A Libyan man works at a refinery inside the Brega oil complex on Saturday Feb. 26, 2011. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)
Posted on December 7, 2011 at 6:52 am by Bloomberg
BP Plc and Royal Dutch Shell Plc (RDSA), Europe’s biggest oil companies, aim to resume exploration in Libya, whose new government seeks to stabilize relations with foreign companies following the ouster of Muammar Qaddafi.
BP Chief Executive Officer Robert Dudley and Shell CEO Peter Voser said yesterday in Doha, Qatar, they’re evaluating resumption of drilling at wells begun before hostilities broke out at the start of this year. Companies that were already producing in the North African state, such as ConocoPhillips, Repsol YPF SA and Eni SpA, are poised to boost output.
Libya, the holder of Africa’s biggest oil reserves, is restoring production after output dropped to 45,000 barrels a day, from 1.6 million barrels, after a rebellion against Qaddafi broke out in February. The loss of Libyan exports contributed to a 20 percent increase in London oil prices earlier this year.
“There is a real interest that we can deploy technology and our people and raise production,” ConocoPhillips CEO James J. Mulva said in an interview, referring to the transitional government’s plan to bring oil companies back to Libya. “We feel we can restore production and hopefully this gives us the opportunity to do even more.”
International oil companies need access to new crude and natural gas deposits to meet global demand, which is expected to grow over the next two decades, according to Dudley, Voser and Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) CEO Rex Tillerson. The three executives were in Doha this week for the World Petroleum Congress.
Repsol, Spain’s biggest oil company, is raising output and is now pumping 200,000 barrels a day in Libya, CEO Antonio Brufau Niubo told reporters. It has a production capacity of 340,000 barrels a day, he said.
Eni expects to raise Libyan output to pre-crisis levels of 280,000 barrels a day by June 2012 and is targeting production of 300,000 barrels a day in 2013, the Italian company’s Head of Exploration and Production Claudio Descalzi said last month.
Libya’s crude output had recovered to 840,000 barrels a day by the end of last month, the state-run National Oil Corp said Nov. 30. Production may increase to 1.3 million by June, former Oil Minister Ali Tarhouni said Nov. 25, less than a week after stepping down from the interim cabinet.
OPEC Secretary General Abdalla el-Badri said Dec. 4 he expected Libya to be pumping about 950,000 barrels of oil a day by the end of this month, rising to 1.3 million barrels a day in the first quarter and to 1.5 million in the second quarter. Iran’s Oil Minister Rostam Qasemi said Dec. 5 it would take about a year for Libya to return to full production.
BP, which signed an exploration agreement with Libya in May 2007, stopped exploration in February when the revolt broke out. The company was “on the verge” of starting to drill two onshore and offshore wells in Libya, and has now been asked by the government to return to the country, Dudley said.
“We will make a decision when it’s the right time to ensure the safety of our employees,” he said.
Shell had been drilling two wells in Libya before the unrest and was considering a restart, according to Voser.
ConocoPhillips (COP) and its partners had been producing about 350,000 barrels a day from Libya’s Waha field before violence against the Qaddafi regime broke out, CEO Mulva said. The company’s share of production was 50,000 barrels a day.
Libyan authorities have “indicated that they are going to honor the contracts” that oil companies had with the previous regime, Mulva said.
Total SA (FP) is in discussions with the new Libyan government to drill wells offshore there, said Stephane Michele, the company’s director of exploration and production for Qatar. The French company had drilled two exploration wells before unrest started and aims to resume its offshore exploration program there, Michele said in an interview yesterday.
Libyan oil output, which rose as high as 3.4 million barrels a day in the early 1970s, stagnated in the 1980s and 1990s as international companies pulled out and the country was subjected to sanctions. Production remained at 1 million to 2 million barrels a day, according to BP Plc (BP/) statistics compiled by Bloomberg.
A turnaround in its relations with the west came between 2002 and 2005 when Qaddafi abandoned a nuclear-arms development effort, pledged to destroy a chemical weapons stockpile and renounced terrorism. The move led to an easing of sanctions and improved ties with the U.S. and European nations.
