Just Foreign Policy News
April 20, 2011
I) Actions and Featured Articles
*Action: Barbara Boxer: Ending the Endless War
California Senator Barbara Boxer has re-introduced former Senator Feingold’s bill requiring the President to establish a timetable for the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan – a timetable with an end date. Senators Durbin, Harkin, Gillibrand, and Brown have already signed on as co-sponsors. A real deadline for US withdrawal would facilitate meaningful peace talks. More visible Senate criticism of the endless war can move the White House. Urge your Senator to co-sponsor.
Greg Mortenson Responds to His Critics
Concedes omissions, "compression," and "literary license"; says he pays all his own travel since January; agrees only 41% of his foundation’s spending goes to schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but argues much of the remainder goes for public education in the US about the need for the schools; says there’s one school listed on CAI’s website that he now thinks doesn’t exist; concedes some double-counting in northern Pakistan, which he blames on double-dealing by a local manager.
*Action: Human Rights First: Egyptian Military Sentences Blogger to Three Years in Prison
Egyptian activist Maikel Nabil Sanad, a critic of the military in Egypt, was sentenced by a military commission to three years in prison. Sanad was charged with "insulting the military institution and publishing false news about it" and "disturbing the public security."
Kate Gould: Congress Rewrites Goldstone’s Op-ed
On April 14th, fifteen House Members sent a letter to Ambassador Rice claiming that "[Goldstone’s] retractions clear Israel of the charge that it violated international law under the Fourth Geneva Convention." This assertion is, of course, not true.
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1) Kevin Maher, the former head of the State Department’s Japan Desk, is now trying to deny that he described Okinawans as "extortionists" and "lazy" to American University students, writes American University professor David Vine for Foreign Policy in Focus. Maher has also tried to claim that the briefing in which he made the remarks was "off the record." But Professor Vine was present at the talk, which he arranged; and his own notes of the talk match those of the students which were reported in the Japanese press; moreover, he has no recollection of Maher or any other State Department official ever saying at the time before, during, or after the meeting that that the proceedings were "off the record." [According to well-established journalistic practice, stipulation that remarks are "off the record" must be clearly made in advance – JFP.]
The controversy around Maher’s remarks serves as an opportunity to investigate some of the attitudes and "mentalities" long underlying U.S. basing policy in Okinawa, Professor Vine writes. It is also a chance to pay serious attention to what Okinawans have to say about the presence of U.S. bases in their lives.
2) Sen. Jay Rockefeller believes the US should get out of the conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya as soon as possible, the Charleston Gazette reports. "Today, I have grave misgivings about being in Iraq for another week. We should be out of Iraq this year altogether," Rockefeller said. "It is the same thing in Afghanistan, Libya and Yemen," Rockefeller said. "Libya makes no sense to me. I don’t think we should be there at all. We should get out of there and we should get out of Afghanistan…Do you want three failed wars in a row? I don’t want to be in those places. And it has a great deal to do with the [federal] budget."
3) By any reasonable reading, President Obama’s failure to seek Congressional authorization for the Libya war was a violation of the Constitution, John Nichols writes in The Nation. Now Rep. Kucinich is planning to introduce legislation – pursuant to the War Powers Resolution – that will assert the constitutional responsibility of Congress to make decisions about declaring war. "While we may not all agree on the merits of military intervention in Libya, we can all agree that Congress must have the opportunity to have a full and ample debate on the commitment of U.S. Armed Forces to a war abroad," Kucinich wrote his colleagues.
4) Saudi authorities have arrested over 160 peaceful dissidents in violation of international human rights law since February, Human Rights Watch said. HRW slammed the US and EU for making no comment about the arrests. Saudi authorities have held a human rights activist in prison since June 2010 on the charge of "annoying others" over articles he wrote criticizing religious extremists and incompetent officials, HRW notes.
