Saturday, February 26, 2011
By Donald Macintyre
"Tony Blair, widely criticised in recent days for offering Muammar Gaddafi "the hand of friendship" seven years ago, made an extraordinary personal intervention when he twice phoned the embattled Libyan dictator on Friday and asked him to stop killing protesters rising up against the regime.
Britain's former prime minister made two unannounced calls to Colonel Gaddafi on Friday – the day the Libyan President appeared in public and exhorted a crowd of his hardcore supporters to "defend the nation" against the uprising and "crush the enemy" behind it. That defiant call to arms suggests that Col Gaddafi – who has rapidly returned to the international pariah status he had before the "deal in the desert" he negotiated with Mr Blair in 2004 – simply ignored the man who pioneered the dictator's temporary rehabilitation by the West....."
Martin Chulov in central Libya
guardian.co.uk, Saturday 26 February 2011
"On the road west from Benghazi to Tripoli, Colonel Gaddafi's Libya is being rapidly cleansed of his remnants. Just over a week into the revolution that few, even here, thought possible when it started, the eradication of a despot is well on the way to completion.
The town of Ajdabiya, 160km south of Benghazi, the regional capital, has long been one of the east of the country's most forsaken enclaves, a place where people were thought to have been tamed and cowed during Gaddafi's 42-year rule. No one seemed to get on in life from round here. This city has few heroes.
Now, the spoils of a remarkable victory are everywhere, along with the scars of an ignominious defeat. Every official building in town has been torched and ransacked, just like the state institutions to the east. Every image of the loathed leader has been torn down and defaced. The tired facades, the grim streets and hard-bitten locals are the only signs that a dictator once ruled here....."
"(Ras Ijdir, Tunisia) - Libyan security forces and pro-government groups in the western city of Zawiyah have violently attacked anti-government protesters and Egyptian migrant workers, Human Rights Watch said today.
Hundreds of Egyptian migrants crossed the border into Tunisia on February 25, 2011, joining thousands of other migrants who had been stranded there for three days awaiting assistance, Human Rights Watch said.
"West of Tripoli in Zawiyah city, government security forces firing on demonstrators are causing bloodshed and chaos," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. "Pro-Gaddafi thugs have terrorized Egyptian migrant workers, causing hundreds to flee to Tunisia."
Egyptian migrant workers who fled to Tunisia from Zawiyah, a coastal city 40 kilometers west of Tripoli, told Human Rights Watch that Libyan security forces shot at protesters who had defied government orders to stay inside their homes and who tried to hold a demonstration after Friday prayers....."
By Robert Fisk
"The Middle East earthquake of the past five weeks has been the most tumultuous, shattering, mind-numbing experience in the history of the region since the fall of the Ottoman empire. For once, "shock and awe" was the right description.
The docile, supine, unregenerative, cringing Arabs of Orientalism have transformed themselves into fighters for the freedom, liberty and dignity which we Westerners have always assumed it was our unique role to play in the world. One after another, our satraps are falling, and the people we paid them to control are making their own history – our right to meddle in their affairs (which we will, of course, continue to exercise) has been diminished for ever.
The tectonic plates continue to shift, with tragic, brave – even blackly humorous – results. Countless are the Arab potentates who always claimed they wanted democracy in the Middle East. King Bashar of Syria is to improve public servants' pay. King Bouteflika of Algeria has suddenly abandoned the country's state of emergency. King Hamad of Bahrain has opened the doors of his prisons. King Bashir of Sudan will not stand for president again. King Abdullah of Jordan is studying the idea of a constitutional monarchy. And al-Qa'ida are, well, rather silent.....
.... Martyrs there were aplenty across the Muslim world – but not an Islamist banner to be seen. The young men and women bringing an end to their torment of dictators were mostly Muslims, but the human spirit was greater than the desire for death. They are Believers, yes – but they got there first, toppling Mubarak while Bin Laden's henchmen still called for his overthrow on outdated videotapes.
But now a warning. It's not over. We are experiencing today that warm, slightly clammy feeling before the thunder and lightning break out. Gaddafi's final horror movie has yet to end, albeit with that terrible mix of farce and blood to which we are accustomed in the Middle East. And his impending doom is, needless to say, throwing into ever-sharper perspective the vile fawning of our own potentates. Berlusconi – who in many respects is already a ghastly mockery of Gaddafi himself – and Sarkozy, and Lord Blair of Isfahan are turning out to look even shabbier than we believed.......
And democracy – the real, unfettered, flawed but brilliant version which we in the West have so far lovingly (and rightly) cultivated for ourselves – is not going, in the Arab world, to rest happy with Israel's pernicious treatment of Palestinians and its land theft in the West Bank. Now no longer the "only democracy in the Middle East", Israel argued desperately – in company with Saudi Arabia, for heaven's sake – that it was necessary to maintain Mubarak's tyranny......
We pay too little attention to this autocratic band of robber princes; we think they are archaic, illiterate in modern politics, wealthy (yes, "beyond the dreams of Croesus", etc), and we laughed when King Abdullah offered to make up any fall in bailouts from Washington to the Mubarak regime, and we laugh now when the old king promises $36bn to his citizens to keep their mouths shut. But this is no laughing matter. The Arab revolt which finally threw the Ottomans out of the Arab world started in the deserts of Arabia, its tribesmen trusting Lawrence and McMahon and the rest of our gang. And from Arabia came Wahabism, the deep and inebriating potion – white foam on the top of the black stuff – whose ghastly simplicity appealed to every would-be Islamist and suicide bomber in the Sunni Muslim world. The Saudis fostered Osama bin Laden and al-Qa'ida and the Taliban. Let us not even mention that they provided most of the 9/11 bombers. And the Saudis will now believe they are the only Muslims still in arms against the brightening world. I have an unhappy suspicion that the destiny of this pageant of Middle East history unfolding before us will be decided in the kingdom of oil, holy places and corruption. Watch out......"