Libya attracted investment from international oil companies including Eni, BP, ConocoPhillips, Total and Repsol as the country sought to raise production capacity to 3 million barrels a day. In 2009, Libya approved a 12.1 billion-dinar ($9.8 billion) plan to develop and upgrade 24 oil fields.
- Iran unrest boosts oil price as BP boss warns that energy costs now threaten global growth (dailymail.co.uk)
- What BP Has At Stake In Libya (forbes.com)
By: By Scott Horton
As Muammar al-Gaddafi’s corpse rotted in a Misrata meat locker, Barack Obama’s gambit on Libya was being widely acclaimed in Washington as a foreign-policy success — and a politically daring one. The US president’s own secretary of defense and key military advisors, after all, were against the operation; many of his Republican critics, meanwhile, had advocated for a more forward American military role, reminiscent of Iraq. Spurning both, Obama opted for a carefully calibrated effort that emphasised the support of key allies, enabling a popular uprising that steadily peeled away support from a loud but teetering dictator. In the end, the effort cost no American lives and less than $2 billion, which Sen. Lindsey Graham reports the Libyans are willing to repay. The future remains unclear about the sort of government Libya will see in Gaddafi’s wake — but it’s quite clear that the operation burnished the reputation of the United States with Libya’s population, as was evident by the American flags hoisted in Benghazi and Tripoli last week. Compared with the cost and doubtful outcomes in both Iraq and Afghanistan, the Libya campaign looks — for now, at least — like a stroke of genius.
But seen through the lens of the law, the victory is a distinctly Pyrrhic one. When he was elected, Obama promised an America that, in a sharp break from its very recent past, would lead by example and reinvigorate its respect for the rule of law, both at home and on the international stage. Obama’s conduct of the war in Libya points to a White House that is perhaps more cautious than its immediate predecessor in foreign military exploits, but just as assertive in the area of executive prerogative. It is a gloomy precedent — and one that will make necessary humanitarian actions in crises such as Syria’s less, not more, likely to happen.
The Libya operations have to be assessed at two separate levels of legality. The first is domestic and involves the constitutional interplay between the executive branch and Congress in the realm of war powers. American legal thinking about the respective roles played by Congress and the president can be divided roughly into three camps. The first and more conservative view, dominant among constitutional scholars, holds that the president has the power to respond to an attack on his own or to take urgent steps to defend the country, but that he must secure Congress’s consent in some form before using US arms in hostilities abroad on a more sustained basis. To protect its rights against encroachment by the executive, Congress enacted the War Powers Resolution in 1973. Compliance with or circumvention of the resolution continues to this day to be a key field of tension between the White House and Congress.
The second, traditionally liberal view, advanced by Democratic administrations going back perhaps as far as Harry Truman, was presented most concretely in a series of memoranda authored by Walter Dellinger, head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) in Bill Clinton’s administration. Dellinger chose not to tackle the traditionalists head-on. Rather, he suggested that there was a species of conflict short of war that was not really covered by the obligation to consult Congress. Dellinger argued that the president could act unilaterally when there was some compelling national interest that militated for action and the deployment would not amount to war in the sense discussed in the Constitution.
The third perspective, associated with Berkeley law professor and George W. Bush-era OLC staffer John Yoo and a number of other neoconservatives, argues that the traditional view is a fundamental misunderstanding of the constitutional order and that the president always has the authority to act unilaterally. The most authoritative statement of this perspective may well be in the OLC memorandum that Yoo wrote to justify Bush’s decision to commence hostilities in Iraq in 2003. It’s noteworthy that notwithstanding Yoo’s opinion, Bush still felt compelled to seek specific votes in Congress to authorise military action in Iraq and Afghanistan. Having obtained these votes, Bush never had cause to put the Yoo theorem to the test. But Yoo’s argument does present the ultimate legal pushing of the envelope in the area of presidential war powers.
Obama probably could have secured congressional authority for his operations in Libya at the outset of the conflict — a fact suggested by resolutions adopted before the commencement of hostilities encouraging him to act — but he opted not to do so. Instead he relied on a memorandum authored by the OLC’s Caroline Krass. Following carefully in the footsteps of the earlier analysis by Dellinger, Krass argued that “preserving regional stability” in North Africa and “maintaining the credibility of United Nations Security Council mandates” were important national interests of the United States that warranted the Libya operations. She also concluded that the nature of the operations — involving no deployment of ground forces and only a limited measure of US engagement, in concert with Nato and other allies who would bear the brunt of the effort — supported a conclusion that this was not what the Constitution meant by “war.”
