JFP 3/29: Military Mission in Libya Flips to Regime Change
Just Foreign Policy News
March 29, 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.
Contrary to the President's Speech, Removal of Qaddafi Is the Military Objective
In his speech, the President claimed that the military mission in Libya has a narrow objective of protecting civilians. But a report in the New York Times on the Administration's strategy shows that's not true: the objective of the military mission is to bomb the Libyan army until it forces Qaddafi to leave.
Rolling Stone: The Kill Team
How U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan murdered innocent civilians and mutilated their corpses - and how their officers failed to stop them. http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/the-kill-team-20110327
FAIR Action Alert: On Libya, NewsHour Looks Like State TV
The bombing of Libya has sharply divided public opinion, but the PBS NewsHour has avoided a wide-ranging debate by overwhelmingly featuring the views of current and former government and military officials.
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1) Even as Obama Monday described a narrower role for the US in a NATO-led operation in Libya, the US military has been carrying out an expansive and increasingly potent air campaign to compel the Libyan Army to turn against Qaddafi, the New York Times reports. When the mission was launched, it was largely seen as having a limited, humanitarian agenda: to keep Qaddafi from attacking his own people. But the White House, Pentagon and European allies have given it the most expansive possible interpretation, amounting to an all-out assault on Libya's military. The strategy for White House officials nervous that the Libya operation could drag on for weeks or months, even under a NATO banner, is to hit Libyan forces hard enough to force them to oust Qaddafi, the Times says.
2) An AP "fact check" of the President's speech notes the following: despite the President's claim that "Our military mission is narrowly focused on saving lives," the scope of the mission appears to be expanding; the US will not be taking a back seat in the campaign even as its profile diminishes for public consumption; the US pays 22% of NATO's budget; U.S. officials acknowledge that NATO air attacks are crucial to the rebel military advance; contrary to the President's claim that the US cannot "turn a blind eye to atrocities," mass violence against civilians has also been escalating elsewhere, without any U.S. military intervention anticipated.
3) In his speech, the President presented false choices, writes Amy Davidson in the New Yorker. The false choices, Obama presented were between doing exactly what he is doing and "never acting on behalf of what's right," and between doing what he is doing and deciding to "broaden our military mission beyond the task of protecting the Libyan people, and do whatever it takes to bring down Qaddafi and usher in a new government."
Throughout the speech, Obama avoided acknowledging that we have already gone beyond stopping an imminent massacre in Benghazi. He cannot simply keep invoking his moment of moral clarity in order to avoid a serious discussion about what we are doing in Libya now, and where we're headed. After all, "the task of protecting the Libyan people" could easily be construed as bringing down Qaddafi; for that matter, the phrase is vague enough to encompass a flu vaccination campaign for children in Tripoli. At the moment, it includes air support for a rebel advance toward Sirt.
4) The Pentagon says it has spent $550 million on U.S. military operations in Libya, the Politico reports. The first official tab released by the Pentagon reflects costs incurred in the mission between March 19 and March 28. ABC News's $600 million-plus estimation included $60 million to replace the Air Force F-15E fighter jet that crashed last week. The Pentagon's official total does not include the cost of replacing the jet. The total includes $268.8 million spent on at least 191 Tomahawk cruise missiles that have been launched, ABC estimated.
5) During a Senate hearing Tuesday, NATO's top military officer said it was possible NATO would put troops into "post-Gadhafi" Libya, Spencer Ackerman reports in Wired. The new prospect of NATO force on the ground in Libya seemed to alarm Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who got Stavridis to say that there's "no discussion of the insertion of ground troops" in NATO circles.
6) Government forces have abandoned their posts across Yemen, the New York Times reports. President Saleh told a committee from his political party that 6 of Yemen's 18 provinces "have fallen." But some Yemeni officials and analysts said the government withdrawals, and Saleh's dramatic claim, might be at least partly a ploy to warn his backers in the West and the Arab world about possible consequences were he to fall from power.
The Saudis have been involved in efforts to secure a "dignified exit" from power, according to an Arab diplomat. The Saudis seem, if anything, to be more convinced than the Americans that Saleh must go, the Times says. They believe Saleh "has clearly shown that he's part of the problem," the diplomat said.
7) Egypt's military rulers announced the country's emergency laws will be lifted before parliament elections set for September, AP reports. The council also issued a decree easing conditions for forming new political parties.
