JFP 3/28: Italy pushes Libya deal; Gates says US was not threatened

Just Foreign Policy News
March 28, 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

Letter to Liberal Supporters of the Libya War
The decision by the Administration to go to war in Libya without Congressional authorization represents a long-term threat to the U.S. peace movement, because Congress is a key arena in which the peace movement tries to influence U.S. policy towards less war. A weakening of Congressional war powers means a weakening of the ability of the peace movement to prevent future wars.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-naiman/an-open-letter-to-liberal_b_841505.html

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Summary:
U.S./Top News
1) Italy on Monday proposed a political deal to end the Libya crisis, including a quick ceasefire, exile for Muammar Gaddafi and dialogue between rebels and tribal leaders, Reuters reports. Foreign Minister Frattini said he had discussed the proposals with Germany, France and Sweden and expected to talk with Turkey Monday, ahead of a meeting on Libya in London on Tuesday. Frattini said an African country could offer Gaddafi asylum, and ruled out that the Libyan leader would remain in power.

2) Secretary of Defense Gates said Libya did not pose a threat to the US before the U.S. began its military campaign, Jake Tapper of ABC reports. On "This Week," Tapper asked Gates, "Do you think Libya posed an actual or imminent threat to the United States?" "No, no," Gates said. "It was not - it was not a vital national interest to the United States, but it was an interest and it was an interest for all of the reasons Secretary Clinton talked about." In December, 2007, Barack Obama told The Boston Globe that "The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation."

3) Afghan officials said a NATO airstrike targeting Taliban fighters Friday killed seven civilians, including two women and three children, in Helmand province, the New York Times reports. The civilians were in a vehicle behind the insurgents when the alliance's forces fired on the insurgents' car. The explosion destroyed the civilian car, the governor's office said.

4) In the years between the end of the 1991 Persian Gulf War and the start of its successor in 2003, the US and its allies set up no-fly and no-drive zones for Iraq, imposed economic sanctions, bombed Iraqi military forces and otherwise engaged in actions that look a lot like the limited war the Obama administration is helping wage against Gaddafi's regime today, writes Daniel Byman of Brookings in the Washington Post. It was the frustrations and failures of those efforts that set the stage for the eventual decision to invade, he writes. In 1998, Clinton embraced regime change as well as containment. Hussein's continued survival and the suffering of the Iraqi people, however, made a mockery of that ambition, helping President Bush make the case for war in 2003. By then, even voices less eager for war admitted that more than a decade of no-fly and no-drive zones, sanctions, and occasional bombing runs had left Hussein entrenched in power, with no end in sight, he writes.

Afghanistan
5) The announcement by Deputy Undersecretary of Defence Flournoy that the US would continue to carry out "counter-terrorism operations" from "joint bases" in Afghanistan well beyond 2014 signaled that President Obama has given up the negotiating flexibility he would need to be able to reach a peace agreement with the Taliban leadership, writes Gareth Porter for Inter Press Service. Given that commitment to the U.S. military, a U.S. negotiator or foreign mediator would not be able to propose a complete U.S.-NATO troop withdrawal in return for a Taliban commitment to end its armed resistance and cut its ties with al Qaeda. That has long been viewed as the core bargain underlying a potential peace agreement.

Yemen
6) A day after he said he was ready to yield power to "safe hands," President Saleh asserted Saturday that his departure was not imminent, the New York Times reports. Protesters have called for Saleh's immediate ouster. And the opposition has recently shifted positions and said that Saleh must leave immediately, without conditions.

7) Saleh has lost his legitimacy and should go as quickly as possible, writes the New York Times in an editorial. With Saudi Arabia, the Obama administration should press him to accept a quick and peaceful transfer of power to a caretaker government that broadly reflects Yemeni society. It would lay the ground for elections, the Times says.