The Guardian, Saturday 26 February 2011
"......Third, it would be better if Libyans won their battle with the regime on their own: even Arab, let alone American, help could be problematic. These considerations might in time fall away, and it is right to make the technical preparations. Meanwhile, the most effective measures are likely to be those that go with the grain of what is already happening in Libya. Economic sanctions, asset freezes and the like are gesture politics. They matter only as signals. The encouragement of defections and the threat of punishment to come for those who use deadly force seem, as William Hague stresses, the best instruments. Fragmentary reports on the state of mind of officers in the Gaddafi enclave suggest a tipping point is not far off. As for mercenaries, they are said to worry most about two things, whether they will get killed and whether they will get paid. They have ample reason now to be concerned about both."
I have been a strong supporter of Hugo Chavez on many issues. But now I have to draw the line.
It is incomprehensible to me how can a populist president like Chavez, who won many votes and referendums, and who was brought back to power after the attempted coup by the poor and dispossessed of Caracas, support a vicious murderer who has killed thousands of his own people and who threatens to burn the entire country, just to stay in power.
This will tarnish the legacy of Hugo Chavez in my mind. He should support the people and not their tormentor.
"Both geographically and culturally Latin America is a world away from Libya. However, examining the record shows how Libya’s leader, Muammar Gaddafi, in recent years has quietly built political and economic alliances with Latin America that are mutually beneficial. Those new alliances might now be working to Gaddafi’s advantage, earning him support by some of president's of the region, and forcing others to think twice before openly criticising him this past week.
With conservative estimates of hundreds killed in the past week, mass defections of Gaddafi loyalists, and reports the Libyan leader is employing foreign mercenaries to kill his own people who rise up against him, many of Latin America’s presidents have refused to condemn Gaddafi in the harshest of terms. Perhaps the reason why is because many of these same Latin American leaders were up until last week building cozy relations with Gaddafi; some on ideological grounds, others for trade and economic purposes; or both.
Below a snapshot of a few countries:
"The reports started coming in shortly after midnight: Contacts I met in Cairo earlier this month, a few of them still camped out in Tahrir Square, said the Egyptian military was using force to expel protesters from downtown Cairo.
Protesters had gathered on Friday, the two-week anniversary of Hosni Mubarak's ouster, to remind the country's military junta that they want real democratic reforms.
Witnesses in the square said soldiers, many wearing masks and wielding cattle prods or automatic weapons, forced everyone to leave. A number of people - it is not clear how many - were injured and arrested during the onslaught.
The crackdown highlighted a tension that is likely to worsen in the months leading up to scheduled elections in September. Many protesters do not trust the military, and say they will continue agitating for political and economic reforms; but the military's patience with demonstrations seems to be wearing thin.
An ongoing process
It is tempting, and convenient, to view the serial uprisings sweeping the Middle East as finite events. Tunisians protested for 28 days and won the ouster of president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali; Egyptians did the same with president Mubarak after 18 days.
Now the world is focused on Libya, where an embattled Muammar Gaddafi clings to an ever-shrinking power base. Perhaps, if he is toppled soon, attention will shift to another embattled autocracy - Yemen? Bahrain?
But the Egyptian revolution (like the Tunisian one) is far from over [So far it has been Mubarakism with remote control from Sharm El-Sheikh; not much has really changed. The junta is using clever and sweetened words, but no real policy or personnel changes.], and it would be a mistake to view it in the past tense.
The protesters in Tahrir Square and elsewhere in Egypt have a long list of demands: free and fair elections, an end to the country's decades-old emergency law, and a more equal and less corrupt economic system, to name a few. None of these have been achieved yet.
In other words: Toppling Mubarak was a major achievement, but it is a milestone, not an endpoint.....
"Can we now please stop this our-army-is-cute tune which everyone has been singing for a month now?" tweeted Hossam el-Hamalawy, an Egyptian journalist and labour activist. "Those generals are Mubarak's, not ours.".......
The labour movement was a key force behind the protests that toppled Mubarak: Strike actions across the country siphoned off support from the country's economic and military elite, which came to view Mubarak's continued grip on power as a threat to the Egyptian economy.
Since Mubarak's overthrow, organised labour has continued to rally for better wages and working conditions. Strikes since February 11 have affected textile mills, banks, public transportation and several other sectors of the economy.
The junta has seized on labour's continued role to paint continued protests as a threat. It issued a statement last week warning that protests organised by the labour movement are "illegitimate," and threatened to take "legal steps" against the demonstrations.....
But labour activists view this as a rare opportunity to win real economic reforms. Corruption and nepotism were hallmarks of the Mubarak-era Egyptian economy, which allowed a handful of well-connected cronies to enrich themselves through monopolies and back-room deals.....
The military has promised changes, but it is also keen to get Egypt "back to work" and restore much of the status quo. Opposing it is an energetic, organised protest movement, which does not entirely trust the military and will continue to agitate for far-reaching reforms.
This tension will probably come to define Egyptian politics over the next few weeks and months, and decide the (still uncertain) outcome of the Egyptian revolution."
