Thursday, March 31, 2011

NATO Warns Rebels Against Attacking Libyan Civilians Pt. 2

The deliberations about where to draw the line, going on at the highest levels of allied nations and among senior officials across the Obama administration, show how an intervention to stop a potential massacre is evolving into a much more complex, and perhaps open-ended, role in policing the Libyan chaos.

The situation is as complicated legally as it is militarily. The United Nations Security Council resolution that authorized a no-flight zone and other steps in Libya makes no distinction between pro-rebel and pro-Qaddafi civilians.

Senior legal advisers to the military campaign say that unarmed civilians, whether living in towns or fleeing the fighting, are clearly meant to be protected by the United Nations resolution, while opposition forces taking an active part in combat away from cities are currently seen as falling outside of its protection. But one such official acknowledged that there are other situations that are much less clear.

Noncombatants and the various shades of opposition, resistance and rebellion “are so intermixed that it is not feasible to discern where the boundary between the civilians and opposition forces lie,” the official said. “There are also those civilians entitled to protection that may be armed in order to protect their families, homes, businesses, and communities. Other civilians may join the rebels at certain stages, becoming armed combatants, and then decide to return home for whatever reason, thus transitioning back to civilian non-combatants.”

At times when the rebels are gaining ground, the allies fear that the rebels will inevitably try to take loyalist cities by force, and could end up endangering or even killing civilians there. That is what prompted the coalition’s warnings to the rebels, administration officials said.

The specifics of the warnings — like when they were conveyed, who delivered them, and to which rebel leaders — remained unclear.

The traditional laws of war distinguish between combatants, who may be lawfully attacked, and civilians, who generally must be protected. Civilians who pick up weapons and join in fighting can be lawfully attacked as long as they are directly participating in hostilities.

But the laws of war are vague about how to categorize internal rebels, rather than external enemies. And the recognized government of a country — even an internationally despised one like the Qaddafi regime — is generally seen to have a right to use force to put down an armed insurrection, said David Glazier, a professor of national-security law at Loyola Law School-Los Angeles.

“I don’t know that we have distinguished between civilians who are truly nonparticipants in the conflict and who no one has any right to attack, and those civilians who have taken up arms in revolt against the government and so are legitimate targets,” Mr. Glazier sided. “This is all poorly defined. It really is all about politics, and not at all about law.”

On March 21, in a briefing with reporters, Tom Donilon, the national security advisor to President Obama, appeared not to distinguish between armed rebels and other citizens of Libya who opposed the Qaddafi government.

“They are citizens of Libya, and they are civilians,” he said, referring to the rebels. “They’re not military forces under the direction and control of Qaddafi.”

But that same day, General Carter Ham, the head of United States Africa Command, said that opposition forces with heavier weaponry would not qualify for protection the way civilians would, and he acknowledged that “it’s not a clear distinction, because we’re not talking about a regular military force — it’s a very problematic situation.”

“These are situations that brief much better at a headquarters than they do in the cockpit of an aircraft,” General Ham said, adding that “if it’s a situation where it’s unclear that it is civilians who may be being attacked, then those air crews are under instruction to be very cautious and not apply military force, again, unless they are convinced that doing so would be consistent with their mission to protect civilians.”

Return Pt. 1

NATO Warns Rebels Against Attacking Libyan Civilians Pt. 1

Members of the NATO alliance have sternly warned the rebels in Libya not to attack civilians as they push against the regime of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, according to senior military and government officials.

As NATO takes over control of airstrikes in Libya and the Obama administration considers new steps to tip the balance of power there, the coalition has told the rebels that the fog of war will not shield them from possible bombardment by NATO planes and missiles, just as the regime’s forces have been punished.

“We’ve been conveying a message to the rebels that we will be compelled to defend civilians, whether pro-Qaddafi or pro-opposition,” said a senior Obama administration official. “We are working very hard behind the scenes with the rebels so we don’t confront a situation where we face a decision to strike the rebels to defend civilians.”

The warnings, and intense consultations within the NATO-led coalition over its rules for attacking anyone who endangers innocent civilians, come at a time when the civil war in Libya is becoming ever more chaotic, and the battle lines ever less distinct. They raise a fundamental question that the military is now grappling with: Who in Libya is a civilian?

In the early days of the campaign, the civilian population needing protection was hunkered down in cities like Benghazi, behind a thin line of rebel defenders who were easily distinguishable from the attacking government forces.

That is no longer always the case. Armed rebels — some in organized militias, as are other young men who have picked up rifles to fight them — have moved out of Benghazi in an effort to take control of other population centers along the way, they hope, to seizing Tripoli.

Meanwhile, fresh intelligence this week showed that Libyan government forces were supplying assault rifles to civilians in the town of Surt, which is populated largely by Qaddafi loyalists. These civilian Qaddafi sympathizers were seen chasing rebel forces in nonmilitary vehicles like sedans and trucks, accompanied by Libyan troops, according to American military officers.

The increasing murkiness of the battlefield, as the freewheeling rebels advance and retreat and as fighters from both sides mingle among civilians, has prompted NATO members to issue new “rules of engagement” spelling out when the coalition may attack units on the ground in the name of protecting civilians.

It was unclear how the rules are changing — especially on the critical questions surrounding NATO’s mandate and whether it extends to protecting rebels who are no longer simply defending civilian populated areas like Benghazi, but are instead are themselves on the offensive.

“This is a challenge,” said a senior alliance military officer. “The problem of discriminating between combatant and civilian is never easy, and it is compounded when you have Libyan regime forces fighting irregular forces, like the rebel militias, in urban areas populated by civilians.”

Oana Lungescu, the senior NATO spokeswoman, emphasized that NATO was taking action because Qaddafi’s forces were attacking Libyan civilians, including shelling cities with artillery. She said that if the rebels do likewise, the organization will move to stop them, too, because the United Nations Security Council resolution “applies to both sides.”

“Our goal, as mandated by the U.N., is to protect civilians against attacks or threats of attack, so those who target civilians will also be targets for our forces, because that resolution will be applied across the board,” she said.

But it is no simple matter to follow that logic.

“Qaddafi is trying to take advantage of this mixing of combatants and noncombatants to deter NATO from striking,” said one Obama administration official who was briefed on the intelligence reports.

Even though rebel forces were in retreat on Wednesday, the civil war has seen repeated advances and retreats by both sides, and that is expected to continue. The highest concern is not how to deal with fighters who are loyal to the regime, but how NATO would respond to rebels firing on a town of Qaddafi sympathizers, like Surt.

Calls by some NATO members to provide heavier weapons to the rebels suggest that these worries will only intensify.

Cont. to Pt 2 .

Iran’s End Times Documentary

The Iranian government has produced a bone-chilling documentary that claims that Ayatollah Khamenei, President Ahmadinejad, and Hassan Nasrallah are talked about in Islamic prophecy as leaders who will wage war to bring about the arrival of the Hidden Imam, which the film says is “very close” to happening.

Reza Kahlili, a former member of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards who spied for the CIA and authored A Time to Betray last year, procured the entire film and says it was created by close associates of Ahmadinejad and was shown to top clerics two weeks ago. His chief of staff, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, is said to have played a role in its creation. Kahlili allowed FrontPage to view a shortened version of the film over the weekend, which he says the Iranian regime intends to distribute to mosques and Islamic centers throughout the region with an Arabic translation and is currently being shown to members of the Revolutionary Guards and Basiji.