8) Latin American nations initially opposed to the military intervention in Libya are gradually hardening their stance as the objective of the Western powers taking part in the air strikes authorised by the U.N. Security Council to protect civilians becomes less and less clear, Inter Press Service reports. Brazil, which abstained from the Security Council vote, is now calling for a ceasefire. According to President Dilma Rousseff, the military intervention is causing what was feared when Brazil abstained in the vote: instead of protecting civilians, the air strikes are causing victims.
Argentine Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman said the air strikes were carried out before "all available diplomatic means were exhausted." He also said the report by the U.N. envoy to Libya should have been awaited before any decision on military action was reached.
"This attack implies a setback in the current international order," said Uruguayan President José Mujica. "The remedy is much worse than the illness. This business of saving lives by bombing is an inexplicable contradiction."
9) Peru's presidential front-runner Ollanta Humala said on Monday he would respect free-trade agreements and the central bank's independence as he tries to persuade voters he is no longer a left-wing hard-liner, Reuters reports. Humala also said that he would be fiscally responsible and said financial markets worried about his rise in the polls have no reason to fear him. Despite his speech, Peru's sol fell to a three-month low as traders worried Humala might unwind market-friendly policies.
Two polls showed Humala had a tiny lead in what has become an unprecedented five-way race ahead of the April 10 first-round vote. Polls show Humala would likely lose a second round vote on June 5 against any of his four potential opponents, all of whom are more trusted by investors, Reuters says.
1) U.S. Gives Its Air Power Expansive Role in Libya
Eric Schmitt, New York Times, March 28, 2011
Washington - Even as President Obama on Monday described a narrower role for the United States in a NATO-led operation in Libya, the American military has been carrying out an expansive and increasingly potent air campaign to compel the Libyan Army to turn against Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi.
When the mission was launched, it was largely seen as having a limited, humanitarian agenda: to keep Colonel Qaddafi from attacking his own people. But the White House, the Pentagon and their European allies have given it the most expansive possible interpretation, amounting to an all-out assault on Libya's military.
A growing armada of coalition warplanes, armed with more precise information about the location and abilities of Libyan Army units than was known a week ago, have effectively provided the air cover the ragtag opposition has needed to stave off certain defeat in its de facto eastern capital, Benghazi.
Allied aircraft are not only dropping 500-pound bombs on Libyan troops, they are also using psychological operations to try to break their will to fight, broadcasting messages in Arabic and English, telling Libyan soldiers and sailors to abandon their posts and go back to their homes and families, and to defy Colonel Qaddafi's orders.
The Obama administration has been reluctant to call the operation an actual war, and it has sought to emphasize the involvement of a dozen other countries, particularly Italy, Britain and France. In his speech on Monday night, Mr. Obama, as he has in the past, portrayed the mission as a limited one, and described the United States' role as "supporting."
But interviews in recent days offer a fuller picture of American involvement, and show that it is far deeper than discussed in public and more instrumental to the fight than was previously known.
From the air, the United States is supplying much more firepower than any other country. The allies have fired nearly 200 Tomahawk cruise missiles since the campaign started on March 19, all but 7 from the United States. The United States has flown about 370 attack missions, and its allied partners have flown a similar number, but the Americans have dropped 455 precision-guided munitions compared with 147 from other coalition members.
Besides taking part in the airstrikes, the American military is taking the lead role in gathering intelligence, intercepting Libyan radio transmissions, for instance, and using the information to orchestrate attacks against the Libyan forces on the ground. And over the weekend the Air Force quietly sent three of its most fearsome weapons to the operation.
The strategy for White House officials nervous that the Libya operation could drag on for weeks or months, even under a NATO banner, is to hit Libyan forces hard enough to force them to oust Colonel Qaddafi, a result that Mr. Obama has openly encouraged.
2) Fact Check: How Obama's Libya claims fit the facts
Calvin Woodward, Associated Press, 03/28/11 5:20 PM
There may be less than meets the eye to President Barack Obama's statements Monday night that NATO is taking over from the U.S. in Libya and that U.S. action is limited to defending people under attack there by Moammar Gadhafi's forces.
In transferring command and control to NATO, the U.S. is turning the reins over to an organization dominated by the U.S., both militarily and politically. In essence, the U.S. runs the show that is taking over running the show.
And the rapid advance of rebels in recent days strongly suggests they are not merely benefiting from military aid in a defensive crouch, but rather using the multinational force in some fashion - coordinated or not - to advance an offensive.
