February 27, 2011

EDITOR: How much longer for the Butcher of Tripoli?

 

All around Gaddafi, his trusted henchmen are deserting him, despite having worked for him for long decades. While one may well question their sudden democratic zeal, it is clear they know a sinking ship when they see one… His days must now be numbered, but the danger he poses to his countrymen is all the more potent, as he now knows that he is finished, with nothing much to lose but his head.

Gaddafi’s defectors denounce ‘government of Mussolini and Hitler': BBC

Some of the former Libyan ministers and diplomats who have turned on the regime of Muammar Gaddafi

Libya's envoy to the United Nations, Abdel Rahman Shalgam, is embraced by his deputy after denouncing Gaddafi. Photograph: Jason Szenes/EPA

Abdurrahman Shalgham, Libyan ambassador to the United Nations

Previously a Gaddafi loyalist and a long-standing friend of the dictator, Shalgham pleaded with the security council to “save Libya” from its leader.

He said he “could not believe” Muammar Gaddafi’s troops were firing on the protesters, and backed sanctions against him. In an impassioned speech, he said the protesters were asking for their rights. “They did not throw a single stone and they were killed. I tell my brother Gaddafi: leave the Libyans alone.” When Shalgham finished addressing the security council, he was embraced by his weeping deputy, Ibrahim Dabbashi, another former Gadaffi loyalist, who had defected days earlier. Dabbashi described Gadaffi as a “madman” who would never resign.

General Abdel Fattah Younes al-Abidi, former interior minister

Al-Abidi was sent to Benghazi to ensure the suppression of the protests. Instead, he rang Gaddafi and persuaded him not to use warplanes to crush the rebels. Since al-Abidi had responsibility for training the regime’s elite forces, his announcement was a severe blow to Gaddafi.

An apparent assassination attempt persuaded the general to join the uprising, saying: “I hereby announce that I have abandoned all my duties to respond to the 17 February revolution.”

Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, former justice minister

Resigned last week and said he expected Gaddafi to make good on his pledge to die on Libyan soil. “Gaddafi’s days are numbered,” he said. “He will do what Hitler did – he will take his own life.” He also told a Swedish newspaper that he knew that Gaddafi was employing foreign mercenaries. “I knew that the regime had mercenaries before the uprising,” he said. “The government decided in several meetings to grant citizenship to the [mercenaries] from Chad and Niger. That was something that I objected to.”

Abdel-Jalil claims he has proof that Gaddafi personally ordered Abdelbaset al-Megrahi to carry out the Lockerbie attack in 1988. Libyan efforts to get al-Megrahi home in 2009 were motivated primarily by Gaddafi’s desire to “hide” the truth ahead of the bomber’s appeal against his sentence, he said.

Suleiman Aujali, Libyan ambassador to the United States

Resigned last Tuesday, saying: “I am resigning from serving the regime I am serving, but not resigning from serving our people. They need me to be around to get the international community to raise their voice, to stop this massacre.” Aujali was made ambassador to the US on 6 January 2009. In September 2009, he defended the transfer of al-Megrahi from Scotland to Libya, arguing that most Libyans thought he was falsely convicted.

Two other Libyans have also resigned from the Washington DC mission, according to al-Jazeera. Saleh Ali al-Majbari and Jumaa Faris denounced Gaddafi, saying he “bears responsibility for genocide against the Libyan people in which he has used mercenaries”.

Mohamed Salaheddine Zarem, Libya’s ambassador to France, and Abdulsalam el-Qallali, the ambassador to Unesco

Both have also resigned. El-Qallali said: “We condemn the repression taking place in Libya and the extreme violence carried out by militia security forces against peaceful protesters who only demand freedom and dignity. We confirm our support for the revolution.”

Ali al-Essawi, Libyan ambassador to India

Resigned after condemning the use of foreign mercenaries to quell protests.

Abdel Moneim al-Huny, Libya’s permanent representative in the Arab League

Announced resignation last Sunday. Al-Huny said Gaddafi, his commanders and aides should be put on trial for “the mass killings in Libya”. He said: “Gaddafi’s regime is now in the dustbin of history because he betrayed his nation and his people.”

Hussein el-Sadek el-Mesrati, senior Libyan diplomat in Beijing

Told Al-Jazeera: “I resigned from representing the government of Mussolini and Hitler.”

Air force pilots

Two Libyan pilots defected to Malta by landing their Mirage F1 fighter jets on the island after disobeying orders to attack protesters in Benghazi.

Interim Libyan govt wins support: Al Jazeera online

“Caretaker administration” led by former justice minister gains the endorsement of the Libyan envoys to the UN and US.

27 Feb 2011

Ali Aujali, Libya’s ambassador to the United States, has said that he supports the interim government being formed in Benghazi by the country’s former minister of justice.

Aujali said on Saturday the caretaker administration, which announced it would lead the country for three months to prepare for elections, was “the government for the whole of Libya”.

“We want to support this government as the caretaker government until the liberation of all of Libya, which I hope will happen very soon,” he said.

