JFP 3/24: Arab opinion turning on Libya war

Just Foreign Policy News
March 24, 2011

*Action: Pressure Congress to Debate Libya
Whatever one thinks of the ongoing U.S. military intervention in Libya, President Obama has set a dangerous precedent by embarking on a major military operation in Libya without Congressional authorization. Eight Members of the House have brought forward H. Con. Res. 31, a bi-partisan resolution affirming that the President must obtain specific statutory authorization for the use of U.S. armed forces in Libya. Ask your Representative to join them in affirming that U.S. military action in Libya must have Congressional authorization.
http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/act/debatelibya

When the House Comes Back, You're Gonna Get in Trouble
President Obama has dropped a bomb on the War Powers Resolution. It's essential for Congress to push back. There are plenty of things Congress can do: explicitly prohibit the introduction of ground forces, prohibit the overflight of Libya by US planes, establish a timetable for the withdrawal of US forces, place a cap on what the Administration can spend. There are plenty of good historical precedents, including the efforts to limit the Clinton Administration's wars in Yugoslavia.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-naiman/when-the-house-comes-back_b_840155.html

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Summary:
U.S./Top News
1) Signs were emerging that Arab public opinion on the war in Libya has shifted, with concern growing that the U.S.-led military campaign could turn into a long-term occupation similar to the war in Iraq, the Washington Post reports. Al-Azhar University, Egypt's preeminent seat of Islamic learning, warned against any foreign occupation of Libyan land and cautioned "the United States of America and European countries against dividing Libya and destroying its human and national wealth, as happened in Iraq." The university's Islamic scholars also criticized Arab leaders - in an implicit reference to the Arab League - for inviting outside intervention in Libya and supporting the no-fly zone.

Before the U.N. Security Council vote, Defense Secretary Gates warned publicly that Washington should gird for a popular backlash among Arabs if it became involved in a war in another Muslim country, the Post notes.

2) Members of Congress are discussing several mechanisms to cut off funding for U.S. military operations in Libya, arguing that since President Obama did not obtain congressional authorization, he is essentially waging an unconstitutional war, the Huffington Post reports.

There are three main efforts floating around Capitol Hill while Congress is in recess, according to a Republican House staffer. A resolution by Rep. Ron Paul expressed the sense of Congress that the president had to get the legislature's approval before using the armed forces in Libya. A standalone bill would prohibit the president from using force by the U.S. military in the Libya operation. This legislation is being explored by the offices of Rep. Tim Johnson and Rep. Justin Amash. A third effort would be an amendment to the next continuing resolution, which will come up two weeks from Friday. This measure would cut off funding for the Libyan operation. Rep. Dennis Kucinich announced on Tuesday that he would be pursuing this path with an amendment either to the CR or the omnibus appropriations bill.

3) Administration officials told congressional aides in a closed briefing earlier this week that the US is not at war with Libya, Politico reports. Several Members of Congress of both parties dismissed the assertion. "This is an act of war," Rep. Don Manzullo said. Speaker Boehner, in a letter to the president Wednesday, said that he was "troubled that U.S. military resources were committed to a war" without a clear goal. Rep. Michael Capuano said he and his colleagues should have had an opportunity to weigh in on what he said is definitely a "war." Rep. Walter Jones repeatedly referred to the hostilities as "war."

One reason the administration might avoid the use of the word "war" is that Constitution-wielding lawmakers point out that only Congress has the power to declare war. Rep. George Miller, a top lieutenant to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, told MSNBC that the president overstepped his authority by going into Libya without further consultation with Congress.

4) Speaker Boehner pressed President Obama to clarify what the administration hoped to achieve through military intervention in Libya, the New York Times reports. The Libyan crisis is certain to be a main topic for lawmakers when Congress reconvenes, the Times says.