"The Egyptian army has used force to disperse activists gathered in Cairo’s Tahrir Square to demand the removal of Hosni Mubarak loyalists from the interim cabinet.
Egyptian soldiers fired in the air and used batons in the early hours of Saturday to disperse the crowd, the Reuters news agency reported.
Demonstrators had also gathered in front of the parliament building in Cairo, where police beat protesters and used tasers to suppress the crowds, an Al Jazeera producer in the capital reported.
The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, the ruling military council, later apologised for the military's response and said the situation "wasn't intentional"......
Witnesses said they saw several protesters fall to the ground but it was not clear if they were wounded or how seriously.
"I am one of thousands of people who stood their ground after the army started dispersing the protesters, shooting live bullets into the air to scare them," Ashraf Omar, a protester, said.
The army officers who moved in on the protesters in Tahrir Square on Friday donned black masks to cover their faces to avoid being identified by protesters, Omar said.
Military buses were parked in the square to take in protesters that were caught, Mohamed Aswany, one protester who had decided to stage a sit-in, told Reuters by telephone.
Protesters were heard yelling and shouting as they were chased down side streets to Tahrir Square."
Friday, February 25, 2011
Ian Black, Middle East editor
guardian.co.uk, Friday 25 February 2011
"Libya's uprising reached the heart of Tripoli on Friday as anti-regime demonstrators defied a security clampdown to demand Muammar Gaddafi's overthow amid hopes that key military units in the west of the country would defect.....
Ominously, there were claims by opposition sources that missing people were being held as human shields in the sprawling Bab al-Aziziya compound where Gaddafi lives and works.
Libyan exiles said that a reported rebellion by military personnel at Tripoli's Mitiga air base was linked to calls by air force officers in the liberated eastern city of Benghazi to come out against the regime. Analysts believe defections from the military are likely to prove more decisive than actual fighting as the nine-day uprising enters what may be its final phase.
The Libyan air force, which is dominated by members of the Megarha tribe, has traditionally been considered one of Gaddafi's most loyal supporters.
Army commanders in the east who have renounced Gaddafi's leadership have said that commanders in the west are now beginning to turn against him.
The loss of Mitiga would be a grave blow....
Foreign diplomats monitoring Libyan developments said there were signs that more damaging high-level military and civilian defections may be imminent. Several key ministers and generals have abandoned Gaddafi in the last few days.... "
• Yemen holds its biggest pro-democracy rally
• Egyptians demand accelerated reforms
Harriet Sherwood, Tom Finn in Sana'a, and agencies
guardian.co.uk, Friday 25 February 2011
"Protests erupted in cities across the Middle East and North Africa. At least six people were reported killed and dozens injured in Iraq; thousands took to the streets in the Yemeni capital, Sana'a; and Egyptians gathered in Cairo's Tahrir Square to demand an accelerated reform programme.
Tens of thousands of protesters in Sana'a called for an end to the 32-year reign of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. It was the biggest pro-democracy rally in Yemen's recent history....
Activists returned to Tahrir Square in their thousands to demand a faster pace to reforms. They want a new cabinet to replace one that includes many figures from the Mubarak regime. According to Al Jazeera they singled out the prime minister, Ahmed Shafik, who, they said, was hand-picked by Mubarak; and they want the former president, believed to be holed up in his Sharm el-Sheikh villa, to be put on trial and held accountable for his 31 years of rule,. They also want political prisoners released.....
In the centre of Tunis, tens of thousands demanded the resignation of the prime minister, Mohamed Ghannouchi, seen as an ally of the ousted president.....
In the capital, Amman, 5,000 protested, demanding political reform. "Reform has become a necessity that cannot wait,".....
There were tens of thousands of anti-government protesters in Manama, adding to pressure for sweeping democratic change during two weeks of demonstrations in the strategic Gulf island kingdom. At least two marches converged on Manama's landmark Pearl Square, the focal point of the uprising – the largest show of opposition strength so far...."
"اعتذر الفنان اللبناني مارسيل خليفة عن عدم حضور مهرجان الربيع الذي يعقد في البحرين سنويا في شهر مارس/آذار. وقال إنه يفعل ذلك تضامنا مع الجماهير العربية المنتفضة التي تطالب بالحرية والديمقراطية والغد الأفضل.
وعبر صاحب أغنية "صامدون" و"منتصب القامة" عن غضبه وألمه حيال "حمّامات الدم التي تغرق بها أجهزة القمع العربية مدننا وقرانا". وأكد أن كل رصاصة تطلق على المتظاهرين في المدن العربية إنما تصيب صدره شخصيا.
وتاليا نص رسالة الفنان التي أبدى فيها اعتذاره عن عدم حضور المهرجان البحريني:
أَنَا ٱلْمُوَقِّع أَدْنَاه مارسيل خَلِيفَة،
تَحِيَّةٌ طَيِّبَةٌ وَبَعْدُ،
حَمَلْتُ مَعِي أَلَمِي وَٱلْتِزَامِي بِقَضَايَا ٱلأُمَّةِ، وَقَدَّمْتُ مُسَاهَمَتِي فِي ٱلتَّعْبِيرِ عَنِ ٱلأَلَمِ فِي صِنَاعَةِ مُسْتَقْبَلٍ إِنْسَانِيٍّ مُخْتَلِفٍ يَلِيقُ بِنَا وَيُتَرْجِمُ طُمُوحَاتِنَا.