Here is a look at some of Obama's assertions in his address to the nation Monday, and how they compare with the facts:
OBAMA: "Our most effective alliance, NATO, has taken command of the enforcement of the arms embargo and no-fly zone. ... Going forward, the lead in enforcing the no-fly zone and protecting civilians on the ground will transition to our allies and partners, and I am fully confident that our coalition will keep the pressure on Gadhafi's remaining forces. In that effort, the United States will play a supporting role."
THE FACTS: As by far the pre-eminent player in NATO, and a nation historically reluctant to put its forces under operational foreign command, the United States will not be taking a back seat in the campaign even as its profile diminishes for public consumption.
The United States supplies 22 percent of NATO's budget, almost as much as the next largest contributors - Britain and France - combined. A Canadian three-star general was selected to be in charge of all NATO operations in Libya. His boss, the commander of NATO's Allied Joint Force Command Naples, is an American admiral, and the admiral's boss is the supreme allied commander Europe, a post always held by an American.
OBAMA: "Our military mission is narrowly focused on saving lives."
THE FACTS: Even as the U.S. steps back as the nominal leader, reduces some assets and fires a declining number of cruise missiles, the scope of the mission appears to be expanding and the end game remains unclear.
Despite insistences that the operation is only to protect civilians, the airstrikes now are undeniably helping the rebels to advance. U.S. officials acknowledge that the effect of air attacks on Gadhafi's forces - and on the supply and communications links that support them - is useful if not crucial to the rebels. "Clearly they're achieving a benefit from the actions that we're taking," Navy Vice Adm. William Gortney, staff director for the Joint Chiefs, said Monday.
The Pentagon has been turning to air power of a kind more useful than high-flying bombers in engaging Libyan ground forces. So far these have included low-flying Air Force AC-130 and A-10 attack aircraft, and the Pentagon is considering adding armed drones and helicopters.
OBAMA: Seeking to justify military intervention, the president said the U.S. has "an important strategic interest in preventing Gadhafi from overrunning those who oppose him. A massacre would have driven thousands of additional refugees across Libya's borders, putting enormous strains on the peaceful - yet fragile - transitions in Egypt and Tunisia." He added: "I am convinced that a failure to act in Libya would have carried a far greater price for America."
THE FACTS: Obama did not wait to make that case to Congress, despite his past statements that presidents should get congressional authorization before taking the country to war, absent a threat to the nation that cannot wait.
"The president does not have the 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," he told The Boston Globe in 2007 in his presidential campaign. "History has shown us time and again ... that military action is most successful when it is authorized and supported by the legislative branch."
OBAMA: "Some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries. The United States of America is different. And as president, I refused to wait for the images of slaughter and mass graves before taking action."
THE FACTS: Mass violence against civilians has also been escalating elsewhere, without any U.S. military intervention anticipated.
More than 1 million people have fled the Ivory Coast, where the U.N. says forces loyal to the incumbent leader, Laurent Gbagbo, have used heavy weapons against the population and more than 460 killings have been confirmed of supporters of the internationally recognized president, Alassane Ouattara.
The Obama administration says Gbagbo and Gadhafi have both lost their legitimacy to rule. But only one is under attack from the U.S.
Presidents typically pick their fights according to the crisis and circumstances at hand, not any consistent doctrine about when to use force in one place and not another. They have been criticized for doing so - by Obama himself.
In his pre-presidential book "The Audacity of Hope," Obama said the U.S. will lack international legitimacy if it intervenes militarily "without a well-articulated strategy that the public supports and the world understands."
He questioned: "Why invade Iraq and not North Korea or Burma? Why intervene in Bosnia and not Darfur?"
Now, such questions are coming at him.
3) Obama's Speech: Choices For Libya
Amy Davidson, New Yorker, March 29, 2011
"Much of the debate in Washington has put forward a false choice when it comes to Libya," President Obama said Tuesday night. Maybe; but he proceeded to do something like that, too. The false choice, or choices, Obama presented were between doing exactly what he is doing and "never acting on behalf of what's right," and between doing what he is doing and deciding to "broaden our military mission beyond the task of protecting the Libyan people, and do whatever it takes to bring down Qaddafi and usher in a new government."
In the first instance, the suggestion that those with doubts about entering this war-without much of a plan, without real consultation with Congress-were arguing against ever doing anything "on behalf of what is right" is, to say the least, overly broad. Does Obama really think that the only morally steady position is one that endorses the current air campaign-that not agreeing with him means turning "a blind eye to atrocities," and that anything short of close to two hundred cruise missiles "would have been a betrayal of who we are"?