5) A report issued by the Century Foundation says the war in Afghanistan has reached a stalemate and the best time to jump-start a political settlement with the Taliban is now, AP reports. Demands that the Taliban sever ties with Al Qaeda or that foreign troops exit the nation should be considered goals, not preconditions of talks, the report said. The group also proposed that a neutral party, perhaps the UN, be named to facilitate the process.

Libya
6) Armed rebels in Libya have to rely on allied airstrikes and young men with guns because the army that rebel military leaders bragged about consists of only about 1,000 trained men, the New York Times reports. Those frank admissions came from Ali Tarhouni, who was appointed to the cabinet of the rebels' shadow government on Wednesday as finance minister. Tarhouni appeared to be one of the few rebel officials willing to speak plainly about the movement's shortcomings and challenges, after weeks of rosy predictions and distortions by some of his colleagues, especially regarding the abilities of the rebel fighters, the Times says.

7) US officials say the U.S. intelligence community has found no organized presence of Al Qaeda or its allies among the Libyan opposition, the Los Angeles Times reports. A Defense official added that the U.S. had not seen a direct link between the opposition and extremists. Eastern Libya has a history as a breeding ground for Islamic militants. But while Islamic fundamentalists clearly are among the rebels, no organized segment is pursuing a Taliban-style government or an Al Qaeda agenda, Libya experts say.

Iran
8) Analysts say Western air strikes against Muammar Gaddafi's forces could stiffen Iran's resolve to resist U.S.-led demands over its nuclear program, Reuters reports. "I suspect that this is playing into the hands of those who say that Iran has to have a nuclear deterrent because look at what happened to Gaddafi," Shannon Kile, at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, said. Supreme Leader Khamenei this week said Gaddafi's concessions over its nuclear program showed Iran was right to continue to reject any curb to its atomic energy development.

Yemen
9) Many tribesmen in Yemen have agreed to put aside tribal conflicts and unite against the Saleh government, the New York Times reports. Nadwa al-Dawsari, who works in tribal mediation for a nongovernmental organization, said the shift was striking. "What's very significant is that tribesmen are talking about rights, freedoms, about why the emergency law is unconstitutional," she said. "They are not retaliating when violence is used against them because there is a shift of consciousness. They saw it happen in Tunisia, and they saw it happen in Egypt. There is an awareness that this can happen here and now."

Syria
10) Thousands of angry demonstrators marched in Dara'a, demanding democratic reform and protesting the scores of people shot dead by security forces in the past week, the New York Times reports. The government announced a series of reforms, including a salary increase for public workers, greater freedom for the media and political parties and a reconsidering of emergency rule. The concessions did not appear to satisfy the protesters. The Obama administration said it was watching to see if Assad would actually follow through with the promises made Thursday.

Colombia
11) Diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks say the Uribe administration carefully planned the selective leaking of information from computers of killed FARC commander Raul Reyes to link Venezuelan President Chavez and Ecuadorean President Correa to the FARC, says Colombia Reports. Colombian courts rejected the laptops as evidence in cases against politicians and human rights workers who were accused of having ties to the FARC due to doubts about their authenticity. The Colombian government never released the full content of the laptops to the public.

Contents:
U.S./Top News
1) In Egypt, Gates Reassures Leaders On War In Libya
Craig Whitlock and Edward Cody, Washington Post, Wednesday, March 23, 3:40 PM
http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/gates-reassures-egypt-over-war-in-neighboring-libya/2011/03/23/ABSCbDKB_story.html

Cairo - The United States and its allies are straining to maintain Arab support for the war in Libya as pledges of military participation by outside Arab countries have not materialized and popular opinion in the region begins to shift.

On Wednesday, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates arrived in Cairo to reassure Egyptian officials that the fighting and instability in Libya would not spill over the border, U.S. officials said. Gates met with Egypt's new prime minister, Essam Sharaf, and was scheduled to see the country's military ruler, Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, on Thursday.

"The Egyptians obviously have a lot of concerns about Libya," said a senior U.S. defense official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the closed-door talks. "I'm sure the field marshal will be anxious to hear from the secretary on what's going on."