أَشْعُرُ ٱلآنَ، وَأَنَا أُتَابِعُ شَأنَ ٱلْمُوَاطِنِينَ ٱلْعَرَبِ وَكَافَّةَ وَقَائِعِ هٰذِهِ ٱلثَّوْرَاتِ ٱلشَّعْبِيَّةِ ٱلْعَارِمَةِ، أَشْعُرُ بِٱلْمَسْؤُولِيَّةِ تُطَوِّقُنِي لِكَيْ أَبُوحَ بِشُعُورِ ٱلْغَضَبِ تِجَاهَ حَمَّامَاتِ ٱلدَّمِ ٱلَّتِي تُغْرِقُ بِهَا أَجْهِزَةُ ٱلْقَمْعِ ٱلْعَرَبِيَّةُ مُدُنَنَا وَقُرَانَا وَشَوَارِعَنَا، رَدًّا وَحْشِيًّا عَلَى مَطَالِبِ جَمَاهِيرِ شَبَابِنَا وَكُهُولِنَا وَنِسَائِنَا ٱلْعَادِلَةِ وَٱلْمَشْرُوعَةِ فِي ٱلْحُرِّيَّةِ وَٱلدِّيمُقْرَاطِيَّةِ وَٱلْغَدِ ٱلأَفْضَلِ.
أَشْعُرُ بِأَنَّ كُلَّ رَصَاصَةٍ تُطْلَقُ عَلَى شَابٍّ مُتَظَاهِرٍ، إِنَّمَا تُطْلَقُ عَلَى صَدْرِي، وَكُلّ هرَاوَةٍ تُهَشِّمُ عِظَامَ طِفْلٍ تَنْهَالُ عَلَى جِسْمِي.
أَشْعُرُ بِٱلْغَضَبِ وَٱلاِحْتِجَاجِ ٱلصَّاخِبِ وَٱلثَّوْرَةِ ٱلدَّاخِلِيَّةِ تَنْفَجِرُ فِي رَأسِي وَفِي وجْدَانِي وَلِسَانِي، وَأَنَا أَرْغَبُ فِي أَنْ أَقْذفَهَا بِوُجُوهِ ٱلْقَتَلَةِ وَٱلسَّفَّاحِينَ، كَأَيِّ طِفْلٍ وَشَابٍّ وَكَهْلٍ، هُنَاكَ فِي وَسطِ ٱلْجُمُوعِ، يُنَاضِلُ بِإِبَاءٍ وَشُمُوخٍ فِي صِنَاعَةِ مُسْتَقْبَلِ ٱلْوَطَنِ وَٱلأُمَّةِ.
أَنَا مُتَضَامِنٌ مَعَ أُولٰئِكَ ٱلْمَلاَيِينِ ٱلَّذِينَ يَهْتِفُونَ وَيَصْرُخُونَ ٱحْتِجَاجًا عَلَى ٱلْقَمْعِ وَٱلْمَوْتِ. أَنَا مِنْهُمْ وَفِيهِمْ. لاَ أُبَارِحُهُمْ. دَمِي دَمُهُمْ، صَوْتِي صَوْتُهُمْ، مَصِيرِي مَصِيرُهُمْ.
غَنَّيْتُ لَهُمْ وَمَنَحُونِي ٱلشُّعُورَ بِأَنَّهُمْ أَهْلِي ٱلَّذِينَ يُقَوُّونَنَا عَلَى صُنْعِ ٱلْمُسْتَحِيلِ.
أَنَا مِنْهُمْ، وَفِي مُوَاجَهَةِ مَنْ يَسْفِكُ دَمَهُمْ.
لاَ يُمْكِنُنِي أَنْ أَخُونَ قَضِيَّتَهُمْ، إِنَّ مَا يَجْرِي فِي لِيبيَا وَٱلْيَمَن وَٱلْبَحْرَيْن، وَٱلْبَقِيَّةُ تَأْتِي... إِنَّمَا هُوَ مَزِيجٌ مِنَ ٱلْمَلْحَمَةِ وَٱلتّرَاجِيديَا؛ الْمَلْحَمَةُ ٱلَّتِي ٱنْتَصَرَتْ فِي تُونس وَمِصْرَ، وَسَتَنْتَصِرُ فِي غَيْرِهَا مِنْ بِلاَدِ ٱلْعَرَبِ أَجْمَعِينَ؛ وَٱلتّرَاجِيديَا ٱلدَّمَوِيَّةُ ٱلَّتِي تُحَاوِلُ يَائِسَةً أَنْ تَعْتَقِلَ ٱلتَّارِيخَ.
لِهٰذَا ٱلسَّبَبِ، وَلأَنَّنِي لاَ يُمْكِنُ أَنْ أَكُونَ إِلاَّ مَعَ شَعْبِي فِي كُلِّ قُطْرٍ عَرَبِيٍّ، أَعْتَذِرُ عَنْ تَلْبِيَةِ دَعْوَةِ ٱلْمُشَارَكَةِ فِي مَهْرَجَانِ ٱلرَّبِيعِ بِٱلْبَحْرَيْن.
لاَ أَسْتَطِيعُ إِلاَّ أَنْ أَكُونَ فِي مُعَسْكَرِ ٱلْحُرِّيَّةِ وَٱلْمُطَالَبَةِ بِٱلدِّيمُقْرَاطِيَّةِ وَنَبْذِ ٱلْعُنْفِ.
