27 August 2011
26 August 2011
24 August 2011
22 August 2011
Flag of the Libyan Republic
(‘51-‘69 – Now used by National Transitional Council)
The Libyan Opposition Makes Its Case
The Wall Street Journal
May 19, 2011
This was the first official visit by Mr. Jibril and other representatives of the Transitional National Council (TNC) who are struggling to manage Libya's transition from 42 years of Moammar Gadhafi's dictatorship to a democratic future. The delegation left Washington over the weekend with lots of goodwill but without the "tourniquet" Mr. Jibril was seeking—access to $3 billion of the $32 billion in Libyan assets that the U.S. froze in February.
After almost two days of nonstop meetings between the Libyans and members of Congress, officials at the State Department and the Pentagon, and National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, the White House issued a terse statement calling Mr. Jibril and the TNC he co-chairs "credible and legitimate." Privately, the White House also pledged to help speed legislation suggested by Sen. John Kerry (D., Mass.), and supported by Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.), to give the rebels access to some $180 million of Libyan funds.
But legislation takes time. And Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar's reluctance to get more deeply involved in Libya—the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee did not attend Friday's meeting with the Libyans—does not bode well for quick action. Time is an all-too-precious commodity for the rebels, who say they are running out of money.
Ali Tarhouni, the interim government's finance minister, said that even if Mr. Kerry's relief package were approved, the money only would cover the cost of feeding and providing power to Libya's liberated areas for 10-12 days. "We really appreciate everything the U.S. is doing," Mr. Tarhouni told me. "But it doesn't solve my problem. I'm basically trying to run a war economy without resources. We're not asking for American taxpayer money," he said, "just access to our own frozen funds, or loans using them as collateral."
Mr. Tarhouni said he hoped that Qatar and the United Arab Emirates would provide some more interim relief. Support from both countries—which along with France, Italy and a few African states have recognized the TNC as Libya's legitimate government and sent fuel to the rebels—has been "outstanding," he said.
Although the delegation left Washington empty-handed, it made some progress, according to Libyan and American sources. The delegation's visit reminded America that while Washington dithers, Libyans continue to die. Mr. Jibril told me that, based on hospital estimates, more than 11,000 Libyans have already been killed in the 12 weeks of fighting. The United Nations says that more than 800,000 people have fled Libya and that 1.6 million inside the country need assistance.
The visit has also allayed some concern that the rebel leadership is infiltrated and unduly influenced by al Qaeda or its longtime affiliate, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) —a standard theme of Gadhafi's narrative about the TNC.
Messrs. Jibril and Tarhouni acknowledge there are LIFG members and some other militants' voices represented in the council. Since the TNC represents all anti-Gadhafi elements of the country, "they are included," Mr. Jibril says. But he insists they are not in leadership positions and will not determine foreign or domestic policy if and when Gadhafi is overthrown, if the TNC survives.
Mr. Jibril got his masters and a doctorate in strategic planning from the University of Pittsburgh in 1985. Though he served from 2007-09 as the chair of the Gadhafi's National Economic Development Board and led the Libyan National Planning Council, Libya experts never considered him part of the dictator's inner circle.
Mr. Tarhouni's democratic credentials are more impressive. He was a university student in Libya decades ago when his antiregime activities landed him on a Gadhafi hit list and forced him to flee. An economics professor at the University of Washington, he abruptly left his family and students to join the Libyan uprising, apologizing to his students for his departure. "I told them I had been waiting 40 years for this moment. In fact, I had almost lost hope that I would ever live to see it," he said.
Both men express gratitude toward the U.S.—as well as their growing frustration—in vivid, colloquial English. Mr. Jibril, for instance, explaining why the rebels have been unwilling to declare themselves Libya's government, articulated his dilemma this way: If the TNC took such action, Gadhafi would accuse them of being a separatist movement. "Damned if you do, damned if you don't," he told an audience at the Brookings Institution on Thursday.
It is this legalistic never-never land that has complicated the TNC's effort to secure more concrete support from Washington. But that alone does not fully explain Washington's hesitation. Some in Congress and within the White House continue to warn of "mission creep" in Libya. What began, belatedly, as an effort to protect the population of Benghazi in eastern Libya has become a grueling stalemate. With no obvious vital strategic interests at stake in the vast, oil-rich land of 6.5 million, and with two other wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, some American analysts warn ominously about the dangers of "imperial overreach."
The Obama administration has repeatedly called for Gadhafi to relinquish power, and it has been quietly searching for a country that will host him. The State Department has not permitted Gadhafi to replace his ambassadors in Washington and at the United Nations. Both have defected to the rebels. But the U.S. has not recognized the TNC as Libya's legitimate government either.