That second point is, of course, by far the more problematic, considering the notorious difficulty at the outset of any conflict of gauging the level of effort ultimately required. However, on this point, Krass was borne out by the facts: Although the United States took the lead in the first weeks, its role did in fact recede as the conflict wore on, with France and Britain taking centre stage. Disorganised rebels assembled under the banner of the National Transitional Council, which steadily expanded its authority over the bulk of Libya’s territory and accumulated international recognition.
However, the first prong of the Krass analysis couldn’t be more doubtful. The notion that “preserving regional stability” in North Africa was a matter of US national interest was squarely rejected by Defence Secretary Robert Gates and other senior Pentagon brass and can’t be squared with prior authoritative statements of policy towards the region; the best argument that Krass could muster was the suggestion that Italy and other US allies in southern Europe would have to cope with waves of refugees from Libya. Recent reports have suggested, moreover, that Krass’s criteria were marginal at best in the actual decision-marking. As Rolling Stone’s Michael Hastings reported in a recent lively portrait of the Obama administration’s internal debate over Libya, concerns that a Gaddafi victory would deflate the Arab Spring movement, coupled with a sense that the revolutionaries’ success could be ensured with a minimal commitment of blood and treasure, was at the core of Obama’s call. There is thus a disconnect between the conjectural reasons used to justify the OLC memo and the actual reasons that reportedly drove Obama’s decision to support the venture.
The Obama team also stepped around the War Powers Resolution. It issued brief reports to Congress after hostilities had been commenced, but it did not recognise the resolution as being applicable to the Libya campaign. The Obama view was not, as Republican administrations since Nixon have asserted, that the resolution was an unconstitutional intrusion on presidential prerogatives. Rather, it took aim at the resolution’s definition of “hostilities” — a term consciously adopted to include actions far short of war — and argued that the operations in Libya could not be viewed as covered. State Department Legal Advisor Harold Koh advanced this view in a hearing before Congress on June 15, the same date on which the Obama team delivered its report on actions in Libya.
At this point, US involvement in the Libyan campaign consisted of “occasional strikes by unmanned Predator UAVs,” the report argued. The administration was trying to saddle the term “hostilities” with the relatively narrow constitutional sense of the word “war,” but Congress plainly opted to use “hostilities” in order to capture a far wider array of military actions. As various scholars have noted, “hostilities” has a well-established meaning in international humanitarian law: “the (collective) resort by the parties to the conflict to means and methods of injuring the enemy.” House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin shared the same assessment: The notion that lethal drone strikes are not “hostilities” under the War Powers Resolution “doesn’t pass a straight-face test.”
Obama’s engagement with the Constitution and domestic law thus consisted of a rubber-stamp legal opinion from the OLC that made policy assumptions publicly contradicted by senior administration national security spokesmen, and a series of cute word games to deny application of the War Powers Resolution. Congress, moreover, failed to stand up for its prerogatives either by explicitly authorizing the campaign or by challenging it. Congressional leaders were too obsessed with partisan gamesmanship and too indifferent to the fate of their own constitutional powers to do either. The Libya campaign thus turns into another vindication of executive war-making powers, and a demonstration of Congress’s institutional lack of gravitas when dealing with minor foreign conflict.
Enter Resolution 1973, which the Security Council adopted on March 17. There were three provisions at the core of the resolution: a call for an immediate ceasefire and an end to violence against civilians; the establishment of a no-fly zone over Libya; and authority to use “all necessary force” to protect civilians and civilian-populated areas while prohibiting the deployment of a “foreign occupation force.” As the resolution was adopted, forces loyal to Gaddafi were preparing an assault on Benghazi, the rebel stronghold. Gaddafi himself made statements threatening the violent taking of the city and the “house-by-house” extermination of anti-government protesters.
His comments were sufficiently unhinged, and the threat of a bloodbath sufficiently clear, that the Arab League lined up in support of the resolution and even Russia and China — which had threatened a veto of the resolution — switched their position to abstain instead. Gaddafi embraced the ceasefire call, but his forces continued their attacks on civilians unabated — satisfying the resolution’s preconditions for the use of military force.