لاَ أَقِفُ هٰذَا ٱلْمَوْقِفَ فَقَطْ لأَنِّي عَرَبِيٌّ وَمُلْتَزِمٌ بِقَضَايَا أُمَّتِي. كُنْتُ سَأَقِفُهُ لَوْ لَمْ أَكُنْ كَذٰلِكَ. إِنَّهُ، فِي ٱلْمَقَامِ ٱلأَوَّلِ، مَوْقِفٌ إِنْسَانِيٌّ قَبْلَ أَنْ يَكُونَ مَوْقِفًا سِيَاسِيًّا"
Martin Chulov in Benghazi
guardian.co.uk, Friday 25 February 2011
"...The people of Benghazi came throughout the week to this godforsaken patch of earth in the back of the city's ransacked military base, convinced they were closing in on a scene of unimaginable horror. Fleeing soldiers buried dozens of people in underground vaults in the hours before they fled the city on Sunday.
After a walk through the two nearby dungeons that were used to house political dissidents and regime enemies, it's not hard to see what fuels the bystanders' paranoia. "Anyone who upset him either ended up dead on his own doorstep, or in one of these holes," said Hussein Abbas, pointing to one of the two giant mounds atop the underground cells. "We have to get these people out."....
Throughout this giant base, the damage is immense and the celebration is continuing. At least 5,000 soldiers and officers were based here until Sunday, when they were ousted by thousands of people who came at them with bulldozers, TNT and Molotov cocktails. Everything has been ransacked. The blackened barracks still smoulder. It seems to be the only place in town where the victory gunfire that still peppers Benghazi's night sky seems appropriate.
"This camp was the darkest fear of all of Benghazi," said one man, Nouri Kaskas. "Everybody had a relative somewhere who was in one of these holes."
"It is an unbelievable feeling to be standing here," said Assaad Mari, 25. "For 42 years nobody could get close to this place."
In the capital there were widespread reports that the Mizgati air force base, which has been a cornerstone of Gaddafi's four-decade grip on power, had met the same fate. Several senior officers took to opposition radio stations to announce that the base had fallen, a potential death knell to the dictator's ailing regime....."
(Click on map to enlarge)
The heads of several oil companies in eastern Libya’s Gulf of Sidra region announced Feb. 23 they had "pledged loyalty to the people" and were splitting from Moammar Gadhafi’s regime. The Gulf of Sidra is critical to Libya’s energy exports and its major ports handle approximately 77 percent of Libya’s oil exports. It is still very early in the conflict, but if eastern forces gain control over this region, it could provide crucial strategic depth in their fight against Tripoli.
The Gulf of Sidra is critical to Libya’s energy exports. The ports of As Sidra, Marsa el Brega, Ras Lanuf, Tobruk and Zuetina handle approximately 77 percent of Libya’s oil exports. Allegiances in the Gulf of Sidra and the economic value they represent, therefore, are key to the survival of Gadhafi’s regime.
According to the report, the defecting directors came from the Arabian Gulf Oil Company and the Sirte Oil Company, both regional subsidiaries of Libya’s state-owned National Oil Corporation. The Benghazi-based Arabian Gulf Oil Company operates the Nafoora, Messla and Sarir oilfields in Libya; Marsa el Brega-based Sirte Oil Company runs the Marsa el Brega refinery, which has a maximum capacity of about 200,000 barrels per day (bpd), but sanctions have limited its actual production to about 18,000 bpd. The three oilfields are now allegedly under the control of the Zawiya tribe, which has threatened to stop the flow of oil to western Libya if authorities do not halt their operations against Libyan protesters. Oil appears to be flowing from the fields for now as the Zawiya tribe appears to be cooperating with oil companies, but it appears that the refinery of Marsa el Brega and several of the oilfields that supply it and other ports have fallen out of the control of the government.On Feb. 22, a Filipino information technology worker living in Benghazi told Filipino news agency GMA that he had been transferred from Benghazi to Marsa el Brega because "the military has taken control" there. Given the large-scale military defections elsewhere in the country’s east, it is unclear if the worker was speaking of Gadhafi loyalists or breakaway factions.
In addition to the statements from the oil companies, anti-Gadhafi protesters claimed control over Ajdabiya, also along the Gulf of Sidra and adjacent to the strategic port of Zuetina. While there is little anecdotal evidence from Zuetina, the protesters’ proximity is a sign that the port and oil terminal are at serious risk of falling out of the government’s control. Farther to the east, the port of Tobruk has broken away from Gadhafi, bringing with it the terminal that services the Sarir oilfield.
This also means that around three-quarters of Libya’s oil export revenue, which was $30 billion in 2009, goes abroad via the Gulf of Sidra. Additionally, the Ras Lanuf oil refinery is Libya’s largest export refinery, with a throughput of 220,000 bpd. Western Libya does have the 110,000 bpd Elephant oilfield and the Greenstream natural gas pipeline, with a capacity of 10 billion cubic meters per year, which pipes essentially all of Libya’s produced natural gas to Italy. However, the revenue from natural gas is far smaller, at only around $3.8 billion in 2009.
Currently, the fluid situation in eastern Libya makes it difficult to draw boundaries between cities controlled by pro- and anti-Gadhafi forces. While there appears to be an east-to-west domino effect, protests are still contained in individual cities, and their success in recruiting the support of local tribes, military forces or business leaders is different from city to city. Geographic limitations will further constrain the ability of protesters in these cities to coalesce for a push westward.
