Category Archives: Tunisia
Tunisia is the northernmost country in Africa. It is bordered by Algeria to the west, Libya to the southeast, and Mediterranean Sea to the north and east.
Ansar al-Sharia running training camps in Benghazi and DarnahAugust 28, 2013 BY: Bill Gertz
U.S. intelligence agencies earlier this month uncovered new evidence that al Qaeda-linked terrorists in Benghazi are training foreign jihadists to fight with Syria’s Islamist rebels, according to U.S. officials.
Ansar al-Sharia, the al Qaeda-affiliated militia that U.S. officials say orchestrated the Sept. 11 attacks on the U.S. diplomatic compound and a CIA facility in Benghazi, is running several training camps for jihadists in Benghazi and nearby Darnah, another port city further east, said officials who discussed some details of the camps on condition of anonymity.
The officials said the terror training camps have been in operation since at least May and are part of a network that funnels foreign fighters to Syrian rebel groups, including the Al-Nusra Front, the most organized of the Islamist rebel groups fighting the Bashar al-Assad regime in Damascus.
The officials said the jihadist training is a clear indication that Ansar al-Sharia continues to conduct terrorist activities and is linked to jihadists in both Syria and North Africa.
Disclosure of the terror training camps also bolsters earlier intelligence assessments that Libya, following the death of Muammar Qaddafi, is now a focal point for al Qaeda terrorist activity in North Africa.
Information about the terrorist training camps in northeastern Libya was uncovered after the arrest of several jihadists near the port city of Darnah in early August.
Other information about the camps appeared online at jihadist social media outlets around the same time.
Two men identified as Tunisians disclosed the existence of the training camps in Benghazi after they were interrogated by a local militia group in northern Libya.
At the time of their arrest, the Tunisians stated that they were trained in small arms use and were on their way to join Syria rebels by traveling first to Benghazi, then Istanbul, and over land across Turkey and into northern Syria.
According to the officials, the Tunisians were arrested Aug. 3. Inside their car, the militia found six passports, an AK-47 assault rifle, and foreign currency. A total of four people traveling in the car, including two Libyans, clashed with guards at a security checkpoint at the time of the arrest.
One of the men said he was an associate of Ansar al-Sharia’s leader Sufian Ben Qumu, an al Qaeda terrorist released from the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in 2007.
Details of the number of jihadist training camps and jihadists was not disclosed, but the officials said there are several training camps.
The Ansar al-Sharia Brigade in Benghazi was formed in early 2012 from several Islamist militias that fought during the 2011 revolution that ousted Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi. The group was forced to relocate its operating bases based on local opposition to the group’s role in attacks on the U.S. diplomatic compound.
Ansar al-Sharia is engaged in overt charitable activities and armed patrols in Benghazi, in addition to the covert terrorist training. The group has sought to play down its role in jihadist activities to avoid both the Libyan government and international scrutiny.
Ansar al-Sharia in Darnah was founded by former members of the terrorist Salim Martyrs Brigade and operates a base west of Darnah.
Libyan officials told Britain’s Arabic language newspaper Al Sharq al Awsat earlier this month that some type of covert U.S. military action was taken against al Qaeda bases in Darnah. However, Pentagon spokesmen said they had no information about such attack that reportedly took place Aug. 11.
U.S. intelligence agencies believe Libya has produced more jihadist rebels for the Syrian conflict than any other outside nation. Some 20 percent of foreign jihadists in Syria came from Libya and that several hundred are currently in the country.
Over 100 Libyans were reported killed in Syrian fighting for such rebel groups as Al-Nusra Front, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, Umma Brigade, Muhajirin Brigade, and Ahrar al-Sham, an Al-Nusra offshoot.
The jihadist training highlights the danger that Libya is becoming a breeding ground for al Qaeda terrorists. Officials said the weak central government in Tripoli has allowed Islamist militias to flourish, including in Benghazi and Darnah where the two factions Ansar al-Sharia groups operate.
The Ansar al-Sharia Brigade was blamed by U.S. officials for carrying out the deadly Benghazi terrorist attack Sept. 11.
The Obama administration sought to cover up the terrorist attack in the weeks before the presidential election by initially claiming the action was the result of a spontaneous demonstration triggered by an anti-Islamic Internet video.
Four Americans were killed in the attack, including U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens.
A Pentagon report from August 2012 published by the Library of Congress stated that al Qaeda senior leaders and the group al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) “have sought to take advantage of the Libyan Revolution to recruit militants and to reinforce their operational capabilities in an attempt to create a safe haven and possibly to extend their area of operations to Libya.”
The report said al Qaeda is developing a “clandestine network” in Libya that could be used in the future to destabilize the government and offer logistical support for al Qaeda activities in the region.
The report said that AQIM has formed sleeper cells that “are probably connected to an al Qaeda underground network in Libya, likely as a way, primarily, to secure the supply of arms for its ongoing jihadist operations in Algeria and the Sahel.”
“The al Qaeda clandestine network is currently in an expansion phase, running training camps and media campaigns on social-media platforms, such as Facebook and YouTube,” the report said. “However it will likely continue to mask its presence under the umbrella of the Libyan Salafist movement, with which it shares a radical ideology and a general intent to implement sharia in Libya and elsewhere.”
To avoid attacks, Ansar al-Sharia in Libya “could be the new face of al Qaeda in Libya despite its leader’s denial.”
Speaking yesterday on Bitna al-Kibir, a live TV show, Tahani al-Gebali, Vice President of the Supreme Constitutional Court in Egypt, said the time was nearing when all the conspiracies against Egypt would be exposed—conspiracies explaining why the Obama administration is so vehemently supportive of the Muslim Brotherhood, whose terrorism has, among other atrocities, caused the destruction of some 80 Christian churches in less than one week.