While much of the military operations in Libya were plainly within the mandate of Resolution 1973, some aspects exceeded it.
For instance, attacks fairly early in the conflict targeted command-and-control centres of the Gaddafi regime. Such steps would be routine in wartime and would plainly be authorised under the laws of armed conflict. But it’s not so clear that they were authorised by Resolution 1973, the authority of which rested on the doctrine of “responsibility to protect” (R2P): the notion, adopted by the UN in 2005, that intervention is justified to protect a civilian population from harm, even at the hands of its own leaders. After all, strikes were mounted against military positions far away from the attacks on civilians and with no apparent linkage to them. Moreover, as the war progressed, the posture of the fading Gaddafi regime became increasingly defensive.
The final weeks of the campaign put this in sharpest perspective, as Gaddafi and his final core group of retainers withdrew to his hometown of Sirte, ultimately fleeing in a convoy that was fired upon by Nato aircraft and an American Predator drone, destroying two vehicles.
Libyan authorities have denied an independent autopsy that might show conclusively the cause of Gaddafi’s death — which may have been shots fired after he surrendered and was in rebel custody — but the role played by Nato in his final moments points to the near perfect inversion of the mission. Instead of protecting civilians from attack by Gaddafi and his forces, they were attacking a fleeing and clearly finished Gaddafi.
At this point, some members of the Security Council clearly feel they got suckered. They voted for a resolution to protect the people of Benghazi from slaughter and saw their authority invoked to depose Gaddafi and install a new government. That will have consequences for future humanitarian crises. Russia and China have now blocked Security Council resolutions targeting Syria. Russian President Dmitri Medvedev has made clear that Russia supports demands for reform in Syria and abhors the use of violence against demonstrators, but has been equally clear that Russia cannot risk a repeat of the Libyan example.
Nato’s operations in Libya began as a valid demonstration of the use of military force to protect civilians. But they evolved quickly into an exercise in regime change. In the wake of Libya, the Security Council is unlikely to embrace another R2P operation anytime soon. And that is bad news for the people of Damascus and Hama, as well as for advocates of the responsibility to protect.
- Obama Throws OLC Under the Bus (jonathanturley.org)
- King Barack I, Ctd (andrewsullivan.thedailybeast.com)
- Robert Naiman: President Obama: Don’t Strike Syria Without Congressional Approval (huffingtonpost.com)
- Shame? Are We Capable of It? (veteransnewsnow.com)
- Impeachment: Congress Fires Opening Shot across Obama’s Bow (dissidentvoice.org)
By Pepe Escobar
Beware of strangers bearing gifts. Post-modern Amazon and United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton finally landed in Tripoli – on a military jet – to lavish praise on the dodgy Transitional National Council (TNC), those pportunists/defectors/Islamists formerly known as “North Atlantic Treaty Organization rebels”.
Clinton was greeted on Tuesday “on the soil of free Libya” (her words) by what the New York Times quaintly described as an “irregular militia” (translation: a heavily armed gang that is already raising hell against other heavily armed gangs), before meeting TNC chairman Mustafa Abdel-NATO (formerly known as Jalil).
The bulk of the US gifts – US$40 million – on top of the $135 million already disbursed since February (most of it military “aid”) is for a missile scramble conducted by “contractors” (ie mercenaries) trying to track the tsunami of mobile anti-aircraft rockets that by now are already conveniently ensconced in secret Islamist warehouses.
Clinton told students at the University of Tripoli, “We are on your side.” She could not possibly connect the dots and note that the shabab (young people) who started demonstrating against Muammar Gaddafi in February have absolutely nothing to do with the TNC’s opportunists/defectors/Islamists who hijacked the protests. But she did have time to unveil another US foreign policy “secret” – that the US wants Gaddafi “dead or alive”, George W Bush-style (or as the beneficiary of targeted assassination, Barack Obama-style).
The new Fallujah
In her exhausting six-and-a-half hours on “free Libya” soil, Clinton couldn’t possibly find the time to hitch a helicopter ride to Sirte and see for herself how NATO is exercising R2P (“responsibility to protect” civilians).