Pakistan
8) The Pakistani government will compensate the families of 39 people killed in a recent US missile attack, AP reports. Pakistan's army chief Gen. Kayani said the victims were innocent civilians, something denied by a U.S. official. North Waziristan government administrator Mohammad Asghar said the heirs of those killed would each receive US$3,530. The US is not known to compensate the families of innocents killed in drone strikes in Pakistan, AP says.

Jordan
9) Riot police officers stormed a pro-democracy rally in Amman Friday, leaving one man dead and dispersing a 1,000-person tent camp set up the previous day to resemble Tahrir Square in Cairo, the New York Times reports. The man's son said he saw his father's body at the hospital. His teeth were broken, and he had signs of being beaten on his hands, legs and ears. The leading Shiite opposition group in Bahrain said that a 71-year-old man died from tear gas asphyxiation after the police blocked exit roads and he was unable to get to the hospital.

Contents:
U.S./Top News
1) Italy urges political deal for post-Gaddafi Libya
Silvia Aloisi, Reuters, Monday, March 28 01:58 pm
http://uk.news.yahoo.com/22/20110328/tpl-uk-libya-italy-02bfc7e.html

Italy on Monday proposed a political deal to end the Libya crisis, including a quick ceasefire, exile for Muammar Gaddafi and dialogue between rebels and tribal leaders.
Foreign Minister Franco Frattini told reporters he had discussed the proposals with Germany, France and Sweden and expected to talk them through with Turkey later on Monday, ahead of an international meeting on Libya in London on Tuesday.

"A political solution to create a new and democratic Libya is today the most important objective," he said. "It has to be a shared solution. The political solution should unite, not divide, us (the international community)."

Frattini said an African country could offer Gaddafi asylum, and ruled out that the Libyan leader would remain in power. "Gaddafi must understand that it would be an act of courage to say: 'I understand that I have to go'," Frattini added. "We hope that the African Union can find a valid proposal."

Frattini's spokesman said Italy hoped that international powers meeting in London could express "a united vision" for a post-Gaddafi Libya, including an internationally monitored cease-fire and "an inclusive dialogue between the rebel council, tribal leaders and other players in Libyan society, except Gaddafi."
[...]

2) Defense Secretary: Libya Did Not Pose Threat to U.S., Was Not 'Vital National Interest' to Intervene
Jake Tapper, ABC News, March 27, 2011 8:16 AM
http://blogs.abcnews.com/politicalpunch/2011/03/defense-secretary-libya-did-not-pose-threat-to-us-was-not-vital-national-interest-to-intervene.html

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said that Libya did not pose a threat to the United States before the U.S. began its military campaign against the North African country.

On "This Week," ABC News' Senior White House Correspondent Jake Tapper asked Gates, "Do you think Libya posed an actual or imminent threat to the United States?"

"No, no," Gates said in a joint appearance with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. "It was not - it was not a vital national interest to the United States, but it was an interest and it was an interest for all of the reasons Secretary Clinton talked about. The engagement of the Arabs, the engagement of the Europeans, the general humanitarian question that was at stake," he said.

Gates explained that there was more at stake, however. "There was another piece of this though, that certainly was a consideration. You've had revolutions on both the East and the West of Libya," he said, emphasizing the potential wave of refugees from Libya could have destabilized Tunisia and Egypt.

"So you had a potentially significantly destabilizing event taking place in Libya that put at risk potentially the revolutions in both Tunisia and Egypt," the Secretary said. "And that was another consideration I think we took into account."

During his campaign for the Presidency, in December, 2007, Barack Obama told The Boston Globe that "The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation."
[...]

3) NATO Airstrike in Afghanistan Kills 7 Civilians, Including 3 Children
Ray Rivera, New York Times, March 26, 2011
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/27/world/asia/27afghanistan.html

Kabul, Afghanistan - A NATO airstrike targeting Taliban fighters Friday accidentally killed seven civilians, including three children, in the southern province of Helmand, one of the most insecure regions in the country, Afghan officials said.

