Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Text: Obama's remarks on Libya
The US president said America helped Libyans avoid a "masscre" and will be a friend to those who "long to be free."
US President Barack Obama delivered a 29-minute speech about military action in Libya and the democracy movements in the Middle East on March 28, 2011, at the National Defense University in Fort McNair, Washington. The following remarks were distributed by the White House.
Tonight, I'd like to update the American people on the international effort that we have led in Libya -- what we've done, what we plan to do, and why this matters to us.
I want to begin by paying tribute to our men and women in uniform who, once again, have acted with courage, professionalism and patriotism. They have moved with incredible speed and strength. Because of them and our dedicated diplomats, a coalition has been forged and countless lives have been saved.
Meanwhile, as we speak, our troops are supporting our ally Japan, leaving Iraq to its people, stopping the Taliban's momentum in Afghanistan, and going after al Qaeda all across the globe. As Commander-in-Chief, I'm grateful to our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen, and to their families. And I know all Americans share in that sentiment.
For generations, the United States of America has played a unique role as an anchor of global security and as an advocate for human freedom. Mindful of the risks and costs of military action, we are naturally reluctant to use force to solve the world's many challenges. But when our interests and values are at stake, we have a responsibility to act. That's what happened in Libya over the course of these last six weeks.
Libya sits directly between Tunisia and Egypt -- two nations that inspired the world when their people rose up to take control of their own destiny. For more than four decades, the Libyan people have been ruled by a tyrant -- Muammar Qaddafi. He has denied his people freedom, exploited their wealth, murdered opponents at home and abroad, and terrorized innocent people around the world -- including Americans who were killed by Libyan agents.
Last month, Qaddafi's grip of fear appeared to give way to the promise of freedom. In cities and towns across the country, Libyans took to the streets to claim their basic human rights. As one Libyan said, "For the first time we finally have hope that our nightmare of 40 years will soon be over."
Faced with this opposition, Qaddafi began attacking his people. As President, my immediate concern was the safety of our citizens, so we evacuated our embassy and all Americans who sought our assistance. Then we took a series of swift steps in a matter of days to answer Qaddafi's aggression. We froze more than $33 billion of Qaddafi's regime's assets. Joining with other nations at the United Nations Security Council, we broadened our sanctions, imposed an arms embargo, and enabled Qaddafi and those around him to be held accountable for their crimes. I made it clear that Qaddafi had lost the confidence of his people and the legitimacy to lead, and I said that he needed to step down from power.
In the face of the world's condemnation, Qaddafi chose to escalate his attacks, launching a military campaign against the Libyan people. Innocent people were targeted for killing. Hospitals and ambulances were attacked. Journalists were arrested, sexually assaulted, and killed. Supplies of food and fuel were choked off. Water for hundreds of thousands of people in Misurata was shut off. Cities and towns were shelled, mosques were destroyed, and apartment buildings reduced to rubble. Military jets and helicopter gunships were unleashed upon people who had no means to defend themselves against assaults from the air.
Confronted by this brutal repression and a looming humanitarian crisis, I ordered warships into the Mediterranean. European allies declared their willingness to commit resources to stop the killing. The Libyan opposition and the Arab League appealed to the world to save lives in Libya. And so at my direction, America led an effort with our allies at the United Nations Security Council to pass a historic resolution that authorized a no-fly zone to stop the regime's attacks from the air, and further authorized all necessary measures to protect the Libyan people.
Ten days ago, having tried to end the violence without using force, the international community offered Qaddafi a final chance to stop his campaign of killing, or face the consequences. Rather than stand down, his forces continued their advance, bearing down on the city of Benghazi, home to nearly 700,000 men, women and children who sought their freedom from fear.
At this point, the United States and the world faced a choice. Qaddafi declared he would show "no mercy" to his own people. He compared them to rats, and threatened to go door to door to inflict punishment. In the past, we have seen him hang civilians in the streets, and kill over a thousand people in a single day. Now we saw regime forces on the outskirts of the city. We knew that if we wanted -- if we waited one more day, Benghazi, a city nearly the size of Charlotte, could suffer a massacre that would have reverberated across the region and stained the conscience of the world.
It was not in our national interest to let that happen. I refused to let that happen. And so nine days ago, after consulting the bipartisan leadership of Congress, I authorized military action to stop the killing and enforce U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973.
We struck regime forces approaching Benghazi to save that city and the people within it. We hit Qaddafi's troops in neighboring Ajdabiya, allowing the opposition to drive them out. We hit Qaddafi's air defenses, which paved the way for a no-fly zone. We targeted tanks and military assets that had been choking off towns and cities, and we cut off much of their source of supply. And tonight, I can report that we have stopped Qaddafi's deadly advance.
In this effort, the United States has not acted alone. Instead, we have been joined by a strong and growing coalition. This includes our closest allies -- nations like the United Kingdom, France, Canada, Denmark, Norway, Italy, Spain, Greece, and Turkey -- all of whom have fought by our sides for decades. And it includes Arab partners like Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, who have chosen to meet their responsibilities to defend the Libyan people.
To summarize, then: In just one month, the United States has worked with our international partners to mobilize a broad coalition, secure an international mandate to protect civilians, stop an advancing army, prevent a massacre, and establish a no-fly zone with our allies and partners. To lend some perspective on how rapidly this military and diplomatic response came together, when people were being brutalized in Bosnia in the 1990s, it took the international community more than a year to intervene with air power to protect civilians. It took us 31 days.
Moreover, we've accomplished these objectives consistent with the pledge that I made to the American people at the outset of our military operations. I said that America's role would be limited; that we would not put ground troops into Libya; that we would focus our unique capabilities on the front end of the operation and that we would transfer responsibility to our allies and partners. Tonight, we are fulfilling that pledge.
Our most effective alliance, NATO, has taken command of the enforcement of the arms embargo and the no-fly zone. Last night, NATO decided to take on the additional responsibility of protecting Libyan civilians. This transfer from the United States to NATO will take place on Wednesday. Going forward, the lead in enforcing the no-fly zone and protecting civilians on the ground will transition to our allies and partners, and I am fully confident that our coalition will keep the pressure on Qaddafi's remaining forces.
In that effort, the United States will play a supporting role -- including intelligence, logistical support, search and rescue assistance, and capabilities to jam regime communications. Because of this transition to a broader, NATO-based coalition, the risk and cost of this operation -- to our military and to American taxpayers -- will be reduced significantly.
So for those who doubted our capacity to carry out this operation, I want to be clear: The United States of America has done what we said we would do.
That's not to say that our work is complete. In addition to our NATO responsibilities, we will work with the international community to provide assistance to the people of Libya, who need food for the hungry and medical care for the wounded. We will safeguard the more than $33 billion that was frozen from the Qaddafi regime so that it's available to rebuild Libya. After all, the money doesn't belong to Qaddafi or to us -- it belongs to the Libyan people. And we'll make sure they receive it.
Tomorrow, Secretary Clinton will go to London, where she will meet with the Libyan opposition and consult with more than 30 nations. These discussions will focus on what kind of political effort is necessary to pressure Qaddafi, while also supporting a transition to the future that the Libyan people deserve -- because while our military mission is narrowly focused on saving lives, we continue to pursue the broader goal of a Libya that belongs not to a dictator, but to its people.
Now, despite the success of our efforts over the past week, I know that some Americans continue to have questions about our efforts in Libya. Qaddafi has not yet stepped down from power, and until he does, Libya will remain dangerous. Moreover, even after Qaddafi does leave power, 40 years of tyranny has left Libya fractured and without strong civil institutions. The transition to a legitimate government that is responsive to the Libyan people will be a difficult task. And while the United States will do our part to help, it will be a task for the international community and -- more importantly -- a task for the Libyan people themselves.
In fact, much of the debate in Washington has put forward a false choice when it comes to Libya. On the one hand, some question why America should intervene at all -- even in limited ways -- in this distant land. They argue that there are many places in the world where innocent civilians face brutal violence at the hands of their government, and America should not be expected to police the world, particularly when we have so many pressing needs here at home.
It's true that America cannot use our military wherever repression occurs. And given the costs and risks of intervention, we must always measure our interests against the need for action. But that cannot be an argument for never acting on behalf of what's right. In this particular country -- Libya -- at this particular moment, we were faced with the prospect of violence on a horrific scale. We had a unique ability to stop that violence: an international mandate for action, a broad coalition prepared to join us, the support of Arab countries, and a plea for help from the Libyan people themselves. We also had the ability to stop Qaddafi's forces in their tracks without putting American troops on the ground.
To brush aside America's responsibility as a leader and -- more profoundly -- our responsibilities to our fellow human beings under such circumstances would have been a betrayal of who we are. Some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries. The United States of America is different. And as President, I refused to wait for the images of slaughter and mass graves before taking action.
Moreover, America has an important strategic interest in preventing Qaddafi from overrunning those who oppose him. A massacre would have driven thousands of additional refugees across Libya's borders, putting enormous strains on the peaceful -- yet fragile -- transitions in Egypt and Tunisia. The democratic impulses that are dawning across the region would be eclipsed by the darkest form of dictatorship, as repressive leaders concluded that violence is the best strategy to cling to power. The writ of the United Nations Security Council would have been shown to be little more than empty words, crippling that institution's future credibility to uphold global peace and security. So while I will never minimize the costs involved in military action, I am convinced that a failure to act in Libya would have carried a far greater price for America.