The purpose of the film is to make the case that Iran is prophetically destined to lead the war against Islam’s enemies, which is as a prelude to the appearance of the Hidden Imam, also called the Mahdi, who brings the final victory for Islam and reigns over the whole world. It uses current events to argue that “the final chapter has begun” and the Mahdi’s arrival is imminent. Most disturbingly, it teaches that Khamenei, Ahmadinejad and Nasrallah are the individuals prophesied to make this happen.

The documentary claims that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei is the Seyed Khorasani talked about in the Hadith that leads a nation in the East (Iran) as “the preparer” for the Mahdi’s intervention. In July 2010, a senior Iranian cleric revealed that Khamenei had told close associates that he had privately met with the Mahdi and was told that he’d arrive before his time as Supreme Leader ends. Khamenei is 71 years old and widely understood to be in poor health, so the grand jihad that Khamenei believes he must command must come soon.

President Ahmadinejad is an End Times character named Shoeib-Ebne Saleh, the film states. He is appointed as the commander-in-chief by Seyed Khorasani (Ayatollah Khamenei). The speaker in the film says that this individual will “move” 72 months prior to the arrival of the Mahdi and will lead the recapturing of Jerusalem on “the threshold of the Coming.” It is unclear if “move” means a physical action by Ahmadinejad or if it means his coming to power in 2005. If it is the latter, then the regime believes the Mahdi is to appear by the end of this year.

Also mentioned is military commander called Yamani, who is to form the army of the Mahdi that will march to Mecca in Saudi Arabia. The film teaches that this is the leader of Hezbollah, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah. These three prophesied Islamic leaders are to wage a war against the “Antichrist” and “the imposters,” which are said to be the United States, Israel and their allies, including Arab leaders. The current uprisings in the Arab world are viewed as the fulfillment of prophecy and confirmation that they are to wage this final war against the enemies of Islam.

The film states that the invasion of Iraq was foretold, as Imam Ali said that “they [the enemies of Islam] will conquer Iraq and through bloodshed create divisions in tribes” and “at that time, be ready for the reappearance of the last messiah, Imam Mahdi.” The Iranian-backed Houthi rebellion in Yemen is referred to as a “holy revolution” and the removal of Egyptian President Mubarak are also End Times events.

It also preaches that the death of Saudi King Abdullah will be a major sign that the destruction of Israel and arrival of the Mahdi are imminent. The film almost immediately states, “Whoever guarantees the death of King Abdullah in Saudi Arabia, I will guarantee the imminent reappearance of the Mahdi,” a not-so-subtle call for his assassination. The film later refers to his “uncertain condition,” as he is ill and 86 years old and his demise is not far off. Once it happens, it will be seen as a green light by the Iranian regime.

The rise of the Muslim Brotherhood is addressed as being “in accordance with the Hadith.” The Brotherhood may be Sunni, but this film states that Iran is theologically-required to ally with it. The ties between Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood are not the result of converging interests but of religious commandment. The film says that according to Islamic prophecy, revolutions will happen in the Arab world that rid it of foreign influence and result in a united front to “reconquer Palestine.” As stated, it is taught that Ahmadinejad will accomplish this. If the film reflects the private views of the Iranian leadership, then it is clear the regime believes it is now on the precipice of leading a coalition to destroy Israel.

Iran’s support of terrorism and pursuit of nuclear weapons must be viewed in this context. Ayatollah Mesbah-Yazdi, widely believed to be a close spiritual guide to Ahmadinejad, has written of the need to make “special weapons” of the kind only a few countries possess, a likely reference to nuclear weapons. In February 2006, a follower of Mesbah-Yazdi that is a cleric in Qom said that “for the first time…the use of nuclear weapons may not constitute a problem, according to Sharia” and it is “only natural” for Iran to acquire them. In October 2010, the website belonging to the Ministry of Intelligence and Security published an article by an advisor to the Defense Minister that said Iran must be prepared for nuclear war. “[I]f the United States launches an unconventional attack, Iran needs to respond with a nuclear strategy,” it said.

Luckily, a top seminary in Qom rejected the comparison of Ahmadinejad to Shoeib-Ebne Saleh after a clip of the documentary was aired on Islamic Republic of Iran Voice and Vision. However, the religious beliefs of the Iranian regime are not contingent upon popular approval, and Reza Kahlili told FrontPage that a portion of the complete video is devoted to showing clerical support for its message.

For about 10 minutes, the video lists the names of clerics, including very influential ones like Ayatollah Haeri Shirazi and former Revolutionary Guards chief commander Seyed Yahya Safavi, who affirm their belief that Khamenei is Seyed Khorasani. This isn’t propaganda, the regime really believes it,” Kahlili said.

The documentary produced by the Iranian government confirms that it believes a final grand war against Islam’s enemies, which will culminate in the destruction of Israel, is not something to be avoided, but something to be sought. Recent events are being interpreted by the Iranian regime as prophetic fulfillments confirming that this war is near and its duty is to lead it. This is not a belief system that the West can accommodate.

Obama to President Bush

By: Larry Elder

Dear George,

The Gulf oil spill opened my eyes.

As with Hurricane Katrina, it happened suddenly. I barked out orders. I pounded my desk. But the oil kept flowing. Worse, the nation watched it all on television and said: "Why doesn't the President do something? Doesn't he care?" From then on, I fully understood both the expectations and the limitations of this job.

I ran on "hope and change." I said I would bring the sides together. The American people, I told Republicans who opposed my stimulus plan, have spoken. And "I won."

So without any of the bipartisan support you received for your tax cuts, my stimulus passed, and I confidently predicted it would prevent unemployment from reaching 8 percent. It climbed to 10.2 percent.

Without a single Republican vote, we passed "ObamaCare." But half of the states' attorneys general filed suit to stop it. And a year after its passage, most Americans want it repealed.

My party lost its House majority and its Senate supermajority. Voters wanted smaller government. Turns out voters wanted to retain the "Bush tax rates" -- even for the rich -- which I campaigned against. Again, the American people had spoken.

The morning starts, as you know, with an intelligence briefing. My goodness, does America have enemies -- hateful, violent, vicious enemies all over the world who are determined to destroy this nation! Our job is to prevent them from succeeding -- all of them, all of the time.

I labeled you a cowboy, promised humility and offered enemy countries an "outstretched hand" for their "unclenched fist." But calling the Global War on Terror an "overseas contingency operation" not only failed to deter the Islamofascists from wanting to kill us, it suggested a weakness that only strengthened their resolve.

Al-Qaida, Hezbollah, Hamas and the mullahs who run Iran, I learned, couldn't care less that I'm a person of color, born to a Muslim father from Kenya, and who lived in Indonesia. They hate us still.

Guantanamo Bay exists for a reason. It imprisons the worst of the worst. No other country will take these terrorists, and many former detainees have returned to the fight.

Gitmo is among many of your "Bush era" terror-fighting policies that I not only retained but, in some cases, even expanded. What once seemed reckless and wrongheaded, I now see as prudent attempts to strike that difficult balance between safety and freedom.

I came into this job eight years after September 11, 2001. I cannot imagine 3,000 Americans killed on my watch. I cannot imagine polls showing that 90 percent of us anticipated another attack within 12 months of the first, perhaps with chemical or biological weapons. I can imagine how you must have blamed yourself during those long, dark days, and spent every waking hour asking, "What can I do so this never happens again?"

This brings me to the Iraq War, a mission I once called "dumb."

Seventy-six percent of Americans, at the time, supported your decision. You obtained approval from Congress. By contrast, 47 percent support my actions in Libya, less support than for any military action taken in the last 40 years. Unlike you, I did not seek approval from Congress even though I once said the Constitution requires it.

