Archive for the ‘Libya’ Category

The Turning Point

Friday, February 25th, 2011

I was thinking this week about turning points: points where foreign observers of the situations in places like Libya and Egypt suddenly have a better understanding of what they are watching.

During the protests in Egypt, I remember when I read this article in the New York Times about how the Egyptian military announced that they would not use force against the protesters. I thought to myself: game, set and match.

Those hundreds of thousands of people in the street were not going away, and if the military refused to fire on them, I knew that Mubarak would be out soon.

This moment on Libya came for me this week when I watched this report from Richard Engle, showing a Libyan military unit handing out heavy artillery including rocket launchers and machine guns to civilians. At that moment it was clear to me that this was not like the protests that gripped Egypt, it was an armed revolt, and that Qaddafi was in real trouble.

Since then, close to 90% of Libya has now turned over to rebel control, the towns under rebel control have started to develop their own rudimentary governing structure and Qaddafi, abandoned by the vast majority of Libyan’s, has had to turn to an army of mercenaries to defend Tripoli and maintain power.

No doubt Qaddafi could drag this out, but it’s increasingly clear that he’s making his last stand.

Qaddafi Forces Strike Back Hard as Grip on Power Loosens

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

Here’s the New York Times on the latest from Libya and Juan Cole with a larger analysis of the internal political situation that Qaddafi faces. As Cole notes, Qaddafi has largely maintained power for forty two years by balancing tribal alliances, so the reports that major tribes are now aligning against him is significant (not to mention the defection/resignation of many of his own diplomatsgenerals and fighter pilots).

That being said, this could turn into a long standoff as Qaddafi continues to fight back with all means at his disposal, from the air force to paramilitary mercenaries.

Just to put his country at ease, he followed up his son’s rambling statement from yesterday with this bizarre video of him lackadasically joking about the protests while sitting in a the cab of a truck, holding an umbrella.

I swear, this guy is straight out of a James Bond (or an Austin Powers) movie.

But seriously though, what a month…

Protests Grip Libya, Yemen and Bahrain

Saturday, February 19th, 2011

Here’s Juan Cole again, on the spreading Middle East protests.

The politics of Bahrain are particularly interesting. It’s a Shiite majority country that is ruled by a Sunni royal family and has had sporadic flare ups of political protest with a sectarian edge since the 1990′s.

While the country’s citizens are majority Shiite, there are actually more expatriates than citizens in Bahrain and many of them are Sunni Arabs, Pakistanis or South East Asians.

Once again, the United States’ rhetorical support of democracy is colliding with it’s national security interests. The US Fifth Fleet, which provided critical logistical support for the Iraq war as well as all other Persian Gulf operations, is headquartered in Manama, Bahrain.

Fouad Ajami: Demise of the Dictators

Saturday, February 19th, 2011

Great article from Fouad Ajami on the history and context of the current tumult in the Middle East.