Now, just as there are those who have argued against intervention in Libya, there are others who have suggested that we broaden our military mission beyond the task of protecting the Libyan people, and do whatever it takes to bring down Qaddafi and usher in a new government.
Of course, there is no question that Libya -- and the world -- would be better off with Qaddafi out of power. I, along with many other world leaders, have embraced that goal, and will actively pursue it through non-military means. But broadening our military mission to include regime change would be a mistake.
The task that I assigned our forces -- to protect the Libyan people from immediate danger, and to establish a no-fly zone -- carries with it a U.N. mandate and international support. It's also what the Libyan opposition asked us to do. If we tried to overthrow Qaddafi by force, our coalition would splinter. We would likely have to put U.S. troops on the ground to accomplish that mission, or risk killing many civilians from the air. The dangers faced by our men and women in uniform would be far greater. So would the costs and our share of the responsibility for what comes next.
To be blunt, we went down that road in Iraq. Thanks to the extraordinary sacrifices of our troops and the determination of our diplomats, we are hopeful about Iraq's future. But regime change there took eight years, thousands of American and Iraqi lives, and nearly a trillion dollars. That is not something we can afford to repeat in Libya.
As the bulk of our military effort ratchets down, what we can do -- and will do -- is support the aspirations of the Libyan people. We have intervened to stop a massacre, and we will work with our allies and partners to maintain the safety of civilians. We will deny the regime arms, cut off its supplies of cash, assist the opposition, and work with other nations to hasten the day when Qaddafi leaves power. It may not happen overnight, as a badly weakened Qaddafi tries desperately to hang on to power. But it should be clear to those around Qaddafi, and to every Libyan, that history is not on Qaddafi's side. With the time and space that we have provided for the Libyan people, they will be able to determine their own destiny, and that is how it should be.
Let me close by addressing what this action says about the use of America's military power, and America's broader leadership in the world, under my presidency.
As Commander-in-Chief, I have no greater responsibility than keeping this country safe. And no decision weighs on me more than when to deploy our men and women in uniform. I've made it clear that I will never hesitate to use our military swiftly, decisively, and unilaterally when necessary to defend our people, our homeland, our allies and our core interests. That's why we're going after al Qaeda wherever they seek a foothold. That is why we continue to fight in Afghanistan, even as we have ended our combat mission in Iraq and removed more than 100,000 troops from that country.
There will be times, though, when our safety is not directly threatened, but our interests and our values are. Sometimes, the course of history poses challenges that threaten our common humanity and our common security -- responding to natural disasters, for example; or preventing genocide and keeping the peace; ensuring regional security, and maintaining the flow of commerce. These may not be America's problems alone, but they are important to us. They're problems worth solving. And in these circumstances, we know that the United States, as the world's most powerful nation, will often be called upon to help.
In such cases, we should not be afraid to act -- but the burden of action should not be America's alone. As we have in Libya, our task is instead to mobilize the international community for collective action. Because contrary to the claims of some, American leadership is not simply a matter of going it alone and bearing all of the burden ourselves. Real leadership creates the conditions and coalitions for others to step up as well; to work with allies and partners so that they bear their share of the burden and pay their share of the costs; and to see that the principles of justice and human dignity are upheld by all.
That's the kind of leadership we've shown in Libya. Of course, even when we act as part of a coalition, the risks of any military action will be high. Those risks were realized when one of our planes malfunctioned over Libya. Yet when one of our airmen parachuted to the ground, in a country whose leader has so often demonized the United States -- in a region that has such a difficult history with our country -- this American did not find enemies. Instead, he was met by people who embraced him. One young Libyan who came to his aid said, "We are your friends. We are so grateful to those men who are protecting the skies."
This voice is just one of many in a region where a new generation is refusing to be denied their rights and opportunities any longer.
Yes, this change will make the world more complicated for a time. Progress will be uneven, and change will come differently to different countries. There are places, like Egypt, where this change will inspire us and raise our hopes. And then there will be places, like Iran, where change is fiercely suppressed. The dark forces of civil conflict and sectarian war will have to be averted, and difficult political and economic concerns will have to be addressed.
The United States will not be able to dictate the pace and scope of this change. Only the people of the region can do that. But we can make a difference.
I believe that this movement of change cannot be turned back, and that we must stand alongside those who believe in the same core principles that have guided us through many storms: our opposition to violence directed at one's own people; our support for a set of universal rights, including the freedom for people to express themselves and choose their leaders; our support for governments that are ultimately responsive to the aspirations of the people.
Born, as we are, out of a revolution by those who longed to be free, we welcome the fact that history is on the move in the Middle East and North Africa, and that young people are leading the way. Because wherever people long to be free, they will find a friend in the United States. Ultimately, it is that faith -- those ideals -- that are the true measure of American leadership.
My fellow Americans, I know that at a time of upheaval overseas -- when the news is filled with conflict and change -- it can be tempting to turn away from the world. And as I've said before, our strength abroad is anchored in our strength here at home. That must always be our North Star -- the ability of our people to reach their potential, to make wise choices with our resources, to enlarge the prosperity that serves as a wellspring for our power, and to live the values that we hold so dear.
But let us also remember that for generations, we have done the hard work of protecting our own people, as well as millions around the globe. We have done so because we know that our own future is safer, our own future is brighter, if more of mankind can live with the bright light of freedom and dignity.
Tonight, let us give thanks for the Americans who are serving through these trying times, and the coalition that is carrying our effort forward. And let us look to the future with confidence and hope not only for our own country, but for all those yearning for freedom around the world.
Thank you. God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America. (Applause.) Thank you
Maroud Bwisier strums his guitar and sings revolutionary songs, some of which he wrote himself.
Photo: Jason Koutsoukis
Maroud Bwisir, a musician and café owner, had brought along his Spanish guitar and sang with his comrades. The group broke up as an enemy aircraft appeared, banking to drop bombs on a Shabaab position to the right.
Strange days on the rebels' road to Tripoli
Jason Koutsoukis March 27, 2011
Benghazi coffee shop owner Masoud Bwisir sings a rebel song on the road 150 kilometres south-west of his home.
THE crack of a shell exploding 200 metres up the road sent the small crowd gathered on the highway racing for cover. ''Don't be worried,'' shouted rebel fighter Masoud Bwisir, the only one not running. ''It's OK.''
The blast interrupted an impromptu live performance of Mr Bwisir's latest musical composition, a song about freeing his country from the rule of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.
A few kilometres in the distance, an infantry unit of about 200 increasingly isolated soldiers loyal to Colonel Gaddafi was continuing its efforts to ward off attempts by rebels to retake the city of Ajdabiya.
A man who was injured by a shell a short distance away. Photo: Jason Koutsoukis
''He sends us rockets, we send him music,'' said Mr Bwisir, 36, who runs a coffee shop and car wash in the city of Benghazi, about 150 kilometres to the north-east.
With a loaded rocket propelled grenade launcher slung over one shoulder, and a sub-machine gun over the other, Mr Bwisir had been happily strumming his acoustic guitar all morning. He even had a troupe of back-up singers on hand to help him through the chorus. ''It's a song about fighting to make my home free,'' he said.
A few minutes later, a truck came roaring down the highway from the area where the shell had landed, the men in the cabin gesticulating wildly to an ambulance parked behind Mr Bwisir.
When the truck stopped, a man was lying in back, screaming in pain and pointing to his right leg. The absence of blood, or any sign of damage to his clothes, led a doctor at the scene to conclude that perhaps the wounded man had a broken leg.
Whatever the injury, he was soon in the back of the ambulance and on the way to Benghazi.
''Are you leaving already?'' asked a disappointed sounding Mr Bwisir. ''Please stay, I have other songs.''
At the rebel checkpoint of Zwitina, out of firing range of Colonel Gaddafi's troops, the oscillating morale of the fighters there was at a high point.
Overnight, Western coalition aircraft had pounded the pro-Gaddafi infantry unit.
''They are running out of fuel and water and food,'' said Omar Salem, 21, a geology student at Garyounnis University in Benghazi. ''It won't be long before we have them completely surrounded.''
Early yesterday, rebel leaders claimed to have entered Ajdabiya from a desert road. ''The only part the Gaddafi forces control is the eastern gate,'' said Abdel-Hafidh Ghoga, vice-president of rebels' transitional national council.
Dismissing talk of a negotiated settlement to the conflict, Mr Ghoga vowed that once rebel fighters had re-taken Ajdabiya, they would resume their earlier mission to go all the way to the capital, Tripoli.
''Gaddafi has Tripoli surrounded; the people there need our help,'' he said.
UPDATE: 24/04/2011 - LIBYA - POPULAR REVOLT - REPORTER'S NOTEBOOK
A rap song for the revolution
When Muammar Gaddafi lost control of Benghazi, three aspiring Libyan rappers found themselves in the heart of history. FRANCE 24's Leela Jacinto discovers how one rap tune captured the soul of the Libyan revolution.
The beat is pumping, the music blasting and the kids are flaying their arms and pouting in the international body-language of rap stars. As they spot my camera, they flash the ubiquitous Libyan pro-democracy “V” for victory sign. Then the song glides into its catchy refrain and they're off again:
Yani kamat al intisar!
El horriyah l'il ahrah!”
“This is revolution!
The height of victory!
Freedom for the free people!”