Thanks to the Iraq War, Libya's Moammar Gadhafi surrendered his WMD. He poses no direct threat to America and cannot use these terrible weapons on his own people. Saddam Hussein, on the other hand, invaded his neighbors, used chemical weapons on his own people and shot at our planes patrolling the no-fly zones. All 16 of our intelligence agencies thought he possessed stockpiles of WMD, a prospect that threatened to make the 9/11 carnage look small.

I even opposed the "surge" in Iraq and predicted its failure. I now see this unpopular decision for what it was -- one of the most courageous decisions ever made by any of the 43 Americans who have sat behind this desk.

I vividly recall shaking my head during the speech you made to make the case for the "dumb" war. A disapproving New York Times wrote: "President Bush sketched an expansive vision. ... Mr. Bush talked about establishing a 'free and peaceful Iraq' that would serve as a 'dramatic and inspiring example' to the entire Arab and Muslim world ..."

Now I understand why, in 2008, you signed National Security Presidential Directive-58, Advancing the Freedom Agenda: "To protect America, we must defeat the ideology of hatred by spreading the hope of freedom. Over the past seven years, this is exactly what the administration has done."

It began with newly liberated Afghans and Iraqis who risked their lives by leaving their homes to vote for the first time. Your Freedom Agenda ignited the promising, historic "hope and change" we are now witnessing all throughout the Arab and Muslim world.

You were right. I was wrong. The nation -- and the world -- owes you a huge debt of gratitude.

Let's do lunch and then sneak in a round of golf. The "near beer" is on me.

With respect and appreciation,


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Who is the 12th imam?

Question: Who is the 12th imam?

Answer: First of all, bear in mind that Iran is a fervently Shiite Islamic Republic, with a 98 percent Muslim population and 89 percent of those Muslims identifying as Shiite, according to the CIA World Factbook. Twelver Shiism is the largest branch of Shiite Islam, with about 85 percent of Shiite adhering to the belief in the 12th imam. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, father of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, was a Twelver. So is the current supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Now, what does this mean? A series of imams was appointed to carry on the Prophet Muhammad's message, they believe, ranking above all other prophets except for Muhammad himself. The 12th, Muhammad al-Mahdi, is believed by these Shiites to have been born in present-day Iraq in 869 and never to have died, only gone into hiding. Twelvers -- not other Shiites or Sunni Muslims -- believe that al-Mahdi will return as a messiah with Jesus to bring peace to the world and establish Islam as the ruling faith across the globe.

The apocalyptic catch? The Mahdi is expected to appear when the world is wracked in utter chaos and war. Many Sunnis also believe that the Mahdi will come in such a judgment-day scenario, but believe that he has not been born yet.

The Twelver beliefs have raised concern in conjunction with Iran's steeped interest in furiously pressing forward with its nuclear program, combined with threats against Israel and the West. Critics of the Islamic Republic allege that Ahmadinejad and the supreme leader would even go so far as to hasten a nuclear showdown and cataclysmic strike -- perhaps an attack on Israel and inevitable retaliation -- to hasten the arrival of the 12th Imam. Ahmadinejad has even called for the reappearance of the 12th Imam from the podium of the United Nations General Assembly. During his speeches within Iran, Ahmadinejad has said that the main mission of the Islamic Revolution is to pave the way for the reappearance of the 12th Imam.

When NBC News' Ann Curry interviewed Ahmadinejad in Tehran in September 2009, she asked him about the Mahdi:

Ann Curry

Curry: In your speeches, you pray for God to hasten the arrival of the hidden Imam, the Muslim messiah. Would you tell us, as I know you will speak about this at the general assembly, as well. What is your relationship with the hidden Imam, and how soon do you think before the second coming?

mahmoud ahmadinejad
 Ahmadinejad: Yes, that’s true. I prayed for the arrival of the 12th Imam. The owner of the age, as we call him. Because the owner of the age is the symbol of the – justice and brotherly love prevailing around the world. When the Imam arrives, all of these problems will be resolved. And a prayer for the owner of the age is nothing but a wish for justice and brotherly love to prevail around the world. And it’s an obligation a person takes upon himself to always think about brotherly love. And also to treating others as equals. All people can establish such a connection with the Imam of the age. It’s roughly the same as the relationship which exists between Christians and the Christ. They speak with Jesus Christ and they are sure that Christ hears them. And responds. Therefore, this is not limited to us only. Any person can talk with the Imam.

Curry: You’ve said that you believe that his arrival, the apocalypse, would happen in your own lifetime. What do you believe that you should do to hasten his arrival?

Ahmadinejad: I have never said such a thing.

Curry: Ah, forgive me.

Ahmadinejad: I – I – I was talking about peace.

Curry: Forgive me.

Ahmadinejad: What is being said about an apocalyptic war and – global war, things of that nature. This is what the Zionists are claiming. Imam…will come with logic, with culture, with science. He will come so that there is no more war. No more enmity, hatred. No more conflict. He will call on everyone to enter a brotherly love. Of course, he will return with Jesus Christ. The two will come back together. And working together, they would fill this world with love. The stories that have been disseminated around the world about extensive war, apocalyptic wars, so on and so forth, these are false.

Rallies in Morocco

   "The people want a new constitution." "We want social justice, liberty, dignity."

Protest In Morocco

Slogans like these have been shouted throughout the week in Morocco in a series of protests led by a group of youngsters who met on Facebook and call themselves the "Feb 20 movement for change".

Followed by supporters from different political persuasions, they want constitutional reform, with a limitation on the power of the king, the dissolution of parliament, the resignation of the government, the release of all political prisoners, as well as official recognition of the Berber Tamazight language.

What they don't want is a revolution.

"Unlike in Tunisia and Egypt [where long-standing rulers have been forced out], these youngsters are demanding reform of the regime [through a democratic constitution], not a change of the existing regime," says political science professor Mohamed Darif.

If the political climate in Morocco is not the same as in Egypt and Tunisia, the social one is similar, according to members of the movement.

"We will be a part of this Arab spring," says 23-year-old Abdallah Aballagh, a leader of the Feb 20 movement who was a member of a left-wing political party for four years before quitting. "I am confident Morocco after Feb 20 is different from Morocco before Feb 20."

"I believe in radical change," says Yacine Falah, a long-time militant who joined the group. "But it's going to be extremely hard and will take a lot of time."

Morocco's King Mohamed VI

Morocco is viewed by many observers as immune to major political disturbance and therefore as an exception in the Arab world. But although King Mohamed VI remains very popular, Morocco's political leaders are highly discredited. The main power is in the hands of the king and his close advisers. The parliament, elected with a record low 37% turnout in 2007, is far from representative.

Corruption in recent years has increased, disparities between rich and poor remain, and as in Tunisia and Egypt, the unemployment rate is high, especially among the youth.

According to Oxford University professor Michael Willis, Morocco needs to rapidly initiate new reforms to stave off further discontent. "After what has happened in the last two months, anything could happen anywhere. It is less likely in Morocco, but all the ingredients are there," he says.

"There is the head of state who has been here for a shorter period of time. There is the feeling that in Morocco things have changed, unlike in other countries in the last decade. There is a memory than things have changed," Willis says. " However, the pace has slowed during the last five or six years and probably stopped. If the reform process doesn't start moving again, Morocco will build up problems for itself."

Morocco's Feb 20 movement was born on Facebook about a month ago. The revolution in Tunisia prompted these youngsters who had never met to organize a march calling for profound change in the kingdom. They agreed on a day to march across the country: February 20.