After their meetings in Washington, neither Mahmoud Jibril nor Ali Tarhouni seemed worried about tomorrow's War Powers Act deadline—which requires President Obama to end the use of force absent a Congressional decision to keep going. "The message we got is that this is not going to be a problem," Mr. Tarhouni said.
The administration "is not going to pull the plug on this engagement," says Dirk Vandewalle, a Libya expert and professor of government at Dartmouth. "We may not know who will lead Libya after Gadhafi falls," he added, "but the TNC has emerged as a coherent force that is reaching out to a wide range of Libyans and thinking seriously about the future."
21 August 2011
Little Resistance as Rebels Enter Tripoli
By KAREEM FAHIM and DAVID D. KIRKPATRICKTRIPOLI, Libya — Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s grip on power dissolved with astonishing speed on Monday as rebels marched into the capital and arrested two of his sons, while residents raucously celebrated the prospective end of his four-decade-old rule.
In the city’s central Green Square, the site of many manufactured rallies in support of Colonel Qaddafi, jubilant Libyans tore down green flags and posters of Colonel Qaddafi and stomped on them. The leadership announced that the elite presidential guard protecting the Libyan leader had surrendered and that they controlled many parts of the city, but not Colonel Qaddafi’s leadership compound.
The National Transitional Council, the rebel governing body, issued a mass text message saying, “We congratulate the Libyan people for the fall of Muammar Qaddafi and call on the Libyan people to go into the street to protect the public property. Long live free Libya.”
Officials loyal to Colonel Qaddafi insisted that the fight was not over, and there were clashes between rebels and government troops early on Monday morning. But NATO and American officials said that the Qaddafi government’s control of Tripoli, which had been its final stronghold, was now in doubt.
“Clearly, the offensive for Tripoli is under way,” the State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a statement. The statement said “Qaddafi’s days are numbered,” and urged the rebel leadership to prepare for a transfer of power and to “maintain broad outreach across all segments of Libyan society and to plan for a post-Qaddafi Libya.”
After six months of inconclusive fighting, the assault on the capital unfolded at a breakneck pace, with insurgents capturing a military base of the vaunted Khamis Brigade, where they had expected to meet fierce resistance, then speeding toward Tripoli and through several neighborhoods of the capital effectively unopposed.
A separate group of rebels waged a fierce battle near the Rixos Hotel, a bastion of Qaddafi support near the city center. A team of rebels there captured Colonel Qaddafi’s son and one-time heir apparent, Seif al-Islam. Rebels also claimed to have accepted the surrender of a second Qaddafi son, Mohammed.
Rebel spokesmen said that their fighters had surrounded the Bab al-Aziziya compound where they believed Colonel Qaddafi may still be holding out, but that they were reluctant to begin an all-out assault.
Colonel Qaddafi issued a series of defiant audio statements during the night, calling on people to “save Tripoli” from a rebel offensive. He said Libyans were becoming “slaves of the imperialists” and that “all the tribes are now marching on Tripoli.”
Mahmoud Hamza, a senior official of the Qaddafi Foreign Ministry, acknowledged in a phone call at 1 a.m. local time on Monday that “it is getting near the end now.” But he said that the Qaddafi forces had not given up.
“Tripoli now is very dangerous. There is a lot of fighting but there is not yet an assault on Bab al-Aziziya,” he said. “For me this is the most fearful thing. I hope it does not come to that.”
Al Arabiya television broadcast images of Libyans celebrating in central Tripoli and ripping down Qaddafi posters. Huge crowds gathered in Benghazi, the capital of the rebel-controlled eastern part of the country, as expectations grew that Colonel Qaddafi’s hold on power was crumbling.
Earlier on Sunday, protesters took to the streets and cells of rebels inside Tripoli clashed with Qaddafi loyalists, opposition leaders and refugees from the city said. Fighting had been heavy in the morning, but by midnight Colonel Qaddafi’s forces had withdrawn from many districts without a major battle.
A rebel spokesman said insurgents had opened another line of attack on Tripoli by sending boats from the port city of Misurata to link up with fighters in the capital. It was not clear how many fighters were involved in that operation.
Moussa Ibrahim, the government’s spokesman, issued press statements through the night, saying that more than 1,300 people had died in fighting in the city but that government troops remained in control. Those claims could not be confirmed.
But the turmoil inside Tripoli and the crumbling of defenses on its outskirts suggested a decisive shift in the revolt, the most violent of the Arab Spring uprisings.
NATO troops continued close air support of the rebels all day, with multiple strikes by alliance aircraft helping clear the road to Tripoli from Zawiyah. Rebel leaders in the west credited NATO with thwarting an attempt on Sunday by Qaddafi loyalists to reclaim Zawiyah with a flank assault on the city.