This is revolution the way the Libyan youth see it. If every history-mending youth movement were to have its own Bob Dylan vocalizing the dissent and dreams of a generation, “Hadi Thawra” is the “Times They Are a-Changin'” of the anti-Gaddafi hipster set.
Islam Barassi in Revolution Beat's one-room studio. Photo: Leela Jacinto
This catchy rap song is familiar to any Libyan who made his or her way to the Benghazi's central square in the heady days after February 21, when Libya's second-largest city fell from Muammar Gaddafi's control to become the de-facto capital of liberated Libya.
It was written, sung and produced by three Benghazi youths who bought packs of 50 CDs, copied their hit tune, and distributed the CDs to the anti-Gaddafi demonstrators in Benghazi's central courthouse.
“We're doing it for the country,” explains 23-year-old Mutaz el Obidy. “We don't want money – now,” he adds as a prudent afterthought.
The 'Street Beat' that never hit the streets
Before the revolution, Mutaz and his friends, Islam Barassi, 21, and Youssef Prucki, 24, used to gather in their parents' basements to sing and produce their rap songs in a mix of Arabic and English.
A committed Anglophone, Mutaz is an English literature student while Islam works in his brother's business. Youssef is a garbageman by day and a rapper by night.
In the old days, when Gaddafi's Revolutionary Committee members were keeping a close watch on the populace, the trio called themselves the “Street Beat” even though their music never hit the streets – it was too dangerous.
“We weren't allowed to talk about the system, we could not speak our thoughts. We were not allowed to perform in college or anywhere. We just did the music for ourselves,” says Mutaz.
In those days, they were carefully, deliberately tight-lipped about their passion. “I was afraid not about myself, but about my family,” says Mutaz. “They would have been killed, I'd have to watch my sister being raped. I never got into trouble because I was not stupid about it, we never published it.”
Their early songs from the underground era tackled the angst and frustration of many young, educated Libyans under Gaddafi.
“Hate that, Hate this,
The one thing I hate is living in this shit.
Hard to figure out where do I fit.
Streets of Libya make me feel sick,
I rap out loud,
No kissing ass like those hypocrites.”
Mutaz sings his song in the one-room studio-cum-office, where Benghazi's three star rappers work and hangout along with a changing number of friends and groupies.
Revolutionary entertainment for everyone
After the city fell, they changed the group's name from “Street Beat” to “Revolution Beat” and that's what they've been doing ever since – belting out the revolution. I'm somewhat surprised to find them in the backroom of the Benghazi courthouse premises.
Mutaz el Obidy flashes the ubiquitous Libyan pro-democracy “V” for victory sign. Photo: Leela Jacinto
A cluster of seaside buildings, the “courthouse” as it's commonly called, is the hub of the Libyan pro-democracy movement, where journalists gather to badger mostly clueless TNC (Transition National Council) spokespeople, fighters back from the frontline hang around, and crowds descend every evening for what could best be described as “thawra entertainment” - or “revolution entertainment” - which includes an exhilarating mix of speeches, music and much flag-waving.
The flag of course is the pre-Gaddafi tricolor under the former King Idriss, a native of these parts. These days, it's hard to spot a street that does not boast the omnipresent tricolor.
Ensconced in prime revolutionary real estate
A gigantic tricolor emblazons the wall of the studio-office, where the rapping kids are belting out their thawra tunes. How did they secure this prime revolutionary real estate?
“Well, on February 19, we came to the courthouse and found a room,” explains Mutaz. “We brought our laptops, our tunes, our mixers, our beats and so we started singing our first song, 'Thawra'.”
In a testament to the unscripted yet tolerant nature of the anti-Gaddafi revolt, TNC officials have let the kids use the space – although they did transfer them from the main courthouse building to their current space in the former lawyers offices next door.
Their revolutionary rap oeuvre so far features three songs: “Thawra”, “Saba thash fubraihu” (Arabic for Seventeenth February - the day the Libyan uprising began) and “Freedom”. Mutaz himself raps in English. “Even though I speak Arabic, I don't know how to rap in Arabic. English is easier for me,” he explains.
Islam and Youssef rap in Arabic and the group's songs typically feature a mix of English and Arabic.
For “Thawra” though, the trio decided the song must be sung in Arabic - “because all the people would not understand English,” Mutaz explains.
The next step is adding new songs to their album-in-the-making.
Are they afraid that the Gaddafi forces will overpower the rebels' shoddy military organization combined with NATO's weak, wavering aerial support?
Apparently not – or at least that's what they say. “Gaddafi is not going to win, we will, it's gonna be easy,” insists Mutaz. “I feel sad when I see Gaddafi's troops advance, but not scared. The people may die, I may die. But the revolution will never die.”
Also See: Libyan Rebal Song in Ajdabiya - no comment
Guitarists Massoud Abu Assir strums and sings for rebels
Do you Here the people sing? The Tollund Women
"Join in the fight that will make you free...music of a peop;le who won't be slaves again..." Ra Ra
Thursday, April 7,2011
Eight reasons to arm Libya's rebels
By Paul Danish
There seems to be a big debate going on in the Obama administration over whether we should arm and train the Libyan rebels.
That’s strange, because arming and training the Libyan rebels should be a no-brainer — for at least eight reasons:
1. They are doing the Lord’s work — assuming you believe the Lord (aka Yahweh, aka Allah) endowed men with certain inalienable rights, including life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness and the right to take down deranged tyrants who have become abusive of those rights.
2. They are fighting to take down Gaddafi, who apart from being an enemy of liberty, democracy and term limits, is a vicious enemy of the United States who will be an orders-of-magnitude worse enemy if he survives.
3. If they are not armed and, more importantly, trained, they will lose.
4. If they lose, the United States loses. NATO loses. The pro-democracy movement sweeping the Arab world loses. The Arab world’s tyrants will win. They will know they can put down mass protests with mass murder and that the world will let them get away with it.
5. Everyone who said “never again” after Srebrenica, after Darfur, after Rwanda, after the Holocaust, will lose. The world’s dictators will have one more reason to believe — as if they don’t have enough already — that the people who say “never again” never mean it.
6. If the Libyan rebels lose, Obama loses, because if Gaddafi stays in power, Obama won’t. When picking presidents, Americans don’t reward failure, as Herbert Hoover (the Depression), Harry Truman (Korea), Lyndon Johnson (Vietnam) and Jimmy Carter (Iran hostages) found out. That alone should make arming the Libyan rebels the Obama administration’s job one.
7. Arming and training the Libyan rebels can be done without sending American ground troops into Libya. If the folks in Washington are so set against having the U.S. Army’s boots on the ground, they should give the company formerly known as Blackwater, or some of its many competitors, a call.
8. Arming and training the Libyan rebels is the best way to ensure that Libya won’t go Islamist. It’s all but certain that there are Muslim Brothers, al- Qaida members and assorted other Salafists and jihadists hanging around the Libyan revolution, just as there were Bolsheviks hanging around the Russian revolution in 1917, and there is no guarantee that, like the Bolsheviks, they won’t take over. But there is a lot less chance of that happening if the U.S. is actively siding with the revolution and helping it succeed by providing it with the tools it needs to do so.
It might drive the folks at the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center wild to say it, but the principal way that nations that have arms industries gain influence and clout in nations that don’t is by selling them arms.
Good thing, too. The U.S. was able to persuade the Egyptian military to not turn Tahrir Square into Tiananmen Square in no small part because the Egyptian military was American-armed, American-trained and American-sustained.
Supplying arms and help to a revolution can lead to enduring alliances.
Consider our relationship with the French, who sold us guns during the revolution and showed up with a fleet off Yorktown in 1782 to enforce a no-sail zone. It was the start of a beautiful friendship.
The surest way to ensure that we will have some influence in Libya after Gaddafi is out is to become the revolution’s armorer before he goes. And a sure-fire way to ensure we have no influence in Libya after Gaddafi goes, and to open the door to the Islamists, is to turn our backs on the democratic forces in the country while the fate of their revolution — and it is currently their revolution, not the Islamists’ — hangs in the balance.
But aren’t the Libyan rebels no more than a stunningly incompetent rabble in arms? Maybe, but chances are good that properly arming them and teaching them some rudimentary military skills can accomplish wonders.
If you doubt this, consider our own revolution. In 1775, America’s rebels were about as ragtag as they come. (How ragtag? Consult the lyrics to Yankee Doodle.) The first couple years of the American Revolution saw more panicked retreats and humiliating routs than American victories, and the American army that went into winter quarters (such as they were) at Valley Forge in 1778 was still a little better than a rabble in arms.
Fortunately, a foreign trainer and advisor showed up in the person of Friedrich von Steuben and taught the continental army some basic military skills. After that, things began to turn around.
The Libyan rebels are the product of a popular uprising. They don’t have to be convinced of the value of regime change and democracy. Their revolution is explicitly calling for those things, and they volunteered to fight for them. Those are the sort of revolutionaries that most deserve our help and can most benefit from it.
Saturday, March 26, 2011
Who are the Libyan Freedom Fighters and Their Patrons?
Peter Dale Scott's Libyan Notebook
The world is facing a very unpredictable and potentially dangerous situation in North Africa and the Middle East. What began as a memorable, promising, relatively nonviolent achievement of New Politics - the Revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt - has morphed very swiftly into a recrudescence of old habits: America, already mired in two decade-long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and sporadic air attacks in Yemen and Somalia, now bombing yet another Third World Country, in this case Libya.