The Obama administration has said Arab backing was a critical factor in its decision to push for the U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing the military intervention in Libya. Specifically, the White House has cited the Arab League's endorsement of a no-fly zone over Libya, as well as promises by Arab countries to join in the operation.

Since the no-fly zone was imposed, however, the Arab League has expressed concern about civilian casualties, and no Arab country has yet played a direct military role.

Qatar has deployed four fighter jets to the Mediterranean region and could help enforce the no-fly zone in the coming days, according to NATO officials, but the Persian Gulf emirate has been coy about its precise intentions.

The United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Saudi Arabia - all previously floated as potential Arab partners in the coalition - have either remained silent or rejected entreaties to dispatch armed forces to Libya. Egypt has also demurred, saying it is preoccupied by the revolution that toppled former president Hosni Mubarak last month, according to U.S. officials.
[...]
Meanwhile, signs were emerging that Arab public opinion has shifted, with concern growing that the U.S.-led military campaign could turn into a long-term occupation similar to the war in Iraq.

In a carefully worded statement Tuesday evening, Al-Azhar University, Egypt's preeminent seat of Islamic learning, warned against any foreign occupation of Libyan land and cautioned "the United States of America and European countries against dividing Libya and destroying its human and national wealth, as happened in Iraq."

The university's Islamic scholars also criticized Arab leaders - in an implicit reference to the Arab League - for inviting outside intervention in Libya and supporting the no-fly zone.

"We had believed the era of such interventions had gone, never to return," the statement read. "Al-Azhar condemns the Arab and Islamic world and its institutions and organizations for their negativity and not living up to their duty to resolve our internal political, economic and other problems, which has set the stage for foreign military intervention."

At a news conference in Cairo, an Egyptian journalist echoed the sentiment by telling Gates of "fears" that Libya could turn into another Iraq and asking how he could guarantee that the United States would not occupy the country.

Gates responded that there were "dramatic differences" between the two military conflicts and emphasized that the White House has pledged not to send ground troops to Libya. He also referred to the Arab League decision to request intervention. "It came from the region itself asking that the United Nations take action to prevent Gaddafi from killing his own people," he said of Libya's leader.

Ironically, Gates has been a leading skeptic of the no-fly zone within the Obama administration. Before the U.N. Security Council vote, he warned publicly that Washington should gird for a popular backlash among Arabs if it became involved in a war in another Muslim country.
[...]

2) House Lawmakers Draft Legislation To Defund Libya Operations
Amanda Terkel, Huffington Post, March 23, 2011
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/03/23/libya-house-defund-bill_n_839688.html

Washington - Members of Congress are discussing several mechanisms to cut off funding for U.S. military operations in Libya, arguing that since President Barack Obama did not obtain congressional authorization, he is essentially waging an unconstitutional war.

Rep. Tim Johnson (R-Ill.) is one of the lawmakers leading the charge. He says that not only does he believe Obama should first have consulted Congress, he opposes and would have opposed any U.S. military involvement in Libya.

"I think this, combined with our presence in Afghanistan and Iraq ... just elevates hatred toward America and western democracies, throughout the Middle East. This is just one more nail in the coffin, so to speak," said Johnson in an interview with The Huffington Post, arguing that there's no connection between the conflict in Libya and the national security interests of the United States. He called Obama a "new war-mongering president who's belied everything he stands for and everything we thought we stood for."
[...]
There are three main efforts floating around Capitol Hill while Congress is in recess, according to a Republican House staffer familiar with the situation. First was a nonbinding resolution by Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) that expressed the sense of Congress that the president had to get the legislature's approval before using the armed forces in Libya. The measure had some bipartisan support, but it was never brought to the floor for a vote.

The next piece, which may be released as soon as this week, is a standalone bill that will prohibit the president from using force by the U.S. military in the Libya operation. The second part of that measure would be a provision to cut off funding, saying that no funds available to any department of the federal government may be used for the military operations. This legislation is being explored by the offices of Johnson and Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), among others.