Obama's second "false choice," between his neat and limited war and a broader conflict, has an artificial quality, too. Throughout the speech, Obama avoided acknowledging that we have already gone beyond stopping an imminent massacre in Benghazi. He cannot simply keep invoking what he obviously-and not necessarily wrongly-sees as his moment of moral clarity in order to avoid a serious discussion about what we are doing in Libya now, and where we're headed. After all, "the task of protecting the Libyan people" could easily be construed as bringing down Qaddafi; for that matter, the phrase is vague enough to encompass a flu vaccination campaign for children in Tripoli. At the moment, it includes air support for a rebel advance toward Sirt.
4) Cost of Libya mission at $550 million, Pentagon says
Jennifer Epstein, Politico, March 29, 2011 10:37 AM EDT
The Pentagon says it has spent $550 million on U.S. military operations in Libya since efforts to protect civilians from Muammar Qadhafi's regime began 10 days ago.
Details of expenditures on the Libya mission show the Defense Department spending more than 60 percent of the $550 million on bombs and missiles, Pentagon spokeswoman Navy Cmdr. Kathleen Kesler told POLITICO. The rest of the costs, she said, "are for higher operating tempo of U.S. forces and deployment costs."
The total - the first official tab released by the Pentagon - reflects costs incurred in the mission between March 19 and March 28. It doesn't include day-to-day military costs like troop salaries and the upkeep of ships that the Pentagon would have had to pay regardless of the action in Libya. The funding is being shifted from other U.S. operations.
Moving ahead, Kesler said, "future costs are highly uncertain," though the Defense Department expects to incur added costs of about $40 million over the next three weeks as the operation transfers to NATO's leadership. After that, if U.S. forces stay at the levels planned, U.S. military involvement would total about $40 million each month.
Several news organizations have estimated that the cost of the Libya mission has already exceeded $600 million. In an accounting published Monday, ABC News's $600 million-plus estimation included $60 million to replace the Air Force F-15E fighter jet that crashed last week after experiencing mechanical problems. The Pentagon's official total does not include the cost of replacing the jet.
The total includes $268.8 million spent on at least 191 Tomahawk cruise missiles that have been launched, ABC estimated.
Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) last week offered up a budget resolution that would block the use of taxpayer money to pay for operations in Libya, effectively defunding the mission. "We have already spent trillions of dollars on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, both of which descended into unwinnable quagmires," Kucinich wrote in a letter to colleagues. "Now, the president is plunging the United States into yet another war we cannot afford."
Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) quickly signed on a cosponsor of the effort. The White House has not yet indicated whether it will request supplemental funding for the mission.
5) NATO Chief Opens The Door to Libya Ground Troops
Spencer Ackerman, Danger Room, March 29, 2011, 11:21 am
The mantra, from President Obama on down, is that ground forces are totally ruled out for Libya. After all, the United Nations Security Council Resolution authorizing the war explicitly rules out any "occupation" forces. But leave it to the top military officer of NATO, which takes over the war on Wednesday, to add an asterisk to that ban.
During a Senate hearing on Tuesday, Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island asked Adm. James Stavridis about NATO putting forces into "post-Gadhafi" Libya to make sure the country doesn't fall apart. Stavridis said he "wouldn't say NATO's considering it yet." But because of NATO's history of putting peacekeepers in the Balkans - as pictured above - "the possibility of a stabilization regime exists."
So welcome to a new possible "endgame" for Libya. Western troops patrolling Libya's cities during a a shaky transition after Moammar Gadhafi's regime has fallen, however that's supposed to happen. Thousands of NATO troops patrolled Bosnia and Kosovo's tense streets for years. And Iraq and Afghanistan taught the U.S. and NATO very dearly that fierce insurgent conflict can follow the end of a brutal regime. In fact, it's the moments after the regime falls that can be the most dangerous of all - especially if well-intentioned foreign troops become an object of local resentment.
In fact, Stavridis told Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma that he saw "flickers of intelligence" indicating "al-Qaeda [and] Hezbollah" have fighters amongst the Libyan rebels. The Supreme Allied Commander of NATO noted that the leadership of the rebels are "responsible men and women struggling against Col. Gadhafi" and couldn't say if the terrorist element in the opposition is "significant." But the U.S. knows precious little about who the Libyan rebels are.