Libya’s deputy UN ambassador, Ibrahim Dabbashi, also said on Saturday that his delegation supported “in principle” Abud Ajleil’s caretaker government.

“In principle we support this government,” Dabbashi, one of the first Libyan diplomats to denounce Gaddafi, told Reuters. “We are seeking more information about it, but yes, I think we support it.”

Former Libyan justice minister Mustafa Mohamed Abdel Jalil – who resigned from Gaddafi’s cabinet on Monday in protest at the killing of protesters – earlier told Al Jazeera he had led the formation of an interim government based in Benghazi, Libya’s second city, in the eastern part of the country now largely free of Gaddafi’s control.

He said the transitional government “has military and civilian personalities”.

“It will lead for no more than three months – and then there will be fair elections and the people will choose their leader,” he said.

Aujali, a veteran Libyan diplomat, praised Abdel Jalil.

“He is a very honest man. He was in charge of the justice issue in the eastern part of Libya when the regime asked him to hang an innocent Libyan citizen and he refused,” Aujali said.

“I am sure he will gain support of all Libyans and of the international community,” he added.

The Guardian, February 26 2011, by Martin Rowson

Libya: UN Security Council votes sanctions on Gaddafi: BBC

The UN Security Council has voted unanimously to impose sanctions on Muammar Gaddafi’s Libyan regime for its attempts to put down an uprising.

They backed an arms embargo and asset freeze while referring Col Gaddafi to the International Criminal Court for alleged crimes against humanity.

US President Barack Obama has said the Libyan leader should step down and leave the country immediately.

He still controls Tripoli, but eastern Libya has fallen to the uprising.

Discussions on forming an anti-Gaddafi transitional government are reportedly under way.

Sanctions
Mustafa Abdel-Jalil – who resigned as justice minister in protest against the excessive use of force against demonstrators – said a body comprising military and civilian figures would prepare for elections within three months, Libya’s privately-owned Quryna newspaper reported.

Libya’s ambassadors to the United States and UN have both reportedly voiced their support for the plan, which was being discussed in the rebel-controlled eastern town of Benghazi.

The UN estimates more than 1,000 people have died as Col Gadddafi’s regime attempted to quell the 10-day-old revolt.

Saturday night’s vote was only the second time the Security Council has referred a country to the ICC, and the first time such a vote has been unanimous.

The most controversial debate over the Libya resolution was whether to refer the government crackdown to the ICC for an investigation.

This is a very sensitive issue: some Council members view the ICC as a threat to national sovereignty, and worry that referrals may set a precedent which could be used against them.

A day of intense negotiations saw three positions emerge: Strong opponents (China), strong advocates (UK, France and Germany) and those in between (almost everyone else).

The middle ground eventually swung behind the proposal, leaving China the only holdout. In the end Beijing joined the consensus.

The Council has only referred one other country to the ICC (Sudan in 2005) and that vote was not unanimous. Analysts said the speed and strength of Saturday’s decision was due to reports of excessive regime brutality in Libya.

Strong condemnations by the Arab League and African Union also had influence, as did clear support for the ICC referral from Libya’s UN Mission.

Afterwards, Libya’s deputy UN envoy said the sanctions would give “moral support” to the anti-Gaddafi protesters.

“[The sanctions] will help put an end to this fascist regime which is still in existence in Tripoli,” said Ibrahim Dabbashi, who declared his opposition to Col Gaddafi at the start of the week.

The Libyan delegation at the UN had sent a letter to the Council backing measures to hold to account those responsible for armed attacks on Libyan civilians, including action through the International Criminal Court – which had been one of the main points of contention in the resolution.

The US has already imposed sanctions against Libya, and closed its embassy in Tripoli.

Australia says it will place sanctions on 22 individuals in Col Gaddafi’s inner circle. barring financial transactions and their entry to Australia.

Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd said the move was a “concrete demonstration of Australia’s support for the people of Libya”.

Struggle for control
On Saturday, one of Col Gaddafi’s sons, Saif al-Islam, insisted that normal life was continuing in three-quarters of Libya. By contrast, anti-Gaddafi forces say they control 80% of the country.

The claims are difficult to verify but it is known that anti-Gaddafi forces control Benghazi, Libya’s second city, while the long-time leader still controls most of the capital, Tripoli, home to two million of the country’s 6.5 million population.

Tripoli was calm on Saturday, with shops open and people on the streets. Supporters of Col Gaddafi reportedly occupied central Green Square in a public show of support for the beleaguered leader.

However, in the working-class area of Tajoura, scene of protests in previous days, residents set up makeshift roadblocks composed of rocks, concrete blocks and even chopped-down palm trees in an effort to stop vehicles carrying armed Gaddafi loyalists from entering the neighbourhood.

Outside the capital, anti-Gaddafi protesters were consolidating their power in Benghazi, with leaders of the uprising establishing committees to run the city and deliver basic services.

Rebels were reportedly fighting units of the regular army in the western cities of Misrata and Zawiya.

Evacuation
Thousands of foreign nationals – many of them employed in the oil industry – continue to be evacuated from the country by air, sea and land.