Al-Gebali referred to “documents and proofs” which Egypt’s intelligence agencies possess and how “the time for them to come out into the open has come.” In the course of her discussion on how these documents record massive financial exchanges between international bodies and the Muslim Brotherhood, she said: “Obama’s brother is one of the architects of investment for the international organization of the Muslim Brotherhood.”
Here the confused host stopped her, asking her to repeat what she just said, which she did, with complete confidence, adding “If the matter requires it, then we must inform our people”—apparently a reference to Obama’s support for the Brotherhood against the state of Egypt, which is causing the latter to call all bets off, that is, causing Egyptian officials to spill the beans as to the true nature of the relationship between the U.S., the Brotherhood, and Egypt.
She did not mention which of the U.S president’s brother’s she was referring to, but earlier it was revealed that Obama’s brother, Malik Obama, was running an African nonprofit closely linked to the Brotherhood as well as the genocidal terrorist of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir.
NZOG (New Zealand Oil & Gas Ltd) has executed an agreement to take a 40% stake in a Tunisian concession that contains an oil field which could be brought into production as early as 2014. The Cosmos Concession in the Gulf of Hammamet, offshore Tunisia, contains the Cosmos South oil discovery. The concession was held by a joint venture comprising Storm Ventures International (80% and Operator) and Tunisia’s state-owned oil company L’Enterprise Tunisienne d’Activites Petrolieres (ETAP) (20%).
Storm is a wholly owned subsidiary of Toronto exchange-listed Chinook Energy Inc, and will reduce its share of the concession to 40% under the farm-in agreement.
A formal signing of the agreement by NZOG and Storm has been completed in Tunis.
Under the terms of the farm-in agreement, NZOG is paying a US$3m contribution to past costs, securing the right to participate and earn an interest in the development of the Cosmos concession.
A development plan is in preparation. If the development is approved through a Final Investment Decision (FID), NZOG will pay the first US$19m of Storm’s share of the development costs.
Independently evaluated proved and probable oil reserves of 6.3 million barrels have been attributed to the Cosmos South block, with additional potential from adjacent lobes. Further work on assessing the recoverable oil resource will take place ahead of FID.
The development plan is currently based on three wells, a small platform and a floating production and storage offtake vessel (“FPSO”), with initial production rates of 15,000-20,000 barrels of oil per day.
The partners intend to decide on FID in mid-2012. If the project proceeds, first oil production is anticipated in mid-2014.
NZOG CEO Andrew Knight says Cosmos is a good fit for NZOG.
“NZOG’s initial cost exposure is relatively small. If the numbers stack up we will commit to the Final Investment Decision and will be able to comfortably fund the capital commitment from our balance sheet. This is a near term, low risk development opportunity, with both production upside and exploration potential. This is a promising step forward in the expansion of our overseas interests.”
By Andrew Hammond and Tarek Amara
(Reuters) – Islamists are expected to do well in Tunisia‘s first democratic election Sunday, 10 months after the ouster of autocratic leader Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in a popular uprising that set off protest movements around the Arab world.
The Ennahda party will almost certainly win a share of power after the vote, which will set a democratic standard for other Arab countries where uprisings have triggered political change or governments have tried to rush reforms to stave off unrest.
Sunday’s vote is for an assembly which will draft a new constitution to replace the one Ben Ali manipulated to entrench his power. It will also appoint an interim government and set elections for a new president and parliament.
Polls open at 2 a.m. EDT and close at 2 p.m.
The mother of Mohamed Bouazizi, the young man whose self-immolation last December set off the Tunisian revolt, said the elections were a victory for dignity and freedom.
“Now I am happy that my son’s death has given the chance to get beyond fear and injustice,” Manoubia Bouazizi told Reuters. “I’m an optimist, I wish success for my country.”
Ennahda, banned under Ben Ali who is now in exile in Saudi Arabia, is expected to gain the biggest share of votes. But the Islamist party will probably not win enough to give it a majority in the assembly and will seek to lead a coalition.
The North African country’s elite fear the rise of Ennahda puts their secular values under threat. The Progressive Democratic Party (PDP) has centered its campaign on stopping the Islamists, vowing to seek alliances to keep it out of power.
Ennahda has been at pains to assuage the concerns of secularists and Western powers, fielding several women candidates including one who does not wear the hijab, or Muslim head scarf, and promising not to undermine women’s freedoms.
Tunisia was a pioneer of secular modernization among Arab and Muslim countries in the post-colonial period, banning polygamy, equalizing inheritance rights, giving women the right to vote and discouraging the veil.
Fundamentalist Islamists known as Salafists have attacked a cinema and a TV station in recent months over artistic material deemed blasphemous. Ennahda says they have nothing to do with them, but liberals do not believe them.
Observers says Ennahda’s intentions are not clear. Its election campaign has scrupulously avoided offering policy details that mark it out as much different from its rivals.
At a final election rally Friday, Suad Abdel-Rahim, the female candidate who does not wear a veil, said Ennahda would protect women’s gains.
But illustrating the party’s contradictions, many of the books on sale on the fringes of the rally were by Salafist writers who believe women should be segregated from men in public and that elections are un-Islamic.
“In the country’s interior, where it’s more conservative, they use different rhetoric,” said commentator Rachid Khechana. “It’s about stopping culture from outside, moral corruption of youth, defending Islam, which they say has Shura (consultation), not democracy.”
“ARAB SPRING” REPERCUSSIONS
An Ennahda victory would be the first such success in the Arab world since Hamas won a 2006 Palestinian vote. Islamists won a 1991 Algerian election the army annulled, provoking years of bloody conflict.
Ennahda’s fortunes could bear on Egyptian elections set for next month in which the Muslim Brotherhood, an ideological ally, also hopes to emerge strongest.