Left-wing militants, youngsters from various political parties, as well as Islamists united for peaceful marches in large cities including the capital Rabat, Casablanca, Marrakesh, Agadir, Tangiers, as well as smaller ones like Sefrou, Larache and Al Hoceima. Tens of thousands of people took part.

Feb 20 local groups have now spread to all major cities. In Rabat, though the group originally numbered only around 20, its name is on everyone's lips.

The Internet permitted them to meet and to reach out to tens of thousands of people with a now famous video in which 14 Moroccans of different origins explained why they planned to attend the march. The video cost about 50 dirhams (about US$7), Aballagh now jokes. They also exchanged thoughts online with fellow Tunisian militants before January's revolution.

"We helped them. We gave them advice to get round censorship, to spread information," says Falah. "Now Tunisians and Egyptians give us advice to avoid violence during demonstrations," adds Aballagh, in a discussion following a sit-in in Rabat.

A week after the march, protests were still taking place across the country. On Sunday, in the last of a series of sit-ins, hundreds of people showed up early at Bab el Had in Rabat, while dozens stopped just to get a glimpse of the event. About 400 militants chanted slogans against the media and police repression and urging other Moroccans to join them for real change in Morocco. State television was booed when its cameraman approached to film the event.

Feb 20 leaders announced on Sunday that weekly protests were planned for March. They insisted they should keep the momentum and, in the context of events in the wider region, had an historical opportunity for change that could not be missed.

This week will be a test for the movement, which has been highly criticized and at times repressed. Several militants from the movement and supporting human-rights organizations were hit and wounded by police forces during similar sit-ins last week.

In Rabat, many were skeptical that the movement could initiate major change in politics and argued that authorities should not have let these "troublemakers" protest more than once. Critics also falsely accused the movement of being led by "unknown", "atheist", "anti-monarchy" youngsters who will quickly be deterred from pursuing their actions.

Members of the group say they will not be deterred from continuing their struggle. They say they feel they are attracting increasing interest from local politicians. Political party leaders, who were at first against the march, are slowly starting to court the protesters by initiating dialogue.

According to the Feb 20 movement leaders, about 60 organizations now back the movement, including the Moroccan Association for Human Rights, the anti-globalization non-governmental organization Attach in Morocco, a few small left-wing political parties and trade unions.

However, no major political party has yet publicly declared its support, although a few seem to be eager to benefit from the success of the Feb 20 movement.

"The march was civilized," said a member of the national bureau of Morocco's socialist party, who called on its members not to take part. "Protests have become a normal thing in Morocco. We didn't march simply because we didn't know who was behind this movement."

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Unrest in Syria and Jordan Poses New Test for U.S. Policy

Riot Police In Syria

Even as the Obama administration defends the NATO-led air war in Libya, the latest violent clashes in Syria and Jordan are raising new alarm among senior officials who view those countries, in the heartland of the Arab world, as far more vital to American interests.

Deepening chaos in Syria, in particular, could dash any remaining hopes for a Middle East peace agreement, several analysts said. It could also alter the American rivalry with Iran for influence in the region and pose challenges to the United States’ greatest ally in the region, Israel.

In interviews, administration officials said the uprising appeared to be widespread, involving different religious groups in southern and coastal regions of Syria, including Sunni Muslims usually loyal to President Bashar al-Assad. The new American ambassador in Damascus, Robert Ford, has been quietly reaching out to Mr. Assad to urge him to stop firing on his people.

As American officials confront the upheaval in Syria, a country with which the United States has icy relations, they say they are pulled between fears that its problems could destabilize neighbors like Lebanon and Israel, and the hope that it could weaken one of Iran’s key allies.

The Syrian unrest continued on Saturday, with government troops reported to have killed more protesters.

With 61 people confirmed killed by security forces, the country’s status as an island of stability amid the Middle East storm seemed irretrievably lost.

For two years, the United States has tried to coax Damascus into negotiating a peace deal with Israel and to moving away from Iran — a fruitless effort that has left President Obama open to criticism on Capitol Hill that he is bolstering one of the most repressive regimes in the Arab world.

Officials fear the unrest there and in Jordan could leave Israel further isolated. The Israeli government was already rattled by the overthrow of Egypt’s leader, Hosni Mubarak, worrying that a new government might not be as committed to Egypt’s 1979 peace treaty with Israel.

While Israel has largely managed to avoid being drawn into the region’s turmoil, last week’s bombing of a bus in Jerusalem, which killed one person and wounded 30, and a rain of rocket attacks from Gaza, have fanned fears that the militant group Hamas is trying to exploit the uncertainty.

The unrest in Jordan, which has its own peace treaty with Israel, is also extremely worrying, a senior administration official said. The United States does not believe Jordan is close to a tipping point, this official said. But the clashes, which left one person dead and more than a hundred wounded, pose the gravest challenge yet to King Abdullah II, a close American ally.

Syria, however, is the more urgent crisis — one that could pose a thorny dilemma for the administration if Mr. Assad carries out a crackdown like that of his father and predecessor, Hafez al-Assad, who ordered a bombardment in 1982 that killed at least 10,000 people in the northern city of Hama. Having intervened in Libya to prevent a wholesale slaughter in Benghazi, some analysts asked, how could the administration not do the same in Syria?

Though no one is yet talking about a no-fly zone over Syria, Obama administration officials acknowledge the parallels to Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi. Some analysts predicted the administration would be cautious in pressing Mr. Assad, not because of any allegiance to him but out of a fear of what could follow him — a Sunni-led government potentially more radical and Islamist than his Alawite minority regime.

Still, after the violence, administration officials said Mr. Assad’s future was unclear. “Whatever credibility the government had, they shot it today — literally,” said a senior official about Syria, speaking on the condition that he not be named.

In the process, he said, Mr. Assad had also probably disqualified himself as a peace partner for Israel. Such a prospect had seemed a long shot in any event — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has shown no inclination to talk to Mr. Assad — but the administration kept working at it, sending its special envoy, George J. Mitchell, on several visits to Damascus.

Mr. Assad has said that he wants to negotiate a peace agreement with Israel. But with his population up in arms, analysts said, he might actually have an incentive to pick a fight with its neighbor, if only to deflect attention from the festering problems at home.

“You can’t have a comprehensive peace without Syria,” the administration official said. “It’s definitely in our interest to pursue an agreement, but you can’t do it with a government that has no credibility with its population.”

Indeed, the crackdown calls into question the entire American engagement with Syria. Last June, the State Department organized a delegation from Microsoft, Dell and Cisco Systems to visit Mr. Assad with the message that he could attract more investment if he stopped censoring Facebook and Twitter. While the administration renewed economic sanctions against Syria, it approved export licenses for some civilian aircraft parts.

The Bush administration, by contrast, largely shunned Damascus, recalling its ambassador in February 2005 after the assassination of a former Lebanese prime minister, Rafik Hariri. Many Lebanese accuse Syria of involvement in the assassination, a charge it denies.

When Mr. Obama named Mr. Ford as his envoy last year, Republicans in the Senate held up the appointment for months, arguing that the United States should not reward Syria with closer ties. The administration said it would have more influence by restoring an ambassador.

But officials also concede that Mr. Assad has been an endless source of frustration — deepening ties with Iran and the Islamic militant group, Hezbollah; undermining the government of Saad Hariri in Lebanon; pursuing a nuclear program; and failing to deliver on promises of reform.