A few hundred soldiers and no less than 80,000 civilians have been bombed for weeks by NATO and the former “rebels”. Only 20,000 civilians have managed to escape. There’s no food left. Water and electricity have been cut off. Hospitals are idle. The city – under siege – is in ruins. Sirte imams have issued a fatwa (decree) allowing survivors to eat cats and dogs.
What Gaddafi never did to Benghazi – and there’s no evidence he might have – the TNC is doing to Sirte, Gaddafi’s home town. Just like the murderous US offensive in Fallujah in the Iraqi Sunni triangle in late 2004, Sirte is being destroyed in order to “save it”. Sirte, the new Fallujah, is brought to you by NATO rebels. R2P, RIP.
It gets much nastier. Libya is just one angle of a multi-vector US strategy in Africa. Wacko presidential candidate Michelle Bachmann, during Tuesday’s Republican debate in Las Vegas, may have inadvertently nailed it. Displaying her geographical acumen as she referred to Obama’s new US intervention in Uganda, Bachmann said, “He put us in Libya. Now he’s putting us in Africa.” True, Libya is not in Africa anymore; as the counter-revolutionary House of Saud would want it, Libya has been relocated to Arabia (ideally as a restored monarchy).
As for Obama “putting us in Africa” (see Obama, King of Africa Asia Times Online, October 18, 2011), those 100 special forces in Uganda billed as “advisers” should be seen as a liquid modernity remix of Vietnam in the early 1960s; that also started with a bunch of “advisers” – and the rest is history.
Murderous mystic crackpot Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) is now a rag-tag bunch of no more than 400 warriors (they used to be over 2,000). They are on the run – and not even based in Uganda, but in South Sudan (now a Western protectorate), the Central African Republic and the long border with the Democratic Republic of Congo.
So why Uganda? Enter London-based Heritage Oil, and its chairman Tony Buckingham, a former – you guessed it – “contractor” (ie mercenary). Here’s Heritage’s modus operandi, described by Buckingham himself; they deploy “a first mover strategy of entering regions with vast hydrocarbon wealth where we have a strategic advantage”.
Translation: wherever there’s foreign invasion, civil war, total breakdown of social order, there are big bucks to be made. Thus Heritage’s presence in Iraq, Libya and Uganda.
Profiting from post-war fog, Heritage signed juicy deals in Iraqi Kurdistan behind the back of the central government in Baghdad. In Libya, Heritage bought a 51% stake in a local company called Sahara Oil Services; this means it’s now directly involved in operating oil and gas licenses. Pressed about it, TNC honchos have tried to change the conversation, alleging that nothing is approved yet.
What’s certain is that Heritage barged into Libya via a former SAS commando, John Holmes, founder of Erinys, one of the top mercenary outfits in Iraq apart from Xe Services, former Blackwater. Holmes cunningly shipped the right bottles of Johnnie Walker Blue Label to Benghazi for the right TNC crooks, seducing them with Heritage’s mercenary know-how of enforcing “oil field security”.
Got contractor, will travel
Obama’s Uganda surge is also a classic Pipelineistan gambit. The possibly “billions of barrels” of oil reserves discovered recently in sub-Saharan Africa are located in the sensitive cross-border of Uganda, South Sudan, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Believe it or not, Heritage was the top oil company in Uganda up to 2009, drilling on Lake Albert – between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo – and playing one country against another. Then they sold their license to Tullow Oil, essentially a spin-off, also owned by Buckingham, bagging $1.5 billion in the process and crucially not paying 30% of profits to Washington’s bastard, the government of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.
Enter Libya’s state oil company, Tamoil, which was part of a joint venture with the Ugandans to build a crucial oil pipeline to Kenya; Uganda is landlocked, and badly needs the pipeline when oil exports start next year. The NATO war on Libya paralyzed the Pipelineistan gambit. Now everything is open for business again. Tamoil may be out of the picture – but so may be other players.
Trying to sort out the mess, the parliament in Uganda – slightly before Obama’s announcement – decided to freeze all oil contracts, hitting France’s Total and the China National Offshore Oil Corporation, but especially Tullow oil.
But now, with Obama’s special forces “advising” not only Uganda but also the neighbors, and linking up with Heritage – which is essentially a huge oil/mercenary outfit – it’s not hard to fathom where Uganda’s oil contracts will eventually land.