The new prospect of NATO force on the ground in Libya seemed to alarm Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who got Stavridis to say that there's "no discussion of the insertion of ground troops" in NATO circles. (And "to my knowledge" there aren't troops there now, he said.) But Stavridis told Reed that the memory of the long NATO peacekeeping efforts in the Balkans is "in everyone's mind."
President Obama boasted about the rapidity with which the U.S. and its allies got involved in Libya. Some defense wonks, like Andrew Exum of the Center for a New American Security, criticized Obama's team for not exhibiting diligent planning before Operation Odyssey Dawn began. Obama didn't signal an endgame in his Monday speech, just vowing not to use any ground forces to get there.
That was exactly what President Clinton promised in Bosnia - right before sending 20,000 U.S. soldiers to enforce the 1995 Balkans peace deal. Because of the U.S.' commitments to NATO and NATO's commitments to enforcing the peace accord, U.S. peacekeepers ended up staying there for a decade. That history may be weighing on officers in Europe, but the Obama administration doesn't seem to be so troubled.
6) Factory Explosion Follows Yemeni Forces' Pullout
Laura Kasinof and Robert F. Worth, New York Times, March 28, 2011
Sana, Yemen - Yemen's political crisis deepened Monday when an explosion tore through a crowd of looters at an abandoned government weapons factory in the south, killing at least 110 people and underscoring an ominous collapse of authority after six weeks of rising protests.
In recent days, government forces have abandoned their posts across the country, including areas where northern rebels have long challenged the military and southern provinces where Al Qaeda's Arabian branch has maintained sanctuaries, Yemeni officials and witnesses said.
President Ali Abdullah Saleh cast the government's losses in stark terms on Sunday, telling a committee from his political party that 6 of Yemen's 18 provinces "have fallen."
But some Yemeni officials and analysts said the government withdrawals, and Mr. Saleh's dramatic claim, might be at least partly a ploy to warn his backers in the West and the Arab world about possible consequences were he to fall from power.
"Sadly, the country is being ripped apart" to maintain Mr. Saleh's hold on power, said one high-ranking Yemeni official, speaking of the turmoil in Yemen's outlying areas.
The Yemeni president has often held himself up as the only alternative to chaos or Qaeda-style extremism. Last week, battered by the defections of top military supporters as well as vast demonstrations in Sana, the capital, and in other major cities, he took part in discussions mediated by American diplomats aimed at a peaceful transfer of power.
The talks bogged down, and Mr. Saleh has since hardened his public stance, saying he would make no more concessions.
Mr. Saleh's government is facing real challenges, and it was not clear whether he was exploiting the situation for political gain or not. Certainly, the huge demonstrations in cities across Yemen have strained the capacities of Yemen's fragile state, pushing police officers and soldiers back from town centers and testing their loyalties.
The strains have grown worse since government supporters opened fire on protesters in the capital on March 18, killing at least 50 and igniting outrage across the country.
One thing is clear: Yemen's opposition parties, as well as the loose-knit youth groups that led the protests challenging Mr. Saleh, believe the chaos and violence are nothing more than a cynical political ploy.
On Monday, the opposition parties, known as the J.M.P., released a statement saying of the factory explosion: "This horrible crime came after the order of the authority to openly withdraw its military and security in favor of Qaeda and other armed groups, in a desperate attempt of President Saleh to confirm his argument that Yemen is just a ticking time bomb."
The explosion on Monday took place as crowds of impoverished local residents were looting the factory for valuable weapons, witnesses said. It appears to have been accidental, possibly caused by a lighted cigarette on gunpowder or a gun used to open a room full of dynamite.
If Mr. Saleh was hoping for support from neighboring Saudi Arabia, which sent military forces to shore up its ally and neighbor, Bahrain, earlier this month, he is not likely to succeed.
The Saudis have been involved in efforts to secure a "dignified exit" from power, according to an Arab diplomat who spoke on the condition of anonymity in line with diplomatic protocol. The Saudis refused a plea for support from the Yemeni foreign minister, Abu Bakr al-Qirbi, who flew to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, last week.
The Saudis "are not coordinating their initiatives with the Americans," in part because of lingering anger over the way the United States handled the fall of President Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, the diplomat said.