Seif al-Islam el-Qaddafi has been a central character in the drama of the Libyan revolt. Before the uprising began he was known as Libya’s leading advocate of reform in both economic and political life. He cultivated an Anglophile persona, and often appeared to be waging a tug-of-war against his father’s older and more conservative allies. He was increasingly seen as the most powerful figure behind the scenes of the Libyan government as well as his father’s likely successor.
When the revolt broke out it was Seif al-Islam who delivered the government’s first public response, vowing to wipe out what he called “the rats” and warning of a civil war.
In his last public interview, he appeared a changed man. Sitting in a spare hotel conference room, he wore a newly grown beard and fingered prayer beads. After months of denouncing the rebels as dangerous Islamic radicals, he insisted that he was brokering a new alliance with the Islamist faction among the rebels to drive out the liberals.
While rebels expressed hope that Colonel Qaddafi’s forces had lost their will to fight, support for the government could remain strong inside some areas of Tripoli. Analysts said the crucial role played by NATO in aiding the rebel advance in the relatively unpopulated areas outside the capital could prove far less effective in an urban setting, where concerns about civilian casualties could hamper the alliance’s ability to focus on government troops.
A senior American military officer who has been following the developments closely, and who has been in contact with African and Arab military leaders in recent days, expressed caution on Sunday about the prospects for Libya even if the Qaddafi government should fall. Even if Colonel Qaddafi is deposed in some way, the senior officer said, there was still no clear plan for a political succession or for maintaining security in the country.
“The leaders I’ve talked to do not have a clear understanding how this will all play out,” said the officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the issue publicly.
Few would have predicted that the rebels would meet so little resistance from the 32nd Brigade, a unit that NATO had considered one of the most elite in Libya and commanded by Khamis Qaddafi, one of the leader’s sons. The so-called Khamis Brigade was one of the crucial units enforcing the defense lines around the capital, extending about 17 miles outside Tripoli to the west and about 20 miles to the south.
Rebels said those points had been breached by Sunday afternoon despite the expectation that Colonel Qaddafi would use heavily armored units and artillery to defend them. It was unclear whether the government troops had staged a tactical retreat or had been dislodged by NATO strikes.
After a brief gun battle, rebels took over one of the brigade’s bases along the road to Tripoli. Inside the base, rebels raised their flag and cheered wildly. They began carting away stores of weapons, including rocket-propelled grenades and mortars.
While the bodies of several dead loyalist soldiers were left on the ground in the base, it appeared the troops there had retreated rather than being forced out in battle. At least one structure suffered significant damage from NATO bombs.
American officials say they are preparing contingency plans if and when Colonel Qaddafi’s government falls to help prevent the vast Libyan government stockpiles of weapons, particularly portable antiaircraft missiles, from being stolen and dispersed.
Untold numbers of the missiles, including SA-7s, have already been looted from government arsenals, and American officials fear they could circulate widely, including heat-seeking antiaircraft missiles that could be used against civilian airliners. “What I worry about most is the proliferation of these weapons,” the senior military officer said, noting that the United States had already been quietly meeting with leaders of Libya’s neighbors in Africa’s Sahel region to stem the flow of the missiles.
The officer said that small teams of American military and other government weapons experts could be sent into Libya after the fall of the Qaddafi government to help Libyan rebel and other international forces secure the weapons.
If Colonel Qaddafi himself continued to hold out in Tripoli, it became increasingly clear that even his most senior aides were making exits of their own.
The Tunisian state news agency reported Saturday that Libya’s oil minister, Omran Abukraa, had sought refuge in Tunisia after leaving Tripoli on what was ostensibly a business trip abroad. If confirmed, his flight would be the third of a senior government official in the past week.
Abdel Salam Jalloud, a former Qaddafi deputy, was reported to have left on Friday. A senior security official, Nassr al-Mabrouk Abdullah, flew to Cairo with his family on Monday.
After reports of the Tripoli fighting began, some residents said that a group of rebel fighters had infiltrated the city from the east and were spearheading the uprising, surprising the pro-Qaddafi forces who had fortified for an attack from the western approach guarded by Zawiyah. Residents added that in recent weeks rebels had also smuggled weapons into the city by boat to the beaches east of Tripoli to prepare. Their claims could not be independently confirmed.
Amid worries from the West and humanitarian groups that rebel fighters might seek revenge against Qaddafi supporters, the rebels’ National Transitional Council said Saturday that it was reissuing a booklet reminding its mostly novice fighters about the international laws of war.
Kareem Fahim reported from Tripoli, and David D. Kirkpatrick from Zintan, Libya. Eric Schmitt contributed reporting from Washington.
19 August 2011
by Marian Wang
The Devil's Advocate?
In 1991, [the late former Secretary of State Lawrence 'Just call me George'] Eagleburger explained to The Post why all of his sons were named Lawrence.
“First of all, it was ego,” he said. “And secondly, I wanted to screw up the Social Security system.”