The Amazon rules
Unified Protector, Odyssey Dawn and all other metaphors Homeric or otherwise for the Africom/NATO 40,000-plus bombing of Libya have yielded the desired result; the destruction of the Libyan state (and much of the country’s infrastructure, to the delight of disaster capitalism vultures). It also delivered the lethal unintended consequence of those anti-aircraft missiles appropriated by Islamists – a supremely convincing reason for the “war on terror” in northern Africa to become eternal.
Washington couldn’t care less about R2P; as the Libyan Clinton hop shows, the only thing that matters is the excuse to “securitize” Libya’s arsenal – the perfect cover story for US contractors and Anglo-French intel ops to take over Libyan military bases.
The iron rule is that “free” Libya should be under the control of the “liberators”. Tell that to the “irregular militias”, not to mention the Abdelhakim Belhaj gang and his al-Qaeda assets now in military control of Tripoli.
It’s useful to remember that last Friday, the same day the US State Department announced it was sending “contractors” to Libya, was the day Obama announced his Uganda surge. And only two days later, Kenya invaded Somalia – once again under the R2P excuse of protecting civilians from Somali jihadis and pirates.
The US adventure in Somalia looks increasingly like a mix of Sophocles and the Marx Brothers. First there was the Ethiopian invasion (it failed miserably). Then the thousands of Ugandan soldiers sent by Museveni to fight al-Shabaab (partially failed; after all the Washington-backed “government” barely controls a neighborhood in Mogadishu).
Now the Kenyan invasion. A measure of the Central Intelligence Agency’s brilliance is that operatives have been on the ground for months alongside bundles of mercenaries. Soon some counter-insurgency hotshot in Washington praying in the altar of new CIA head David Petraeus will conclude that the only solution is an army of MQ-9 Reapers to drone Somalia to death.
The big picture remains the Pentagon’s Africom spreading its militarized tentacles against the lure of Chinese soft power in Africa, which goes something like this: in exchange for oil and minerals, we build anything you want, and we don’t try to sell you “democracy for dummies”.
The Bush administration woke up to this “threat” a bit too late – at Africom’s birth in 2008. Under the Obama administration, the mood is total panic. For Petraeus, the only thing that matters is “the long war” on steroids – from boots on the ground to armies of drones; and who are the Pentagon, the White House and the State Department to disagree?
Italian geographer and political scientist Manlio Dinucci is one of the few to point out how neo-colonialism 2.0 works; one just needs to look at the map. In Central Africa, the objective is US military supremacy – on air and in intel – over Uganda, South Sudan, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
In Libya, the objective is to occupy an absolutely strategic crossroads between the Mediterranean, northern Africa and the Middle East, with the added (nostalgic?) benefit of the West – as in Paris, London and Washington – finally getting to hold military bases as when King Idris was in power (1951 to 1969). As a whole, control must be established over northern Africa, central Africa, eastern Africa and – more problematically – the Horn of Africa.
The trillion-dollar question ahead is how China – which plots strategic moves years in advance – is going to react. As for Amazon Clinton, she must be beaming. In Iraq, Washington meticulously destroyed a whole country over two long decades just to end up with nothing – not even a substantial oil contract. Clinton at least got a private army – the “advisers” who will be stationed in the bigger-than-the-Vatican US Embassy in Baghdad.
And considering that Obama’s new African “advisers” will be paid by the State Department, now Clinton’s also got her own African private army. After November 2012, Clinton might well consider a move into the contractor business. In the sacred name of R2P, naturally.
Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007) and Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge. His new book, just out, is Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).
By Kevin Bogardus – 05/09/11 02:55 PM ET
The Monitor Group filed documents with the Justice Department on Friday that provided concrete details about the public-relations campaign that was conducted for Gadhafi’s government.
The Justice records show that Monitor helped set up visits to Libya for “a meticulously selected group of independent and objective experts” in an attempt to win over public opinion in the United States.
According to the documents, visitors to Libya included Richard Perle, the foreign-policy expert who advocated for the invasion of Iraq. Lord Anthony Giddens, a prominent figure in the United Kingdom’s Labour Party, and Philip Bobbitt, a U.S. author and academic who served in Democratic and Republican administrations, both agreed to visit Libya, although Bobbitt’s trip never took place.