Libya hopes to hold elections next year after a protest movement that transformed into an armed rebellion with NATO backing managed to oust Muammar Gaddafi. Unresolved violent conflict continues in Syria and Yemen, and many other governments have begun reforms to avoid civil unrest.
With so much at stake, there are concerns that even the smallest doubt over the legitimacy of the Tunisian vote could bring supporters of rival parties onto the streets.
Ennahda’s leader, Muslim scholar Rachid Ghannouchi, riled opponents this week when he described the party as Tunisia’s biggest and warned that the Tunisian people would start a new uprising if they suspected any poll rigging.
Prime Minister Beji Caid Sebsi said in a televised address Thursday that Tunisians should vote without fear of violence or cheating, a feature of Ben Ali’s police state.
“No one can doubt the elections, they will be transparent and clean. Rigging will not be possible. The ballot boxes will be open to everyone,” Sebsi said.
The government says 40,000 police and soldiers are being deployed to prevent any protests escalating into violence. Shopkeepers say people have been stockpiling milk and bottled water in case unrest disrupts supplies.
- Tunisian Islamists to do well in first “Arab Spring” vote – Reuters (news.google.com)
- Tunisian Poll To Provide Bellwether For Arab Spring (npr.org)
- Tunisia to vote in historic poll (bbc.co.uk)
- Campaigning ends for Tunisia’s first free elections (ctv.ca)
- Pride, tears as Tunisians in Canada vote in first ‘real’ election (thestar.com)
- Enthusiasm builds for Tunisia’s 1st free elections (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
By Peter Apps
(Reuters) – The uprisings that swept the Middle East this year have cost the most affected countries more than $55 billion, a new report says, but the resulting high oil prices have strengthened other producing countries.
A statistical analysis of International Monetary Fund (IMF) data by political risk consultancy Geopolicity showed that countries that had seen the bloodiest confrontations — Libya and Syria — were bearing the economic brunt, followed by Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain and Yemen.
Between them, those states saw $20.6 billion wiped off their gross domestic product and public finances eroded by another $35.3 billion as revenues slumped and costs rose.
But as the major oil producers such as the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait avoided significant unrest — often through increasing handouts as oil prices rose — they saw their GDP grow. Oil prices rocketed from around $90 a barrel of Brent crude at the start of the year to just short of $130 in May before retreating to around $113 now.
“As a result, the overall impact of the ‘Arab Spring’ across the Arab realm has been mixed but positive in aggregate terms,” the report estimated, saying overall the year to September saw some $38.9 billion added to regional productivity.
Libya looks to have been the worst affected, with economic activity across the country — including oil exports — halted at an estimated cost to GDP of $7.7 billion, or more than 28 percent. Total costs to the fiscal balance were estimated at $6.5 billion, roughly 29 percent of gross domestic product.
In Egypt, nine months of turmoil eroded some 4.2 percent of gross domestic product with public expenditure rising to $5.5 billion just as public revenues fell by $75 million.
HANDOUTS NOT REFORM?
In Syria, where protests have continued throughout the year in the face of a bloody crackdown, the impact is hard to model but early indications suggested a total cost to the Syrian economy of some $6 billion or 4.5 percent of GDP.
The report said the number of Yemenis below the poverty line was expected to be pushed above 15 percent as a result of currency falls and protracted unrest. Total cost to the economy was estimated at 6.3 percent of GDP, with the fiscal balance deteriorating by $858 million, 44.9 percent of GDP.
Tunisia, where the protests began in late 2010, lost some $2.0 billion from its GDP, roughly 5.2 percent, with negative impacts across almost all sectors of the economy including tourism, mining, phosphates and fishing. Tunisia’s government increased expenditure by some $746 million, pushing its fiscal balance some $489 million into the red.
Saudi Arabia’s newly instituted handouts and wider public investment program, the report estimated, amounted to some $30 billion — perhaps seen by the kingdom’s rulers as a way of avoiding real reform. But increased oil prices and production helped boost gross domestic product by more than $5 billion and push up public revenues by $60.9 billion.
In Bahrain, oil helped cushion the impact of weeks of protest, with the fall in GDP relatively low at some at 2.77 percent. Public expenditure rose some $2.1 billion, partly because of cash transfers of $2,660 to each family.
None of these steps, the report argued, addressed the underlying causes behind the unrest. A better solution, it said, was much broader international support through the G20 or United Nations aimed at much wider reform.
- Arab Spring upheaval ‘cost $55bn’ (bbc.co.uk)
- Foreign direct investment for Arab region expected to fall; Iraq projected to double (thecurrencynewshound.com)
April 14, 2011
For over three months, repressive Arab monarchies and dictatorships in the Middle East and North Africa have been experiencing a continuing series democratic uprisings by heroic unarmed multitudes. The overall outcome is still in doubt, including in the two countries that have had apparent successes so far, Tunisia and Egypt.
Any examination of the many rebellions without taking into primary consideration the decisive role of U.S. hegemony in this strategic, resource-rich region of the world would be like attempting to understand global warming without mentioning the key role of fossil fuels.
These uprisings have created an immediate geopolitical crisis and a serious political dilemma for the Obama Administration. Washington has been supporting these anti-democratic regimes, with one exception, for decades, and has no intention of allowing them to depart America’s orbit. At the same time, the United States is politically compelled to maintain its dedication to the rhetoric of democracy as a cover for its worldwide hegemony and military misdeeds.
Under the circumstances, the U.S. has decided to display its democratic credentials and convey the false impression that it has joined the struggle of the Arab masses by attacking the one country in the entire region where a democratic uprising will not jeopardize Washington’s imperial interests. The Obama Administration is now showing its commitment to democracy — and not just “talking the talk,” but “walking the walk” with its military power in Libya.