USS Barry launches a Tomahawk missile in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn in the Mediterranean Sea, March 19, 2011. US government handout
The initially stated aim of this bombing was to diminish Libyan civilian casualties. But many senior figures in Washington, including President Obama, have indicated that the US is gearing up for a quite different war for regime change, one that may well be protracted and could also easily expand beyond Libya.1 If it does expand, the hope for a nonviolent transition to civilian government in Tunisia and Egypt and other Middle East nations experiencing political unrest, may be lost to a hard-edged militarization of government, especially in Egypt. All of us, not just Egyptians, have a major stake in seeing that that does not happen.
The present article does not attempt to propose solutions or a course of action for the United States and its allies, or for the people of the Middle East. It attempts rather to examine the nature of the forces that have emerged in Libya over the last four decades that are presently being played out.
To this end I have begun to compile what I call my Libyan Notebook, a collection of relevant facts that underlie the present crisis. This Notebook will be judgmental, in that I am biased towards collecting facts that the US media tend to ignore, facts that are the product in many instances of investigative reporting that cuts to the heart of power relations, deep structures, and economic interests in the region including the US, Israel, and the Arab States as these have played out over the last two decades and more. But I hope that it will be usefully objective and open-ended, permitting others to draw diverse conclusions from the same set of facts.2
I wish to begin with two ill-understood topics: I. Who Are the Libyan Opposition, and II. Where Are the Libyan Rebel Arms Coming From?
I. Who Are the Libyan Opposition
"If Muammar Al Gaddafi behaved paranoid, it was for good reason. It wasn't long after he reached the age of 27 and led a small group of junior military officers in a bloodless coup d'état against Libyan King Idris on September 1, 1969, that threats to his power and life emerged - from monarchists, Israeli Mossad, Palestinian disaffections, Saudi security, the National Front for the Salvation of Libya (NFSL), the National Conference for the Libyan Opposition (NCLO), British intelligence, United States antagonism and, in 1995, the most serious of all, Al Qaeda-like Libyan Islamic fighting group, known as Al-Jama'a al-Islamiyyah al-Muqatilah bi-Libya. The Colonel reacted brutally, by either expelling or killing those he feared were against him."3
Gaddafi and Nasser in a 1969 Photo. Getty image
2) National Front for the Salvation of Libya (NFSL)
"With the aim of overthrowing Libyan strongman Muammar Khadafy, Israel and the U.S. trained anti-Libyan rebels in a number of West and Central African countries. The Paris-based African Confidential newsletter reported on January 5th, 1989, that the US and Israel had set up a series of bases in Chad and other neighboring countries to train 2000 Libyan rebels captured by the Chad army. The group, called The National Front for the Salvation of Libya, was based in Chad."4
"US official records indicate that funding for the Chad-based secret war against Libya also came from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Morocco, Israel and Iraq. The Saudis, for instance, donated $7m to an opposition group, the National Front for the Salvation of Libya (also backed by French intelligence and the CIA). But a plan to assassinate Gadafi and take over the government on 8 May 1984 was crushed. In the following year, the US asked Egypt to invade Libya and overthrow Gadafi but President Mubarak refused. By the end of 1985, the Washington Post had exposed the plan after congressional leaders opposing it wrote in protest to President Reagan."5
"The FNSL [National Front for the Salvation of Libya] was part of the National Conference for the Libyan Opposition held in London in 2005, and British resources are being used to support the FNSL and other 'opposition' in Libya.... The FNSL held its national congress in the USA in July 2007. Reports of 'atrocities' and civilian deaths are being channeled into the western press from operations in Washington DC, and the opposition FNSL is reportedly organizing resistance and military attacks from both inside and outside Libya."6
3) National Conference for the Libyan Opposition (NCLO),
"The main group leading the insurrection is the National Conference for the Libyan Opposition which includes the National Front for the Salvation of Libya (NFSL). The NFSL, which is leading the violence, is a U.S.-sponsored armed militia of mostly Libyan expatriates and tribes opposed to al-Qaddafi."7
4) Al-Jama'a al-Islamiyyah al-Muqatilah bi-Libya (Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, LIFG)
"The LIFG was founded in 1995 by a group of mujahideen veterans who had fought against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Upon their return to Libya they grew angry about what they viewed as the corruption and impiety of the Libyan regime and formed the LIFG to create a state that would show what they believed to be the true character of the Libyan people.
The most significant LIFG attack was a 1996 attempt to assassinate Gadhafi; LIFG members led by Wadi al-Shateh threw a bomb underneath his motorcade. The group also stages guerilla-style attacks against government security forces from its mountain bases. Although most LIFG members are strictly dedicated to toppling Gadhafi, intelligence reportedly indicates that some have joined forces with al-Qaida to wage jihad against Libyan and Western interests worldwide. ....
As recently as February 2004, then-Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee that "one of the most immediate threats [to U.S. security] is from smaller international Sunni extremist groups that have benefited from al-Qaida links. They include ... the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group."8
"In recent days Libyan officials have distributed security documents giving the details of Sufiyan al-Koumi, said to be a driver for Osama bin Laden, and of another militant allegedly involved in an "Islamic emirate" in Derna, in now-liberated eastern Libya. Koumi, the documents show, was freed in September 2010 as part of a "reform and repent" initiative organised by Saif al-Islam, Gaddafi's son....
The LIFG, established in Afghanistan in the 1990s, has assassinated dozens of Libyan soldiers and policemen. In 2009, to mark Gaddafi's 40 years in power, it apologised for trying to kill him and agreed to lay down its arms. MI6 [British Intelligence] has been accused in the past of supporting it. Six LIFG leaders, still in prison, disavowed their old ways and explained why fighting Gaddafi no longer constituted "legitimate" jihad.
Abdul-Hakim al-Hasadi, another freed LIFG member, denied the official claims. "Gaddafi is trying to divide the people," he told al-Jazeera. "He claims that there is an Islamist emirate in Derna and that I am its emir. He is taking advantage of the fact that I am a former political prisoner."
Derna is famous as the home of a large number of suicide bombers in Iraq. It is also deeply hostile to Gaddafi. "Residents of eastern Libya in general, and Derna in particular, view the Gaddadfa (Gaddafi's tribe) as uneducated, uncouth interlopers from an inconsequential part of the country who have 'stolen' the right to rule in Libya," US diplomats were told in 2008, in a cable since released by WikiLeaks.
The last 110 members of the LIFG were freed on 16 February, the day after the Libyan uprising began. One of those released, Abdulwahab Mohammed Kayed, is the brother of Abu Yahya Al Libi, one of al Qaida's top propagandists. Koumi fled Libya and is said to have ended up in Afghanistan working for Bin Laden. Captured in Pakistan, he was handed over to the US and sent to Guantánamo Bay in 2002. In 2009 he was sent back to Libya.9 US counter-terrorist experts have expressed concern that al-Qaida could take advantage of a political vacuum if Gaddafi is overthrown. But most analysts say that, although the Islamists' ideology has strong resonance in eastern Libya, there is no sign that the protests are going to be hijacked by them.10
Libyan Islamic Fighting Group Members released
"Fierce clashes between [Qadhafi's] security forces and Islamist guerrillas erupted in Benghazi in September 1995, leaving dozens killed on both sides. After weeks of intense fighting, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) formally declared its existence in a communiqué calling Qadhafi's government "an apostate regime that has blasphemed against the faith of God Almighty" and declaring its overthrow to be "the foremost duty after faith in God."  This and future LIFG communiqués were issued by Libyan Afghans who had been granted political asylum in Britain.... The involvement of the British government in the LIFG campaign against Qadhafi remains the subject of immense controversy. LIFG's next big operation, a failed attempt to assassinate Qadhafi in February 1996 that killed several of his bodyguards, was later said to have been financed by British intelligence to the tune of $160,000, according to ex-MI5 officer David Shayler.  While Shayler's allegations have not been independently confirmed, it is clear that Britain allowed LIFG to develop a base of logistical support and fundraising on its soil. At any rate, financing by bin Laden appears to have been much more important. According to one report, LIFG received up to $50,000 from the Saudi terrorist mastermind for each of its militants killed on the battlefield." 11
"Americans, Britons and the French are finding themselves as comrades in arms with the rebel Islamic Fighting Group, the most radical element in the Al Qaeda network [to bring down Gaddhafi]. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton admitted the risks of the unholy alliance in a congressional hearing, saying that the Libyan opposition is probably more anti-American than Muammar Gaddhafi. A decade ago, this very same delusion of a Western-Islamist partnership in Kosovo, Bosnia and Chechnya ended abruptly in the 9/11 attacks."12
5) Transitional National Council
"A RIVAL transitional government to the regime of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi looks set to win US and other international support as momentum builds to oust the longtime dictator.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton confirmed yesterday that the Obama administration was reaching out to opponents of Colonel Gaddafi. She said the US was willing to offer ‘any kind of assistance' to remove him from power.
Protest leaders who have taken control in Libya's eastern cities claim to have established a transitional "national council" that amounts to rival rule. They have called on the country's army to join them as they prepare for an attack on the capital, Tripoli, where the Libyan leader retains control.