On Saturday, two British military transport aircraft picked up about 150 foreign nationals in the desert south of Benghazi and flew them to the Mediterranean island of Malta.

Britain also announced it had temporarily closed its embassy in Tripoli and pulled out its staff on the last UK government-chartered aircraft because of the deteriorating security situation.

Some 10,000 people remain outside Tripoli airport’s terminal building and several thousand more are inside, says BBC Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen, who saw piles of discarded luggage abandoned by people desperate to flee the country.

Most of those trying to leave were Egyptians, many of whom had been waiting at the airport for several days.

Thousands of Egyptians have also been streaming out of Libya over the western border to Tunisia.

The BBC’s Jim Muir, on the Tunisian side of the border, says the workers face an appalling situation, with no resources to move on and no sanitary facilities.

He says the Tunisian army aims to relocate the workers to camps but this could take weeks.

And the Tunisian government installed after Presiden Zine Abidine Ben Ali was deposed in January is preoccupied with its own affairs, our correspondent says. There were renewed anti-government protests in Tunis on Saturday in which three people were killed.

 

EDITOR: The writing is on the wall…

Even Israeli journalist can see quite clearly that all is now changing, and the old certainties which supported Israeli oppression are gone forever.

Netanyahu’s rightist policies impede Israel’s integration into new regional order: Haaretz Editorial

Netanyahu is ostensibly willing to talk with the Palestinians, but he offers them nothing beyond the future recognition – laden with preconditions – of a Palestinian state.

Benjamin Netanyahu has responded to the political turmoil in Arab states with renewed entrenchment in his right-wing views. In his address to the Knesset last week the prime minister warned that the regional instability could last for years, patted himself on the back for opposing the 2005 withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and spoke in favor of a continued Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley as part of a future agreement with the Palestinians, to keep Iran from “walking into” the West Bank.

Netanyahu described himself as being disappointed by the refusal of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to negotiate. Netanyahu is ostensibly willing to talk with the Palestinians, but he offers them nothing beyond the future recognition – laden with preconditions – of a Palestinian state. He is not open to a change in the territorial status quo, and insists on going ahead with the expansion of the settlements, which undermines the chances for compromise.

In such circumstances it is understandable that the international community views Netanyahu’s talk of peace as empty words meant to buy time in order to perpetuate the right’s control of the government and to bolster the settlement enterprise. The U.S. veto prevented the harsh condemnation of the settlements by the UN Security Council, but the voting underlined Israel’s growing isolation.

Netanyahu’s position causes even friendly leaders, such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel, to turn her back to him. “You did nothing to advance peace,” Merkel told the prime minister when he called her to complain about Germany’s support for the Security Council resolution, according to a report by Barak Ravid in Friday’s Haaretz. Netanyahu promised Merkel that he will soon issue a new peace proposal, but the German chancellor was not inclined to believe him.

It is precisely during times of regional instability and uncertainty that Israel needs the support of the international community. But the Netanyahu government prefers to turn its back to the world and to barricade itself within Hebron and Beit El, Ofra and Yitzhar. Its policy is causing serious harm to Israel’s national interests and will only impede Israel’s integration into the new regional order that is taking shape. Netanyahu must heed the warnings of friendly leaders and put forth a practical peace plan – and not another attempt to use high-flown rhetoric to get the world off his back.

Libya celebrates as Gaddafi’s remote strongholds rise against him: The Observer

On the road from Benghazi to Tripoli, evidence of the dictator’s demise includes sacked barracks and official buildings burned

Libyans examine the wreckage of a plane sent to bomb Bregga. Photograph: Sean Smith

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.

We stopped first at a town square where an effigy hung from a wire alongside the Libyan independence flag, last flown under the monarch Gaddafi ousted in 1969, King Idris. A small group of youths milled around an empty fountain, with a brand new feature – the wing of a fighter jet that plummeted to earth on Wednesday.

The story of that downed plane has quickly been etched into folklore here. Its pilot had been sent to bomb three oil fields to the south, all of which had fallen into the hands of the opposition, who had promptly turned off the taps to further strangle the regime.

“The pilot is in hospital in Benghazi and the man who sat behind him with a gun is in prison,” said Ali Ramadan Mohammed, a civil servant from the oil town of Bregga that was one of the intended targets. “He didn’t carry out this evil mission and he is now a hero of the country’s liberation.”

Back up the highway in Ajdabiya, men with Kalashnikovs who now keep order about town wanted to show us the spoils. At a former headquarters for Gaddafi’s praetorian guard, a fleet of 4x4s had been torched and overturned. “Four men died here,” said one of the town’s new custodians, pointing at a spot on the road. “They were killed by Gaddafi’s men and his mercenaries.”

Next stop was the Qatibat Amin military base on the outskirts of town, a desert fortress with dank and dire looking buildings. Like every other base between here and Sirte in central Libya, which is still in the hands of Gaddafi’s loyalists, it had been sacked and pillaged. We were shown into the armoury, an unassuming building set behind barbed wire and land mines.