But the Saudis seem, if anything, to be more convinced that Mr. Saleh must go. They are in discussions with southern Yemeni tribes to help reinforce security, and they believe Mr. Saleh "has clearly shown that he's part of the problem," the diplomat said, adding, "It's clear that his government is coming to an end, and there has to be an exit."
The Saudis are especially concerned about the situation just across their border in northern Yemen, where Houthi rebels - who have battled the Yemeni government intermittently for years - occupied the capital city of Yemen's Saada Province for the first time last Tuesday. One witness said the rebels took control with minimal fighting.
Saada's governor, deputy governor, and other officials fled the province by military plane on Wednesday with a truckload of currency from the central bank, according to witnesses. The heavily armed Houthi rebels allowed this to happen, the witnesses said, adding to the widespread belief that the rebel takeover was coordinated with Mr. Saleh's government.
A local committee consisting of Houthi fighters, soldiers loyal to Yemen's top military commander, and tribal leaders, have now named Faris Manna, known as Yemen's most powerful arms dealer, as the governor of the province, according to a Yemeni official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Houthi rebels aided by tribal forces have also been successful in expelling all government officials from Jawf Province, just east of Saada, according to government officials and local witnesses.
The Houthis have aligned themselves with the protesters, who have been inspired by successful revolts in Egypt and Tunisia, and who are calling for the fall of Mr. Saleh's government. Defections by Yemeni officials and high-ranking military men, including Maj. Gen. Ali Mohsin al-Ahmar, the leader of the division responsible for fighting the rebels in the north, have further emboldened the rebels.
7) Egypt military rulers: 30-year emergency laws to be lifted before September general elections
Associated Press, Monday, March 28, 11:36 AM
Cairo - Egypt's military rulers announced Monday that the country's hated emergency laws will be lifted before parliament elections set for September, the latest move to ease harsh restrictions under the ousted regime of President Hosni Mubarak.
The laws have been in place since 1981, when Mubarak took power. They give police near-unlimited powers of arrest and allowed indefinite detentions without charges. The old regulations also sharply curtailed rights to demonstrate and organize politically.
The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which is ruling the country now, also said Mubarak and his family are under house arrest. The statement apparently aimed to defuse rumors that Mubarak had left for Saudi Arabia for medical treatment.
In another move to lighten restrictions, the council reduced the nightly curfew to three hours, from 2 a.m. to 5 a.m.
This reflects improvement in the security situation after a wave of acts of thuggery, armed theft and chaos after police were pulled off the streets on Jan. 28. Up to now the curfew has been in effect from midnight to 6 a.m.
In another landmark move, the council issued a decree easing conditions for forming new political parties.
This overturns Mubarak's system giving his party a virtual veto over creation of new parties, effectively stifling new groupings.
8) Growing Opposition to Military Intervention in Libya
Fabiana Frayssinet, Inter Press Service, Mar 28
Rio De Janeiro - Latin America is still divided over the military intervention in Libya. But the nations that were initially opposed to it are gradually hardening their stance as the objective of the Western powers taking part in the air strikes authorised by the U.N. Security Council to protect civilians becomes less and less clear.
Brazil, which abstained from the Mar. 17 U.N. Security Council vote that authorised "all necessary measures to protect civilians under threat of attack" by pro-Muammar Gaddafi forces in the North African nation, is now calling for a ceasefire.
According to left-wing President Dilma Rousseff, the military intervention is causing what was feared when Brazil abstained in the vote: instead of protecting civilians, the air strikes are causing victims.
"After lamenting the loss of lives as a consequence of the conflict in the country, the Brazilian government expresses hope that an effective ceasefire will be implemented in the shortest possible time, capable of guaranteeing the protection of the civilian population and of creating the conditions for dialogue in the crisis," the foreign ministry said in a statement.
"Brazil reiterates its solidarity with the Libyan people in their search for greater participation in designing the country's political future in an atmosphere of protection of human rights," adds the Mar. 22 communiqué, attributed by local media to a behind-the-scenes agreement in BRIC, the bloc made up of Brazil, Russia, India and China.
The BRIC countries and Germany abstained from voting for resolution 1973 adopted by the 15-member U.N. Security Council, which imposed a no-fly zone over Libya for the international mission, but excluded "a foreign occupation force of any form" in that country, which has been ruled by Gaddafi since 1969.
The Brazilian government expressed its stance against the war after U.S. President Barack Obama headed out after his Mar. 19-20 visit to Brazil.