Some analysts said that the United States was so eager to use Syria to break the deadlock on Middle East peace negotiations that it had failed to push Mr. Assad harder on political reforms.

“He’s given us nothing, even though we’ve engaged him on the peace process,” said Andrew J. Tabler, who lived in Syria for a decade and is now at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “I’m not saying we should give up on peace talks with Israel, but we cannot base our strategy on that.”

The United States does not have the leverage with Syria it had with Egypt. But Mr. Tabler said the administration could stiffen sanctions to press Mr. Assad to make reforms.

Other analysts, however, point to a positive effect of the unrest: it could deprive Iran of a reliable ally in extending its influence over Lebanon, Hezbollah and the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.

That is not a small thing, they said, given that Iran is likely to benefit from the fall of Mr. Mubarak in Egypt, the upheaval in Bahrain, and the resulting chill between the United States and Saudi Arabia.

“There’s much more upside than downside for the U.S.,” said Martin S. Indyk, the vice president for foreign policy at the Brookings Institution. “We have an interest in counterbalancing the advantages Iran has gained in the rest of the region. That makes it an unusual confluence of our values and interests.”

Monday, March 28, 2011

Are We Ready For Syria To Enter The Fray?

Syrian Protest

61 Dead Since Uprisings in Syria Began

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad
 Security forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad fired tear gas on thousands of demonstrators today in a crackdown aimed at suppressing the recent popular uprisings, according to reports.

Syrian troops opened fire on a crowd of up to 4,000 protesters in the southern city of Daraa, reported eyewitnesses. At least 61 civilians have been killed since rallies began March 18, said Human Rights Watch, after security forces opened fire on demonstrators in at least six locations around the nation.

Protesters gathered in Daraa today, inspired by pro-democracy demonstrations in other Arab countries, to call for more political freedoms in Syria.

Assad's forces fired tear gas at the crowd and live ammunition into the air to disperse the demonstrators.

Syrian Vice President Farouq al-Shara

Syrian Vice President Farouq al-Shara said Assad is planning to give an important speech within the next two days in an apparent effort to ease the tension. The government also has pledged that it would consider lifting some of the country's oppressive emergency laws to appease the protesters.

"I think he is not decided on whether to go on television and try to defuse the situation or choose an even more brutal crackdown route," a senior diplomat in Damascus said, Reuters reported. "I do not see Assad scrapping emergency law without replacing it with something just as bad."

Assad has been criticized by many foreign nations for his implementation of violence against his own civilians.

The domestic arguments over the Obama Administration's response to the Arab Spring have largely been, so far, the narcissism of small differences.

Conservatives have criticized the timing and at times the volume of the White House's reaction, some thought Obama should have ditched Mubarak sooner, a few thought he should have ditched him later, but it's hard to imagine President Bush or Clinton responding much differently to Egypt or Libya, or avoiding a similarly awkward straddle over Bahrain and Yemen.

The domestic argument over the unfolding crisis in Syria is different. The Administration appears to have chosen, or at least chosen to appear, to bet on and to court the oppressive, pro-Iranian ruler, Bashar al-Assad, whom Hillary Clinton cast as a "reformer." (An opposition spokesman told Eli Lake her line was "ridiculous." The Times reported yesterday that top American officials are worried his fall could scuttle the Arab-Israeli peace process, which is curious because the process barely exists.

Many of the conservatives who have, sometimes grudgingly, supported Obama over the last few weeks, view Assad as an Iranian stooge whom the U.S. should do everything to dislodge. They are, I suspect, going to breaks ranks pretty forcefully on the Administration's direction, not just the details of its possition on Syria.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Obama's anti oil agenda

How can I cut all oil imports to US

When he releases his new budget in two weeks, President Obama will propose doing away with roughly $4 billion a year in subsidies and tax breaks for oil companies, in his third effort to eliminate federal support for an industry that remains hugely profitable.

Previous efforts have run up against bipartisan opposition in Congress and heavy lobbying from producers of oil, natural gas and coal. The head of the oil and gas lobby in Washington contends that the president has it backward — that the industry subsidizes the government, through billions of dollars in taxes and royalties, not the other way around.

But even as the president says he wants to do away with incentives for fossil fuels, his policies continue to provide for substantial aid to oil and gas companies as well as billions of dollars in subsidies for coal, nuclear and other energy sources with large and long-lasting environmental impacts.

Mr. Obama’s proposal rekindles a long-running debate over federal subsidies for energy of all kinds, including petroleum, coal, hydropower, wind, solar and biofuels. Opposition to such subsidies — often euphemistically referred to as incentives, tax credits, preferences or loan guarantees — spans the ideological spectrum, from conservative economists who believe such breaks distort the marketplace to environmentalists who believe that renewable energy sources will always lose out in subsidy fights because of the power of the entrenched fossil fuel industries.

David W. Kreutzer, an energy economist at the conservative Heritage Foundation, argues that the federal government should take its thumb off the scale by eliminating subsidies for all forms of energy, even it if means slowing development of cleaner-burning fuel sources.

“We would like to get rid of all subsidies,” Dr. Kreutzer said. “We know that petroleum and coal survive just fine in places where there are no subsidies. I don’t know if that’s true for wind and solar now, but someday it will be, when the price comes down.”

H. Jeffrey Leonard, president of the Global Environment Fund, a private equity firm that invests in clean-technology ventures, said that the current subsidy structure was the legacy of 60 years of lobbying and political jockeying in Washington that largely benefits oil, coal, nuclear power and corn-based ethanol. He calls for scrapping all subsidies and letting fuel sources compete on equal ground.

Mr. Obama is not willing to go that far. He has supported favored tax treatment for wind and solar power as well as a 50 percent increase in federal research spending on other alternative energy sources. He also has proposed as much as $50 billion in federal loan guarantees for nuclear power plant construction, money he believes is needed because the private market is unwilling to assume the potential costs of a catastrophic accident.

Energy economists say that the president’s call in the State of the Union address for doubling the amount of electricity produced from cleaner technology by 2035 is designed to manipulate energy markets, forcing utilities to shift to the government’s preferred sources of energy on the government’s timetable, although leaving to them the choice of fuels.

One of the problems with the Obama energy policy is that it is strangling the domestic production of oil and gas where ever it can. From ANWR to the Western states, and offshore everywhere it is trying everything it can to make it more difficult to impossible to produce oil and gas. If it were truly looking for a grand bargain it would tie the removal of the restrictions with the removal of any subsidies.
It is true that the government makes money off of the oil and gas business. It takes in more in taxes on every gallon of gas than the oil companies who take the risk and produce it do. It takes in even more in royalties on extraction of federal lands and offshore wells. In the areas it has locked off from drilling there is over a trillion dollars in royalties also locked up. You would think they would in a sane world be developing those resources. We are going to burn the same amount of oil and gas anyway. It might as well be ours.

The current subsidies for "alternative" energy are a sinkhole investment. Solar currently does not save enough over the life of the investment to pay for itself, much less save money in most applications. Wind is too unreliable. They are both inefficient.

A sane energy policy would convert as much as possible to the use of natural gas and nuclear energy. Obama is unlikely to do anything that realistic. He belief in green energy appears to be faith based, since there are no facts to support it and there are examples like Spain that actually show it is a disastrous policy.

Friday, March 25, 2011

A History Of Terror

On March 19, military forces from the United States, France and Great Britain began to enforce U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973, which called for the establishment of a no-fly zone over Libya and authorized the countries involved in enforcing the zone to “take all necessary measures” to protect civilians and “civilian-populated areas under threat of attack.” Obviously, such military operations cannot be imposed against the will of a hostile nation without first removing the country’s ability to interfere with the no-fly zone — and removing this ability to resist requires strikes against military command-and-control centers, surface-to-air missile installations and military airfields. This means that the no-fly zone not only was a defensive measure to protect the rebels — it also required an attack upon the government of Libya.