Hundreds of boxes of heavy ammunition had been emptied and those that hadn’t been carried away were scattered across the floor. Two anti-aircraft guns sat on in the corner looking like museum pieces. There was nothing derelict, however, about the dozens of artillery shells lying next to grenades and the odd claymore land mine. Every rifle had been taken, along with most uniforms and Kalasahnikov rounds. One of our hosts kicked at a bomb sitting in the open.

“Be careful, it will blow,” a man yelled at him. “Doesn’t matter, God has given us this victory,” the host shouted back.

All around eastern Libya, there is a sense of cavalier euphoria – a collective sigh of relief. It may also be a time to draw breath before the next phase – an assault on one of Gaddafi’s last two strongholds in the land: Sirte to the west and then the final prize – the capital.

“We have enough already to go to Tripoli, should we need to,” said Ghaith Issa, leaning against a rocket launcher inside the armoury. “We haven’t needed to yet, because the city is falling without us. We will go there, it is our destiny. Whether it’s with the weapons we now have, or to celebrate there after Gaddafi leaves, it doesn’t matter.”

Another man, Faraj Ali, 44, joined us. “Everywhere is the same between here and Sirte and between Sirte and Tripoli. He is finished. He can never come back.”

All along the red desert highway, the Observer encountered further evidence to support Faraj Ali’s claims. We stopped next at al-Bregga, an oil enclave at Libya’s southernmost coastal point. Gaddafi kept a house here and a row of guest homes either side. They have all been pillaged. The dictator’s bedroom received the most attention. “We threw in an extra bomb for him,” said Khaled Yousef, a local who now proudly walked through the scorched remains of the loathed leader, carrying a Russian machine gun that he looted from the army.

“He was a criminal and a terrorist and he had one of these homes every 100km,” he added. That may account for the modest furnishings – those that could still be made out amid the ashes. It was where Victorian England clashed with Arab chic. By all accounts it wasn’t one of his favourites.

Nearby, the police station and governorate still smouldered. But up the road, the Sirte Oil Company was still safe and secure. The attackers clearly saw this as an overthrow of a regime, not a sacking of a country.

Oil is pivotal to which direction Libya post-Gaddafi heads. In the east of the country the presence of so much black gold under the soil has long been more resented than appreciated.

“We never see any of the profits from it,” said Mohammed. “Gaddafi has all these compounds and offshore money and there are no jobs, not much health service and no way of improving ourselves. Now the people will decide how the money is spent, not him.”

Abdul Salam Nagem, a petroleum engineer from Bregga, said that opposition groups – many using former military weapons – were now firmly in control of the levers at the refineries and oilfields and would not be letting them go until Gaddafi was finally ousted.

“The people are very safe there,” he said. “The foreign workers, including the Britons, are under our full protection. As far west as Ras Lanuf [a further 150km west], the oilfields are now under our control.” One oil engineer, Moustafa Raba’a, 44, said that around 120, 000 barrels of oil per day are now not making it to market, denying the Gaddafi regime millions of dollars in revenues from Europe.

“We all have solidarity with the opposition on this,” he said. We will not let a drop flow until he is gone.”

No one is working in the oil towns. There is next to nobody on the streets, or even in mosques, or markets. “We are all just waiting, said Nagem, as he drew me a map earlier last week of the road to Tripoli. Only Sirte is standing in the way of the push.

Sirte, a coastal city halfway to the capital, remains defiantly on the side of Gaddafi. His loyalist forces man checkpoints in and out of the town and there were confirmed widespread clashes there as late as Friday night. It is the one place where opposition groups know they will face a fight if they decide to move on Tripoli.

So staunch is the pro-government presence there that some organisers in Benghazi believe it might fall after the capital itself. On Friday, a convoy of Egyptian doctors set off for Tripoli and reportedly encountered trouble on the outskirts of Sirte. There are conflicting accounts of their fate, with several local media outlets reporting that they came under attack.

On the red desert highway leading to Sirte, there is now no such risk.

As we left Bregga for Benghazi, we turned left off the highway to a site in the desert, which will surely come to be seen as a landmark in this revolution. Along a soft sand track, past patches of coarse-grass, tumbleweeds and flocks of well-fed sheep and goats, we arrived first at a hamlet of timber huts. Children scampered about in vivid clothes in the distance. It looked very much like a long-abandoned gypsy town. “See, this is what oil money gets you in Libya,” said Mohammed. “No water, no electricity, no future and no dignity. Haram [against God’s will]. Does Gaddafi live like this?”

Another mile or so along the track we stopped at a moonscape of wind-blown sand and reeds. Wreckage was everywhere; small bits of shattered metal, a larger piece that looked like a tail fin, and then the two main impact sites. One was a giant crater, the other was part of a fuselage and a large bomb that had not detonated.

“The pilot and the other man landed nearby,” a local shouted. “An old lady found this place yesterday.”

Gaddafi now has next to no control over the arm of his military that he has long trusted most. The defection of the air force pilot on such a sensitive mission has lionised the opposition further. It has had the opposite effect on Gaddafi.

There are continuing reports of mass defections of senior officers at most towns and cities between here and the Tunisian border.