A third effort would be an amendment to the next continuing resolution, which will come up two weeks from Friday. This measure would be a rider to the temporary budget bill and would cut off funding for the Libyan operation. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) announced on Tuesday that he would be pursuing this path with an amendment either to the CR or the omnibus appropriations bill.
[...]

3) 'Kinetic military action' or 'war'?
Jonathan Allen, Politico, March 24, 2011 02:39 PM EDT
http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0311/51893.html

Police action, conflict, hostilities and now "kinetic military action." They're all euphemisms for that word that this White House and many before it have been so careful not to say: War.

Administration officials told congressional aides in a closed briefing earlier this week that the United States is not at war with Libya, and Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes danced around the question in a Wednesday exchange with reporters aboard Air Force One.

"I think what we are doing is enforcing a resolution that has a very clear set of goals, which is protecting the Libyan people, averting a humanitarian crisis, and setting up a no-fly zone," Rhodes said. "Obviously that involves kinetic military action, particularly on the front end. But again, the nature of our commitment is that we are not getting into an open-ended war, a land invasion in Libya."

Those kind of verbal gymnastics to avoid calling a sustained bombing of a foreign country a "war" aren't flying with members of Congress.

"This is an act of war," Rep. Don Manzullo (R-Ill.), a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee told the Rockford Register Star. Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), in a letter to the president on Wednesday, said that he was "troubled that U.S. military resources were committed to a war" without a clear goal - or the consent of Congress.

So while a United States-led coalition hammers Libya with Tomahawk missiles and precision bombs in support of a rebel challenge to strongman Muammar Qadhafi, a shadow war over the semantics of armed conflict has erupted in the domestic political debate.

There's even a peanut gallery: Comedy Central's Jon Stewart headlined a segment "America at not-war."

Rep. Michael Capuano (D-Mass.) told the Dorchester Reporter that he and his colleagues should have had an opportunity to weigh in on what he said is definitely a "war."

"I take the Constitution kind of seriously and it's very clear. It doesn't presume I wouldn't support it, but I don't see how you can say shelling an independent country is not an act of war," Capuano said.

In an interview with POLITICO earlier this week, Republican Rep. Walter Jones, who represents thousands of Marines deployed from Camp Lejeune to support the current action in Libya, repeatedly referred to the hostilities as "war."
[...]
One legal reason that the administration might avoid the use of the word "war" is that Constitution-wielding lawmakers point out that only Congress has the power to declare war.

Under the War Powers Act of 1973, which may have expanded rather than limited executive authority, [the text of the War Powers Resolution explicitly states otherwise - JFP] the president may deploy U.S. forces only if there is "a declaration of war, specific statutory authorization, or a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces."

Neither the first nor the second criteria has been met, and many lawmakers argue that the president's justification under the national emergency clause - that refugees from Libya could destabilize the region thus causing a threat to the United States - falls short of the standard for deploying forces without active congressional consent. Republicans note that Bush sought "use of force" resolutions before going into Afghanistan and Iraq.

Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), a top lieutenant to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), told MSNBC that the president overstepped his authority by going into Libya without further consultation with Congress. "I'm one of those people who believe that when you're not defending the shores of the United States, you have an obligation to come to the Congress and ask for permission," Miller said.

4) Boehner Presses Obama On Libya Action
Carl Hulse, New York Times, March 23, 2011
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/24/us/politics/24congress.html

Washington - The House speaker, John A. Boehner, on Wednesday pressed President Obama to clarify what the administration hoped to achieve through military intervention in Libya, as top Senate Democrats defended the president's handling of the crisis.

In a letter made public as the president returned from his Latin American trip, Mr. Boehner said the administration had sent conflicting messages about its goals in Libya. He said the public deserved a fuller explanation of the objectives of the military mission and how the White House will measure success.

