felt as though I'm home. Everyone's made us so welcome, like brothers. I'll never forget it, and I'll never stop praying for Algeria," says Mahmoud.


                At the Debdeb border post, everything is in place to ensure that those fleeing the terror in Libya can be welcomed and processed under the best possible conditions. Experienced police officers have been sent to assist. Even government officials are lending a hand. Rachid, a Moroccan national, was begging an Algerian police officer to give him an Algerian flag. "I want to take it with me to Casablanca and tell that whole world how grateful I am to the Algerians, who have welcomed us with open arms." The crisis committee has been keeping an eye on developments and preparing for all eventualities, such as what would happen if the rumoured closure of the Tunisian border post at Ras Jedir, which had been overwhelmed by a massive influx of foreigners, turned out to be true. Indeed, in the first days of the Libyan conflict, many expected that there would be a rush to Algeria. Army personnel set up a tented village with space for up to 1,200 foreign refugees.

                Since the resources available to the local council in Debdeb were insufficient for a situation of this magnitude, the committee overseeing the humanitarian crisis requisitioned buses, mattresses and food. Public and private companies have also been offering assistance to the foreign nationals. The Algerian Red Crescent says that it has cared for 4,900 people since the start of the repatriation operation. And they all need food and lodging. Schools, the vocational training centre and the youth centre have all been pressed into service to accommodate them. On Tuesday afternoon, aid workers heard that 192 Bangladeshis were waiting on the other side of the border for administrative procedures to be finalised. On Wednesday morning, the first group of about thirty crossed the threshold. Two of them spoke enough Arabic to explain that they had been working for a Tunisian construction company based in the Libyan oasis town of Ghadames, 30 kilometres from the Debdeb border post. They had been left totally high and dry.

                According to Sahnoune Azzeddine, an official with the local crisis committee, 2,273 arrivals have been recorded since the start of the operation on 24 February. Egyptians top the list, with 616 people, but there are also Mauritanians, Moroccans, Pakistanis, Romanians, Britons, Italians and Vietnamese. Over the same period, 338 Algerians have also returned to the country, along with 852 Libyans who crossed into Algeria to stock up on supplies. More than 1,000 illegal migrants of all African nationalities may also have arrived in southern Algeria. Officials warn that the number could reach 100,000 if the Libyan conflict persists.

                Some 350 kilometres from Debdeb, the town of In Amenas has stepped in to help accommodate survivors of the Libyan conflict before they are repatriated by air to their homelands. About 225 Vietnamese nationals have been piled into a sports hall in the town for 12 days now. "We want to go home," they say. Their embassy has promised to send a representative to the town on Thursday, but they have started a hunger strike, demanding that their ambassador come to see them. On the ground, local police have been helping them adjust. "They're like our babies," an officer says. "We teach them everything, we try to help them get over the shock, and we think we've succeeded. We've been offering them our sympathy, and we've given them nicknames. Despite the problems with communication, we've been getting to know them, and everyone's getting on well together at the centre." A young Vietnamese man broke down in tears when Civil Protection officers organised a birthday party for him.

                But the refugees cannot forget the hell from which they just escaped, or the colleagues they left behind on the building sites in Libya. A Bengali man stranded in Debdeb explained that it was poverty which had driven him to go to Libya for work."I leave Libya with nothing," he says. "Our lives have been saved, and that's the most important thing." one resigned Egyptian national tells us. "Now, we'll just have to accept that we're going to start back at square one."

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                    • March 19, 2011 -- A fighter plane has been shot down and plunged into Benghazi after a night of large explosions and shelling in and around the Libyan rebel stronghold. Fighting has continued despite the regime declaring a ceasefire under threat of UN-backed air strikes. TV footage and photographs showed the fighter passing over, then bursting into flames and coming down with the pilot apparently ejecting. Reporters in the area confirmed the crash. There are accounts of troops entering Benghazi and the rebels putting up barricades. But the Libyan government said none of its forces were involved. "There are no attacks whatesover on Benghazi. As we said, we are observing the ceasefire and we want international observers to come," Mussa Ibrahim, a spokesman, told Reuters. "There are rebels attacking villages and towns trying to instigate outside military interverntion."

                      Muammar Gaddafi has been handed a "non-negotiable ultimatum" by Barack Obama to accept an immediate ceasefire, pull back from Libyan rebel strongholds and permit humanitarian assistance – or face the full onslaught of UN-endorsed air strikes. In an attempt to reassure Middle East opinion and his own domestic audience, Obama said the U.S. would help to co-ordinate a no-fly-zone but not lead an operation that will include French, British and Arab jets. The U.S. president issued his warning after Gaddafi's foreign minister, Moussa Koussa, claimed he would accept a ceasefire in the wake of the UN security council resolution passed late on Thursday night authorising "all necessary measures short of an occupation force" to protect civilians. In a stark message, Obama said: "Muammar Gaddafi has a choice. The resolution that was passed lays out very clear conditions that must be met. The United States, the United Kingdom, France and Arab states agree that a ceasefire must be implemented immediately."

                      He said this meant:

                       All attacks against civilians must stop.

                       Gaddafi must stop his troops from advancing on the rebel stronghold of Benghazi, and pull them back from Ajdabiya, Misrata and Zawiya.

                       Gaddafi must establish water, electricity and gas supplies to all areas.

                       Humanitarian assistance must be allowed to reach the people of Libya.

                      "Let me be clear: these terms are not negotiable. These terms are not subject to negotiation. If Gaddafi does not comply with the resolution the international community will impose consequences and the resolution will be enforced through military action."