“I could take you to colonels and generals who are now with us,” said Issa at the military base.

The state built over 42 years through iron-fisted rule is clearly now almost impotent. Gaddafi’s hopes of hanging on to the Libya he once knew are finished. His only hope appears to be a partitioning of the land, with the east ruled by the opposition and him staying in power in the west.

But that notion is universally scorned on the road to the capital.

“He has had his turn and it’s been a long turn,” said Khaled Issa in the Ajdabiya town square. “We are the future now. We must take the capital.”

Gaddafi’s son Saif’s ties to LSE and Britain: BBC

On Sunday Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, son of Libya’s leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, appeared on Libyan state television telling protesters to clear the streets or face rivers of blood.
The contrast to his appearance as a guest speaker at the London School of Economics (LSE) two years ago could not have been more stark.
Having just donated £1.5m to the university to fund its Global Governance Unit, he was introduced in glowing terms by the university’s Professor David Held, who said:
“I’ve come to know Saif as someone who looks to democracy, civil society and deep liberal values for the core of his inspiration.”
Donation rejected
But even Saif Gaddafi could not keep a straight face as he began giving a speech about democracy in Libya.
“In theory Libya is the most democratic state in the world,” he said to laughter from the audience, before chuckling and adding, “In theory, in theory.”

“This is over-egging the pudding. The man is evil enough – you don’t have to add that he’s a plagiarist as well”
Lord Desai dismisses claims Saif Gaddafi plagiarised his LSE PhD
Fast forward to the present day and Prof Held is appalled by Saif Gaddafi’s speech on Libyan TV, LSE students occupied offices at the university in protest at its relationship with him, and the university has been shamed into rejecting the bulk of the donation.
As a final embarrassment, the university has been forced to investigate allegations that parts of Saif Gaddafi’s LSE PhD were plagiarised.
The irony of its title – The Role of Civil Society in the Democratisation of Global Governance Institutions – is lost on no-one.
‘Failure to learn’
But Saif Gaddafi’s examiner, the renowned economist Lord Desai, says that he had earned the PhD, and that the LSE had been right to accept his donation.
His only regret, Lord Desai said on Thursday, was that Saif Gaddafi had failed to learn enough about democracy:

In his TV speech Gaddafi blamed people outside Libya for the violence

“I read the thesis, I examined him along with an examiner, he defended his thesis very, very thoroughly, he had nobody else present there, and I don’t think there’s any reason to think he didn’t do it himself.”
“This is over-egging the pudding. The man is evil enough – you don’t have to add that he’s a plagiarist as well.”
The LSE is not the only British institution Saif Gaddafi’s name has been mentioned alongside, he has cropped up in all manner of meetings and mutual connections.
He described Tony Blair as a family friend, although the former UK prime minister says he has only met him once since leaving office and has no commercial relationship with him.
Playboy lifestyle
Britain’s trade envoy, the Duke of York, has hosted Saif Gaddafi at Buckingham Palace, though a palace spokesman said he is no friend.
Then there is former business secretary Lord Mandelson, who met Saif Gaddafi a number of times – once at the Corfu villa of British financier Nat Rothschild.

“The Gaddafi family controls everything in Libya and no deals are signed either for inward or outward investment without their approval.”
Daniel Kawczynski MP, head of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Libya
Both Mr Rothschild and his business associate Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska were invited to Saif Gaddafi’s 37th birthday party in Montenegro.
In London, Saif Gaddafi has lived a playboy lifestyle. Two years ago he moved into a £10m house complete with suede-lined indoor cinema not far from an area of north London known as Billionaire’s Row.
The Libyan Investment Authority also owns properties in the city, on Oxford Street and at Trafalgar Square.
‘Economic stranglehold’
There has always been a thin line between Gaddafi money and Libyan money – one of the reasons that have made Saif Gaddafi so influential.
“The Gaddafi family controls everything in Libya and no deals are signed either for inward or outward investment without their approval,” Conservative MP Daniel Kawczynski, who has written a book about the Gaddafi family and heads the All Party Parliamentary Group for Libya, told Newsnight.
“They have had up until now a total stranglehold on the economy. I haven’t seen anything like it around the world.”
The fact is there was always a good reason for cosying up to the man who until recently was considered the heir to the throne of an oil rich wealthy country.
Sooner or later the old man, Col Gaddafi, was going to go and his avowedly pro-Western, and apparently reformist, son would take the reins.
Only it does not appear to be working out that way, and those associated with him are now counting the cost.

The price of food is at the heart of this wave of revolutions: The Independent

No one saw the uprisings coming, but their deeper cause isn’t hard to fathom
By Peter Popham
Sunday, 27 February 2011

Protesters in Yemen yesterday holding bread with 'Leave' written on it

Revolution is breaking out all over. As Gaddafi marshals his thugs and mercenaries for a last-ditch fight in Tripoli, several died as protests grew more serious in Iraq. Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah tried to bribe his people into docility by splashing out $35bn on housing, social services and education. Across the water in Bahrain the release of political prisoners failed to staunch the uprising. In Iran, President Ahmadinejad crowed about chaos in the Arab world, but said nothing about the seething anger in his own backyard; in Yemen, the opposition gathers strength daily.

