Thursday, March 24, 2011

Today's MidEast Unrest: The Empires Strike Back

Updated 6:20 p.m. est

NATO will take over command of the no-fly zone and Naval arms embargo "in a couple days," NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen announced today.

"NATO has now decided to take over the no-fly zoned over Libya," he said on CNN.

For the time being, separately coalition forces will fly missions aimed at protecting rebels from Moammar Gadhafi's forces, he said.

"We are considering right now whether we should take on that broader responsibility," Rasmussen said.

end update

The Turkish parliament gave the green light today to sending four frigates, a submarine and a support vessel to join a NATO naval operation to enforce a U.N.-sanctioned arms embargo off Libya, a key step toward moving the U.S. closer to handing off command of Operation Odyssey Dawn.

A French fighter jet blasted a Libyan plane on a runway that was in violation of the no-fly zone, the French Foreign Ministry said.

Initially it was reported the French fighter had shot down a Libyan jet
today near Miserata, but that report was later clarified.

There is an ear-full of chatter coming from military analysts over whether it will take ground forces to help the rebels defeat Moammar Gadhafi.

Richard Engel on MSNBC last night told Rachel Maddow he has spoken to Libyan rebels who told him they are "looking actively to hire mercenaries" to fight and help coordinate with the coalition. The rebels are also open to having special operation teams on the ground to  coordinate air attacks, Engel reported.

NBC's chief foreign correspondent also said out loud what a lot of military strategists have been thinking, but so far has not been hinted at around the Pentagon: Apaches and A-10 tank killers are best suited to do the job if Gadhafi's forces remain in the cities like Misurata. That scenario raises the risks facing U.S. forces, and there is an election next year. At first glance, close-in air support is a long shot, at best.

The Washington Post takes a look deep inside how a languishing ferry loaded with Americans (and other factors) contributed to the timing of the Obama administration's move to freeze Gadhafi's assets.

Turning to domestic politics, GOP House Speaker John Boehner wrote Obama to complain about being kept in the dark about Libya and a mixed message from the administration.

"We obviously take very seriously... the need for congressional consultations. And we have done them and will continue to do them," said White House spokesman Jay Carney. I would also say that it’s important to remember that in the run-up to this action, we were criticized somewhat -- in fact, fairly frequently -- by those who felt like we weren’t moving quickly enough, and now some are criticizing us for going too quickly, and what the President did was make an action based on an imminent threat of a humanitarian nature to a great number of Libyans, and he has done that with a great number of consultations with Congress that will continue. But I think it’s important to remember where we were a week ago and where we are now."

The White House has been walking a tightrope, but nonetheless has been pushing back (in some cases loudly) at reports or comments that it circumvented congressional action when it jumped into the fray in Libya. The genocide that went unchecked in Rwanda (then-President Clinton later apologized for his inaction) played a big role in Obama's change of heart, USA Today's David Jackson blogs.

So far the Obama administration and its allies have tried to brush off those complaints as political not constitutional, and even a few conservative sources proudly but privately acknowledge the U.S. military appears to be getting the job done in Libya as of now.

They know at the White House they dodged a bullet with the successful rescue of the American pilots whose plane crashed in the desert.

"We were very lucky that we didn't have another Mogadishu," an Army source admitted.

The New York Times Nick Kristof's "Hugs From Libyans," his column arguing that the military intervention is historic and essential.


With legislature wired from the start, supporters approved President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s request for a 30-day state of emergency. The embattled tyrant, who has worked with the U.S. in targeting Al Qaeda terrorists, is barely clinging to power and his government fractures.

Yemen's leader says he accepts transition plan by the end of 2011, CNN says.

A thorough and thoughtful photo montage of the Yemenis revolution from Foreign Policy magazine.


At least 20,000 mourners and protesters took to Syrian streets today protest the wave of killings of civilians by Syrian security forces.

A day after hundreds of people marched against the government for a fifth consecutive day, Syrian forces killed at least seven protesters in a mosque in Daraa, bringing to 13 the number of demonstrators killed in recent days.

Some counts put the death toll yesterday at 14 Syrian protesters killed.

In an editorial, The Washingtom Post leaves little doubt where it stands: Syria is the next front.


What diplomacy? MSNBC asks in analysis of Bahrain protests and policies.

Gulf Air and Bahrain Air cancelled all flights in and out of Beirut’s Rafik Hariri International Airport amid the unrest in Bahrain.

"While US and international attention is focused largely elsewhere in the region, especially Libya, the violent crackdown against protestors in the tiny island kingdom of Bahrain may well pose a bigger threat to the entire region's stability," Middle East scholar Salman Shaikh posted on Foreign Policy magazine's blog. "Urgent action is therefore needed to de-escalate the situation in Bahrain and create the trust necessary for the government and opposition to start a much delayed national dialogue that charts the future of the country."

Time reports on its blog "thugs hired by Bahrain's government, posing in civilian clothing at checkpoints around the capital" are "increasingly targeting the country's medical personnel, who have been treating injured protesters since the first day the Shi'ite uprising against Sunni King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa turned violent."


A day after a British woman was killed in a bus bomb blast in Jerusalem, the Israelis attacked targets in retaliatory strikes in Gaza today, and Hamas responded with rocket and mortar fire into Israel, Haaretz reports.

AIPAC apologizes for using bombing to raise money. The pro-Israel groups quickly jumped all over the tragedy yesterday, as it was reported here.

Saudi Arabia:

The Wall Street Journal reports Saudis raise pay and plan polls, but their woes linger in the kingdom.

No comments:

Post a Comment