Tag Archive: Saudi Arabia


Osama Bin Laden, head of Al Qaeda and the man linked to 9/11, the 1998 American embassy bombings, and the 2000 USS Cole bombing in Yemen, is apparently dead.

President Obama said in a press conference that a targeted operation against Osama’s compound in Abbotabad, north of Islamabad, resulted in the death of Bin Laden, and three other adults (including, it seems, an adult son of Bin Laden). The government took six of his other children, and two wives, into custody.

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Bashar al-Assad cropped

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 The chain of dominoes has brought down the regimes of Ben Ali in Tunisia and Mubarak in Egypt, may topple Gaddafi in Libya… and other presidents and monarchs are in peril. What has happened in these other countries? Welcome to the Spineless Liberal’s fact-file on the Arab Spring.

Divided up into four, including a brief description of the protests and possible outcomes –  we now turn our analysis to the other countries with large protests. Saudi Arabia and Syria.

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070122-N-9594C-001 Manama, Bahrain - King of B...

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The chain of dominoes has brought down the regimes of Ben Ali in Tunisia and Mubarak in Egypt, may topple Gaddafi in Libya… and other presidents and monarchs are in peril. What has happened in these other countries? Welcome to the Spineless Liberal’s fact-file on the Arab Spring.

Divided up into four, including a brief description of the protests and possible outcomes – in this post, we discuss where the crackdowns have been hardest and where we may yet see a change in government. Enter Bahrain and Yemen.

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Image by Nasser Nouri via Flickr

The chain of dominoes has brought the regimes of Ben Ali in Tunisia and Mubarak in Egypt, may topple Gaddafi in Libya… and other presidents and monarchs are in peril. What has happened in these other countries? Welcome to the Spineless Liberal’s fact-file on the Arab Spring.

Divided up into four, including a brief description of the protests and possible outcomes – first up, the success stories. Egypt and Tunisia.

Egypt and Tunisia

The success stories…thus far… of the Arab Spring.

Unemployment; food inflation; corruption; lack of political freedoms and poor living conditions led to widespread protests against President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia. Back on December 17th, Mohamed Bouazizi, a Tunisian street vendor, set himself on fire in Sidi Bouzid, due to alleged harassment by a municipal official. Peaceful marches the next day were met by violence from the police – reportedly including tear gas attacks.
Other protesters (Lahseen Naji and Ramzi Al-Abboudi) also killed themselves during the protests. On the 24th of December, Mohammad Ammari was shot in the chest and killed by police in Bouziane. Eventually, over 200 would die in the protests.

By the 27th, the protests reached Tunis, the capital, and as the protests escalated, so did the violence. Labour Unions and lawyers joined the protests and it spread across Tunisia. By the 14th of January, President Ben Ali resigned and fled to Saudi Arabia after 23 years in power.
This left Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi in effective control. On the 27th, he announced a reshuffle of the Cabinet, removing 6 former members of Ben Ali’s Constitutional Democratic Rally (RCD) party had left the interim government. Only Ghannouchi remained from the RCD. While he vowed on the 22 that he would resign after holding free elections within six months, the protests continued against him personally, demanding his resignation, and the cleansing of the cabinet of any last vestiges of the RCD. Ghannouchi resigned on the 27th of February, and was replaced by Beji Caid el Sebsi, a lawyer and former cabinet member in the early 1990s. 

By the 3rd of March, the new Acting President, Fouad Mebazaa, promised elections to a Constitutional Assembly on the 24th of July 2011, and general elections soon after. On the 7th, the secret police have been dissolved, followed by the RCD themselves on the 9th. We may now see a truly democratic regime in Tunisia.

However, March 1st also saw the foundation of the Renaissance Party or Nahda, an Islamist opposition group. Ben Ali may have been despotic, but the West widely supported him for helping us the fight against extreme Islamism – perhaps with Ben Ali’s overthrowing (he is now reportedly in a come in Saudi Arabia, following a stroke) we will see a more Islamic state in Tunisia.
Egypt was widely inspired by the Tunisian protests, with protesters quoted as shouting “Ben Ali tell Mubarak he is next”. While Ben Ali ruled Tunisia for 23 years, Mubarak has reigned in Egypt since the assassination of President Anwar Sadat in 1981, meaning an impressive 30 years at Egypt’s helm.

Following another case of self-immolation, the Day of Revolt on the 25th of January, 2011 was the day tens of thousands of protesters gathered on the streets of Cairo and other cities. The next day, the Egyptian government shut down the internet. By the 28th, the protests had reached the “Friday of Anger”. As February dawned, Mubarak offered concessions – that he would not run for another term in office, and would merely stay to oversee a peaceful transition. This was not enough for the protesters, and protests continued until Mubarak’s resignation on the 11th of February, leaving the Supreme Council of the Egyptian armed forces in change of the country. Vice President Suleiman was nominal leader.

By now, the army has said it will not field a candidate in the September elections, has dissolved Parliament (as per the demands of the protesters), and dismantled the secret police.

The death toll stands at 384 dead, and over 6,000 injured.