And it’s not just the Middle East. This is an African crisis: Tunisia, where it started, is an African country, and last week in Senegal, a desperate army veteran died after setting fire to himself in front of the presidential palace, emulating Mohamed Bouazizi, the market trader whose self-immolation sparked the revolution in Tunisia. Meanwhile, the spirit of revolt has already leapt like a forest fire to half a dozen other ill-governed African nations, with serious disturbances reported in Mauritania, Gabon, Cameroon and Zimbabwe.

Nowhere is immune: dozens of activists in China are in detention or under other forms of surveillance, and the LinkedIn network was shut down as authorities seek to stamp out Middle East-style protests there. In what is arguably the most repressive state on the planet, North Korea, the army was called out and five died in the northern city of Sinuiju after violent protests erupted there and in two other cities. The generals who rule Burma under a trashy façade of constitutional government were keeping a close eye on the Middle East, ready to lock up Aung San Suu Kyi again at the first sign of copycat disturbances.

Nowhere is immune to this wave of rebellion because globalisation is a fact; all the world’s markets are intricately interlinked, and woe in one place quickly translates into fury in another. Twenty years ago, things were more manageable. When grain production collapsed in the Soviet Union during the 1980s and what had been one of the world’s greatest grain exporters became a net importer, the resulting surges of anger brought down the whole Communist system within a couple of years – but stopped there. Today there are no such firebreaks, and thanks to digital communications, events happen much faster.

Why are all these revolutions happening now? Plenty of answers have been offered: the emergence of huge urban populations with college degrees but no prospect of work; the accumulation of decades of resentment at rulers who are “authoritarian familial kleptocracies delivering little to their people”, as Peter Bergen of the New America Foundation put it; the subversive role of Facebook and Twitter, fatally undermining the state’s systems of thought control.

Absent from this list – to the combined bewilderment and relief of the US and Europe – are the factors that were universally supposed to be driving populist politics in the Middle East: Islamic fundamentalism coupled with anti-Zionism and anti-Americanism. As one Egyptian pointed out after the fall of Mubarak, at no point during weeks of passionate revolt did either the Israeli or the US embassies become a target of the crowd’s fury, even though both are within easy reach of Tahrir Square. “Not so much as a Coke can was thrown over the wall,” he said.

Of course, that does not mean that allies of al-Qa’ida will not seek to exploit the growing chaos in Libya in particular, striving to turn it into a new Somalia-sur-Med. Nor does it guarantee that any of the other revolts will produce stable democracies. Because the real cause of these revolutions, beyond all the chatter about social networks, is a problem that is liable to get worse in coming years rather than better, and that is largely beyond the power of anyone to contain or control.

The first warnings of what was to come appeared in the form of a briefing paper on the website of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation in December. “Recent bouts of extreme price volatility in global agricultural markets,” it said, “portend rising and more frequent threats to world food security. There is emerging consensus that the global food system is becoming more vulnerable and susceptible to episodes of extreme price volatility. As markets are increasingly integrated in the world economy, shocks in the international arena can now transpire and propagate to domestic markets much quicker than before.”

The “shocks” all occurred a long way from Cairo and Tunis. They included fires in Russia last autumn which wiped out hundreds of thousands of acres of grain; heavy rains in Canada, destroying the wheat crop there; hot, dry weather in Argentina which destroyed the soybean crop; the Australian floods which ruined the wheat harvest. The Middle East accounts for one-third of worldwide wheat imports. The combined effect of these far-flung agricultural problems was to bump up the food price index by 32 per cent in the second half of 2010.

The FAO likens “extreme price volatility” to great natural disasters – major earthquakes, tsunamis, catastrophic cyclones. “Historically, bouts of such extreme volatility… have been rare,” they say. “To draw the analogy with natural disasters, they typically have a low possibility of occurrence but bring with them extremely high risks and potential costs to society.”

A similar chain of unconnected farming catastrophes in early 2008 led to a similar outbreak of “extreme price volatility” around the world which provoked food riots in more than 40 countries, from Haiti to Bangladesh, including Mexico, Uzbekistan and Eritrea but also involving several countries caught up in the present round of uprisings, including Egypt, Yemen, Morocco, Mauritania, Senegal and Zimbabwe. All were among the 80 countries around the world that combine low incomes with food deficits – the need to import food, bringing exposure to wildly fluctuating world market prices. In these poor countries, food purchases can consume 70 per cent of income. The result, when prices of flour and grains shoot up by 30 per cent, is extreme distress – the sort of distress that sends people out into the streets in fury.

Abdolreza Abbassian, FAO’s chief economist saw – in his dry, cautious, academic manner – the present turmoil coming. “It’s getting a little bit uncomfortable,” he said back in December. “A lot of countries, especially the poorer ones, have to rely so much on world markets. They have to import food at much higher prices. Whether or not this will lead to domestic problems, turmoil, demonstrations, riots, the kind of things we saw in 2008, it is not possible to predict.”