The United States and NATO (from now on: USNATO) have virtually created a civil war to bring about regime change in Libya in the guise of what used to be called “humanitarian intervention” — until the hypocrisy of the term became visible — and is presently defined by the UN as the international community’s “responsibility to protect” citizens in grave danger of massive human rights violations.
What’s the real meaning of Operation Odyssey Dawn, the U.S. code name for this latest act of western military aggression against a small Muslim country? Why is Libya’s leader, Col. Muammar Gaddafi, suddenly being used to deflect world attention from the uprisings to USNATO support of “democracy” in Libya and the “rescue” of its people?”
The Obama Administration and its British and French allies are frantically attempting to construct a viable puppet opposition to the Libyan government while they attack loyalist regions following the March 17 UN Security Council decision to establish a no-fly zone over Libya.
There had been opposition to Gaddafi, of course, but of a different caliber than that of the other popular uprisings, both for its composition and the fact that it called upon U.S./European imperialism to intervene with massive military power to bring about regime change.
President Barak Obama‘s nationwide television address March 28 is a good point of departure for understanding Washington’s dilemma, but only if you read between the lines and are familiar with Washington’s activities in the Middle East and North Africa (from now on: MENA) for the last 65 years. Attempting to justify bombarding yet another Muslim country (after Iraq, Afghanistan, Western Pakistan and Yemen), Obama delivered a dishonest and self-serving speech as manipulative as any broadcast by his notorious predecessor, George W. Bush.
The president resorted to an extraordinary lie by suggesting that his decision to attack Libya saved the lives of “nearly 700,000 men, women and children” in the eastern city of Benghazi, and followed up with the self-righteous admission that “I refused to let that happen.” Taken at face value, the man deserved a second Nobel Peace Prize for this unique accomplishment as much as he did the first, when he accepted the award while planning to vastly expand the Afghan war.
Obama also announced that NATO, not the U.S. after the initial onslaught, will now play the “leading” role in attacking Libya. Washington, however, remains deeply involved.
The “transfer” is intended to take potential heat off Obama, not only for launching another act of aggression in the Middle East but to provide political cover should the adventure become a fiasco, as seems more than likely.
This White House maneuver was so intentionally deceptive that the usually bland Associated Press could not resist deconstructing it thusly: “In transferring command and control to NATO, the U.S. is turning the reins over to an organization dominated by the U.S., both militarily and politically. In essence, the U.S. runs the show that is taking over running the show.”
In assessing the uprisings and the attacks on Libya it is important to recognize that two historic, related contradictions have been coming into play in MENA the last few months. Each has reached the acute stage of at least short term resolution in this strategic region where most of the world’s known oil resources are deposited. The outcome will influence the political future of the region, and of the United States as the world’s dominant hegemonic power.
One contradiction —a maturing class struggle — is between the needs of the historically oppressed and silenced working class, lower middle class, the downtrodden, and youth in general, on one side, and on the other the repressive, wealthy ruling classes and privileged bureaucracies in the various monarchies and dictatorships that exist throughout the region.
The second contradiction is corollary to the first, involving the geopolitical and geostrategic outcomes for Washington. It is between U.S. global power, which controls and depends upon the allegiance of all MENA’s authoritarian governments, and the mass uprisings in country after country demanding greater democracy and economic reforms that may topple those regimes.
There are three possible outcomes: (1) If the uprisings are crushed, U.S. control of the region is strengthened, at least pending the next uprisings. (2) If some popular forces are crushed and others are bought off with reforms that allow the repressive class to continue its domination behind a more democratic façade, U.S. power probably will remain as is or diminish slightly. (3) If some uprisings are crushed and some bought off, while some transform into social revolutions that seize and rebuild the state apparatus to serve the people, that would be a definite setback for the U.S. as world hegemon, and probably would result in a U.S. invasion of the offending territory.
Washington’s principal fear is that democratic regimes that are unwilling to subordinate themselves to the U.S. will come to power, thus weakening what President Obama intends to protect by any means necessary — what he fiercely champions as American “leadership.” He counsels these rightist regimes to offer reforms and a degree more democracy, if necessary, but if that cannot win the day more repression is required.
Nearly all the countries in the region are well within the U.S. sphere of influence. Many of these dictatorships and monarchies have been supported, armed with cutting edge weaponry, protected against their own people, and in some cases (such as Egypt and Jordan) financed by American governments going back decades. Of course this practice is the opposite of what Washington preaches, but a large proportion of the American people evidently base their understanding of international current events on the notoriously expurgated corporate mass media, not on alternative media.
In return for its services to the authoritarian regimes, Washington is assured plentiful supplies of oil, priority deliveries as needed and preferential treatment when petroleum production eventually peaks and prices rise as supplies decline; the U.S. military/industrial complex earns hundreds of billions of dollars in arms sales to these dependent regimes — a huge and continuous shot in the arm for the American economy; Washington’s Israeli satellite is safeguarded; and the political left in the entire area has been neutered or liquidated, among other benefits.
A good part of U.S. world power is based on its command of this energy-rich region and on the retention of all the territories under its domination. This is especially important since Latin America, its first and oldest quasi-“possession,” no longer kowtows to all of Uncle Sam’s whims.
The only country in MENA that is totally independent of Washington is Iran, and as a consequence it is demonized and continually threatened by the U.S., Israel and (behind closed doors) Saudi Arabia, which is always encouraging Washington and Tel-Aviv to attack.
Until just before the uprisings began in January, a total of 13 MENA countries were dominated by the United States, including Yemen, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Israel, Palestine (Palestinian Authority), Egypt, Tunisia, and Morocco. Five other countries in the region are marginally in the U.S. sphere, including Turkey (a democratic NATO country), Lebanon (also democratic), Syria, Algeria and Libya.