5) Congresswoman Yvette Clarke and 52 other members of Congress sent a letter to Secretary of State Clinton calling on the U.S. to "dedicate significant attention to the critical and urgent task of improving the appalling conditions" of Haitans in IDP camps, her office reports. The letter notes that over a year after Haiti’s earthquake, hundreds of thousands remain in makeshift tent camps, with inadequate shelter that is "progressively deteriorating" and with limited or no access to basic services like water and sanitation.
6) Amnesty International says it believes public pressure to uphold human rights contributed to the decision to transfer Bradley Manning from Quantico to Fort Leavenworth. Amnesty says it will be watching "very closely" how Manning is treated. "His conditions at Quantico have been a breach of international standards for humane treatment of an untried prisoner," Amnesty said.
7) Dozens of Israel’s most honored intellectuals and artists have signed a declaration endorsing a Palestinian state on the basis of the 1967 borders and asserting that an end to Israel’s occupation "will liberate the two peoples and open the way to a lasting peace," the New York Times reports. About 20 signers were winners of the Israel Prize. One of the signers said the group chose this week to issue its declaration because it was Passover, which marks the freedom of the Jewish people from slavery. "We don’t want to pass over the Palestinian people," Yaron Ezrahi said. "This is a holiday of freedom and independence."
8) British military officers will find themselves advising a ragtag rebel force that cannot even agree on who its top officer is, the New York Times reports. From the beginning, the NATO military effort has been hampered by the rebels’ disorganization and lack of training, equipment and experience. Even countries that have expressed support for the rebel cause are balking at arming them, at least in part out of concern over the disarray. The first concrete report of weapons from foreign donors reaching the rebels came Tuesday, widely believed to be from Qatar, the Times says.
9) The Obama administration has notified Congress it will send $25 million worth of "non-lethal" military equipment directly to the Libyan opposition, including vehicles, fuel trucks, ambulances and medical equipment, body armor, binoculars and radios, the Washington Post reports. But the US has resisted joining the European military advisory team. "It is bizarre to suggest that NATO and the rest of the world lacks the capacity to deal with Libya – it does not," Vice President Biden said. He said that U.S. efforts were better concentrated on Egypt.
10) The Libyan government says it is prepared to hold free elections under international supervision after a transitional period of around six months, with the role of Gaddafi open for discussion, the Washington Post reports. Libya’s Foreign Minister called for an internationally monitored cease-fire and said his government was ready to sit down and talk "with our brothers from Benghazi," provided NATO stopped its campaign of airstrikes. Rebels headquartered in Benghazi last week rejected a peace plan proposed by the African Union along similar lines, saying they could not accept any proposal that did not include "the departure of Gaddafi and his sons from the Libyan political scene."
11) An Egyptian government fact-finding panel says at least 846 people were killed during the uprising that toppled President Mubarak, the BBC reports. The revised toll of 846 civilians dead is more than twice the previous official figure of 365. The protests also left more than 6,400 people injured, said the panel’s report. The panel of judges said security forces fired live ammunition, placed snipers on rooftops and used vehicles to run over protesters.
12) Moqtada al-Sadr blasted a government ban on public rallies in Baghdad as "undemocratic," AFP reports. Sadr loyalists have staged several large rallies in Baghdad and other parts of Iraq, most recently when tens of thousands turned up for an anti-US protest earlier this month [the protest specifically challenged US proposals to keep troops in Iraq after the promised departure date of end 2011 – JFP.]
1) Smearing Japan
David Vine, Foreign Policy in Focus, Wednesday 20 April 2011
Just days before the recent earthquake struck Japan, a controversy erupted over comments attributed to Kevin Maher, the head of the State Department’s Japan Desk. In news reports that caused widespread outrage and became front page news in Japan, Maher was quoted as describing the Okinawan people as "extortionists" and "lazy."
The controversial statements came from an account of a briefing by Maher that students from American University in Washington, DC provided a Japanese journalist. I am the professor who arranged and attended the briefing in preparation for a study trip to Okinawa and Tokyo to learn about the impact of U.S. military bases in Okinawa.