As of now, there are no reports of protesters taking control or business or military leaders defecting in Ras Lanuf or As Sidra. Without evidence to the contrary, STRATFOR must assume that those cities not claimed as being controlled by anti-Gadhafi forces are still under Gadhafi’s control. That being the case, it appears that the allegiance in the Gulf of Sidra is geographically split between Marsa el Brega to the east and Ras Lanuf to the west, with Ras Lanuf being more important overall to Libya’s economy.
Finally, in addition to defections in the energy industry hurting the Gadhafi regime in the immediate future, their allegiance "to the people" may provide an economic and strategic underpinning to a secessionist movement in eastern Libya. It is still very early in the conflict, and there is no indication that anti-Gadhafi forces are consolidating in eastern Libya, but control of the Gulf of Sidra could provide crucial strategic depth to a region of Libya that is breaking away from Tripoli’s control.
"The United Nations is warning thousands of people may have been killed in Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s assault on the growing popular uprising across Libya. The United Nations is also warning Libya’s food supply network is on the brink of collapse. Deadly clashes are ongoing as anti-government forces close in on the capital city of Tripoli. We get a report from Democracy Now!’s Anjali Kamat in Libya...."
"It is now a matter of common knowledge that the Gadhafi regime has lost control of virtually the entire military of Libya (as well as virtually the entire territory of Libya), but when troops first started defying orders to turn their guns on protesters, the reactions were quite shocking.
(Click on photo to enlarge)
by Justin Raimondo, February 25, 2011
"......He said that the protesters were young people who were being manipulated by al-Qaeda’s Osama bin Laden, and that many were doing so under the influence of drugs."
The World’s Wackiest Despot sounds like a neocon at the height of the post- 9/11 war hysteria: like, say, Andrew Sullivan accusing the "decadent left" on both coasts of being a pro-al Qaeda "fifth column."
So who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?
Speaking of dogs, here’s another question: which Arab despot was quickest to echo Gadhafi? Find the answer here:
"Iraq’s prime minister warned his people to boycott a planned anti-government protest scheduled for Friday, saying it was being organized by supporters of Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida.
"Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki gave no proof for his assertion in a nationally televised speech Thursday, which echoed similar blanket statements he’s made blaming terrorists and Saddam loyalists for an array of problems in the country."
So this is why we killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, sacrificed thousands of our own, and spent $3 trillion on "liberating" Iraq – so we could install this Gadhafi clone in office. Of course, Maliki hasn’t unleashed his hired thugs (hired by you) on the protesting populace quite yet – "only" three or four protesters have been killed, so far, in Iraq. Yet it isn’t hard to imagine a Libya-like scenario playing out in "liberated" Iraq: the country is a powder keg waiting to go off......"
"....Whatever emerges from this volcano, it's hard to see Libya not fractured across tribal lines. It's fair to say that the - tribal - Libyan youth who went out in the streets to fight the weaponized Gaddafi regime regard the tribal mentality as the plague. It won't vanish overnight. But the best possible expectation under the dire circumstances - with a humanitarian crisis looming and the specter of civil war - is that the Internet will propel the country to a post-tribal era. Before that, a bunker must fall."
"There is a revolution taking place in the Middle East. The young people are emboldened and confident in a way they have never been before, and what we have seen in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain and Libya could yet take hold in other countries in the region.
But if the revolution is going to stop anywhere, it is likely to be in the desert at the gates of the House of Saud; crucially the home of the world's greatest supply of oil.....
The rest of the world should be taking a careful look at the situation. If Saudi Arabia were to fall, an unlikely scenario, there would be an earthquake across the world economy. The two major spikes in Western inflation in recent memory were caused by Opec limiting supply in 1973 in protest at the US arming Israel, and later by the revolution in Iran. Saudi Arabia is a huge economy that oils the wheels of the rest of the world. Most of us believe Saudi is too big to fall. If we are wrong, the effect on the world will be devastating."
"Forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi were yesterday said to be launching fierce counter-attacks as the Libyan uprising edged closer to the capital and the dictator chose to blame Osama bin Laden and teenagers on hallucinogenic drugs for the rebellion.
Amid ominous descriptions of groups of pro-Gaddafi militiamen gathering on the roads around Tripoli, there were reports that the minaret of a mosque in Zawiya – 30 miles west of Tripoli, where protesters had claimed victory – was being pounded by heavy weapons. Troops were said to be filling the streets of Sabratha, 50 miles to the west of the capital. A Libyan newspaper reported that in Zawiya 10 people had been killed, and a witness told the BBC that pro-Gaddafi forces had used machine-guns on unarmed residents in a main square of the city....
In an indication of the strength of the uprising in Zawiya, which he admitted at one point was "slipping away from us", he addressed many of his remarks to its citizens, appealing to them to "stop your children, take them away from Bin Laden, the pills will kill them". On the young anti-government protesters in general, he said: "Their ages are 17, they give them pills at night, they put hallucinatory pills in their drinks, their coffee, their Nescafe."
In an even more bizarre passage the Libyan leader claimed that only he had "moral authority" over the country and added: "I am like the Queen of England. I have jurisdictions."
But Colonel Gaddafi also showed every sign of marshalling thousands of mercenaries, many from sub-Saharan Africa, and irregular forces to defend his redoubt in Tripoli, which also appeared to remain in a state of lockdown. Witnesses said that thousands of these forces were massing on roads to the capital.
One suggested that the scenes were reminiscent of Somalia with gangs of armed men in makeshift uniforms brandishing machine-guns, and unlike police, military units and army officers who have defected to join the protesters, were apparently willing to carry out the dictator's threat on Wednesday to defend the regime to "the last drop of blood"....."