Certainly, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi has no doubt that the U.S. and European military operations against the Libyan military targets are attacks against his regime. He has specifically warned France and the United Kingdom that they would come to regret the intervention. Now, such threats could be construed to mean that should Gadhafi survive, he will seek to cut off the countries’ access to Libyan energy resources in the future. However, given Libya’s past use of terrorist strikes to lash out when attacked by Western powers, Gadhafi’s threats certainly raise the possibility that, desperate and hurting, he will once again return to terrorism as a means to seek retribution for the attacks against his regime. While threats of sanctions and retaliation have tempered Gadhafi’s use of terrorism in recent years, his fear may evaporate if he comes to believe he has nothing to lose.
History of Libyan Reactions
Gulf Of Sidra
Throughout the early 1980s, the U.S. Navy contested Libya’s claim to the Gulf of Sidra and said the gulf was international water. This resulted in several minor skirmishes, such as the incident in August 1981 when U.S. Navy fighters downed two Libyan aircraft. Perhaps the most costly of these skirmishes for Libya occurred in March 1986, when a U.S. task force sank two Libyan ships and attacked a number of Libyan surface-to-air missile sites that had launched missiles at U.S. warplanes.

The Libyans were enraged by the 1986 incident, but as the incident highlighted, they lacked the means to respond militarily due to the overwhelming superiority of U.S. forces. This prompted the Libyans to employ other means to seek revenge. Gadhafi had long seen himself as the successor to Gamal Abdel Nasser as the leader of Arab nationalism and sought to assert himself in a number of ways. Lacking the population and military of Egypt, or the finances of Saudi Arabia, he began to use terrorism and the support of terrorist groups as a way to undermine his rivals for power in the Arab world. Later, when he had been soundly rejected by the Arab world, he began to turn his attention to Africa, where he employed these same tools. They could also be used against what Gadhafi viewed as imperial powers.
TWA Flight 840

On April 2, 1986, a bomb tore a hole in the side of TWA Flight 840 as it was flying from Rome to Athens. The explosion killed four American passengers and injured several others. The attack was claimed by the Arab Revolutionary Cells but is believed to have been carried out by the Abu Nidal Organization (ANO), one of the Marxist terrorist groups heavily sponsored by Libya.

On the evening of April 5, 1986, a bomb detonated in the La Belle disco in Berlin. Two U.S. soldiers and one civilian were killed in the blast and some 200 others were injured. Communications between Tripoli and the Libyan People’s Bureau (its embassy) in East Berlin were intercepted by the United States, which, armed with this smoking gun tying Libya to the La Belle attack, launched a retaliatory attack on Libya the night of April 15, 1986, that included a strike against Gadhafi’s residential compound and military headquarters at Bab Al Azizia, south of Tripoli. The strike narrowly missed killing Gadhafi, who had been warned of the impending attack. The warning was reportedly provided by either a Maltese or Italian politician, depending on which version of the story one hears.

The Libyan government later claimed that the attack killed Gadhafi’s young daughter, but this was pure propaganda. It did, however, anger and humiliate Gadhafi, though he lacked the ability to respond militarily. In the wake of the attack on his compound, Gadhafi feared additional reprisals and began to exercise his terrorist hand far more carefully and in a manner to provide at least some degree of deniability. One way he did this was by using proxy groups to conduct his strikes, such as the ANO and the Japanese Red Army (JRA). It did not take Gadhafi’s forces long to respond. On the very night of the April 15 U.S. attack, U.S. Embassy communications officer William Calkins was shot and critically wounded in Khartoum, Sudan, by a Libyan revolutionary surrogates in Sudan. On April 25, Arthur Pollock, a communicator at the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa, was also shot and seriously wounded by an ANO gunman.
Pan Am Flight 103

In May 1986, the JRA attacked the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, with an improvised mortar that caused little damage, and the JRA conducted similar ineffective attacks against the U.S. Embassy in Madrid in February and April of 1987. In June 1987, JRA operatives attacked the U.S. Embassy in Rome using vehicle-borne improvised explosive device and an improvised mortar. In April 1988, the group attacked the USO club in Naples. JRA bomb maker Yu Kikumura was arrested on the New Jersey Turnpike in April 1988 while en route to New York City to conduct a bombing attack there. The use of ANO and JRA surrogates provided Gadhafi with some plausible deniability for these attacks, but there is little doubt that he was behind them. Then on Dec. 21, 1988, Libyan agents operating in Malta succeeded in placing a bomb aboard Pan Am Flight 103, which was destroyed in the air over Scotland. All 259 passengers and crew members aboard that flight died, as did 11 residents of Lockerbie, Scotland, the town where the remnants of the Boeing 747 jumbo jet fell. Had the jet exploded over the North Atlantic as intended instead of over Scotland, the evidence that implicated Libya in the attack most likely never would have been found.

But the United States has not been the only target of Libyan terrorism. While the Libyans were busy claiming the Gulf of Sidra during the 1980s, they were also quite involved in propagating a number of coups and civil wars in Africa. One civil war in which they became quite involved was in neighboring Chad. During their military intervention there, the Libyans suffered heavy losses and eventually defeat due to French intervention on the side of the Chadian government. Not having the military might to respond to France militarily, Gadhafi once again chose the veiled terrorist hand. On Sept. 19, 1989, UTA Flight 772 exploded shortly after taking off from N’Djamena, Chad, en route to Paris. All 156 passengers and 14 crew members were killed by the explosion. The French government investigation into the crash found that the aircraft went down as a result of a bombing and that the bomb had been placed aboard the aircraft in Brazzaville, the Republic of the Congo, by Congolese rebels working with the Libyan People’s Bureau there. Six Libyans were tried in absentia and convicted for their part in the attack.

The Current Situation

Today Libya finds itself once again being attacked by an opponent with an overwhelmingly powerful military that Gadhafi’s forces cannot stand up to. While Gadhafi did take responsibility for some of Libya’s past terrorist attacks and publicly renounced terrorism in 2003, this step was a purely pragmatic move on his part. It was not the result of some ideological epiphany that suddenly caused Gadhafi to become a kinder and gentler guy. From the late 1980s to the renunciation of terrorism in 2003, Gadhafi retained the capability to continue using terrorism as a foreign policy tool but simply chose not to. And this capability remains in his tool box.

Unlike his views of past crises, Gadhafi sees the current attacks against him as being far more dangerous to the survival of his regime than the Gulf of Sidra skirmishes or the French military operations in Chad. Gadhafi has always been quite cold and calculating. He has not hesitated to use violence against those who have affronted him, even his own people. Now he is cornered and fearful for his very survival. Because of this, there is a very real possibility that the Libyans will employ terrorism against the members of the coalition now implementing and enforcing the no-fly zone.

Gadhafi has a long history of using diplomatic staff, which the Libyans refer to as “revolutionary committees,” to conduct all sorts of skullduggery, from planning terrorist attacks to fomenting coups. Indeed, these diplomats have often served as agents for spreading Gadhafi’s revolutionary principles elsewhere. Because of this history, coalition members will almost certainly be carefully monitoring the activities of Libyan diplomats within their countries — and elsewhere.