In the first days after the story of the briefing appeared, Maher and apologetic State Department officials said the talk had been "off the record" and cast doubt on the accuracy of the students’ account. No one, however, ever denied what Maher said.
More than a month after the scandal broke, and following his demotion and subsequent retirement from an embarrassed State Department, Maher finally broke his silence in a video interview with The Wall Street Journal on Friday. He completely denied the comments as "a kind of fabrication" and said the statements "were not made by me" and were instead written and invented by the students.
Setting the Record Straight
In the interest of setting the record straight and based on my own detailed notes from the meeting, I can confirm the accuracy and substance of the students’ report as well as the specific language that has been attributed to Maher. Although I was and am deeply offended and embarrassed by Maher’s remarks, which offered gross generalizations and stereotypes about the Okinawan and Japanese people, I need offer little commentary here. Maher’s words, which I present below, speak for themselves.
As a social scientist, I present quotations from Maher exactly as he spoke them and exactly as I recorded them during the meeting. I have not paraphrased or changed Maher’s words, and I only use quotation marks when I am certain that I captured his exact speech. Any discrepancies between my notes and those of the students reflect trivial differences in our recording of Maher’s remarks. Contrary to what Maher and other State Department officials have said, I have no recollection of Maher or any other State Department employee ever saying at any time before, during, or after our meeting that the proceedings were "off the record."
Among Maher’s comments that attracted the most anger were those describing Okinawans as masters of "extortion." While discussing anti-base protests in Okinawa, Maher indeed said of Okinawans, "They’re masters in extorting Tokyo for money." He later added that Japanese people as a whole have an "extortionist culture…. Okinawans [in particular] are masters at this….They have developed an economy of extorting Tokyo for money."
The other comments that caused the most pain and offense involved Maher’s characterization of Okinawans as "lazy." "You’ve got this island mentality," Maher said of Okinawans, attributing their high rates of divorce, drunk driving, domestic violence, and birth to alcoholism and a taste for awamori, an Okinawan rice liquor. They have traditionally planted sugar cane and goya, he explained, and then waited and waited to cut it down. Now, he said, "they are too lazy to grow it."
"This is not the politically correct way to say it, but as a man in Okinawa told me, it’s the Puerto Rico of Japan," Maher added. Like Puerto Ricans, he said, Okinawans have "darker skin," are "shorter," and have an "accent."
Comments vs. Reality
Among the many ironies in Maher’s words was his characterization of Okinawans as extortionists when U.S. negotiators like Maher have long pressed the Japanese government for larger and larger contributions to support the U.S. military presence in East Asia. Most recently, Washington has pressed Tokyo for $6.09 billion to move thousands of U.S. marines from Okinawa to Guam. "We’ve got a good deal in Japan," with forward deployed troops, military bases, and flexibility, Maher told our group. "And it doesn’t cost us anything."
Calling Okinawans "lazy" is perhaps even more shocking given how many Okinawans have worked tirelessly for decades calling for the withdrawal of U.S. bases from their island, protesting by the tens of thousands and holding daily, continuous sit-ins in at least two locations for years on end. Which is not even to mention the thousands who have long worked as civilians on the bases, cooking the food, cleaning the floors, laundering the clothes, without whom the bases would not function. Having visited Okinawa in December, I can think of many things to call Okinawans — overwhelmingly generous, warm, and welcoming come to mind — but "lazy" is not among them. Maher’s allusion to an "island mentality" and his racialized comparison to Puerto Ricans is all the more offensive for deploying thinly veiled stereotypes and ignoring how U.S. colonization in Okinawa (formally 1945-1972; informally since) and Puerto Rico (1898-present) has shaped many of the sadly real social problems found in both countries.