Antonio Alves Pereira, professor of international relations at the Rio de Janeiro Federal University, said the timing of the decision was less about diplomatic deference and more about the intensification of the air strikes.
"When the news of deaths of civilians caused by the bombing came out, Brazil reasserted its position against continued military action," said Pereira, adding that Brazil's abstention from the vote was "consistent" with this country's traditional policy of preference for "diplomatic dialogue."
Mauricio Santoro, an expert on international relations at the Getulio Vargas Foundation, a prestigious Rio de Janeiro-based think tank, added that the initial abstention in the U.N. as well as the subsequent hardening of its stance were decisions that are "easier" now for Brazil to take because "the other countries of the BRIC also took the same position, which prevented this country from being isolated."
In neighbouring Argentina, where the government had issued no statement either for or against the military intervention, Argentine Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman wrote on Twitter on Mar. 21 that the air strikes were carried out before "all available diplomatic means were exhausted."
He also said the report by the U.N. envoy to Libya should have been awaited before any decision on military action was reached.
Khatchik Derghougassian, a professor at the private University of San Andrés, said that both Argentina and Brazil "are injecting a dose of rationality and prudence into an international development that could turn into an unpredictable adventure like the one in Iraq."
The expert on international relations clarified that the position taken by South America's giants "is not based on defence of a regime that has its own people killed" but is "a questioning of the military alternative when other options have not yet been exhausted.
"It is a moderate stance, different from the one taken by Cuba or Venezuela, which has a more anti-imperialistic flavour," he said.
The left-wing governments of Uruguay and Paraguay have also expressed positions similar to the ones taken by Brasilia and Buenos Aires.
"This attack implies a setback in the current international order," said Uruguayan President José Mujica in an interview published by the local daily La República. "The remedy is much worse than the illness. This business of saving lives by bombing is an inexplicable contradiction."
The countries belonging to the ALBA trade bloc, in line with the position taken by Venezuela's leftist President Hugo Chávez, have roundly condemned the air strikes, which they say are based on U.S. and European interest in Libya's oil, and on the desire to curb the expansion of Arab revolutionary movements.
At the other end of the spectrum, in favour of the intervention in Libya, are Colombia, Peru and Chile - the only right-leaning governments in South America - as well as Mexico, whose government issued "a call to Libya's authorities to put an immediate halt to the grave and massive violations of the human rights of the civilian population."
"The terms of the U.N. Security Council resolution must be fulfilled," says a statement released Mar. 20 by Mexico's foreign ministry.
"The position of the government of Felipe Calderón is to not generate conflicts with the United States, by backing the content of the U.N. Security Council resolution while leaving aside the issue of whether or not there is an armed intervention," Adalberto Santana, director of the centre of research on Latin America and the Caribbean of the National Autonomous University of Mexico, told IPS.
9) Leading race, Humala further softens tone in Peru
Terry Wade and Patricia Velez, Reuters, Mon, Mar 28 2011
Lima - Peru's presidential front-runner Ollanta Humala said on Monday he would respect free-trade agreements and the central bank's independence as he tries to persuade voters he is no longer a left-wing hard-liner.
In what was the most moderate speech of his political life, Humala also said that he would be fiscally responsible and said financial markets worried about his rise in the polls have no reason to fear him.
Despite his speech, Peru's sol fell to a three-month low of 2.813 per dollar on Monday as traders worried Humala might unwind market-friendly policies that have been in place for the last two decades in one of the world's fastest-growing economies.
"The existence of an independent central bank presupposes that political demagogues cannot influence the decisions of our monetary authority, which knows how to defend stability and financial reserves" from speculators, he said.
Humala, who nearly won the 2006 race on an ultranationalist platform endorsed by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, sought to give his latest pledges extra weight by codifying them in a letter he read to the Peruvian people and signing it in public.
The tactic was borrowed from the playbook of former Brazilian leader Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who won the presidency in 2002 on his fourth try by casting himself as a moderate who had outgrown his hard-left roots.
Humala, who has recently taken to wearing ties, has also hired campaign consultants with links to Lula's Workers' Party.
Two polls on Sunday showed Humala had a tiny lead in what has become an unprecedented five-way race ahead of the April 10 vote.
Humala has pulled support away from former President Alejandro Toledo, the architect of Peru's trade pact with the United States.
Toledo had been the leader but now trails Humala by a couple of percentage points. The polls show Humala would likely lose a second round vote on June 5 against any of his four potential opponents, all of whom are more trusted by investors.
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