NATO officials are investigating the episode. It occurred in the Now Zad district when the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force called in an airstrike on two vehicles believed to be carrying a Taliban leader and his associates. A NATO team assessing the damage discovered the civilians after the airstrike.

NATO officials have not disclosed how many civilians were killed and wounded, and did not say whether suspected Taliban were among the casualties.

Afghan officials in Helmand said the dead included two men, two women and three children. Three more children and two adults were wounded, the Helmand governor's office said in a statement late Saturday.

The civilians were in a vehicle behind the insurgents when the alliance's forces fired on the insurgents' car. The explosion destroyed the civilian car, the governor's office said. The condition of the suspected insurgents' vehicle was not disclosed.
[...]

4) What the no-fly zone in Iraq reveals about the challenges in Libya
Daniel Byman, Washington Post, Friday, March 25, 11:45 AM
http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/what-the-no-fly-zone-in-iraq-should-have-taught-us-about-the-challenges-in-libya/2011/03/23/AFk2t9VB_story.html

[Byman is professor in the Security Studies Program at Georgetown and the research director of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings.]

Facing a brutal Arab dictator who wouldn't budge, the president declared: "The best way to address that threat" is through a new government "that is committed to represent and respect its people, not repress them."

Those were not the words of President Obama this past week, though he has repeatedly said that Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi must go. Instead, that was a statement that President Bill Clinton made in 1998, when he openly embraced the goal of removing Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein from power.

In the years between the end of the 1991 Persian Gulf War and the start of its successor in 2003, the United States and its allies set up no-fly and no-drive zones for Iraq, imposed economic sanctions, bombed Iraqi military forces and otherwise engaged in actions that look a lot like the limited war the Obama administration is helping wage against Gaddafi's regime today.

The 2003 invasion of Iraq and the debacle that followed make this interwar period seem a distant curiosity. But it was the frustrations and failures of those efforts that set the stage for the eventual decision to invade. Remembering the failures of the 1990s can help the Obama administration avoid similarly disastrous decisions in Libya - in the midst of an operation that, as it endures, can become unpopular at home, lose support abroad and require constant political energy to maintain.

After the Gulf War ended in 1991, Hussein began massacring Iraqi Kurds and Shiites who, with U.S. encouragement, had risen up against him. As in Libya, the massacres were blamed in part on the Iraqi leader's air superiority, including helicopters. To counter this, and to send a message that the world would not stand idly by, the United States and its allies enforced a no-fly zone over northern Iraq. Hussein pulled back in the north but continued to slaughter Iraqi Shiites, leading to the creation in 1992 of a similar no-fly zone in southern Iraq. In 1994, concerned about Iraqi military aggression against Kuwait, the United States established a no-drive zone in southern Iraq. During this time, the United States also bombed Iraq's air defenses that threatened patrolling allied aircraft, hoping to shake its foundations and topple its dictator.

No one imagined that Hussein would still be in charge a decade after the no-fly zone began. He seemed sure to fall in 1991, after the Gulf War humiliated him and defeated his armies. But in the 1990s he survived coup attempts, tribal revolts and religious opposition. The Iraqi dictator, like other successful tyrants, did one thing well - secure his power.

The initial push for a no-fly zone over Libya appeared to be based on hope that the dictator there would fall soon. Gaddafi's grip on power, like Hussein's in 1991, is tenuous, but he appears to have stopped the waves of defections and is now consolidating his position. Or, as he so eloquently put it, "I am here, I am here, I am here."

He is there, and his purges in Tripoli will continue, even if his efforts against the Benghazi-based opposition falter in the face of international attacks. His cash hoards and brutal security services will be used together to ensure loyalty, particularly among his military forces and key tribal allies. All this makes a coup or revolt less likely to succeed. The hope that the intervention would last for days, not weeks or months, will be tested.

The alliance will fray.