"It is regrettable that no opportunity was afforded to consult with Congressional leaders, as was the custom of your predecessors, before your decision as commander in chief to deploy into combat the men and women of our armed forces," Mr. Boehner said, reiterating a bipartisan complaint raised by lawmakers in recent days.

Earlier, Mr. Boehner had struck a more neutral tone, saying America had a "moral obligation" to help opponents of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi while urging the White House to define its intent. But Wednesday's letter illustrated mounting Congressional wariness over the use of force without fuller participation by the House and Senate as well as uncertainty over how long American military units would lead the military action.
[...]
The Libyan crisis is certain to be a main topic for lawmakers when Congress reconvenes. But the three Democrats said they could not predict whether a floor vote would be forced on the role of the United States or if American forces would still be deeply involved in Libya next week. But they noted that critics of the intervention could challenge the president under the War Powers Act.
[...]
Mr. Boehner suggested in his letter that the administration had consulted more closely with the United Nations and the Arab League than with Congress. He said the administration had called for Colonel Qaddafi to be removed from office while backing a United Nations resolution that does not call for regime change.

"Because of the conflicting messages from the administration and our coalition partners, there is a lack of clarity over the objectives of this mission, what our national security interests are, and how it fits into our overarching policy for the Middle East," Mr. Boehner said.

5) Time To End Afghan War, Report Says
Associated Press, March 24, 2011
http://www.boston.com/news/world/asia/articles/2011/03/24/time_to_end_afghan_war_report_says/

Kabul, Afghanistan - The war in Afghanistan has reached a stalemate and the best time to jump-start a political settlement with the Taliban is now, according to a report released yesterday by a US think tank.

The report, issued by the Century Foundation, said the United States and Afghanistan's neighbors, especially Pakistan, must play key roles in any negotiations. Demands that the Taliban sever ties with Al Qaeda or that foreign troops exit the nation, for example, should be considered goals, not preconditions of talks, the 126-page report said. The group also proposed that a neutral party, perhaps the United Nations, be named to facilitate the process.
[...]

Libya
6) Rebel Insider Concedes Weaknesses in Libya
Kareem Fahim, New York Times, March 23, 2011
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/24/world/africa/24minister.html

Benghazi, Libya - After the uprising, the rebels stumbled as they tried to organize. They did a poor job of defining themselves when Libyans and the outside world tried to figure out what they stood for. And now, as they try to defeat Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi's armed forces and militias, they will have to rely on allied airstrikes and young men with guns because the army that rebel military leaders bragged about consists of only about 1,000 trained men.

Those frank admissions came from Ali Tarhouni, who was appointed to the cabinet of the rebels' shadow government on Wednesday as finance minister. Mr. Tarhouni, who teaches economics at the University of Washington, returned to Libya one month ago after more than 35 years in exile to advise the opposition on economic matters. The rebels are proclaiming his American credentials - he has a doctorate from Michigan State University - as they seek foreign recognition of their cause. "He understands the Western mentality," said Iman Bugaighis, a spokeswoman for the fledgling opposition government.

But more important, Mr. Tarhouni, 60, who briefed journalists on Wednesday night, appeared to be one of the few rebel officials willing to speak plainly about the movement's shortcomings and challenges, after weeks of rosy predictions and distortions by some of his colleagues, especially regarding the abilities of the rebel fighters.
[...]

7) U.S. finds no organized Al Qaeda presence in Libya opposition, officials say
Eastern Libya, the rebels' base, has a history as a breeding ground for Islamic militants, but an intelligence-gathering effort has not uncovered a significant number of extremists, officials say.
Ken Dilanian, Los Angeles Times, March 23, 2011
http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-libya-rebels-intel-20110324,0,5352122.story

Washington - Despite fears that Islamic extremists may be playing a hidden role in the rebellion against Moammar Kadafi, the U.S. intelligence community has found no organized presence of Al Qaeda or its allies among the Libyan opposition, American officials say.