For the poor of the Middle East, the price shocks at the start of this year were like experiencing a second killer earthquake in three years – but unlike with an earthquake, there was someone you could blame. So angry were the food price protesters in Tunisia that, after Mohamed Bouazizi set fire to himself, President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali declared a state of emergency and promised to reduce the price of food. But it was too little, too late: by mid-January he was gone.

Tunisia’s turmoil, warned The Washington Post as the toppled president flew off into exile, “has economists worried that we may be seeing the beginning of a second wave of global food riots”. As we know now, it turned out somewhat differently. Food riots in 2008, revolutions in 2011 – what, where, who is next?

Merkel chides Netanyahu for failing to make ‘a single step to advance peace‘: Haaretz

In a tense telephone call, PM tells German chancellor that he was disappointed by Germany’s vote at UN, but assures her he intends to launch new peace plan soon; Merkel reportedly did not believe Netanyahu, saying he disappointed her.

A crisis erupted between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. During a telephone call this week, Merkel told Netanyahu that he had disappointed her and had done nothing to advance peace, sources told Haaretz.

The prime minister tried to persuade Merkel that he was about to launch a diplomatic initiative, explaining he is making a speech in two weeks in which he will outline a new peace plan.

A senior German source said Netanyahu had called Merkel on Monday, following the American veto in the UN Security Council last Friday and Germany’s vote in favor of the Palestinian proposal to condemn construction in West Bank settlements.

The conversation between the two leaders was extremely tense and included mutual accusations and harsh statements, the official said.

Netanyahu told Merkel he was disappointed by Germany’s vote and by Merkel’s refusal to accept Israel’s requests before the vote, the source added. Merkel was furious.

“How dare you,” she said, according to the official. “You are the one who disappointed us. You haven’t made a single step to advance peace.”

The prime minister assured Merkel that he intended to launch a new peace plan that would be a continuation of his Bar-Ilan University speech, given in June 2009, in which he agreed to establishing a Palestinian state, the official revealed.

“I intend to make a new speech about the peace process in two to three weeks,” Netanyahu told Merkel.

The German chancellor and her advisers, who have been repeatedly disappointed by Netanyahu’s inaccurate statements and failure to keep promises, did not believe a word of what the prime minister told her, the source said.

Merkel decided to check with Israeli and U.S. officials to determine whether Netanyahu was serious this time around, or was merely trying to buy more time and alleviate the international pressure on him.

Haaretz’s check with a number of Israeli sources indicates that the prime minister and his advisers are desperately looking for a way to jumpstart the peace process, in view of Israel’s growing international isolation. “Netanyahu has recently begun talking about a second Bar-Ilan speech,” said a senior Foreign Ministry official close to Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.

A non-government source told Haaretz that Netanyahu and his advisers are working on a speech that would outline an alternative to the interim agreement with the Palestinians, similar to Lieberman’s plan. That initiative, which Haaretz reported on a month ago, consists of establishing a Palestinian state within temporary borders on about 50 percent of the West Bank.

The prime minister has been discussing the plan with Lieberman in recent weeks to understand it more thoroughly.

All of the sources, however, added that it was unclear whether Netanyahu seriously intended to advance the peace process or whether he merely wants to appear to be doing so, as a means of shifting international pressure onto the PA. In the latter case, he is counting on the Palestinians’ objection to the Israeli initiative.

A source in the prime minister’s office confirmed that Netanyahu told Merkel of his intention to outline his plans in a speech, but not in the next few weeks. The speech would be made only in the context of resuming the peace talks with the PA, the source revealed.

Merkel ended her visit in Israel three weeks ago deeply disappointed, a German official said. While here, she told Netanyahu the situation in the Middle East, in view of the revolution in Egypt, made it necessary for Israel to create a peace initiative.

Video: Israeli forces seize 11-year-old boy: Ma’an News

27/02/2011
RAMALLAH (Ma’an) — A resident of the West Bank village of Nabi Salih videoed Israeli forces chasing and detaining an 11-year-old child.

The footage, from late January, shows two Israeli border police officers chasing Karim Tamimi, who turns to a woman in the street for help.

The woman repeatedly pleads to the police in Hebrew, “he is a boy,” but the forces drag him to a van.

At 01:59, the child’s mother rushes to the van and begs the police to give back her son, and a third officer pushes her away.

The cameraman said forces detained the child in an attempt to pressure his 14-year-old brother Islam Tamimi, who is being held in an Israeli military prison.

Islam has been detained since Jan. 23 accused of throwing stones during the village’s weekly anti-wall protests. His family’s request to transfer him to house arrest was denied by a military judge.

A judge at Ofer military court postponed Islam’s hearing scheduled for Feb. 23 until March 10, popular committee spokesman Joseph Dana said.

 

A trial into the conduct of Israeli forces during Islam’s arrest is also underway. He was denied access to his lawyer or parents during the first five hours of his interrogation.

Dana said lawyer Gabi Laski would argue that Islam’s testimony was coerced. However the two trials are running simultaneously, allowing the possibility that the court could convict Islam and rule that the basis of the conviction was coerced.