A GOOD COMMENT
The Guardian, Friday 25 February 2011
"In the light of subsequent events, Neville Chamberlain's effort to appease Adolf Hitler is usually portrayed as one of the most shameful episodes in modern British history. But surely Tony Blair's love-in with Colonel Gaddafi was worse. Chamberlain never pretended to like Hitler. He certainly never embraced him. His aim was to prevent war by reaching an accommodation with a man whose full infamy he did not appreciate....
If the verdict of history has not, in fact, been kind to Chamberlain, it should be even harsher to Blair. For Blair, when he first shook hands with Gaddafi at their desert meeting in 2004, knew very well what a monster he was. During 35 years as Libya's dictator, Gaddafi, though not to the extent of Hitler, had proven himself to be vicious, murderous and corrupt – a "mad dog", as Ronald Reagan called him. Blair's justification for that ghastly embrace was Gaddafi's promise to give up weapons of mass destruction, but there was no good reason to believe such a promise of a man who had previously spent years fostering terrorism against both Britain and the US. The most convincing reason for – and only visible result of – their rapprochement was the promotion of Britain's oil and other commercial interests in Libya.....
A key figure in the Britain-Libya rapprochement may well have been Gaddafi's son Saif, an alumnus and generous benefactor of the London School of Economics, and owner of an expensive house in Hampstead. In his rambling address to the Libyan people last weekend, in which he pledged that his family would fight "until the last bullet" to stay in power, he appeared weird and almost as unhinged as his father. But this is a man whom members of the British establishment had previously found charming and civilised. His friends included not only Peter Mandelson, Nat Rothschild and Prince Andrew, but also Professor David Held of the LSE, who last year introduced him to an audience there as "someone who looks to democracy, civil society and deep liberal values for the core of his inspiration". How easily people are taken in! All you need is power, wealth, a plausible manner and a good command of English to be considered a first-class fellow. But the Libyans see Saif as no more than a chip off a disgusting old block....."
[Listen especially to the last 30 seconds; there is a warning to the Egyptians and Tunisians.]
"The Philippines is marking 25 years since its own "people power" revolution forced Ferdinad Marcos from power. As Al Jazeera's Marga Ortigas reports from Manila, there is a lesson for what is happening right now in the Middle East and North Africa."
اسرائيل تعيد فتح سفارتها بالقاهرة
"رام الله ـ 'القدس العربي' اكدت مصادر اسرائيلية الخميس بأن الحكومة الاسرائيلية فتحت سفارتها بالقاهرة واعادت جميع الدبلوماسيين الذين غادروا مصر خلال الثورة المصرية التي ادت لخلع الرئيس المصري حسني مبارك.
وقالت المصادر الاسرائيلية انه بعد أكثر من شهر على إغلاق السفارة الإسرائيلية في مصر، قررت الحكومة الاسرائيلية فتح سفارتها بالقاهرة من جديد وإعادة جميع الدبلوماسيين إلى العمل بشكل اعتيادي.
وقالت صحيفة 'يديعوت احرونوت' الإسرائيلية الخميس ان وزارة الخارجية في إسرائيل اعادت فتح مكتب السفارة بالقاهرة من جديد واعادت جميع الدبلوماسيين إلى العمل بشكل اعتيادي. واشارت المصادر الى ان السفير الإسرائيلي بالقاهرة ظهر الثلاثاء أمام رئيس اللجنة الفرعية التابعة للجنة الخارجية والأمن في الكنيست الاسرائيلي واستعرض أمامهم السيناريوهات المحتملة لنتائج الثورة في مصر.
وعلى ذلك الصعيد ذكرت صحيفة 'يديعوت احرونوت' ان الاعتقاد يسود داخل إسرائيل بأن المجلس العسكري الأعلى في مصر سيقدم مرشح له في الانتخابات الرئاسية القادمة وسيعمل لكي يتم انتخابه، بالإضافة إلى أن أحد التقديرات المركزية هو أن المرشح سيكون رئيس هيئة الأركان المصري 'سامي عنان' الذي يتمتع بعلاقات جيدة مع إسرائيل.
وبحسب تقديرات وزارة الخارجية الاسرائيلية أيضاً أن الإخوان المسلمين لا يخططون لتقديم مرشح للرئاسة، كما لا يخططون للسيطرة على الدولة، مع ذلك هم يسعون للحصول على شرعية، وان يصبحوا حركة سياسية معروفة ويسمح لها بإنشاء مؤسسات وإصدار صحف والمشاركة في البرلمان.
إلى ذلك كُشف عن قيام طاقم من مسؤولى وزارة الخارجية الاسرائيلية برئاسة المدير العام 'رافي باراك' بزيارة سرية للعاصمة الأردنية عمان يوم الاثنين الماضي والتقوا خلالها مع مسؤولين في الحكومة الأردنية واللقاء اجري حسب طلب إسرائيلي وعلى ضوء التغيرات الجغرافية بالمنطقة.
Thursday, February 24, 2011
guardian.co.uk, Thursday 24 February 2011
"Tensions are mounting in the Syrian capital, Damascus, after the third peaceful demonstration in three weeks was violently dispersed on Wednesday. There are increasing reports of intimidation and blocking of communications by secret services in the wake of violent unrest in neighbouring Arab countries.
Fourteen people were arrested and several people beaten by uniformed and plainclothes police on Tuesday after about 200 staged a peaceful sit-in outside the Libyan embassy to show support for Libya's protesters.
Witnesses said at least two women were among those beaten....