As the Iraqi dictator dug in, the alliance began to weaken. Regional partners cared little about the fate of Iraq's Kurdish and Shiite populations. Some even preferred that Hussein consolidate his hold on power rather than risk fracturing the country. The United States sought to continue, and at times increase, pressure on the dictator, particularly after he threw out U.N. weapons inspectors in 1998. Other allies favored leniency, and France eventually ended its military efforts. Russia and China sought to weaken sanctions, requiring constant efforts by U.S. leaders to bully or placate them. Arab allies squirmed, privately wanting Hussein to fall or at least stay in his box, but becoming concerned as their people came to see the U.S.-led effort as brutal and imperialistic. Osama bin Laden exploited this anger, repeatedly citing supposed U.S. aggression against the Iraqi people as proof of America's evil intentions.

The U.N. Security Council resolution on Libya calls for ending the violence there and protecting civilians. Obama, however, has declared that "it is U.S. policy that Gaddafi needs to go." That is a much more ambitious goal that many allies do not share. Already China, Russia and Brazil have called for a cease-fire. Some Arab leaders are decrying airstrikes on targets in Gaddafi-controlled areas, claiming they signed up simply to defend the opposition, not to attack Gaddafi's forces.

The good news is that the Obama administration is handing off command of Operation Odyssey Dawn to NATO. That's also the bad news. With allies in charge, the United States will not be the public face of bombing runs that may grow increasingly unpopular. The allies, however, show little inclination or ability to lead in a tight spot. In one of the first meetings of European powers to discuss the new arrangements, French and German representatives walked out halfway through. Getting the allies to decide on ultimate political objectives, shared rules of engagement and other tough issues will require constant cajoling by Washington. The United States may end up leading despite a formal command change.
[...]
Politics continue, both here and there.

Opposition infighting will not stop now that the Western allies have stepped in. Hussein committed genocidal-level violence against Iraq's Kurdish population. In 1996, however, rivalries between Kurdish factions led one to invite Iran to intervene, prompting its rival to invite Iraqi forces into the Kurdish safe haven; only the threat of increased U.S. intervention led to their departure. In Libya, one of the dispiriting developments is the lack of a clear and unified opposition. The Libyan National Council claims to be a provisional government, but its authority and ability to impose its will on the parts of the nation under opposition control are dubious. Also uncertain is its respect for human rights. Abdul Fattah Younis, a former interior minister whose work included suppressing dissent, now directs opposition military operations, hardly a promising sign.

In the United States, political will for the mission in Libya is likely to be limited. The Gulf War led to the vilification of Hussein, which helped Presidents George H.W. Bush and Clinton sustain popular support for subsequent operations. But as the fighting faded from Americans' political consciousness, U.S. leaders sought to keep the no-fly zones and other anti-Hussein efforts low-cost. Minimizing any risk of casualties was particularly important. Inevitably, some occurred anyway, such as a tragic friendly-fire accident in 1994 when U.S. fighter planes downed two Black Hawk helicopters in northern Iraq, killing 26. Military operations were often cautious, and leaders avoided missions that would endanger troops.

There will be pressure to escalate.

Protecting civilians, however, often requires getting your hands dirty. From the air, it's almost impossible to shield civilians in areas controlled by a dictator. Although the United States placed no-fly and no-drive restrictions on parts of southern Iraq, Hussein still brutally repressed the country's Shiites.

This creates a further political problem: If civilians are still dying, political leaders face demands to either abandon the effort as futile - or to escalate. So seeking an end to Gaddafi's regime makes sense if you want to help Libyans, but it also ups the stakes and complicates the diplomacy. In 1998, Clinton embraced regime change as well as containment. Hussein's continued survival and the suffering of the Iraqi people, however, made a mockery of that ambition, helping President George W. Bush make the case for war in 2003. By then, even voices less eager for war admitted that more than a decade of no-fly and no-drive zones, sanctions, and occasional bombing runs had left Hussein entrenched in power, with no end in sight.