Confident the Libyan leader's 42-year rule was coming to an end, Mrs Clinton said yesterday: ‘We are just at the beginning of what will follow Gaddafi.'"13
"He [Omar El- Hariri, Chief of Armed Forces for the Transitional National Council] remained under close surveillance by the security forces until Feb. 17, when the revolution started. It was not initiated by prominent figures of the older generation, he said, but began spontaneously when Tunisia and Egypt inspired the youth. ‘Children of Facebook!' he declared, in English, with a broad smile."14
"Libyan rebels in Benghazi said they have created a new national oil company to replace the corporation controlled by leader Muammar Qaddafi whose assets were frozen by the United Nations Security Council.
The Transitional National Council released a statement announcing the decision made at a March 19 meeting to establish the ‘Libyan Oil Company as supervisory authority on oil production and policies in the country, based temporarily in Benghazi, and the appointment of an interim director general" of the company.
The Council also said it "designated the Central Bank of Benghazi as a monetary authority competent in monetary policies in Libya and the appointment of a governor to the Central Bank of Libya, with a temporary headquarters in Benghazi."15
Peter Dale Scott's Libyan Notebook
II. Where Are the Libyan Rebel Arms Coming From?
Robert Fisk, "Libya in turmoil: America's secret plan to arm Libya's rebels;
Obama asks Saudis to airlift weapons into Benghazi," Independent, March 7, 2011:
"Desperate to avoid US military involvement in Libya in the event of a prolonged struggle between the Gaddafi regime and its opponents, the Americans have asked Saudi Arabia if it can supply weapons to the rebels in Benghazi. The Saudi Kingdom, already facing a "day of rage" from its 10 per cent Shia Muslim community on Friday, with a ban on all demonstrations, has so far failed to respond to Washington's highly classified request, although King Abdullah personally loathes the Libyan leader, who tried to assassinate him just over a year ago.
Washington's request is in line with other US military co-operation with the Saudis. The royal family in Jeddah, which was deeply involved in the Contra scandal during the Reagan administration, gave immediate support to American efforts to arm guerrillas fighting the Soviet army in Afghanistan in 1980 ....
But the Saudis remain the only US Arab ally strategically placed and capable of furnishing weapons to the guerrillas of Libya. Their assistance would allow Washington to disclaim any military involvement in the supply chain - even though the arms would be American and paid for by the Saudis.
The Saudis have been told that opponents of Gaddafi need anti-tank rockets and mortars as a first priority to hold off attacks by Gaddafi's armour, and ground-to-air missiles to shoot down his fighter-bombers.
Supplies could reach Benghazi within 48 hours but they would need to be delivered to air bases in Libya or to Benghazi airport. If the guerrillas can then go on to the offensive and assault Gaddafi's strongholds in western Libya, the political pressure on America and Nato - not least from Republican members of Congress - to establish a no-fly zone would be reduced.
US military planners have already made it clear that a zone of this kind would necessitate US air attacks on Libya's functioning, if seriously depleted, anti-aircraft missile bases, thus bringing Washington directly into the war on the side of Gaddafi's opponents.
For several days now, US Awacs surveillance aircraft have been flying around Libya, making constant contact with Malta air traffic control and requesting details of Libyan flight patterns, including journeys made in the past 48 hours by Gaddafi's private jet which flew to Jordan and back to Libya just before the weekend.
Officially, Nato will only describe the presence of American Awacs planes as part of its post-9/11 Operation Active Endeavour, which has broad reach to undertake aerial counter-terrorism measures in the Middle East region.
US Awacs monitor Libya
The data from the Awacs is streamed to all Nato countries under the mission's existing mandate. Now that Gaddafi has been reinstated as a super-terrorist in the West's lexicon, however, the Nato mission can easily be used to search for targets of opportunity in Libya if active military operations are undertaken.
Al Jazeera English television channel last night broadcast recordings made by American aircraft to Maltese air traffic control, requesting information about Libyan flights, especially that of Gaddafi's jet.
An American Awacs aircraft, tail number LX-N90442 could be heard contacting the Malta control tower on Saturday for information about a Libyan Dassault-Falcon 900 jet 5A-DCN on its way from Amman to Mitiga, Gaddafi's own VIP airport.
Nato Awacs 07 is heard to say: "Do you have information on an aircraft with the Squawk 2017 position about 85 miles east of our [sic]?"
Malta air traffic control replies: "Seven, that sounds to be Falcon 900- at flight level 340, with a destination Mitiga, according to flight plan."
But Saudi Arabia is already facing dangers from a co-ordinated day of protest by its own Shia Muslim citizens who, emboldened by the Shia uprising in the neighbouring island of Bahrain, have called for street protests against the ruling family of al-Saud on Friday.
After pouring troops and security police into the province of Qatif last week, the Saudis announced a nationwide ban on all public demonstrations.
Shia organisers claim that up to 20,000 protesters plan to demonstrate with women in the front rows to prevent the Saudi army from opening fire.
If the Saudi government accedes to America's request to send guns and missiles to Libyan rebels, however, it would be almost impossible for President Barack Obama to condemn the kingdom for any violence against the Shias of the north-east provinces.
Thus has the Arab awakening, the demand for democracy in North Africa, the Shia revolt and the rising against Gaddafi become entangled in the space of just a few hours with US military priorities in the region. "16
"Libya rebels coordinating with West on air assault," Los Angeles Times, March 24, 2011
"Reports from the region suggest that the Saudis and Egyptians have been providing arms. Though U.S. officials could not confirm that, they say it is plausible."17
"Egypt Said to Arm Libya Rebels," Wall Street Journal, March 17, 2011:
"CAIRO-Egypt's military has begun shipping arms over the border to Libyan rebels with Washington's knowledge, U.S. and Libyan rebel officials said.
The shipments-mostly small arms such as assault rifles and ammunition-appear to be the first confirmed case of an outside government arming the rebel fighters. Those fighters have been losing ground for days in the face of a steady westward advance by forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.
The Egyptian shipments are the strongest indication to date that some Arab countries are heeding Western calls to take a lead in efforts to intervene on behalf of pro-democracy rebels in their fight against Mr. Gadhafi in Libya. Washington and other Western countries have long voiced frustration with Arab states' unwillingness to help resolve crises in their own region, even as they criticized Western powers for attempting to do so.
The shipments also follow an unusually robust diplomatic response from Arab states. There have been rare public calls for foreign military intervention in an Arab country, including a vote by the 23-member Arab League last week urging the U.N. to impose a no-fly zone over Libya.
The vote provided critical political cover to Western powers wary of intervening militarily without a broad regional and international mandate. On Thursday evening, the U.N. Security Council voted on a resolution endorsing a no-fly zone in Libya and authorizing military action in support of the rebels.
Within the council, Lebanon took a lead role drafting and circulating the draft of the resolution, which calls for "all necessary measures" to enforce a ban on flights over Libya. The United Arab Emirates and Qatar have taken the lead in offering to participate in enforcing a no-fly zone, according to U.N. diplomats.
Libyan rebel officials in Benghazi, meanwhile, have praised Qatar from the first days of the uprising, calling the small Gulf state their staunchest ally. Qatar has consistently pressed behind the scenes for tough and urgent international action behind the scenes, these officials said.
Qatari flags fly prominently in rebel-held Benghazi. After pro-Gadhafi forces retook the town of Ras Lanuf last week, Libyan state TV broadcast images of food-aid packages bearing the Qatari flag.
Anti-Gadhafi fighters in Benghazi
The White House has been reluctant to back calls from leaders in Congress for arming Libya's rebels directly, arguing that the U.S. must first fully assess who the fighters are and what policies they will pursue if they succeeded in toppling Col. Gadhafi. U.S. officials believe the opposition includes some Islamist elements. They fear that Islamist groups hostile to the U.S. could try to hijack the opposition and take any arms that are provided.
The Egyptian weapons transfers began ‘a few days ago' and are ongoing, according to a senior U.S. official. ‘There's no formal U.S. policy or acknowledgement that this is going on,' said the senior official. But ‘this is something we have knowledge of.'
Calls to Egypt's foreign ministry and the spokesman for the prime minister seeking comment went unanswered. There is no means of reaching Egypt's military for comment. An Egyptian official in Washington said he had no knowledge of weapon shipments.
The U.S. official also noted that the shipments appeared to come "too little, too late" to tip the military balance in favor of the rebels, who have faced an onslaught from Libyan forces backed by tanks, artillery and aircraft.
"We know the Egyptian military council is helping us, but they can't be so visible," said Hani Souflakis, a Libyan businessman in Cairo who has been acting as a rebel liaison with the Egyptian government since the uprising began.
"Weapons are getting through," said Mr. Souflakis, who says he has regular contacts with Egyptian officials in Cairo and the rebel leadership in Libya. "Americans have given the green light to the Egyptians to help. The Americans don't want to be involved in a direct level, but the Egyptians wouldn't do it if they didn't get the green light."
Western officials and rebel leaders in Libya said the U.S. has wanted to avoid being seen as taking a leadership role in any military action against Mr. Gadhafi after its invasions of Iraq and Afganistan fueled anger and mistrust with Washington throughout the region.
But the U.S. stated clearly it wants Mr. Gadhafi out of power and has signaled it would support those offering help to the rebels militarily or otherwise.
A spokesman for the rebel government in Benghazi said arms shipments have begun arriving to the rebels but declined to specify where they came from.