Despite the hurt that Maher’s comments have inflicted — and for which I apologize as a U.S. citizen — I am actually pleased that such views have been aired. Although it is shocking that Maher has suddenly denied his statements and falsely accused some of my students of "fabrication," this incident can nevertheless serve as an opportunity for the United States and Japan to investigate some of the attitudes and "mentalities" long underlying U.S. basing policy in Okinawa. It is also a chance to pay serious attention to what Okinawans have to say about the presence of U.S. bases in their lives.
2) Rockefeller: U.S. needs to be out of three conflicts
Paul J. Nyden, Charleston Gazette, April 19, 2011
Charleston, W.Va. — Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., believes the United States should get out of the conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya as soon as possible.
During a visit to the Gazette on Tuesday, Rockefeller also criticized the way military appropriations are often approved as part of "supplementary" budget legislation, hiding them from the public.
"The military budget needs to come under new scrutiny. When I voted for the Iraq War, it was one of the worst votes in my life," Rockefeller said.
"Today, I have grave misgivings about being in Iraq for another week. We should be out of Iraq this year altogether," he said. "We are not going to win. It is not in the cards. Many Asian countries have a totally tribal culture.
"It is the same thing in Afghanistan, Libya and Yemen," Rockefeller said.
"I didn’t object to four days of bombing in Libya. But now the CIA is on the ground. That makes me nervous. I don’t have any patience with the Libyan endeavor," Rockefeller said.
"Libya makes no sense to me. I don’t think we should be there at all. We should get out of there and we should get out of Afghanistan. We can’t win there. We can’t change the country….
"Do you want three failed wars in a row? I don’t want to be in those places. And it has a great deal to do with the [federal] budget."
Rockefeller also believes information provided to justify military interventions is often inaccurate. "As a member of our [Senate] Intelligence Committee, we can investigate the skullduggery and the manipulation of information that is classified."
3) A War Powers Challenge to Obama’s Libya Project
John Nichols, The Nation, April 20, 2011
Kucinich statement & Dear Colleague: Kucinich to Introduce Legislation to End the War in Libya
President Obama failed to seek a declaration of war before ordering US attacks on Libya. Now, he faces a challenge under the War Powers Resolution.
By any reasonable reading of the Constitution, that was a violation of the provision in the founding document that requires the executive to attain authorization from Congress before launching military adventures abroad. But presidents have skirted that requirement in recent decades by claiming that the 1973 War Powers Resolution -an act originally intended to constrain presidential war-making-affords them the freedom to fight first and consult Congress later.
The War Powers Resolution, enacted in the late stages of the Vietnam War over a veto by President Richard Nixon, requires the commander-in-chief to notify Congress within forty-eight hours of committing armed forces to military action that he or she determines is necessary in the face of "a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces." The resolution also forbids armed forces from remaining in action for more than sixty days without Congressional authorization of the use of military force.
That’s not supposed to be a blank check from White House wars of whim, even if successive presidents have relied on self-serving interpretations of the law to lauch and maintain military endeavors.
This week, however, a leading critic of the Libya mission, Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich, is planning to introduce legislation -pursuant to the War Powers Resolution-that will assert the constitutional responsibility of Congress to make decisions about declaring war.
In a letter to fellow members of the House, the Ohio Democrat writes:
"Dear Colleague: Earlier this month, President Obama made his case for U.S. participation in a United Nations-sanctioned war in Libya. The President’s Office of Legal Council recently released the Administration’s legal justification for the war, arguing that he was not required to come to Congress for prior authorization because the war is in our national interest and because it is not really a war. But our actions in Libya and the Administration’s failure to seek authorization from Congress, as required by Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution, cannot be justified.
"I intend to offer legislation pursuant to the War Powers Resolution of 1973 that will address Congress’ constitutional responsibility to make decisions pertaining to the use of U.S. military force abroad. Doing so will allow Congress the latitude to make an informed decision under circumstances in which Congress’s predictable desire to support the troops does not skew the debate on the war’s legitimacy.