In January, Defence for Children International said Israel’s military had detained around 7,000 Palestinian children since 2000.

In its annual report, submitted to the United Nations, DCI said it was rare for children, or their parents, to be told the reason for the arrest or where the children would be taken.

“Children are frequently threatened and physically assaulted during interrogation often resulting in the provision of a coerced confession, or the signing of documents which the child has not had a chance to read or understand,” the report found.

DCI noted that Palestinian children as young as 12 were tried in Israel’s military courts, and said most children ultimately plead guilty “whether the offence was committed or not, as this is the quickest way out of the system.”

Further, Israeli military courts impose sentences on most children detained.

“In 2009, custodial sentences were imposed on children by the military courts in 83 percent of cases, in contrast to a custodial sentence rate of 6.5 percent in the Israeli civilian juvenile justice system,” DCI found.

Revealed: Blair’s secret calls to Gaddafi: The Independent

Ex-PM phones Libyan despot – and urges him to quit, while SAS mounts daring rescue of oil workers stranded in desert
By Donald Macintyre
Sunday, 27 February 2011

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.

Reports from the Libyan capital yesterday suggested that the dictator was carrying out his threat to arm supporters to strike back against the uprising. As tensions rose, David Cameron ordered an SAS rescue mission to pick up 150 citizens stranded in the remote oil fields south of the port of Benghazi.

According to Whitehall sources, Mr Blair made an initial call to the Libyan President, who has ordered helicopter gunships to fire on protesters he described as “rats” and “cockroaches”. The Middle East envoy urged him to cease the attacks. The sources suggested that, after consultations with the British Foreign Office, Mr Blair was told that the UK Government would prefer the Libyan President to step down, and so he agreed to phone him again and transmit that message. There was no comment from Mr Blair’s office yesterday. Government sources could not say last night whether ministers knew in advance about the initial phone call.

The first oblique hint that Mr Blair might be in active contact with the Libyan regime came in a routine briefing on Friday in which US State Department spokesman P J Crowley said the former PM was among the international figures that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had spoken to during the day. Asked why Mrs Clinton called Mr Blair and if it was because of “his dealings with Gaddafi over the Lockerbie bomber”, the spokesman said of Mr Blair: “He has very important and valuable contacts inside of Libya.”

Defenders of the “deal in the desert” – in which Col Gaddafi was to eschew global terror in return for having international oil companies help him extract Libya’s massive oil reserves – have argued that it enabled the West to determine that Libya would give up plans for weapons of mass destruction.

But critics argue that Western business, and oil interests, lay behind the rapprochement with Gaddafi and that it was a serious strategic mistake to rebuild relations with the man who had supported the IRA with weapons and instigated Lockerbie.

Mr Blair has always said he never had any commercial relationship with anyone in the Gaddafi family or the Libyan government, but since leaving office he is understood to have travelled to Tripoli on business for the US bank JP Morgan Chase. He also met Gaddafi in Tripoli as recently as last summer.

EDITOR: Pogroms ahead?

In an incident which would not shame Nazi and antisemitic gangs, two Arab youth were attacked in Jerusalem, and one of them murdered, for the crime of being Arabs. It is most refreshing ina Jewish State, and also hardly surprising, after years of antisemitic propaganda against Arabs. You will note that despite this brutal murder, the murderer is only accused of manslaughter. This is because Jews cannot murder Arabs. Only Arabs can murder Jews in Israel.

Teen who stabbed Arab youth in Jerusalem indicted for manslaughter: Haartez

Three other suspects accused of assault, after the group allegedly attacked two Arab youths after they heard them speak Arabic.

The State Prosecution filed an indictment against four Jewish teens who were responsible for the stabbing of an Arab youth in Jerusalem last week.

The main suspect is indicted for manslaughter, while the other three teens are accused of assault under aggravated circumstances.

According to the indictment, the four minors, ages 16-17, were in central Jerusalem on a Friday two weeks ago, when they heard two young men speaking in Arabic. The suspects then allegedly approached them and started attacking them with racial slurs, saying comments such as “death to Arabs.” Then one of the suspects began attacking one of the Arab boys, stabbing him with a blade from his left ear, through his cheek and neck.

The suspects allegedly continued to beat the Arab boy and his friend, punching them and kicking them to the ground while cursing them. The Arab boys then tried to escape, and the stabbed youth consequently collapsed and called the police for help. When the main suspect saw that the boy had collapsed, he allegedly fled the scene. Following the stabbing, the boy was evacuated to a hospital where he died of his wounds.

The suspects then allegedly ran to a friend’s house nearby to bandage the main suspect’s hand, who was injured from the blade. Two other suspects then allegedly returned to the scene of the crime in order to get rid of evidence, where police found them.

The decision by the prosecution to indict the main suspect solely for manslaughter corresponds to the police recommendation on the matter but contradicts an earlier announcement the police prosecutor issued on Thursday, when he said he intended on accusing the main suspect with murder and the other three suspects with causing bodily harm.

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