The 22-member Arab League has been comfortably situated in Washington’s vest pocket for many years. Its approval of the March 17 UN no-fly resolution was essential before the USNATO attacks began. As Asia Times Online has reported, only 11 countries were present at the voting. Six of them were members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), dominated by Saudi Arabia. Syria and Algeria were against it, so only 9 out of 22 Arab League members voted for the new war. The GCC has also recognized Washington’s proposed puppet government for Libya, the Benghazi-based National Council, though not the Arab League so far.
Many international observers had good reason to think that Libya was no longer on Washington’s hit list in recent years and that Col. Gaddafi was rehabilitated in the eyes of the western democracies, until now. Brian Becker, the leader of the U.S. ANSWER antiwar coalition put it this way in recent article:
“Washington did not succeed in toppling the Gaddafi government [in the 1980s-90s] but Libya did indeed go through ‘regime change.’ The regime itself shifted its domestic and international policies. It moved steadily to the right. In the last decade, it has adopted a variety of neoliberal reforms, embraced and collaborated with the Bush administration’s so-called war on terror, increasingly exported Libyan resources to invest in Italian corporations and banks, while becoming politically friendly with Italy’s right-wing government of Silvio Berlusconi, and opened Libyan oil business to BP.
“If there had been no recent revolt in Libya, the United States, Britain and Italy would have been content to have the Gaddafi regime — with its neoliberal orientation — remain in power. Although Gaddafi was neither a puppet nor a client, it was clear that the regime’s neoliberal, collaborationist orientation made it a satisfactory partner with the imperialist governments of the west.”
The Bush Administration welcomed the Gaddafi government back into the fold in 2004, ending the sanctions right wing President Reagan put into effect in 1986. The U.S. and a number of other countries removed the Gaddafi government from their terrorist lists. Over the years this government dismantled its weapons of mass destruction and handed over its 800-mile range SCUD missiles, strongly opposed al-Qaeda, and enjoyed warm relations with foreign oil companies. In May 2010 Libya won a three-year seat on the UN Human Rights Council, a recognition of its transformation, with 155 votes in the 192-nation General Assembly.
A number of leftist governments in Latin America remain on norml terms with Gaddafi, recognizing, as former Cuban leader Fidel Castro wrote March 11, that “The Libyan leader got involved in extremist theories that were opposed both to communism and capitalism,” but the main point now is to stop “NATO’s war-mongering plans.”
It is true Libya is not a democracy, any more than the other governments in question are democracies. The ruling elite and its leading supporters are quite well provided for, starting with the Gaddafi family and loyal tribal leaders. But some important efforts have been made on behalf of Libya’s six million people since a youthful and once idealistic and revolutionary Gaddafi led a rebellion against King Idris that turned Libya from a monarchy into a republic in 1969, and led to the nationalization of the country’s oil resources.
The U.S. mass media have long depicted conditions in Libya as brutal and harsh for all but the ruling elite, but that is not true. Libya is extremely high on the 2010 UN Human Development Index, the best international tool for obtaining a comparative measure of life expectancy, literacy, education and standards of living for countries worldwide. It is a universal means of measuring well-being, especially child welfare.
The well being of Libya’s people measures 0.755, the highest in Africa and a bit higher that of the much wealthier oil kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which measures 0.752. Annual per capita income is about $15,000. Over the past 30 years, Libya has steadily increased its welfare programs and standards of living to graduate into the UN’s “High Human Development” category, another first in Africa. Urban areas are fairly modern. Education and healthcare are free. Agriculture is subsidized. For lower income families the government subsidizes food, electricity, water, and transportation.
The people have legitimate grievances, and it is right to rebel. At the same time, Libya is the victim of a massive military attack by USNATO that has nothing to do with protecting the people. It has everything to do with violating a sovereign country to topple a government and replace it with one more obedient to western interests, to take undeserved credit for upholding democratic values, and to minimize the importance of legitimate struggles against authoritarianism in other MENA countries supported by Washington.
Much of what is said about the war from Washington is extremely one-sided. This is made quite evident in these few paragraphs from a March 21 article by George Friedman, who leads Stratfor, an authoritative private company that provides intelligence reports for a fee that are often quite reliable, and hardly left or pro-Gaddafi:
“It would be an enormous mistake to see what has happened in Libya as a mass, liberal democratic uprising. The narrative has to be strained to work in most countries, but in Libya, it breaks down completely. As we have pointed out, the Libyan uprising consisted of a cluster of tribes and personalities, some within the Libyan government, some within the army and many others longtime opponents of the regime, all of whom saw an opportunity at this particular moment…. United perhaps only by their opposition to Gaddafi, these people hold no common ideology and certainly do not all advocate Western-style democracy. Rather, they saw an opportunity to take greater power, and they tried to seize it.
“According to the [western] narrative, Gaddafi should quickly have been overwhelmed — but he wasn’t. He actually had substantial support among some tribes and within the army. All of these supporters had a great deal to lose if he was overthrown. Therefore, they proved far stronger collectively than the opposition, even if they were taken aback by the initial opposition successes. To everyone’s surprise, Gaddafi not only didn’t flee, he counterattacked and repulsed his enemies.
“This should not have surprised the world as much as it did. Gaddafi did not run Libya for the past 42 years because he was a fool, nor because he didn’t have support. He was very careful to reward his friends and hurt and weaken his enemies, and his supporters were substantial and motivated. One of the parts of the narrative is that the tyrant is surviving only by force and that the democratic rising readily routs him. The fact is that the tyrant had a lot of support in this case, the opposition wasn’t particularly democratic, much less organized or cohesive, and it was Gaddafi who routed them.”
Washington spends at least $75 billion a year on its 16 intelligence agencies, and was completely surprised by the MENA uprisings.