As illustrated by most of the above-mentioned terrorist attacks launched or commissioned by the Libyans, they have frequently conducted attacks against their targeted country in a third country. This process of monitoring Libyan diplomats will be greatly aided by the defection of a large number of diplomats in a variety of countries who undoubtedly have been thoroughly debriefed by security agencies looking for any hints that Gadhafi is looking to resume his practice of terrorism. These defectors will also prove helpful in identifying intelligence officers still loyal to Gadhafi and perhaps even in locating Libyan intelligence officers working under non-official cover.

But diplomats are not the only source Gadhafi can tap for assistance. As noted above, Gadhafi has a long history of using proxies to conduct terrorist attacks. Using a proxy provides Gadhafi with the plausible deniability he requires to continue to spin his story to the world that he is an innocent victim of senseless aggression. Perhaps more important, hiding his hand can also help prevent reprisal attacks. While most of the 1980s-era Marxist proxy groups the Libyans worked with are defunct, Gadhafi does have other options.

One option is to reach out to regional jihadist groups such as al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), while another is to cultivate already improving relationships with jihadists groups in Libya such as the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG). Indeed, Gadhafi has released hundreds of LFIG members from prison, a process that continued even after the unrest began in February. It is doubtful that the LIFG really feels any affinity for Gadhafi — the group launched an insurgency against his regime in the mid-1990s and actually tried to assassinate him — but it could be used to funnel funds and weapons to regional groups like AQIM. Such groups certainly have no love for the French, Americans or British and might be willing to conduct attacks against their interests in exchange for weapons and funding from Libya. AQIM is desperate for resources and has been involved in kidnapping for ransom and drug smuggling to raise funds to continue its struggle. This need might help it overcome its disdain for Gadhafi.

In the long run groups like AQIM and LIFG certainly would pose a threat to Gadhafi, but facing the very real existential threat from the overwhelming military force now being arrayed against him, Gadhafi may view the jihadist threat as far less pressing and severe.

Other potential agents for Libyan terrorist attacks are the various African rebel and revolutionary groups Gadhafi has maintained contact with and even supported over the years. Many of the mercenaries that have reportedly fought on the side of the Libyan loyalist forces have come from such groups. It is not out of the realm of possibility that Gadhafi could call upon such allies to attack French, British, Italian or American interests in his allies’ respective countries. Such actors would have ready access to weapons (likely furnished by Libya to begin with), and the capabilities of host-country security services are quite limited in many African states. This would make them ideal places to conduct terrorist attacks. However, due to the limited capabilities exhibited by such groups, they would likely require direct Libyan oversight and guidance (the kind of direct Libyan guidance for African rebels demonstrated in the UTA Flight 772 bombing) if they were to conduct attacks against hardened targets in Africa such as foreign embassies.

Also, as seen in the wake of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s Christmas Day bomb plot in 2009, which originated in Ghana, passenger and cargo screening at African airports is not as stringent as it is elsewhere. When combined with Libya’s history of attacking aircraft, and placing bombs aboard foreign aircraft in third countries, the possibility of such an attack must surely be of grave concern for Western security officials.

Terrorism, however, has its limitations, as shown by Gadhafi’s activities in the 1980s. While the Libyans were able to launch several successful terrorist strikes, kill hundreds of people and traumatize many more through terror multipliers like the media, they were not able to cause any sort of lasting impact on the foreign policies of the United States or France. The attacks only served to harden the resolve of those countries to impose their will on Gadhafi, and he eventually capitulated and renounced terrorism. 

Those Libyan-sponsored attacks in the 1980s are also an important factor governing the way the world views the now "Late" Gadhafi — and today they may be playing a large part in the decision made by countries like France that Gadhafi must go. Of course, it is also this attitude — that Gadhafi must be forced out — that could lead him to believe he has nothing to lose by playing the terrorism card once again.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Yemen’s Government Poised to Fall to the Muslim Brotherhood and Al-Qaeda

Yemeni Protestors

The editor-in-chief of the Yemen Post, believes Yemeni President Saleh’s 32-year reign will end within the next 24 hours. A top military leader has turned on him and ordered his forces to protect the protesters. Unless Saleh is able to fight a civil war, the leader will soon be gone, and an opening for Iranian proxies, the Muslim Brotherhood and Al-Qaeda, will be created.

Yemen's President Saleh

Hakim Almasmari says that at least 18 of the strongest military commanders have joined the opposition and up to 90 percent of all the military is no longer loyal to Saleh. “The military have made it clear that a national emergency government will be announced”.

The tipping point came on March 18 when 52 protesters were killed in Sanaa and 200 wounded when up to 1.5 million people rallied and Saleh ordered his security forces to forcibly disperse them, including through the use of rooftop-stationed snipers that shot to kill. Some reporters were kicked out of the country and a 30-day state of emergency was declared. Al-Jazeera says its office in the capital has been seized. Outrage had already been caused by the use of violence on a smaller scale with protesters comparing Saleh to Saddam Hussein’s “Chemical Ali” after tear gas hospitalized many demonstrators. The steady pace of resignations and defections went into overdrive after the latest brutality.

Ali Hassan al-Majid, "Chemical Ali"

In the aftermath of the attack, the Tourism and Human Rights Ministers resigned as did more members of Saleh’s ruling party. A large amount of parliamentarians planned to jointly resign and were pre-empted when Saleh fired his government. Over 40 members of parliament, nearly 10 ambassadors, three of the five military zone commanders and senior officials and tribal chiefs, have joined the opposition in calling for Saleh’s removal as of yesterday. Among those that defected were top military leaders that belong to Saleh’s Hashid tribe, the leader of which has also become his enemy.
General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar

STRATFOR identifies Brigadier-General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, the commander of the 1st Armored Division who is also in charge of the northwest military zone, as the biggest threat to Saleh and his possible replacement. He is backed by the Hashid tribe and on March 21, ordered his forces to protect protesters from further attacks. His troops are now near the presidential palace and could topple Saleh, but would have to fight the Republican Guard units under the command of Saleh’s son, Ahmed. This would lead to a military takeover that then would lead the country into a transitional period.

This turn of events comes after a long list of concessions that failed to appease the population. Saleh announced that he would not run for re-election in 2013 and would not hand power over to his son. He offered a unity government that included the opposition, released some journalists and activists, raised government salaries, slashed income taxes by 60 percent and made many other promises. His only choice now is to depart or fight, as the opposition will clearly not give up its goal of removing him from power. It is very possible Saleh will ask the Saudis for military intervention as they have done in Bahrain, as the Royal family also fears the Iranian-backed Houthis, Al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood elements that stand to benefit from his fall.
Sheikh Abdul Majidal-Zindani

It is unlikely that Saleh can recover, which raises the question of what a post-Saleh Yemen would look like. The most likely scenario is a military takeover as mentioned, but even this event would lead to instability that will be exploited by enemies of the West. It is inconceivable that the Joint Meetings Parties, a coalition of opposition groups, will not play a major role in the next government. Of these parties, the Muslim Brotherhood-founded and Salafist-supported Islah is the most powerful. One of its most senior figures, Sheikh Abdul Majidal-Zindani, has been sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department for his involvement with Al-Qaeda and he is also connected to Hamas and the Brotherhood’s Sheikh Yousef al-Qaradawi. The group also supports creating a religious police to “promote virtue and combat vice.”

The heavily-armed Shiite Houthi rebels in the north that spearheaded an Iranian proxy war against the Yemeni and Saudi governments will have an opportunity to establish a stronghold and perhaps even an autonomous region. Al-Qaeda has 300 to 500 operatives in Abyan, Shabwan and Marib Provinces and the population is largely unconcerned with the terrorist group. Anwar al-Awlaki comes from one of the largest tribes in Yemen who have thus far declined to arrest him.