                      In Britain, David Cameron warned: "We will judge him [Gaddafi] by his actions and not by his words. What is absolutely clear is the UN security council resolution said he must stop what he is doing – brutalising his people. If not, all necessary measures can follow to make him stop." The UK and France later released a joint statement with the backing of Arab allies supporting Obama's ultimatum.

                      An official from the U.S. national security council accused Gaddafi's forces of continuing to advance on Benghazi and the American ambassador to the UN told CNN that Gaddafi continued to be in violation of the UN resolution. The next stage of the international response will be co-ordinated at an emergency conference in Paris including Cameron, Nicolas Sarkozy, Hillary Clinton and the Arab states that have formed an ad hoc coalition to reverse the Gaddafi advance. The French ambassador to the UN, Gérard Araud, said he expected military intervention within hours of the summit. Some as yet unidentified Arab states will join the air enforcement. Libya's deputy foreign minister, Khaled Kaim, called for observers from Germany, Turkey, Malta and China to "verify" that the regime has been honouring a ceasefire – despite reports that its forces have been pounding cities. But a German foreign ministry spokeswoman rejected that, saying that only the UN should monitor the ceasefire.

                      Cameron said he had ordered British Tornado and Typhoon fighter jets to be deployed to bases in the region, along with air-refuelling equipment. He said: "This is not another Iraq. There will be no foreign occupation of Libya." He maintained that military action would be in the national interest. "If Gaddafi's attacks on his own people succeed, Libya will become once again a pariah state, festering on Europe's border, a source of instability, exporting strife beyond her borders. A state from which literally hundreds of thousands of citizens could seek to escape, putting huge pressure on us in Europe. We cannot stand back and let a dictator whose people have rejected him kill his people indiscriminately. To do so would send a chilling signal to others."

                      Cameron said he had given his cabinet time to read legal advice from the attorney general, Dominic Grieve, setting out why a no-fly zone and other actions would be lawful. The cabinet was also addressed by the chief of the defence staff, Sir David Richards. A summary of the legal advice will be handed to MPs on Monday, when they will be asked to vote on a substantive motion to support military action. Cameron won wide praise in the Commons, including support from the Labour leader, Ed Miliband, for his role in securing diplomatic support for a no-fly zone after it looked as if Britain and France were going to be left isolated.

                      But the prime minister has been ambiguous about the extent to which his aim is to remove Gaddafi from power, and still faces questions on how long British pilots will have to police a no-fly zone if an impasse emerges on the ground. He said: "It is almost impossible to envisage a future for Libya that includes him [Gaddafi]. It is not in our national interest for this man to lead a pariah state on the southern banks of Europe with all the problems that could entail." But he also accepted that the UN resolution did not endorse regime change. "The UN resolution is not about choosing the government of Libya. That is an issue for the Libyan people."

                      Obama said the U.S. would not dominate this UN-backed coalition. He said: "I also want to be clear about what we will not be doing. The United States is not going to deploy ground troops into Libya. "We are not going to use force to go beyond a well-defined goal: specifically the protection of civilians in Libya." The Pentagon, in a statement, said Libya has about 30 missile sites, mainly spread along the coast, and that they posed a "significant threat to U.S. and NATO aircraft". The French foreign minister, Alain Juppé, said everything was ready to launch military strikes, and that a ceasefire would need to cover the whole country.

                      The announcement of a ceasefire was dismissed by a rebel commander in the anti-Gaddafi stronghold of Benghazi, who accused the Libyan leader of bluffing. Khalifa Heftir told reporters: "Gaddafi does not speak any truth ... all the world knows that Muammar Gaddafi is a liar. He and his sons, and his family, and all those with him are liars." Reports continued of fighting in Misrata, a key port between the capital and Benghazi. Officials in Tripoli were tight-lipped about the details of the ceasefire. The decision seemed based on hopes that it would sow division inside the UN. There was little evidence of any wish to engage in real dialogue with the Benghazi rebels. Libyan state media all but ignored the ceasefire, continuing the stream of patriotic programmes and announcements, playing clip after clip of pro-Gaddafi demonstrators declaring support for their leader. Tripoli seemed calm but tense throughout the day, with police patrol cars visible in unusual numbers in the city centre as officers checked identity cards. Several explosions to the west added to an already jumpy mood.



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                            • The dance of democracy

                              The clamour for demcracy and the revolt against decades old authoritarian rules are taking place in the North African and Middle East countries, where the family rule or dictators have been ruling like King's Monarchy for decades. They are successful in Tunisia, Egypt. The tsunami of revolution has spread to other nations such as Libya, Morocco, Bahrain, Ivory Coast, Sudan, Yemen and so on. Dictators like Qaddafi are killing their own citizens by air strikes and artillery.

                              What this portends for this region and what is the effect on the world peace -
                              Read and express your opinion at:

                              Original Thinkers Forum

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                              • Qaddafi is facing a tribal revolt, against heavily armed opponents, not a 'peaceful crowd of demonstrators seeking democracy'. The opposition forces in Libya even claim to have aircraft, and they certainly do have anti-aircraft guns and other heavy weapons. To equate what is happening in Libya with events elsewhere is to misread Libyan history and politics.

                                So we have witnessed Israeli aircraft slaughtering Palestinian children, with no calls for a no-fly zone, we have seen Yemenis shot down in the streets of their nation, with no calls for a no-fly zone, we have seen Bahrainis shot off their streets, with no calls for a no-fly zone, and we have seen Saudi forces crushing popular protests - with no calls for a no-fly zone.

                                But in Libya, with the regime facing an armed revolt, we have the West (along with a few hastily enrolled Arab statelets), itching to intervene militarily in support of one party to an internal conflict.

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