The problems that ensued after ousting one dictator make us unlikely to take that kind of action again. Chastened by the disaster in Iraq after the 2003 invasion, the United States is cautious about becoming involved in another ground war in the Middle East. At least, any U.S. leader who isn't cautious in that regard should "have his head examined," as Defense Secretary Robert Gates said last month, paraphrasing Gen. Douglas MacArthur.

But retreating or otherwise letting Gaddafi survive would be humiliating and allow the Libyan dictator to wreak a bloody revenge. We should continue to hope that Gaddafi will fall and help us avoid this dilemma, but in the meantime we should prepare for the many problems that lie ahead, on a road we have traveled before.

Afghanistan
5) Long-term Afghan Presence Likely to Derail Peace Talks
Gareth Porter, Inter Press Service, Mar 28
http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=55028

Washington, Mar 28 - The announcement by U.S. Deputy Undersecretary of Defence Michele Flournoy in Congressional testimony Mar. 15 that the United States would continue to carry out "counter-terrorism operations" from "joint bases" in Afghanistan well beyond 2014 signaled that President Barack Obama has given up the negotiating flexibility he would need to be able to reach a peace agreement with the Taliban leadership.

Flournoy's revelation meant that the administration intends to maintain a long-term troop presence in Afghanistan regardless of any negotiated settlement with the Taliban, as a source familiar with internal deliberations on Afghanistan confirmed to IPS.

Given that commitment to the U.S. military, a U.S. negotiator or foreign mediator would not be able to propose a complete U.S.-NATO troop withdrawal in return for a Taliban commitment to end its armed resistance and cut its ties with al Qaeda. That has long been viewed as the core bargain underlying a potential peace agreement.

Months of conversations with Taliban leaders who had been detained by the Pakistanis last year revealed that the Quetta Shura, the council of Taliban leadership, was ready to negotiate a deal, according to a source who has been thoroughly briefed on those interrogations.

The Taliban informants were in agreement that such a deal would have to involve complete withdrawal of U.S. and NATO forces, the source said.

Ambassador Thomas R. Pickering and veteran U.N. diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi, who co-authored a study on negotiating peace in Afghanistan published last week, concluded that a "guaranteed withdrawal of foreign forces…would almost certainly be part of a deal," as they wrote in the New York Times last Tuesday.

Even if the Taliban were to agree to the U.S. demand for severing its relationship with al Qaeda, however, the present administration policy, apparently reached during the strategic review last December, calls for the United States to continue to deploy at least Special Operations Forces (SOF), according to the source familiar with administration deliberations.

In the event of an agreement with the Taliban, the SOF units would not target the Taliban but would be used to hunt down al Qaeda personnel and to ensure that Afghanistan is not a source of instability in the region, IPS was told. The same policy decision also calls for retention of U.S. airpower at Bagram Airbase based on the same justification.

Despite the uniform position of Taliban leaders on the issue, the official assumption underlying the present policy is that the Taliban would choose to negotiate an agreement allowing a limited U.S. military presence in the country, according to the knowledgeable source. IPS was told that a key factor in the administration's calculus is that it would be relatively easy politically for the United States to keep SOF units and airpower - as distinct from infantry troops - in Afghanistan indefinitely.

Ironically, SOF units have generated the greatest popular antagonism to the foreign military presence, because of targeted raids that have hit the wrong individuals and killed civilians. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has called for an end to U.S. SOF raids on a number of occasions - most recently on Nov. 13, 2010.

"They have to go away," Karzai said of the targeted raids. "If there is any raid, it has to be done by the Afghan government within the Afghan law."

Obama's acceptance of the principle that U.S. SOF units and airpower should remain in Afghanistan indefinitely was apparently part of the strategy adopted officially last December after being leaked to the New York Times by Pentagon officials in mid-November.

That strategy, presented to the NATO summit meeting in Lisbon in November, paralleled the Obama administration strategy in Iraq, which claimed that the phase of U.S. combat had ended in August 2010 after a transition to Iraqi responsibility for security, with remaining U.S. forces supposedly involved only in training, advising and supporting the Iraqi forces.