"Our military committee is purchasing arms and arming our people. The weapons are coming, but the nature of the weapons, the amount, where it's coming from, that has been classified," said the spokesman, Mustafa al-Gherryani.
The U.S. official said Egypt wanted to keep the shipments covert. In public, Egypt has sought to maintain a neutral stance toward the rebel uprising in Libya. Egypt abstained during the Arab League's vote calling for the U.N. to impose a no-fly zone on Mr. Gadhafi, according to people familiar with the internal Arab League deliberations.
Hundreds of thousands of Egyptian laborers are believed to still be in Libya.
On the other hand, the Egyptian military's covert support for the rebels suggests that it has calculated that Mr. Gadhafi is unlikely to remain in power, at least in the eastern half of the country, and therefore Egypt is eager to begin to build good relations with the rebels.
Rebel forces in the past 24 hours appeared to make some progress fending off pro-Gadhafi forces' assaults and have rolled out new weapons for the first time since the uprising began last month. Among them are rebel tanks that have taken up positions on the front lines in recent days. Rebels also launched fighter-jet attacks on government positions on Wednesday for the first time so far.
The tanks and fighter jets are believed to have been among the weapons seized by rebels from defected units of the Libyan army in the eastern half of the country, but they have received spare parts or trained mechanics from outside the country to help them deploy them, some rebel officials have speculated.
-Sam Dagher and Adam Entous contributed to this article.18
Benjamin Gottlieb, "Egypt Arms Libyan Rebels As Gaddafi's Conquest Continues," NeonTommy Annenberg Digital News, March 17, 2011:
Arms shipments from Egypt's military have begun flowing across the border into Libya with U.S. knowledge, Libyan rebels and U.S. officials said Thursday.
Made up mostly of small arms, such as assault rifles and ammunition, the shipments are the first confirmed reports of an outside government supporting rebel fighters with weapons. Rebels have been loosing ground for days against pro-Gaddafi forces aiming to end the conflict before foreign intervention plans are finalized.
Although the U.N. approved a "no-fly zone" over Libya late Thursday, rebel forces fear that any planned foreign intervention would be too little to late.
The shipment of arms indicated an unusually bold response by an Arab nation intervening in a conflict outside its borders. There have also been rare public decrees for the West to intervene in the conflict - the Arab League voted 23-0 last week encouraging the U.N. to impose the "no-fly zone" over Libya.
In spite of reports of arms flowing across the Egyptian boarder, Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Menha Bakhoum told Reuters that Egypt would not be involved in any military intervention in neighboring Libya.
"Egypt will not be among those Arab states. We will not be involved in any military intervention. No intervention period," Bakhoum said.
Bakhoum was responding to comments by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who said Thursday that discussions were on the table regarding Arab involvement in U.S. and European intervention in the conflict.
Clinton has said repeatedly that the U.S. desires involvement from a neighboring Arab nation in any planned intervention.
A Libyan rebel government spokesman in Benghazi, Mustafa al-Gherryani, said rebels have begun receiving arms shipments from neighboring nations, however he declined to reveal their origin.
"Our military committee is purchasing arms and arming our people. The weapons are coming, but the nature of the weapons, the amount, where it's coming from, that has been classified," he said.19
Yoichi Shimatsu, "Mideast Revolutions and 9-11 Intrigues Created in Qatar," New America Media, March 1, 2011
"It may puzzle and perhaps dismay young protesters in Benghazi, Cairo and Tunisia that their democratic hopes are being manipulated by an ultra-conservative Arab elite which has underhandedly backed a surge of militant Islamist radicals across North Africa. Credible U.S. intelligence reports have cited evidence pointing to Qatar's long-running support for the Muslim Brotherhood, Al Qaeda and jihadist fighters returning from Afghanistan.
The links to Qatar uncovered by anti-terrorism investigators in the wake of 9-11 need to be reexamined now that the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), an on-and-off affiliate of Al Qaeda, has seized armories across half of the North African country. Libya's well-stocked arsenals contain high-power explosives, rocket launchers and chemical weapons. LIFG is on the State Department's terrorist list.
Most worrying, according to a U.S. intelligence official cited by CNN, is the probable loss of chemical weapons. The Federation of American Scientists reports that, as of 2008, only 40 percent of Libya's mustard gas was destroyed in the second round of decommissioning. Chemical canisters along the Egyptian border were yet to be retrieved and are now presumably in the hands of armed militants.
After initially letting slip that the earliest Libyan protests were organized by the LIFG, Al Jazeera quickly changed its line to present a heavily filtered account portraying the events as ‘peaceful protests'. To explain away the gunshot deaths of Libyan soldiers during the uprising, the Qatar-based network presented a bizarre scenario of 150 dead soldiers in Libya having been executed by their officers for ‘refusing to fight'. The mysterious officers then miraculously vacated their base disappearing into thin air while surrounded by angry protesters! Off the record, one American intelligence analyst called these media claims an ‘absurdity' and suggested instead the obvious: that the soldiers were gunned down in an armed assault by war-hardened returned militants from Iraq and Afghanistan....
According to a Congressional Research Service report of January 2008, ‘Some observers have raised questions about possible support for Al Qaeda by some Qatari citizens, including members of Qatar's large ruling family. According to the 9/11 Commission Report, Qatar's Interior Minister provided a safe haven to 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed during the mid-1990s, and press reports indicate other terrorists may have received financial support or safe haven in Qatar after September 11, 2001.'
The national security chief, Interior Minister Abdullah bin Khalid al-Thani, is further mentioned as paying for a 1995 trip by Khalid Shaikh Mohammed ‘to join the Bosnia jihad.' The report recalls how after the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, FBI officials "narrowly missed an opportunity to capture" the suspect in Qatar. ‘Former U.S. officials have since stated their belief that a high-ranking member of the Qatari government alerted him to the impending raid, allowing him to flee the country.'"20
Peter Dale Scott, a former Canadian diplomat and English Professor at the University of California, Berkeley, is the author of Drugs Oil and War, The Road to 9/11, The War Conspiracy: JFK, 9/11, and the Deep Politics of War. His most recent book is American War Machine: Deep Politics, the CIA Global Drug Connection and the Road to Afghanistan.
His website, which contains a wealth of his writings, is here.
Recommended citation: Peter Dale Scott, "Who are the Libyan Freedom Fighters and Their Patrons?," The Asia-Pacific Journal Vol 9, Issue 13 No 3, March 28, 2011.
1 “Defense Secretary Gates, who recently warned against any further protracted US ground war, said on March 23 that the end of military action in Libya is unknown and could last longer than a few weeks. ‘I think there are any number of possible outcomes here and no one is in a position to predict them,’ Gates told reporters in Egypt” (C-Span, March 24, 2011).
2 Interested readers may wish to consult my first exploration, “Googling ‘Revolution’ in North Africa.”
3 Dan Lieberman, “Muammar Al Gaddafi Meets His Own Rebels,” CounterCurrents.org, March 9, 2011.
4 Joel Bainerman, Inside the Covert Operations of the CIA & Israel's Mossad (New York: S.P.I. Books, 1994), 14.
5 Richard Keeble, “The Secret War Against Libya,” MediaLens, 2002.
6 "Petroleum and Empire in North Africa. NATO Invasion of Libya Underway," By Keith Harmon Snow, 2 March 2011.
7 Ghali Hassan, “U.S. Love Affair with Murderous Dictators and Hate for Democracy.” Axis of Logic, Mar 17, 2011.
8 Center for Defense Information, “In the Spotlight: The Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG),” January 18, 2005
9 Qadhafi was concerned about Al Qaeda terrorism in Libya, and in 1996 Libya became the first government to place Osama bin Laden on Interpol’s Wanted List (Rohan Gunaratna, Inside Al Qaeda: Global Network of Terror [New York: Columbia UP, 2002], 142). Thereafter American and Libyan intelligence collaborated closely for some years against Al Qaeda. Beginning when?
10 Ian Black, “Libya rebels rejects Gaddafi's al-Qaida spin,” Guardian, March 1, 2011.
11 Gary Gambill, "The Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), Jamestown Foundation," Terrorism Monitor, May 5, 2005,; citing Al-Hayat (London), 20 October 1995 [“communiqué”]; "The Shayler affair: The spooks, the Colonel and the jailed whistle-blower," The Observer (London), 9 August 1998; Jean-Charles Brisard and Guillaume Dasquié, Ben Laden: La Verite interdite (Bin Ladin: The Forbidden Truth). Cf. also Annie Machon, Spies, Lies and Whistleblowers: MI5, MI6 And the Shayler Affair (Book Guild Publishing, 2005) [Shayler].
12 Yoichi Shimatsu, “Attack on Libya: Why Odyssey Dawn Is Doomed,” New America Media, March 20, 2011.
13 “US reaches out to Libyan insurgents,” The Australian, March 1, 2011,
14 “How a onetime friend to Gadhafi became his rival,” Globe and Mail [Toronto], March 4, 2011.
15 Libyan Rebel Council in Benghazi Forms Oil Company to Replace Qaddafi’s,” Bloomberg, March 22, 2011.
16 Robert Fisk, “America's secret plan to arm Libya's rebels,” Independent, March 7, 2011.
17 “Libya rebels coordinating with West on air assault,” Los Angeles Times, March 24, 2011.
18 “Egypt Said to Arm Libya Rebels,” Wall Street Journal, March 17, 2011,
19 Benjamin Gottlieb, “Egypt Arms Libyan Rebels As Gaddafi's Conquest Continues,” NeonTommy Annenberg Digital News, March 17, 2011.