In addition, the billionaire businessman and philanthropist George Soros and the author Francis Fukuyama “expressed a willingness to visit Tripoli,” according to records filed with the Justice Department.
Other high-profile names included on a list of potential visitors to Libya were James Woolsey, the former CIA director; George Tenet, another ex-CIA chief; Thomas Friedman, a New York Times columnist; William Kristol, the Weekly Standard editor; and former Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.), according to Justice records.
The Monitor Group has come under heavy criticism in the media for its consulting work with Libya in the wake of the violent crackdown on rebel forces in the country.
The group signed an agreement with the Libyan government in February of 2006, back when Libya was trying to reconcile with the West and shed its status as a pariah state. The agreement included $250,000 in monthly fees and expenses for a contract not to exceed $2.5 million in total payments.
In a letter sent July 3, 2006, to Abd Allah al-Sanusi, the Libyan intelligence chief, Mark Fuller, then the Monitor Group’s CEO, and Rajeev Singh-Molares, then a Monitor executive, said Libya “has suffered from a deficit of positive public relations and adequate contact with a wide range of opinion leaders and contemporary thinkers.”
The Monitor executives said in the letter that they could help Libya with the deficit of good will.
“Our ability to introduce important, influential visitors to Libya’s advantage depends on our experience, prestige, networks and reputation for independence. We are deeply committed to helping you with this program,” the executives said in the letter.
Nevertheless, the letter stated, “Monitor is not a lobbying organization.”
Singh-Molares was designated to lead the day-to-day management of the Monitor team working on behalf of Libya and was to report personally to Fuller, according to the letter. The program was an ambitious one that included operations in the United States and the United Kingdom as well as outreach to well-known names in defense, foreign-policy and media circles.
Despite proclaiming that Monitor would not lobby, Justice records have firm executives saying that they would “coordinate with [Libya’s] existing lobbyists to ensure an integrated program” and that they would “compile and contact lobbying organizations that can help with [Libya’s] objectives.”
As part of its PR campaign, Monitor also worked to “provide operational support for publication of positive articles on Libya” in several media outlets, such as The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and The New York Times.
Monitor worked for Libya from 2006 to 2008. At that time, Gadhafi and the West were in the midst of a rocky reconciliation after the dictator had abandoned his weapons of mass destruction program in 2003.
After questions were raised for its work on behalf of Gadhafi’s regime earlier this year, the firm hired law firm Covington & Burling to conduct an investigation into whether it should have registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). The law firm found that it should have, and Monitor subsequently filed the necessary forms with Justice for Libya and another foreign government client, Jordan.
In October, Monitor began work for Jordan on an eight-week, $620,000 contract. The agreement was for Monitor to provide “management consulting services” to Jordan’s Washington embassy, according to records filed with Justice.
In a statement issued on Friday, Stephen Jennings, Monitor’s managing partner, said the firm had made “some mistakes” during its work for foreign governments.
“Monitor supported, during a period of genuine promise, the processes of reform and modernization in Libya. We made some mistakes along the way. While we stand by the majority of our work in and for that country, we have been resolute in our determination to find the facts, remedy errors and ensure that we learn from them,” Jennings said. “Monitor is committed to ensuring that we consistently live and manifest the values, ethics and standards that have characterized our firm for more than 25 years.”
Firms that attempt to influence U.S. government policy or U.S. public opinion on behalf of a foreign government, politician or political party are required to register under FARA. Not registering could lead to fines up to $10,000 or five years in prison.
Fuller, also a co-founder of Monitor, announced his resignation as CEO last week. Singh-Molares left the firm in December 2008 to join Alcatel-Lucent.
Gadhafi is now in the battle of his life as he faces a rebellion that has had air support from NATO. Several Western leaders, including President Obama, have said he must give up power.
Aspirations for political freedom are driving the revolutions sweeping the Middle East
5 May 2011 Last updated at 03:27 ET
After nearly a century of political stagnation, change is finally on the way in the Middle East, but what role will there be for Western powers in this new Arab world, asks Middle East analyst Gerald Butt.