A U.S. intelligence-gathering effort that began shortly after anti-Kadafi forces started seizing towns in eastern Libya last month has not uncovered a significant presence of Islamic militants among the insurgents.

"We're keeping an eye out for extremist activity in Libya, but we haven't seen much, if any, to date," said a U.S. counter-terrorism official. A Defense official added that the U.S. had not seen a direct link between the opposition and extremists.

A congressional staffer who receives intelligence briefings did not dispute those assessments. But the aide added: "There ought to be a concern and recognition that there may be such a linkage. There should also be an appreciation that the opposition is not a uniform, monolithic movement."

Eastern Libya has a history as a breeding ground for Islamic militants. U.S. officials say more than 100 Libyans entered Iraq to fight in the anti-U.S. insurgency between August 2006 and August 2007. The vast majority came from Benghazi, the rebels' de facto capital, and nearby Derna.

The Obama administration is concerned about long-term instability that could allow extremism to take root, and is sensitive to any suggestion that Al Qaeda, which has long opposed Kadafi, could somehow benefit from the U.S.-led international military effort in Libya.

On Feb. 24, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, a North African affiliate of the group, vowed to "do whatever we can" to help the Libyan rebels, according to a statement translated by SITE Intelligence Group, a Washington-based company that tracks militant websites.
[...]
Islamic fundamentalists clearly are among the rebels, but no organized segment is pursuing a Taliban-style government or an Al Qaeda agenda, Libya experts say.
[...]
"There's no evidence that any of the leaders are extremists, and to the extent that we know anything, they seem to be secular professionals," said Robert Pape, a terrorism expert at the University of Chicago who has traveled to Libya.

Charles Faddis, who led a CIA team in northern Iraq before the 2003 invasion, and who retired in 2008, questioned whether the U.S. intelligence community really understands who the rebels are. "Everyone wants to believe the opposition consists of individuals dedicated to a democratic revolution," Faddis said. "Is that true?"

"Is this a political movement or a tribal one? What we need is solid intelligence on the nature of the opposition, who the key figures are, who is going to emerge on top. I suspect we do not have that, because our collection inside Libya, a denied area, has probably been very weak for a very long time."

A Libyan journalist in Derna said in an interview last week that Islamic militants were seeking influence in that city. "In the beginning I was very optimistic about the possibility of reform and change, but there has been a violent takeover and now we are seeing foreign fighters, Islamists, from the Gulf and other Arab countries," said Milad Hassani.

The large number of Libyans who went to fight in Iraq is less an indication of a large extremist community than a social network that could be activated in a short period of time, said Brian Fishman, a terrorism expert who analyzed captured documents about the Libyan fighters for the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
[...]

Iran
8) Libya conflict may strengthen Iran nuclear defiance
Fredrik Dahl, Reuters, March 24, 2011
http://af.reuters.com/article/libyaNews/idAFLDE72N1NX20110324

Vienna, March 24 - Western air strikes against Muammar Gaddafi's forces could stiffen Iran's resolve to resist U.S.-led demands over its nuclear programme, though Tehran's final analysis may depend on when and how the Libyan war ends.

Seeking to mend ties with the West, Gaddafi agreed in 2003 to abandon efforts to acquire nuclear, chemical and biological weapons - a move that brought him in from the cold and helped end decades as an international pariah.

In contrast, Iran has repeatedly ruled out halting sensitive nuclear activities it says are aimed at generating electricity but which the United States and its allies suspect are geared towards developing a nuclear weapons capability.

Analysts say events in Libya, where Western warplanes hit Libyan tanks on a fifth night of air strikes on Thursday, are likely to provide new arguments for those in Iran who believe it would be a mistake to back down over its nuclear programme.
[...]
Iran's arch foes - Israel and the United States - have refused to exclude possible military action against the Islamic Republic if diplomatic efforts to resolve the dispute fail.

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told Reuters on Thursday that Iran and Syria posed a greater security threat than Libya, urging the West to treat those countries in the same way as it has Gaddafi's government.