The Afghanistan strategy identified the end of 2014 as the equivalent of the transition to a limited U.S. role in Iraq. But it anticipated tens of thousands of troops remaining in Afghanistan after the transition for purportedly non-combat roles, just as some 50,000 U.S. combat troops remained in Iraq after the transition date. They have continued to participate in combat.

What was not leaked to the Times in November, however, was that both SOF units and airpower would remain behind for combat purposes.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced in her Feb. 18 speech that negotiations would begin with the Karzai government on a new "Strategic Partnership Declaration", which she said would "provide a long-term framework for our bilateral cooperation in the areas of security, economic and social development and institution building." But she gave no hint that the administration had already decided to keep forces and base access indefinitely beyond 2014.

The first meeting on that "Strategic Partnership Declaration" took place in Kabul Mar. 13-14. The U.S. and Afghan delegations issued a two-paragraph statement that made no reference to the question of continued U.S. troops or access to bases. That suggested that the discussion was still at the level of principles and generalities.

In her prepared statement to the Senate Armed Services Committee Mar. 15, however, Flournoy referred for the first time publicly to the post-2014 military presence. "I anticipate that some U.S. forces will remain in Afghanistan in order to train and assist the ANSF (Afghan National Security Forces) and conduct combat counter-terrorism operations," she said.

But someone had also tipped off Senator Joseph Lieberman, generally considered the most militarist member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, to ask Flournoy and Petraeus about what could be one of the most sensitive aspects of the new policy.

Lieberman asked Flournoy to comment on the possibility of a "jointly operated system of bases in Afghanistan between us and the Afghans" after 2014. That brought an unambiguous confirmation by Flournoy that the U.S. was committed to leaving troops in Afghanistan indefinitely to conduct "joint counter-terrorism operations".

Petraeus likened "the concept of joint basing, the concept of providing enablers for Afghan operations and so forth" as "frankly similar to what we have done in Iraq since the mission changed there" and said it would "also be appropriate in Afghanistan". Petraeus acknowledged, however, that "we've got nearly four years to go until that time."

The determination to use the Senate testimony to ensure that the policy was publicised appears to have been related to the knowledge that Obama administration was finally moving to get negotiations with the Taliban started - and that making explicit the policy of maintaining military forces in Afghanistan indefinitely would scuttle the chances for starting such talks.

The decision to launch an "increased diplomatic effort" on Afghanistan was also made in conjunction with the December strategy review, according to Flournoy's Mar. 15 statement. The first move by the administration was to make it clear that what had appeared to be preconditions for negotiations with the Taliban - an end to all ties with al Qaeda and recognising the constitution of Afghanistan - were actually going to be the outcomes of negotiations with the Taliban.

The diplomatic track was to be pursued through a regular tripartite meeting with Afghanistan and Pakistan scheduled for Feb. 23-24, according to knowledgeable sources. It had to be rescheduled after the Jan. 27 detention of CIA consultant Raymond Davis by Pakistani authorities in Lahore on murder charges.

Nevertheless, the clarification of administration negotiating policy was included in a speech by Clinton at the Asia Society Feb. 18. And the tripartite meeting had been rescheduled for Mar. 26.

The Pentagon apparently wanted the still covert policy of long-term U.S. combat presence in Afghanistan to be explicit and on the record before the process of sounding out the Taliban had gone too far.

Yemen
6) Flipping Again, Yemen President Vows to Stay
Laura Kasinof, New York Times, March 26, 2011
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/27/world/middleeast/27yemen.html

Sana, Yemen - A day after he said he was ready to yield power to "safe hands," President Ali Abdullah Saleh asserted Saturday that his departure was not imminent, leaving unclear when and under what terms he would agree to step down.

His statement was the latest pivot in back-and-forth negotiations over a transfer of power, even as Mr. Saleh tries to frame the terms under which he would leave.