5 May 2011 Last updated at 03:27 ET
The wholesale upheaval taking place during this Arab Spring is the first in the post-colonial era.
But there are signs that Western states – former colonial powers among them – will still be playing substantial roles in the emerging new Middle East of the 21st Century.
The last major upheaval in the region followed World War I and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.
Britain and France had secretly devised a scheme to create nation states, trampling cynically over the aspirations of the Arabs for independence and unity.
Now, by contrast, it is precisely the aspirations of Arabs – this time for political freedom – that is driving the revolutions sweeping the region.
But while the desire for change is strong, the Arab Spring is following no co-ordinated course.
So there is ample scope for nations outside the region to devise stratagems as they seek to protect their interests.
The successful elimination of Osama Bin Laden is likely only to reinforce their confidence in taking positive steps to achieve their goals.
There is little, furthermore, that the Arab world – after decades of division, demoralisation and defeat – can do to stop them.
Nowhere was this more obvious than in the popular uprising in Libya.
But the collective Arab world – for all its vast resources – could not muster sufficient political agreement to assemble the military hardware needed to impose the zone.
So, just when the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt appeared to be restoring Arab self-esteem, there came a humiliating call on the West to intervene.
Planes from Western nations are forming the bulk of the coalition force intervening in Libya
Now, not only are Western aircraft bombing targets across Libya, but military advisers from the three former colonial powers in the country, Britain, France and Italy, have been dispatched there.
For Arabs with even short memories, the spectacle looks depressingly familiar: Western forces helping to take control of a country rich with oil and gas.
Western powers have also intervened elsewhere – selectively. Some sanctions are being imposed on Syria for its brutal treatment of protesters – but not on Bahrain, where excessive force was also used on demonstrators.
Syria, in Western eyes, is a rogue state. Regime change there would neatly break the arc of Iranian influence that extends from Tehran to the Hezbollah strongholds of southern Lebanon.
Bahrain, on the other hand, is a key Western ally that provides a port for the US Fifth Fleet and an air base in the south of the island.
Saudi Arabia and all the Arab Gulf states, for their part, need Western support both to secure oil exports and to provide protection against what is regarded as a growing threat from an Iran with strong nuclear ambitions.
The growing Iranian influence in Iraq is also a worry in the Gulf. But the United States is preparing to increase the number of its embassy staff there next year to 16,000 – a sufficient platform, surely, from which to secure Western (and therefore Gulf) interests.
Egypt, too, looks set to maintain its ties with the United States. Public calls for the peace treaty with Israel to be scrapped are likely to be quietly ignored.
Any future leadership that took such a step would have to find funds to replace the $2bn (£1.2bn) that this cash-strapped country receives from Washington each year – and put its armed forces on a war footing again.
Then, just north of Egypt lies the strategically located island of Cyprus, where British sovereign bases provide a springboard for possible Western military intervention in the Middle East and North Africa.
All in all, then, the new Arab world, in many respects, is likely to look very much like the old one.
The key obstacle confronting those countries in the region that want to distance themselves from the influence of the West have been highlighted all too clearly by the Libyan crisis: the Arabs’ failure to take action themselves.
Vast oil wealth has not lessened Western influence in the Middle East
Despite the billions of dollars accrued in oil revenues and the billions spent on acquiring military equipment, two key challenges have not been met.
The first is to achieve political co-ordination. Inter-Arab disputes and rivalries have seen the 22 members of the Arab League pulling in different directions, rather than working for a joint cause.
The second challenge is to develop indigenous industries, rather than rely on technology and expertise from abroad.
As successive UN Arab Human Development Reports have pointed out, too often the technology was imported but not the skills: “With few exceptions, the experience of individual Arab countries in technology transfer, management and adaptation has not met initial expectations.”
The governments that come to power in the wake of the Arab Spring need to concentrate urgently on raising education standards, providing jobs for skilled graduates and developing indigenous talent, thereby enabling countries to stand on their own two feet.
Otherwise, the shadow of the former colonial powers and their allies is likely to fall across the Middle East for decades to come.
Gerald Butt, a former BBC Middle East correspondent, is a Cyprus-based writer on the region.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or http://activistnewsletter.blogspot.com/
Jack A. Smith is a frequent contributor to Global Research. Global Research Articles by Jack A. Smith