20 Yoichi Shimatsu, “Mideast Revolutions and 9-11 Intrigues Created in Qatar,” New America Media, March 1, 2011. The al-Thani family’s protection of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed is confirmed by former CIA officer Robert Baer (Los Angeles Times, March 23, 2003). Cf. Robert Baer, Sleeping with the Devil (New York: Crown, 2003); Peter Lance, Triple Cross (New York: Regan/HarperCollins, 2006), 234-37.
Friday, March 25, 2011
The Revolution in Syria began when security officers arrested teenagers for spray painting anti-government graffiti on walls.
DARAA, Syria — Tens of thousands of Syrians took to the streets across the country Friday in the most widespread civil unrest in years, defying crowds of government backers and baton-wielding security forces to shout their support of an uprising in the southern city of Daraa, according to witnesses, activists and footage posted online.
From the Mediterranean coast to the capital, Damascus, one of the Mideast's most repressive governments appeared unable to quickly put down a rising wave of calls for reform.
Thousands flooded Daraa's central Assad Square, many from nearby villages, chanting "Freedom! Freedom!" and waving Syrian flags and olive branches, a resident told The Associated Press by telephone.
Speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals, he claimed that more than 50,000 people were shouting slogans decrying presidential adviser Buthaina Shaaban, who promised Thursday that the government would consider a series of reforms in response to a week of unrest in Daraa.
A human rights activist, quoting witnesses, said thousands of people gathered in the town of Douma outside the capital, Damascus, pledging support for the people of Daraa. The activists asked to remain anonymous for fear of retribution.
Security forces dispersed the crowd by chasing them away, beating some with batons and detaining others, an activist said, asking that his name not be published for fear of reprisals by the government.
The capital Damascus was tense, with convoys of young Syrians roaming the streets in their cars, honking incessantly and waving out pictures of President Bashar Assad and Syrian flags. The convoys briefly blocked streets in some areas.
Outside Damascus' famous Ummayad Mosque, scores of people gathered, chanting pro-Assad slogans when a small group of people began shouting opposing slogans in support of the Daraa martyrs. Police dispersed the protesters peacefully.
Also in Damascus, about 200 people demonstrated after the Friday prayers at the Thawra Bridge, near the central Marjeh Square, chanting "our souls, our blood we sacrifice for you Daraa," and "freedom, freedom." They were chased by security forces who beat them some of them with batons and detained others, an activist said on condition of anonymity for fear of government reprisals.
In the city of Aleppo, hundreds of worshippers came out of mosques shouting "with our lives, our souls, we sacrifice for you Bashar" and "Only God, Syria and Bashar!"
Residents in the northern city of Homs said hundreds of people demonstrated in support of Daraa and demanded reforms.
The activist said that in the coastal city of Latakia, more than 1,000 people marched in the streets after Friday prayers. In the northern city of Raqqa, scores marched and several people were detained, he said.
And in the western city of Zabadani, near the border with Lebanon, several people were detained after protesting, he said.
Journalists who tried to enter Daraa's Old City — where most of the violence took place — were escorted out of town Friday by two security vehicles.
"As you can see, everything is back to normal and it is over," an army major, standing in front of the ruling Baath party head office in Daraa, told journalists before they were led out of the city.
Security forces appeared to be trying to reduce tension in Daraa by dismantling checkpoints and ensuring there was no visible army presence on the streets for the first time since last Friday, when the protests began.
Rattled by the unrest, the Syrian government Thursday pledged to consider lifting some of the Mideast's most repressive laws in an attempt to stop the weeklong uprising from spreading and threatening its nearly 50-year rule.
But the promises were immediately rejected by many activists who called for demonstrations around the country on Friday in response to a crackdown that protesters say killed dozens of anti-government marchers in Daraa.
"We will not forget the martyrs of Daraa," a resident told The Associated Press by telephone. "If they think this will silence us they are wrong."
Assad, a close ally of Iran and its regional proxies, Hezbollah and Hamas, has promised increased freedoms for discontented citizens and increased pay and benefits for state workers — a familiar package of incentives offered by other nervous Arab regimes in recent weeks.
Shaaban, the presidential adviser, also said the Baath party would study ending a state of emergency that it put in place after taking power in 1963.
The emergency laws, which have been a feature of many Arab countries, allow people to be arrested without warrants and imprisoned without trial. Human rights groups say violations of other basic liberties are rife in Syria, with torture and abuse common in police stations, detention centers and prisons, and dissenters regularly imprisoned for years without due process.
The death toll from the weeklong crackdown was unclear and could not be independently confirmed. Shaaban says 34 people had been killed in the conflict.
Arab Spring: Syrian Episode
by Nima Khorrami Assl
April 8, 2011
After a slow start, the unrest sweeping the Middle East and North Africa has reached the Levant. Protesters, inflamed by a local matter, have been in the streets of Daraa, an agricultural town in southwest Syria that has been historically loyal to the regime, since March 15. Some protesters are long-time democracy activists demanding greater political rights and freedom. Nonetheless, the largest motivation is similar to what we have witnessed throughout the MENA region: state corruption and a “youth bulge” of younger citizens who find themselves with good educations but no opportunities for economic advancement.
So far, the Syrian regime has responded to the upheaval with conflicting statements that seem to demonstrate how ill-prepared Assad is for dealing with a crisis of this magnitude. The regime has at times painted protesters as religious extremists or foreign agents, but then has acknowledged their “legitimate” demands and pledged reforms. This was clearly evident in President Assad’s speech on Wednesday in which he failed to “come up with anything dramatically new or tangible” and that, in spite of initial optimisms, the situation in Syria remains unchanged. Protests were reported in various parts of the country on Friday, with more scheduled for the coming week, while a new government is being formed with the former Agriculture Minister, Adel Safar, as the new Syrian Prime Minister.
When Bashar al-Assad came to power in 2000, he began liberalizing the economy and society. As a result, high culture has boomed and foreign imports, tourism and arts are being revived. For the impoverished majority, however, the picture is grim. One-third of the population lives on $2 a day or less. Unemployment is rampant, and four years of drought have reduced Syria’s eastern countryside, including Daraa, to a wasteland of dusty and destitute towns. Added to this is a new unwillingness to tolerate brutal suppression and vague promises of future reform.
The mukhabarat (secret police) and associated security forces, moreover, have been given so much leeway over the years that it is now extremely difficult to reform and/or reduce their power. Any radical attempt by the President and his allies to shake-up the security forces might indeed result in a backlash from the prominent forces loyal to the Assad family, thereby further undermining the regime’s ability to govern. This is of paramount importance because current instability in Syria provides Syria’s regional rivals, particularly Gulf States, with a rare opportunity to seek to precipitate its demise.
And to make matters worse, the specter of sectarianism looms. Assad is from the minority Alawite sect of Islam, though his country is predominantly Sunni Muslim with sizable population of Christians and other religious minorities. Demonstrators in Daraa now chant “no Iran, no Hezbollah, we want a Muslim who fears God”. The slogan is a swipe at the Alawites, a branch of Shia Islam, and also a rejection of Syria’s close ties to Iran and the Lebanese Hezbollah.
Domestic politics aside, any unrest in Syria will have great regional implications. Syria has a strategic location bordering Iraq, Israel, Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. A full-fledged sectarian conflict in Syria will be disastrous to the country, and it also has the potential to spread to neighboring Lebanon, Iraq, and even Turkey with its large, deprived Kurdish population.
If a new democratic government emerged in Syria, it would alter the regional balance and improve the prospects for Israel-Palestine peace. In theory, a democratic Damascus would be bad news for Hezbollah and Iran, and thus good news for the West. But there are a number of pragmatic and strategic reasons to fear the unpredictable consequences of revolution in Syria; not least instability on the borders of Israel and Iraq and the precedent it might set for Saudi Arabia. Furthermore, now that Syria has been weakened by internal problems, the viability of the Tehran-Damascus-Hezbollah axis is in danger, which in turn could encourage dangerous risk-taking behaviors by Iran and Hezbollah to counter perceived gains by the United States and Israel.
In a nutshell, a civil strife in Syria can profoundly disturb the whole region, creating a nightmare scenario for Western officials. Thus, stability in Syria seems to be preferable to yet another experiment in Arab governance, as evident in the American, British, Chinese, French, and Turkish governments’ statements, all of which rule out military intervention in Syria and instead urge President Assad to initiate reforms.
President Assad needs to act quickly and decisively to quell the rising current of dissent, not least because his own power and authority are at stake. In all likelihood, however, there is no soft landing for the Syrian regime, though a regime change or a revolution is unlikely. Fearful of being pushed from power and persecuted, Alawite military leaders are likely to stick by the President. There is no separate army like in Egypt and Tunisia, and the fact that Alawites and other minorities’ fear that a fall of the Assad regime would lead to their massacre by Sunnis could protect the regime from military defections, which were necessary to ending regime rule in Tunisia and Egypt. More importantly, the President himself is generally well-liked in the country. He has managed to keep Syria united, and there has been some economic growth, fiscal and administrative reforms, and educational development. In a sense, this is what he meant on Wednesday when he claimed, “we have introduced reforms ourselves, but not because of pressure…whoever wants reform, we are here”.