"A presidential source denied on Saturday what have been reported by some media outlets that President Ali Abdullah Saleh will step down," said a statement by the official Saba news agency.

This was a reference to reports by several news agencies saying that the president was ready to agree to a transition as early as Saturday. Mr. Saleh said Friday that he would leave if he could hand the reins to safe hands, and not "malicious forces." But early Sunday the president sounded obstinate in an appearance on Al Arabiya television, saying, "We are not clinging to power," and adding that he would turn over power "to the people, but not to chaos."

The shifting and sometimes murky stances of the government and its opponents have become a trademark of the current political crisis. A month ago, Yemen's opposition coalition, the Joint Meetings Parties, proposed a plan under which Mr. Saleh would leave at the end of this year. The president recently agreed to the proposal.

But protesters have rejected the plan and called for Mr. Saleh's immediate ouster. And the opposition has recently shifted positions and said that Mr. Saleh must leave immediately, without conditions.
[...]

7) Change in Yemen
Editorial, New York Times, March 25, 2011
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/26/opinion/26sat2.html

There may have been a time when Yemen's president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, could have maneuvered a more graceful departure from the office he has held for three decades. But he has lost his legitimacy and should go as quickly as possible. Continued instability is not good for Yemen or for the United States-led fight against Al Qaeda.

For nearly two months, Mr. Saleh weathered increasing pressure from youth-led demonstrations demanding his resignation and a more accountable and democratic system. The tide turned on March 18. At least 50 protesters were killed, apparently by snipers loyal to the regime.

Since then, a surprising number of high-level government officials, including military commanders and ambassadors, as well as tribal leaders, have joined the opposition. The most significant: Maj. Gen. Ali Mohsin al-Ahmar, who this week directed his troops to protect the antigovernment demonstrators.

Protesters, so far, have rejected Mr. Saleh's attempted concessions. They have little reason to trust him: He has long promised reforms and never delivered. Even now, he is sending mixed messages. On Thursday, he vowed to defend himself by "all possible means." On Friday, he said he was ready to yield power but only if he could hand it over to what he termed "safe hands."

Still, there is talk of a deal. In Yemen's complex tribal culture, President Saleh, a survivor, may survive again. The Obama administration, using quiet diplomacy, at first tried to persuade him to respond peacefully and credibly to popular demands. Now with Saudi Arabia, Yemen's patron, it should press him even harder to accept a quick and peaceful transfer of power to a caretaker government that broadly reflects Yemeni society. It would lay the ground for elections.

Yemen is a shaky state. It is running out of water and oil, and 43 percent of its people are impoverished. It is battling separatists in the south, insurgents in the north and - with Washington's frequent participation - one of Al Qaeda's strongest affiliates. A brutal civil war or a prolonged power vacuum will only make a bad situation even worse.

Pakistan
8) Pakistan official says government to compensate victims of especially deadly US drone strike
Associated Press, Saturday, March 26, 7:03 AM
http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/pakistan-official-says-government-to-compensate-victims-of-especially-deadly-us-drone-strike/2011/03/26/AFxNGraB_story.html


Mir Ali, Pakistan - The Pakistani government will compensate the families of 39 people killed in a recent American missile attack close to the Afghan border, an official said Saturday, one of first times authorities have announced such a move.

The March 17 strike in North Waziristan district was condemned by Pakistan's army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, who said the victims were innocent civilians, something denied by a U.S. official. Kayani's statement represented a rare public criticism by the Pakistani military of the United States over one of the attacks.
[...]
North Waziristan government administrator Mohammad Asghar said the heirs - as defined under Islamic tradition - of those killed in the strike would each receive US$3,530 next week. He said the wounded would receive US$1,176 per person. Authorities have not released the number of those wounded in the strike.

A U.S. official has said the dead were militants or militant sympathizers, and there had been no public investigation of the strike. Washington does not publicly admit firing the missiles or give details on who it is killing. Unlike across the border in Afghanistan, it is not known to compensate the families of innocents killed.
[...]