They began quietly and tragically Dec. 17 in the central Tunisian town of Sidi Bouzid when an educated, jobless 26-year-old man, Mohammed Bouazizi, who was trying to support his family by selling fruits and vegetables, drenched himself in paint thinner and lit a match in front of a local municipal office. He died from severe burns but his deed was the single spark that ignited a prairie fire of protest throughout the region.
According to Al Jazeera news agency, “police had confiscated his produce cart because he lacked a permit and beat him up when he resisted. Local officials then refused his hear his complaint. Bouazizi’s act of desperation highlights the public’s boiling frustration over living standards, police violence, rampant unemployment, and a lack of human rights.”
By Jan. 14, when Tunisian President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali and his corrupt wealthy family fled to Saudi Arabia, hundreds of unarmed protestors had been killed by security forces, mainly in Tunis, the capital. Ben Ali had been in office nearly 24 years, having won several crooked elections with improbable 99% margins. The U.S. backed Ben Ali throughout these years until the day he fled, at which point President Obama praised “this brave and determined struggle for universal rights,” which Washington and France would have blocked had they been able.
Next to be singed by Mohammed Bouazizi’s self-immolation was Egypt, the most influential Arab country. The U.S. backed Hosni Mubarak, former commander of the Egyptian air force, since he took over the presidency upon the 1981 assassination of President Anwar Sadat, a one-time army officer killed in a bungled coup led by a junior officer. Sadat had signed the historic Egypt-Israel peace treaty in 1979. Mubarak ruled for three decades, honoring the agreement and collaborating with Israel in imposing sanctions on the people of Gaza, for which his government was paid $1.3 billion a year. Mubarak retained power by ruling under an emergency decree that guaranteed he would be elected.
Despite government repression, the protests were spreading and getting much larger, inspiring the Arab masses to launch their own uprisings throughout MENA.
Recognizing the U.S. would lose credibility if it continued to back the dictator, and after checking with the Egyptian military and security forces to make sure its own interests and those of Israel would be safeguarded, Obama told Mubarak to resign.
The U.S. had good reason to trust the army. The Pentagon had been training and cultivating Egyptian officers for decades, often in America, and it supplies all the top notch equipment the military craves. The U.S. subsidy will continue and may increase.
Obama could now tell the world, as he did March 28: “Wherever people long to be free, they will find a friend in the United States.”
In a Feb. 8 article before the big decision, left wing analyst James Petras, a Professor Emeritus of Sociology at SUNY Binghamton (N.Y.), succinctly captured the Obama Administration’s dilemma as it contemplated dumping Mubarak:
“The Washington calculus on when to reshuffle the regime is based on an estimate of the capacity of the dictator to weather the political uprising, the strength and loyalty of the armed forces and the availability of a pliable replacement. The risk of waiting too long, of sticking with the dictator, is that the uprising radicalizes: the ensuing change sweeps away both the regime and the state apparatus, turning a political uprising into a social revolution….
“Obama hesitates and like a wary crustacean, he moves sideways and backwards, believing his own grandiloquent rhetoric is a substitute for action… hoping that sooner or later the uprising will end with Mubarakism without Mubarak: a regime able to demobilize the popular movements and willing to promote elections which result in elected officials following the general line of their predecessor.” A couple of days, later Obama said “poof,” and the feared dictator was gone.
The U.S. can tolerate Mubarak’s overthrow because it is highly doubtful Egypt’s ruling elite will refuse to remain within the American orbit; indeed, they will cling to Washington’s knees. It is likewise doubtful that the military council ruling Egypt at the behest of this ruling class until a new government is selected will guide the country in a direction satisfactory to the workers and students who drove Mubarak from power.
This was the meaning of the huge “Friday of Warning” protest in Cairo’s Tahrir Sq. April 8. It was focused on the head of the military council, Field Marshal Mohamed Tantawi, who worked faithfully at Mubarak’s side in ruling Egypt for decades. The rebels perceive that though the dictator is gone, important aspects of the long dictatorship are likely to remain.
Washington is pleased with developments, so far. What the United States cannot tolerate is a social revolution in a country subordinate to the U.S that smashes the existing state apparatus and starts building a new revolutionary regime dedicated to ousting all traces of the former imperialist influence. When Nicaragua tried it, Uncle Sam launched the “Contras.” After Cuba succeeded, the U.S. is still punishing its small neighbor for declaring independence from its Yankee overlord — 52 years later.
At issue is whether the Egyptian people will be satisfied when the new arrangements are made entirely clear in a few months. What happens then will depend in part on whether the pro-democracy forces have been able to form strong organizations and a broad united front with a leadership determined to implement radical measures.
The U.S. government’s silence about the terrible repression in Yemen and Bahrain are a perfect example of its hypocrisy about democracy.
In Yemen, the U.S.-backed regime continually shoots and kills unarmed demonstrators who amazingly keep protesting day after day, and there’s hardly been a peep out of the White House because the corrupt government of President Ali Abdullah Saleh has been bought and paid for by the Obama Administration.
Saleh is America’s puppet ruler, a corrupt tyrant who has governed for 33 years. The protestors say with one voice, “Resign Now!” If Saleh can’t crush the rebellion soon with his U.S.-trained army and the hundreds of millions of dollars he has been receiving, the White House may have to step in and make a deal with the opposition along these lines: Saleh and his family will leave (with their cash intact) and U.S. aid will help finance the new government as long as Washington, its drones, the CIA, the worldwide surveillance systems and spying network have the freedom to operate without interference in Yemen.