What remains to be seen, therefore, is: a) whether the Sunni elites, who have stood by the Assad family for over four decades, will continue to do so, and b) whether President Assad is willing to make profound and risky changes, including press freedom, formation of opposition parties, and abolition of the emergency law.
Should these reforms be implemented, resulting changes would be nothing short of revolutionary. The irony is that any concession is likely to be viewed as inadequate and only fuel additional demands because, among other things, the opposition is weak and does not have a clear vision for the future. This is why the regime needs to implement the desired reforms fully so to convince the public that change is real, and absence of a clear popular vision for orderly change offers Assad the chance to do just that.
However, should Sunnis join protesters in large numbers and/or regime refuses to accept fundamental changes, Syria will inevitably head towards a bloody, sectarian confrontation providing western powers with a reason to regret their rush to war with Col Gaddafi. In this case, a division of labor might become the only viable, albeit costly, option available to western powers with Britain and its European allies taking the lead in the Libyan theatre, and Americans in charge of the Levant. Not only Arab revolutions will be discredited in this way, but also two years of Obama diplomacy to re-create American/Western image in the Muslim world will fritter away.
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Photo by Christopher Morris
March 12 - The Arab League calls for a U.N. no-fly zone over Libya. A meeting in Cairo decides that "serious crimes and great violations" committed by the Gaddafi government against his people have stripped it of legitimacy.
March 16 - Forces loyal to Gaddafi are near rebel-held Benghazi and "everything will be over in 48 hours," Gaddafi's son Saif al-Islam tells France-based TV channel Euronews.
March 17 - The U.N. Security Council votes to authorize a no-fly zone over Libya and "all necessary measures" -- code for military action -- to protect civilians against Gaddafi's forces.
March 19 - The first air strikes halt the advance of Gaddafi's forces on Benghazi and target Libya's air defenses.
-- Gaddafi says there is no justification for a U.N. resolution aimed at ending violence in Libya and calls it "blatant colonialism," al Jazeera reports.
March 20 - Libya declares a fresh ceasefire contradicting a defiant speech by Gaddafi earlier in the day in which he said he is giving out weapons to his people.
March 21 - Western forces launch a second wave of air strikes on Libya overnight and officials in Tripoli say a missile intended to kill Gaddafi destroys a building in his fortified compound.
-- A Libyan government health official says 64 people are killed by Western bombardments, but it is impossible to verify the report independently.
March 22 - Western warplanes fly more than 300 sorties over Libya and fired more than 162 Tomahawk cruise missiles in the mission to protect Libyan civilians.
-- "We will not surrender," Gaddafi tells supporters forming a human shield to protect him at his Tripoli compound. "This assault ... is by a bunch of fascists who will end up in the dustbin of history," Gaddafi says in his first public appearance since the air strikes began.
-- Admiral Samuel Locklear, head of U.S. forces enforcing the no-fly zone, says Gaddafi and his forces have not complied with the U.N. resolution demanding an end to attacks on civilians.
March 23 - Government forces continue to shell the rebel-held town of Misrata, killing dozens. They also are attacking the town of Zintan near the Tunisian border.
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Saif Gaddafi in London in 2002. A former aide said he spent years trying to convince his father, Libyan president Muammar Gaddafi, to implement political reforms.
On 19 February Dr Muhammad al-Houni, a Libyan academic and long-time adviser to Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's son, Saif al-Islam, finished a speech he had written for his patron to deliver on state television in the midst of a crisis.
Four days into the Libyan uprising, Houni suggested Saif strike a conciliatory tone. He should apologise for those who had died in the country's east. He should insist too on the necessity of reforming his father's four-decades-old regime, announcing a tranche of long-promised laws to usher in new freedoms.
"I wrote down what he must say," Houni recalled on Thursday. "I said he should say sorry for the victims. But he went to his father and his father did not like it. So his father changed the speech."
When Saif appeared on television, he looked and sounded every inch his father's son, waving his finger angrily, and saying the words that have since become notorious: "We will fight until the last man, until the last woman, until the last bullet."
Houni left Tripoli the following day. Shortly afterwards he issued a furious open letter to his former employer, accusing Saif of "donning his father's cloak, which is contaminated with 40 years of his deeds".
Once regarded as the Gaddafi family's friendly, reform-minded western face, Saif, supported by his brother Saadi, has emerged in the past week as the most visible figure in the regime's efforts to negotiate an end to the conflict on its own terms.
One influential figure, who knows the regime and members of the Gaddafi family well, is convinced that Saif speaks for the family with his father's support.
"They are looking for a way out," said the source. "It makes sense for Libya if there is a good exit [for Gaddafi]. What I understand they are saying is that the sons want to continue playing a political role [after the regime has fallen] by having their own party.
"They would accept an interim government and a transition period. What they will not accept is being forced to leave the country. It is what Saif has been working [on]. It is about getting the sides to sit down together and talk and also about having an exit strategy that is not insulting to Gaddafi: that leaves him but without power. That's what Saif is fighting for."
It is precisely this plan, the source confirmed, that Muhammad Ismail, Saif's senior aide and fixer, is said to have presented during a confidential visit to London last month where he met British officials.
The proposal, however, has been rejected emphatically not only by Libya's rebels but by western governments – the UK prominent among them – which insist on the departure of Gaddafi and his sons.
But questions remain. Is Saif the bellicose son of a tyrant, the would-be reformer educated at the London School of Economics, or something in-between?
Houni believes Saif was in earnest about his desire to reform the regime, before he made the decision to adopt his father's hard line.
"It is complicated. Saif was serious. Now [after that speech] no one in Libya takes what he has to say seriously any more. No one will accept what he has to offer. He spent five years trying to bring about change but his father would not have it. He might want to talk about negotiations but it isn't possible."
Anger suffused Houni's open letter to Saif, in which he charged him with betrayal.
"I was at your side for over a decade," Houni wrote. "[Then] one unfortunate night, at one frightening moment, came that speech in which you threatened the Libyan people with civil war, the destruction of the oil industry, and the use of force to decide the battle. You chose your side in this conflict very clearly: you chose the side of lies."
Houni's argument that Saif was once serious about reform appears to be backed by other evidence, not least a leaked cable sent in 2009 by the then US ambassador to Libya, Gene Cretz, which discussed Saif's inner circle rejecting reports he might accept the position of "general co-ordinator" to which he was appointed by his father in early October on the grounds that he did not "want to be tainted by the current political environment".
In all the deeply opaque dynamics of power at the heart of Gaddafi's regime it is this, perhaps, that remains most hidden from view – the often dysfunctional relationships within Gaddafi's family and between the brothers. It is not just Saif's father who has been a stumbling block, Houni believes.
While Saif's brother Saadi has been supportive of him, he believes he faces opposition from three other sons: Hannibal, Khamis – who commands an elite military unit – and Moutassim, Libya's national security adviser.
Moutassim and Saif, in particular, are understood to have been fierce rivals for several years, not least over access to senior US administration officials.
While Houni is convinced that Saif did really once want change, others are sceptical about the entire reform agenda that Saif once championed.
Among those sceptics is Omar Ashour, an Egyptian academic who teaches on conflict resolution and Islamic radicalism at Exeter University.
A year ago Ashour was invited to Tripoli by Saif Gaddafi to speak at a conference. The theme was reform and a desire for reconciliation with some members of the regime's former foes in the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group.
"I was invited by Saif," Ashour said. "His proposal was to transform Libya by reforming education and the media and politics. His speech was all about reconciliation. What struck me, however, was not what he was saying but how he was openly opposed by other factions in the regime who did not want any reconciliation, who said: 'These people are the enemy.'"
Ashour has had a lot of time to think about what he saw in Tripoli a year ago and to make a judgment of the character and motives of Saif Gaddafi.
His conclusion, as Saif has emerged as one of the main movers in attempts to open negotiations for a ceasefire with the west to bring an end to the conflict in Libya, is an instructive one. For all Saif's talk about reform, Ashour is now convinced, the real issue has never been reform in its own right but rather a strategy for preserve the regime and his family's position at the head of it.
This week as the likelihood grew that the crisis would inevitably end in ceasefire talks, the problem of judging how to distinguish what Saif says from what he and his brothers want has become ever more acute.
"I think what I saw was a tactic for prolonging the life of the regime," recalls Ashour. "And Saif has only been able to speak the way he has about reform in the past because he has had the support of prominent figures in the internal security services, including Abdullah Senussi [the head of military intelligence] and Abdullah Mansour, while being engaged in a struggle with those opposed to any reform."
Which leaves a final and intriguing question: whether his long-offered promises of reform – which were always in the end blocked by other factions – created the conditions for the revolution against the Gaddafis in the first place.
Saif's talk of reform goes back to 2003. He had set a deadline – including 2008 for a new constitution – and promised new laws, 21 of them, which would have gone a large way to transforming the country. But not one of those laws has ever been put before the people's congress.
As recently as 14 months ago Saif was telling journalists that what Libyans needed most were open elections – "freedom like in Holland". Speaking last month to Time magazine, he had a different agenda, which perhaps reflected where he stands himself – distinct from his father and his brothers and the factions opposing him.
Then, what Saif wanted to talk about was not Libya's future but how he felt he had been betrayed by the hardliners, who blocked democratic reforms out of "stupidity" – and by his closest reformist allies who fled or joined the rebels.
He seemed unable to separate his family's future from the future of the Libyan people.