The U.S. is now in a tricky spot. The French Foreign Minister has now said that Saleh’s resignation is unavoidable. The Obama Administration is condemning the violence but is not calling on Saleh to resign, perhaps clinging to the dwindling hope he can be saved. Saleh has given incomplete but crucial support to the U.S. in the fight against Al-Qaeda and is a fierce enemy of Iran. However, he has taken an anti-American tone in his rhetoric lately, accusing the opposition of being part of a Zionist-American conspiracy.

“I am going to reveal a secret. There is an operations room in Tel Aviv with the aim of destabilizing the Arab world. The operations room is in Tel Aviv and run by the White House,” Saleh said.

Whether Saleh stays or goes, power is being decentralized and local groups will be able to assert themselves. The regime will be too preoccupied to take on Iranian proxies or terrorist groups regardless of who leads it. For the West’s enemies, a window has opened in Yemen.

Navy running short of Tomahawk missiles

The Navy could run out of Tomahawk missiles after a fifth of the Navy stockpile has been used against Libya, sources disclosed yesterday.

Defense insiders say as many as 12 of the weapons have been fired from the hunter–killer submarine Triumph in the past four days.

If this is correct, the Navy will have used up to 20 per cent of its 64 Tomahawks in the opening salvos of the war, leading to fears that it is "burning through" its armory.

The situation could become an embarrassment for the Government if the submarine were the only vessel within range of a number of targets but could not fulfill the mission.

The submarines are stealthy and can loiter offshore unseen before going to depth to fire the Tomahawks.

The Block Four variant of the missile can travel more than 850 miles, can be retargeted in flight and can loiter above a target for more than two hours.

It is understood that plans are being made either to resupply Triumph or send another Trafalgar–class submarine to the Mediterranean as a substitute.

Triumph can carry up to 25 missiles or torpedoes. It is likely to have been loaded with as many as 20 of the long–range strike weapons. However, it is now likely to have used half its armory.

Questions have been raised about why the number of Tomahawks was not increased during last year's Strategic Defense and Security Review which highlighted the role for submarines to be used for "strike capability".

"At this rate we are using up five or ten per cent of our stock per day and soon it could become unsustainable," a defense industry source said. "What if the strikes go beyond a second week? We will simply run out of ammunition."

Several of the 64 Tomahawks are being serviced because their fuel and computers need to be regularly checked.

However, a senior Navy source said: "If we need to have a submarine on task we will have a submarine on task. You have to remember that the UK is part of wider coalition."

The Navy has also indicated that it could rely on the American fleet to provide emergency stocks of Tomahawks if they ran out.

A Ministry of Defense official said the Navy would still remain "poised to deliver missiles if it needs to".

He said: "As we take out static targets the number of opportunities to use the Tomahawk will decrease."

The battle to enforce the no–fly zone over Libya is costing the taxpayer millions of pounds a day.

The cost of the four–day operation to date is £28.5million, The Daily Telegraph has learnt.

The cost of putting four Tornado GR4 bombers, three Euro fighter Typhoons plus support aircraft into action is an estimated £3,216,000 a day. The Tornado costs £33,000 an hour to operate, including fuel, capital costs and crew training and the Typhoon costs £80,000 an hour.

The Storm Shadow missiles and submarine–launched Tomahawks cost £1.1million and £800,000 each.

Defense chiefs are said to be lobbying the Prime Minister to ensure that the extra costs are paid from the Treasury's reserve budget. "This is a huge issue for us," said a senior military planner. "Who is going to pay for this?"

The Government is paying almost £5billion a year for the 10,000 troops in Afghanistan.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Libya vs the Constitution

With military action taking place in Libya right now, the essential question must be asked: Is it even Constitutional? For those of you who don’t want to read more than a sentence or two, here’s the short answer. Absolutely not.


The ninth and tenth amendments, while they didn’t add anything new, defined the Constitution. In short, they tell us that the federal government is only authorized to exercise those powers delegated to it in the Constitution…and nothing more. Everything else is either prohibited or retained by the states or people themselves.

What does this have to do with Libya? Well, whenever the federal government does anything, the first question should always be, “where in the Constitution is the authority to do this?” What follows here is an answer regarding American bombs being dropped on Libya.


Ever since the Korean War, Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution has been regularly cited as justification for the President to act with a seemingly free reign in the realm of foreign policy – including the initiation of foreign wars. But, it is Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution that lists the power to declare war, and this power is placed solely in the hands of Congress.

Article II, Section 2, on the other hand, refers to the President as the “commander-in-chief of the army and navy of the United States.” What the founders meant by this clause was that once war was declared, it would then be the responsibility of the President, as the commander-in-chief, to direct the war.

Alexander Hamilton clarified this when he said that the President, while lacking the power to declare war, would have “the direction of war when authorized.”

Thomas Jefferson reaffirmed this quite eloquently when, in 1801, he said that, as President, he was “unauthorized by the Constitution, without the sanction of Congress, to go beyond the line of defense.”

In Federalist #69, Alexander Hamilton explained that the President’s authority:

“Would be nominally the same with that of the King of Great Britain, but in substance much inferior to it. It would amount to nothing more than the supreme command and direction of the military and naval forces, as first general and admiral of the confederacy; while that of the British king extends to the declaring of war, and to the raising and regulating of fleets and armies; all which by the constitution under consideration would appertain to the legislature.”

James Madison warned us that the power of declaring war must be kept away from the executive branch when he wrote to Thomas Jefferson:

“The constitution supposes, what the history of all governments demonstrates, that the executive is the branch of power most interested in war, and most prone to it. It has accordingly with studied care vested the question of war in the legislature.”


If, like any legal document, the words of the Constitution mean today just what they meant the moment it was signed, we must first look for the 18th Century meaning of the words used. Here’s a few common 18th-century definitions of the important words:

--War: The exercise of violence against withstanders under a foreign command.

--Declare: Expressing something before it is promised, decreed, or acted upon.

--Invade: To attack a country; to make a hostile entrance

What does this all mean? Unless the country is being invaded, if congress does not declare war against another country, the president is constitutionally barred from waging it, no matter how much he desires to do so. Pre-emptive strikes and undeclared offensive military expeditions are not powers delegated to the federal government in the Constitution, and are, therefore, unlawful.


Here’s the quick overview of how this all plays out:

* In Constitutional terms, the United States is currently at war with Libya.

* Libya is not invading the United States, nor has it threatened to do so.

* Congress has not declared war. Barack Obama did.

Some would claim, and news articles are already reporting on it, that the 1973 war powers resolution authorizes the President to start a war as long as it’s reported to Congress within 48 hours. Then, Congress would have 60 days to authorize the action, or extend it.

The only question you should have to ask for this would be – “where in the Constitution is congress given the authority to change the constitution by resolution?”

It doesn’t. And that resolution, in and of itself, is a Constitutional violation. More on that in a future article, of course.

James Madison had something to say about such a plan when he wrote:

“The executive has no right, in any case, to decide the question, whether there is or is not cause for declaring war.”

War Powers resolution or no war powers resolution – without a Congressional declaration, the president is not authorized to start an offensive military campaign. Period.

The bottom line? By using US Military to begin hostilities with a foreign nation without a Congressional declaration of war, Barack Obama has committed a serious violation of the Constitution. While he certainly is not the first to do so in regards to war powers, it’s high time that he becomes the last.