"I suspect that this is playing into the hands of those who say that Iran has to have a nuclear deterrent because look at what happened to Gaddafi," Shannon Kile, at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, said.
[...]
Iran's highest authority, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, this week said Gaddafi's concessions over its nuclear programme showed Tehran was right to continue to reject any curb to its atomic energy development.
[...].

Yemen
9) Weakening Web Of Tribal Support Softens Yemen Leader's Grip
Laura Kasinof, New York Times, March 23, 2011
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/24/world/middleeast/24tribes.html

Sana, Yemen - About 20 men were crammed into a corner of a large green tent at the protesters' encampment here in the capital. Sitting on foam mattresses, they leaned on one another in a Yemeni sign of affinity, despite coming from two dueling tribes back in their home province.

One told how they discovered that the longtime president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, was manipulating them. A member of the Abida tribe and one from the rival Morad "ran into each other at an arms warehouse to pick up their government-issued weapons," said the man, Nejem al-Gurdae. "They realized that they both were receiving weapons to fight each other from the same source."

Mr. Saleh's political base appears to have started to give way, with the defection of numerous government officials and army commanders to the protesters' cause after dozens were killed last week. His opponents have ceased working through point-by-point deals and on Wednesday dismissed his proffered agreement to step down by the end of the year. At the same time, the embattled president's grip on hundreds of unruly northern tribes in this fractured nation is also loosening, leaving him more vulnerable than ever to the protesters' pressure - not to mention the threat from rebels in the north, secessionists in the south, and a branch of Al Qaeda in the southeast.

For years, Mr. Saleh managed tribal-dominated Yemen by propping up scores of carefully chosen tribal leaders, giving them money and weapons and placing them in important positions in government. The loyalty of these empowered sheiks largely guaranteed the loyalty of their followers. But it also undermined other sheiks in the same tribe, and in other tribes as well, spreading envy and dissent.
[...]
But tribesmen from rural areas now make up the majority of the tens of thousands spending day and night at the demonstration in Sana. Many say that they are fed up with the dance. Their mobilization built gradually, spread by word of mouth and - to those with electricity - opposition television broadcasts. Few had access to the Internet or social networking sites.

With large numbers of them unemployed, their vow to stay at Sana's encampment until Mr. Saleh steps down carries weight. "He gives money to the sheik who rules the people, but it's not for the people," said Majid Mohagary, a shy man in tattered clothes from Mr. Saleh's own tribe, Sinhan, whose members are found in villages close to the capital.

Mr. Mohagary, like many of the rebellious tribesmen here from northern and central Yemen, broke with his sheik over the sheik's continued loyalty to the president. Analysts say that such tribal fracturing - with members acting independently of sheiks, or even against their will - started emerging about 10 years ago, under the pressure of urbanization and broader education. The cracks widened along with the gap between rich sheiks with multiples homes and S.U.V.'s and the impoverishment of those they ruled. Now, with political unrest shaking the power structure, the tribal breakdown is self-evident.

"This is what surprised us all," said Mohamed Qadhi, a powerful Sinhan and member of Parliament who recently resigned from the governing party over the violence against protesters. "Usually the tribesmen are following their sheiks, and that's what the president believed would happen. But what's happening now is that most of the people have their own opinion."

Many are forgoing the longstanding tribal grievances that left the countryside in a perpetual state of conflict, in favor of focusing on larger issues. "When people are busy with their fighting and problems then they aren't aware of the corruption of Ali Saleh so his family can control everything like oil," said Mujahid al-Wahaby, who broke with his own father, a sheik loyal to the president.

Tribesmen who once fought the war against Houthi rebels in northern Yemen now sit with Houthis at the encampment. Tribes in Marib Province, east of the capital, including the Morad and Abida, signed a contract when they joined the demonstration stipulating that "the revenge killings between us would end and we all focus on bringing down the regime," according to Adel al-Salahy, a Marib.