Civil rights campaigners have told the Guardian that initimidation tactics have escalated to include visits from agents of the Mukhabarat – intelligence services – as well as close monitoring of internet and telephone conversations. Some activists have been warned not to leave the country.
There are unconfirmed reports of a crackdown on foreign journalists working in Syria. At least two reporters have been denied entry to the country.
"The situation is tense, they are clearly nervous," said one analyst, who refused to be named.
"We didn't think it was possible here but maybe it could happen after all.""
guardian.co.uk, Thursday 24 February 2011
• Libyan leader makes another rambling broadcast
• Committees of lawyers and doctors take charge in Benghazi
Martin Chulov in Benghazi
guardian.co.uk, Thursday 24 February 2011
"Opposition activists are increasing the pressure on Muammar Gaddafi's ailing regime, shutting down oil exports and mobilising rebel groups in the west of the country as the revolution rapidly spreads.
Gaddafi's hold on power appears confined to parts of Tripoli and perhaps several regions in the centre of the country. Towns to the west of the capital have fallen and all of eastern Libya is firmly in opposition hands......"
A VERY GOOD PIECE
"The slow collapse of Palestinian collective leadership institutions in recent years has reached a crisis amid the ongoing Arab revolutions, the revelations in the Palestine Papers, and the absence of any credible peace process.
The Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority (PA) controlled by Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah faction has attempted to respond to this crisis by calling elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) and the PA presidency.....
A house divided
There are numerous reasons to oppose new PA elections, even if Hamas and Fatah were to sort out their differences. The experience since 2006 demonstrates that democracy, governance and normal politics are impossible under Israel's brutal military occupation.
The Palestinian body politic was divided not into two broad political streams offering competing visions, as in other electoral democracies, but one stream that is aligned with, supported by and dependent on the occupation and its foreign sponsors, and another that remains committed, at least nominally, to resistance. These are contradictions that cannot be resolved through elections.
The Ramallah PA under Abbas today functions as an arm of the Israeli occupation, while Hamas, its cadres jailed, tortured and repressed in the West Bank by Israel and Abbas' forces, is besieged in Gaza where it tries to govern. Meanwhile, Hamas has offered no coherent political vision to get Palestinians out of their impasse and its rule in Gaza has increasingly begun to resemble that of its Fatah counterparts in the West Bank......
Thus, the PA was only ever intended to be temporary, transitional, and its mandate limited to a mere fraction of the Palestinian people, those in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The Oslo Accords specifically limited the PA's powers to functions delegated to it by Israel under the agreement.
Therefore, elections for the PLC will not resolve the issue of representation, for the Palestinian people as a whole. Most would not have a vote......
Given all these conditions, a newly elected PLC would only serve to further entrench divisions among Palestinians while also creating the illusion that Palestinian self-governance exists -- and can thrive -- under Israeli occupation.
A decade and a half after its creation, the Palestinian Authority has proved not to be a step toward the "legitimate rights of the Palestinian people," but rather a significant obstacle in the way of achieving them.....
Dissolving the PA
With the complete collapse of the "peace process" -- the final push given by the Palestine Papers -- it is time for the PA to have its Mubarak moment. When the Egyptian tyrant finally left office on February 11, he handed power over to the armed forces. The PA should dissolve itself in a similar manner by announcing that the responsibilities delegated to it by Israel are being handed back to the occupying power, which must fulfill its duties under the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949.
This would not be a surrender. Rather, it would be a recognition of reality and an act of resistance on the part of Palestinians who would collectively refuse to continue to assist the occupier in occupying them. By removing the fig leaf of "self-governance" masking and protecting from scrutiny Israel's colonial and military tyranny, the end of the PA would expose Israeli apartheid for all the world to see......
.....Yet if Arab countries which host large Palestinian refugee populations undergo democratic transformations, new possibilities for Palestinian politics will open up.
In recent years, "out of country voting" facilities were provided for large Iraqi and Afghan refugee and exile populations for elections sponsored by the powers occupying those countries. In theory, it would be possible to hold elections for all Palestinians, perhaps under UN auspices -- including the huge Palestinian diaspora in the Americas and Europe.
The trouble is that any such elections would probably need to rely on the goodwill and cooperation of an "international community" (the US and its allies), which has been implacably opposed to allowing Palestinians to choose their own leaders.
Would the energy and expense of running a transnational Palestinian bureaucracy be worth it? Would these new bodies be vulnerable to the sorts of subversion, cooptation, and corruption that turned the original PLO from a national liberation movement into its current sad status where it has been hijacked by a collaborationist clique?......
In light of the Arab revolutions that were leaderless, another intriguing possibility is that at this stage Palestinians should not worry about creating representative bodies. Instead, they should focus on powerful, decentralized resistance, particularly boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) internationally, and the popular struggle within historic Palestine........
The BDS campaign is powerful and growing because it is decentralized and those around the world working for the boycott of Israel -- following the precedent of apartheid South Africa -- are doing so independently. There is no central body for Israel and its allies to sabotage and attack.
This might be the model to follow: let us continue to build up our strength through campaigning, civil resistance and activism. Two months ago, few could have imagined that the decades old regimes of Tunisia's Zine el Abidine Ben Ali and Egypt's Hosni Mubarak would fall -- but fall they did under the weight of massive, broad-based popular protests. Indeed, such movements hold much greater promise to end Israel's apartheid regime and produce a genuine, representative and democratic Palestinian leadership than the kinds of cumbersome institutions created by the Oslo Accords. The end of the peace process is only the beginning."