The oil-rich Kingdom of Bahrain (population 1,215,000) is a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council and is protected first by reactionary Saudi Arabia (which has sent thousands of troops to crush demonstrations for democracy), then by the U.S. because that’s where the Navy’s Fifth Fleet — covering the Persian Gulf, Red Sea, Arabian Sea, and coast off East Africa as far south as Kenya — is based. About three-quarters of the population are Shi’ites, second class citizens in a society ruled by Sunnis. A huge proportion of the Shia population has conducted many nonviolent protests for democracy and against inequality, with demonstrations at times exceeding 100,000. The military has not hesitated to shoot the unarmed demonstrators. The U.S. has told “both sides” to avoid violence.”
The official story about the attack on Libya is that the purpose is to save civilian lives, stop “madman” Gaddafi from killing civilians, and to bring democracy to the MENA. But this is fiction — variations on well worn themes frequently employed by Washington in recent decades against the leadership of small countries the White House decides to invade or crush for geopolitical or resource reasons, such as Yugoslavia, Iraq and Afghanistan.
The USNATO decision to attack came after the National Libyan Council (or Transitional Council), mainly headquartered in Benghazi in the anti-Gaddafi eastern region, began publicly calling on Washington and its European allies earlier in March to take economic, political and military action to topple the Libyan government and install a new leadership composed mainly of itself.
We assume USNATO instructed the National Council to make the public plea, to which it would then respond under the UN’s “responsibility to protect” clause. As far as we know this is the only instance where those who sought to conduct an uprising in MENA asked the leading western countries to militarily pave the way for them.
Col. Gaddafi is the perfect target, having been demonized by the West for decades as an authoritarian, and at times displaying character traits suggesting megalomania and instability. The American people were indoctrinated to hate him many years ago, so U.S. public opinion was already prepared for regime change. It was the same with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in 2003, or Yugoslav President Slobodan Miloseviç in 1999, among many others. Demonize first, exaggerate second, attack third.
The UN Security Council’s March 17 approval of Resolution 1973 called for a cease fire, a no-fly zone over Libya, an arms ban, and a freeze of Libyan assets owned by government officials. It authorizes all necessary means to protect civilians and civilian-populated areas, but does not permit a “foreign occupation force.” The U.S. added a loophole that specified arms might be made available and other actions taken if they would “protect civilians.”
The resolution could have been defeated had Russia or China voted “no,” since a negative vote cast by a permanent member of the Security Council amounts to a veto. Both countries expressed qualms about the resolution but abstained, as did three non-permanent members — Brazil, India and Germany. The 10 other non-permanent votes were all “yes,” including the only Arab member of the Council, Lebanon. (See sidebar below: “China and Russia Abstain.”
A few days later, abstainers China, Russia, India, and Brazil, which account for some 40% of the world population (2.9 billion people out of 6.8 billion) expressed dismay that the resolution was interpreted by the U.S. and NATO to mean destroying Libya’s entire air defense system and most of its air force, bombing tanks and soldiers on the ground, and military installations as well as roads and sectors of civilian infrastructure. So far (April 7) NATO reports conducting over 1,000 bombing operations that have destroyed more than 30% of Libya’s military force.
The Arab members of the Security Council later issued similar objections, as did a number of other countries, but USNATO’s predictable excesses continue, and no action will be taken.
Since there’s always far more than meets the eye in these affairs, often kept secret for many years, mull over this information from Pepe Escobar, a journalist who has been writing almost on a daily basis about the uprisings for Asia Times Online. On April 2 he wrote:
“You invade Bahrain. We take out Muammar Gaddafi in Libya. This, in short, is the essence of a deal struck between the Barack Obama administration and the House of Saud [which controls Saudi Arabia]. Two diplomatic sources at the United Nations independently confirmed that Washington, via Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, gave the go-ahead for Saudi Arabia to invade Bahrain and crush the pro-democracy movement in their neighbor in exchange for a ‘yes’ vote by the Arab League for a no-fly zone over Libya….”
There are probably many Libyans who seek democratic change after four decades of governance by the Gaddafi family, but this government also has many supporters. At no time has it been indicated a majority of Libyans support overthrowing Col. Gaddafi, much less back a USNATO war to install a western-aligned government in Tripoli — especially one about which considerable questions are being asked.
The U.S., Britain and France quickly supported the idea of building a coalition around the National Libyan Council including pro-monarchists, disaffected tribes in this tribal society, several former leading members of the government, some high ranking military officers and émigrés, including a few who have been in touch with various intelligence services for years.
USNATO attacks have coordinated with the anti-government political and military leaders, who are working in concert with their benefactors in Washington, Paris and London. U.S. CIA agents and Special Forces soldiers, joined by their opposite numbers from several NATO states, are operating in Benghazi and other areas not occupied by loyalist troops. They are training the anti-government troops, supplying weapons and sophisticated military hardware and communications equipment.
In the latest disclosure April 7, the “unarmed civilians” Resolution 1973 was supposed to protect have about 20 tanks at their command as well as other heavy military equipment. The information surfaced when a NATO bomber pilot thought the tanks were part of the loyalist arsenal and blew up a few of them, with their crews.
The Security Council did not authorize arming the civilians. At this point, the resolution seems little more than permission for USNATO to destroy the loyalist army and arm the anti-government forces to install a new government in Tripoli.
However, USNATO’s plan “for the political future of Libya was undermined by the growing military doubts over the make-up of the rebel groups,” according to The Telegraph (UK) March 29. “‘We are examining very closely the content, composition, the personalities, who are the leaders of these opposition forces,’ Admiral [James] Stavridis, [NATO’S Supreme Allied Commander, Europe] said in testimony yesterday to the U.S. Senate.”
Then on April 3, longtime analyst Michel Chossudovsky wrote on the Global Research website:
“There are various factions within the Libyan opposition: Royalists, defectors from the Gaddafi regime including the Minister of Justice and more recently the Foreign Minister, Moussa Moussa, members of the Libyan Armed Forces, the National Front for the Salvation of Libya (NFSL) and the National Conference for the Libyan Opposition (NCLO) which acts as an umbrella organization.