Jordan
9) Riot Police In Jordan Clear Camp Of Protesters
Ranya Kadri and Ethan Bronner, New York Times, March 25, 2011
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/26/world/middleeast/26jordan.html

Amman, Jordan - Riot police officers stormed a pro-democracy rally here in the Jordanian capital on Friday, leaving one man dead, injuring scores of other people and dispersing with water cannons a 1,000-person tent camp set up the previous day to resemble Tahrir Square in Cairo.

Witnesses said the violence - the worst since demonstrations began in Jordan in January - came after some 200 pro-government counterdemonstrators using sticks and rocks attacked the protesters, who fought back. The riot police were called in, and they broke up the fighting as well as the tent camp.

The Interior Ministry said the man who died in the fighting, Khairi Jamil Saad, 56, an unemployed father of five, had suffered a fatal heart attack. But his son Nasser Saad said in an interview that the riot police had attacked and beaten them both. He said he saw his father's body at the hospital. His teeth were broken, and he had signs of being beaten on his hands, legs and ears.

At least 100 injured demonstrators were at the hospital, and protest organizers said four of them were later arrested by the police.

Three witnesses said they saw distinct evidence of collusion between the pro-government demonstrators and the riot police. After the tent camp was destroyed, they said, the two groups sang and celebrated together.

The tent camp had been set up by a new organization calling itself the March 24th Movement because of its plan to camp out from Thursday until demands for reform were met, as had occurred in Tahrir Square. The organizers were calling for an end to corruption and autocracy and greater economic equality.

As discontent has rolled across the Arab world in recent months, King Abdullah II of Jordan fired his cabinet and ordered his new prime minister, Marouf al-Bakhit, to begin serious electoral reforms and reach out to all elements of Jordanian society, including the Muslim Brotherhood.

But the reform process has not moved quickly, and pro-democracy forces have grown impatient. Jordan is a close American ally, and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates visited King Abdullah on Friday, flying to his palace and back by helicopter, with no direct contact with the political unrest.

On Friday night, Prime Minister Bakhit appeared on television and condemned what had happened at the democracy rally, saying it gave Jordan a poor image.

A leader of the new movement, Khaled Khalaldeh, said he and his colleagues would meet on Saturday to decide how to proceed after the destruction of their tent camp. A Muslim Brotherhood leader, Murad Adaileh, called for the resignation of the government and the dissolution of the riot police.
[...]
In other parts of the Arab world, notably Bahrain and the eastern part of Saudi Arabia, antigovernment demonstrations took place after Friday Prayer. In Bahrain, which remains under martial law after the king called in Saudi troops to help him quell unrest by mostly Shiite demonstrators, small protests broke out in the capital, Manama, and in nearby villages. The police entered the villages shooting tear gas.

The leading Shiite opposition group, Wefaq, said that a 71-year-old man died from tear gas asphyxiation after the police blocked exit roads, and he was unable to get to the hospital in time. The Bahraini Interior Ministry later said the man's death was from natural causes and was not related to tear gas. Shiites make up some 70 percent of the population of Bahrain, which is ruled by a Sunni royal family and elite.

The protesters in Bahrain had set up their own tent camp, also modeled on Tahrir Square, for a month in Pearl Square. But the police destroyed it this month and took down the 300-foot sculpture at the square's center. Tanks and checkpoints have been set up throughout Manama as part of the crackdown, and the strategic island, home to the American Navy's Fifth Fleet, remains tense.

In eastern Saudi Arabia, several hundred Shiites held sympathy protests for Bahrain, demanding the release of detainees and calling for the removal of Saudi troops from Bahrain, according to the Saudi news agency Rasid. It added that the protesters waved Bahraini flags and held marches in two cities in the province of Qatif. Like the majority Shiites in Bahrain, the Shiite minority in Saudi Arabia has long complained of discrimination.

-

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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