Nadwa al-Dawsari, who works in tribal mediation for a nongovernmental organization, said the shift was striking. "What's very significant is that tribesmen are talking about rights, freedoms, about why the emergency law is unconstitutional," she said. "They are not retaliating when violence is used against them because there is a shift of consciousness. They saw it happen in Tunisia, and they saw it happen in Egypt. There is an awareness that this can happen here and now."
[...]

Syria
10) Thousands March to Protest Syria Killings
New York Times, March 24, 2011
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/25/world/middleeast/25syria.html

Syria's repressive leadership came under unexpectedly heavy pressure on Thursday as thousands of angry demonstrators massed again in the southern city of Dara'a, demanding democratic reform and protesting the scores of people shot dead by security forces in the past week.

The government of President Bashar al-Assad, unaccustomed to concessions, rapidly announced a series of reforms, including a salary increase for public workers, greater freedom for the media and political parties and a reconsidering of the emergency rule that has clamped down this nation for 48 years. He also ordered prisoners taken during the crackdown this week to be freed, as an adviser said publicly that Mr. Assad had ordered troops not to fire live rounds at protesters in Dara'a but that "there were, maybe, some mistakes."

The concessions did not appear to satisfy the protesters - who were expected to gather in even larger numbers on Friday, the Muslim day of prayer. Fridays have become a central forum during the recent weeks of tumult around the Middle East. "We totally refuse" the concessions, one man in a crowd of thousands marching toward the central al-Omari mosque in Dara'a was quoted as saying by the official Syrian Arab News Agency.
[...]
In Washington, the Obama administration said it was watching to see if Mr. Assad would actually follow through with the promises made Thursday. "Words are words," Mark Toner, a State Department spokesman, told reporters. "We'll obviously look for action." He added: "We were, and obviously remain, deeply troubled by the violence and civilian deaths, especially in Dara'a, at the hands of security forces. We're going to see what happens on the ground."
[...]

Colombia
11) Colombia planned leaks to link Chavez, Correa to FARC: WikiLeaks
Adriaan Alsema, Colombia Reports, Thursday, 24 March 2011 07:03
http://colombiareports.com/colombia-news/news/15108-colombia-carefully-planned-using-farc-computers-to-link-chavez-and-correa-to-rebels-wikileaks.html

The Uribe administration in 2008 carefully planned the leaking of information from computers of killed FARC commander Raul Reyes to link Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa to the rebel group, diplomatic cables released Wednesday by WikiLeaks.

In a cable from March 27, 2008 - little over three weeks after the computers were found - then-U.S. ambassador to Bogota William Brownsfield informed Washington that the Colombian government would "selectively leak information from FARC computers connecting Presidents Chavez and Correa and their Governments to the FARC over the next 4-6 weeks."
[...]
Then-Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos promised to give the U.S. the full set of information coming from the computers "on the condition that the USG not release any information publicly or for attribution without prior consultation with the GOC."

Santos told the ambassador that Bogota planned to release all contents of the computers to an international organization after Interpol verified the content of the computers was not tampered.

Interpol eventually reported that the computers had not been tampered after March 4 when the evidence entered a chain of custody. The International police organization did not guarantee the content could not have been tampered in the period between the March 1 bombing and the time the computers entered the chain of custody.

Colombia used the information on the computers to accuse Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez of financially supporting the FARC and Ecuadorean President of having received FARC funds for his presidential campaign in 2006 as leverage to the aggressive attitude of the two neighboring countries following the cross-border attack that killed Reyes.

The erroneous handling of the computers made Colombian courts reject the laptops as evidence in cases against politicians and human rights workers who were accused of having ties to the FARC.

The Colombian government never released the full content of the laptops to the public.

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Just Foreign Policy is a membership organization devoted to reforming US foreign policy so it reflects the values and interests of the majority of Americans. The archive of the Just Foreign Policy News is here:

http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/blog/dailynews


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