“Rarely acknowledged by the Western media, the Libya Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG – Al-Jamaa al-Islamiyyah al-Muqatilah bi Libya), is an integral part of the Libyan Opposition. The LIGF, which is aligned with al-Qaeda, is in the frontline of the armed insurrection.”
Chossudovsky, an Emeritus Professor of Economics at Ottawa University, and director of Montreal’s Centre for Research on Globalization, notes that the paramilitary LIFG was founded in Afghanistan by veteran Libyan Mujahedeens of the Soviet-Afghan war…. There are contradictory reports as to whether the LIFG is part of Al Qaeda or is acting as an independent jihadist entity. One report suggests that in 2007 the LIFG became ‘a subsidiary of al Qaeda, later assuming the name of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).'”
During its lifetime, “The LIFG was supported not only by the CIA and The British Secret Intelligence Service but also by factions within Libya’s intelligence agency, led by former intelligence head and Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa, who defected to the United Kingdom in late March 2011.” The full article is at http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=24096
There is a chance USNATO may prefer a longer, drawn out struggle than their overwhelmingly superior fire power may suggest, perhaps for as least as long as the various uprisings manage to sustain themselves. Fighting for “democracy” in Libya absolves the U.S. from the accusation that is against the uprisings in its subordinate countries. At the same time, of course, the western war against Libya grabs most of the headlines and often pushes the other struggles to the background.
USNATO did not launch a war against Libya as a humanitarian gesture. If/when it removes the Gaddafi family from leadership and installs a replacement the allied military coalition will exercise decisive influence for many years to come, especially in oil concessions, privatizations and building contracts that enhance multinational corporations, air and military bases, a solid vote in the UN and other world organizations, and more.
The historic Arab uprisings of 2011 will inspire multitudes of people around the world for many years to come, even if imperialism — in league with repressive monarchies, and violent dictatorships — may crush some of the rebellions, contain others with small concessions, and perhaps implement limited democracy in Tunisia and Egypt.
What matters is that the struggle is taking place, has the support of the masses of people, and that the people are courageous and determined. There is still a chance for more immediate triumphs.
What has been happening in recent months is the “1848” of the 21st century. Most of the great European rebellions of the time were defeated, but out of those struggles came victories. Out of the great uprisings of the Arab World of 2011, and hopefully longer, will come many victories.
The author is editor of the Hudson Valley Activist Newsletter and is former editor of the (U.S.) Guardian Newsweekly. He may be reached at email@example.com or http://activistnewsletter.blogspot.com/
Jack A. Smith is a frequent contributor to Global Research. Global Research Articles by Jack A. Smith
By Souhail Karam
CASABLANCA, Morocco | Sun Apr 24, 2011 1:12pm EDT
(Reuters) – Thousands took to the streets of Morocco on Sunday in peaceful demonstrations to demand sweeping reforms and an end to political detention, the third day of mass protests since they began in February.
Desperate to avoid the turmoil that toppled leaders in Tunisia and Egypt, authorities have already announced some changes to placate demands that King Mohammed cede more powers and limit the monarchy’s extensive business influence.
Some 10,000 people joined the protest in Casablanca, the largest city in one of the West’s staunchest Arab allies. Marchers in the capital Rabat also denounced corruption and torture as well as unemployment, very high among youths.
Policing has been low-key for protests by the February 20 Movement, named after the date of its first march, particularly compared to the turmoil elsewhere in North Africa.
“This is more about the young ones than it is about us,” said Redouane Mellouk, who had brought his 8 year-old son Mohamed Amine, carrying a placard demanding “A New Morocco.”
“Our parents could not talk to us about political issues. They were too afraid. This must change,” said Mellouk.
Although levels of popular anger have risen, ratings agencies assess Morocco as the country in the region least likely to become embroiled in the type of unrest that toppled Tunisian and Egyptian regimes and led to the conflict in Libya.
In Rabat, several thousand people marched through poor districts with high levels of unemployment and away from the center, where the previous monthly demonstrations have been held. There was no sign of trouble.
A 74 year-old man in Casablanca who gave his name only as Ahmed said Morocco’s youths were right to protest.
“Look at them. They are educated and like most young educated Moroccans, they are idle,” he said. “Everything in this country is done through privileges. You need an uncle or a relative somewhere to get somewhere.”
Morocco is a constitutional monarchy with an elected parliament, but the constitution empowers the king to dissolve the legislature, impose a state of emergency and have a decisive say in government appointments.
King Mohammed last month announced constitutional reforms to give up some of his powers and make the judiciary independent, but protesters want more.
There is also resentment at the royal family’s business interests through its holding company SNI.
One of the banners waved by the Casablanca marchers depicted the King’s holdings as an octopus with tentacles stretching out to subsidiary companies. “Either money or power,” it said.
Islamists also joined in the protests, demanding the release of all political prisoners. Authorities freed 92 political prisoners, most of whom were members of the Islamist Salafist Jihad group, earlier this month.
In Rabat, the wife of Islamist Bouchta Charef, who has said he was tortured in prison while accused of terrorism, called for all Islamists to be freed.
“They have made my children homeless,” Zehour Dabdoubu told Reuters. “Every month I move from one house to another. I’m persecuted because people think I am the wife of a terrorist.”
The banned Islamist opposition group Al Adl Wal Ihsane has maintained a low profile at the February 20 demonstrations, but said it supports them.
“It’s excellent what’s happening in Morocco. It’s a quiet revolution,” Nadia Yassine, daughter of the movement’s founder, told Reuters by telephone. “We’re moving slowly but surely.”