Most recently, on the 19th of February, a constitutional referendum passed with 77% in favour – this means amendments to the constitution, hopefully guaranteeing fairer presidential and parliamentary elections to take place. However…there’s always a however, opposition figure Mohamed El Baradei (former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency) was opposed, claiming that elections this summer would only benefit the National Democratic Party (Mubarak’s party) and the Muslim Brotherhood, now openly active in Egypt…the only two groups established enough to actively campaign in an organised manner in the elections and also the only two groups campaigning for the yes vote.

With the international community divided over how exactly to react to the ongoing crisis in Libya, the world risks losing its best hope of toppling Gaddafi, preventing a full-blown humanitarian emergency, and repairing its links with the Arab world. All because of Iraq.

While Britain and France have been demanding a no-fly zone to be put in place over Libya for some time now, the Obama administration is lacking. It’s rhetoric is multilateral and interventionist, but outgoing Secretary of Defence Robert Gates refuses to sanction a no fly zone. The reasons are plain – it fears another Iraqi conflict. But Libya is not Iraq.

The invasion of Iraq was wrong, and should not be repeated, but not because it brought down the Hussein regime – it was wrong because it was poorly planned, costly, showed no awareness of the internal situation, had no exit strategy, and had little international and regional support. On the other hand, involving ourselves in Libya is a must. We can deploy immediately, hopefully never use ground troops, and can exit when the new government is installed – a government with mass popular support, from the population, the exiled king, human rights actors in Libya and the regional powers.

NATO claims that there are three conditions for its involvement.
1) Regional Support
2) Proof its help is needed
3) A Security Council Resolution

The first condition has already been satisfied by recent calls from the Arab League and the Gulf Co-Operation Council to impose a no fly zone. The Arab League Secretary-general, Amr Moussa, has said that the League “can also play a role” in imposing the no-fly zone. Saudi Arabian, Egyptian and other Arab planes in the skies over Libya would help nullify Gaddafi’s rhetoric about the West just being after Libya’s oil. We must make sure that any response is multilateral, this is true, but this can be done.

The second condition – It is probably true that the humanitarian crisis has not yet fully emerged, and Gaddafi’s air force has not always been the main danger to rebel forces. But with strongholds such as Brega and Ajdabiya being taken by Gaddafi loyalists, and Misurata coming under heavy shelling, it will not be long before the rebel forces are driven all the way back to their stronghold in Benghazi. This is the crown in the rebels’ defences – a city of up to a million people, most virulently anti-Gaddafi, and many armed. It will be too large for Gaddafi’s forces to attack head on, and some pundits claim that the air force will be used in great force. It will be the only way for Gaddafi to finally crush the rebellion against him.

The rebels are in a desperate position. The Libyan army has huge momentum and control of major roads and crossroads, whereas the rebellion is lacking supplies and its morale is low. Support from the international community would change everything. A no fly zone grounding Libyan planes would improve morale and make Benghazi near impossible to capture. The rebellion may yet succeed, but only if we support it in its hour of need.

The third condition of having a UN Security Council resolution is important. But it may be too late. Diplomats are currently saying that there may be no vote on the UK-France resolution before Thursday – in a conversation with Reuters, Libya’s deputy foreign minister, Khaled Kaim, said that the country would be back under control “as soon as possible… [he hopes] in a matter of days”. It might be time to start thinking about circumventing the UN – we did it in the Balkans, when time was of the essence. It is almost run out for the Libyan Opposition.

The desperation of the situation in Libya for the rebels cannot be over-emphasised. If the Arab League and/or NATO are going to install a no fly zone, in order to prevent a humanitarian crisis, it must be done nearly immediately. Perhaps before even a Security Council resolution can be passed. Gareth Evans, the former Foreign Minister of Australia, and proponent of the Responsibility to Protect doctrine, claimed that Libya is a perfect case for military intervention. Amr Moussa, has said that intervening in Libya is a “humanitarian action, [consisting of] supporting the Libyan people in their fight for freedom against a regime that is more and more disdainful.” We must move quickly, and if the UNSC does not manage to give authorisation in time to prevent a tragedy, NATO, the Arab League, Britain and France should prepare to take matters into their own hands, if Cameron’s calls for the UN to “show some leadership” go unheeded, and they act too late. In a short, emotional speech on Tuesday, Gaddafi attacked Britain for calling for a no-fly zone – “What right do you have? Do we share borders? Are you our tutor?” No, Britain and Libya do not share a border, but the neighbours of Libya call for the same action to be taken as Britain. We are not your tutors but we must be the protectors of the Libyan people, if their government are a threat to them. It is only right and moral.

This is what the UN and NATO, Germany and the United States, must remember – Libya is not Iraq. Here, we have a chance to prevent a crisis, help overthrow a dictator, liberate a people. We have wide-spread regional support, a request from the Libyans themselves to intervene, and even a minimal deployment will help in some way. Iraq must never be repeated, but this is a different situation. If we allow our fear over repeating Iraq to prevent us implementing a no-fly zone over Libya, and saving the Opposition movement from its almost certain annihilation, we will have committed a mistake greater than invading Iraq ever was. We learnt the wrong lessons.

Posted online at http://politicalpromise.co.uk/2011/03/17/libya-were-learning-the-wrong-lessons-from-iraq/

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