"The costs of this war are already mounting. According to figures recently released by the Pentagon, the war has cost the U.S. $608 million thus far, not including the costs to deploy U.S. Armed Forces to participate in the war in Libya. Experts at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments believe that the U.S. costs could ‘easily pass the $1 billion mark…regardless of how well things go.’ If U.S. ‘humanitarian intervention’ in Kosovo is a precedent, we know that the U.S. will continue to bear the majority of the cost of military and post-conflict costs, with the U.S. contributing 25% of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s military budget. During the Kosovo conflict, the U.S. spent $2.8 billion fighting the war, and another $2 billion to replace the munitions it used over Kosovo.
"While we may not all agree on the merits of military intervention in Libya, we can all agree that Congress must have the opportunity to have a full and ample debate on the commitment of U.S. Armed Forces to a war abroad. The Constitution is clear: Article 1, Section 8 provides only Congress with the ability to declare war or authorize the use of military force. This institution cannot stand by idly as a war of choice with significant ramifications for our national and economic security is waged in the name of our national interests."
That closing paragraph makes the key statement: "While we may not all agree on the merits of military intervention in Libya, we can all agree that Congress must have the opportunity to have a full and ample debate on the commitment of U.S. Armed Forces to a war abroad."
Democrats and Republicans, conservatives and liberals, swear an defend and abide by a Constitution that gives Congress, not the president, the power to declare wars. That oath demands that they reassert the role of the House and Senate in maintaining the system of checks and balances that the founders outlined "to chain the dogs of war."
4) Saudi Arabia: Dissident Writer Arrested
EU, US Leaders Should Publicly Condemn Human Rights Violations
Human Rights Watch, April 20, 2011
Munich – Saudi authorities have arrested over 160 peaceful dissidents in violation of international human rights law since February 2011, Human Rights Watch said today. Human Rights Watch urged the interior minister, Prince Nayef bin Abd al-‘Aziz Al Sa’ud, to order the immediate release of peaceful dissidents, including Nadhir al-Majid, a writer and teacher arrested on April 17.
Allies of Saudi Arabia have not publicly protested these serious and systematic violations. The European Union foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, said on April 18 that she had been "very pleased" with her two-day visit to Riyadh and made no public comments about the political prisoners. Neither Tom Donilon, the US national security adviser who visited Riyadh on April 13, nor Robert Gates, US defense secretary who visited on April 6, publicly commented on the kingdom’s human rights violations.
"The EU’s silence on the brazen arrest of a peaceful dissident on the first day of its chief foreign policy representative’s visit looks like a pat on the back for an authoritarian state," said Christoph Wilcke, senior Middle East researcher at Human Rights Watch. "Silence when more than 160 peaceful dissidents are locked up should not be an option for Brussels or Washington."
Officials of the General Investigations Department (al-mabahith al-‘amma), the domestic intelligence service, arrested al-Majid at his school in Khobar, in the Eastern Province. At the same time, mabahith officers searched his house in the presence of his wife and children, who said that officers confiscated al-Majid’s personal belongings. Al-Majid had written an article entitled "I Protest, Therefore I Am" on April 2, in which he said that with the Saudi government’s "call to stop demonstrations, we see history bypassing us, and this speaks volumes to the ingrained blindness in political vision, analysis, and consciousness."
Several user groups on Facebook had called for protests on a Saudi Day of Anger on March 11, but a heavy security presence prevented demonstrations in all but the Eastern Province. In Riyadh, Khalid al-Juhani, a Saudi citizen, appeared to be the sole person to brave the security presence to speak to assembled journalists. In an interview with the BBC, al-Juhani described how he lost his fear and despite knowing he would be arrested wanted to experience the freedom of speaking his mind. Al-Juhani’s brother, Abdullah, told Human Rights Watch that mabahith officers arrested al-Juhani at his home later that day and that Interior Ministry officials told his family that he is being detained incommunicado in Riyadh’s ‘Ulaisha intelligence prison.
[…] Saudi authorities have also held a human rights activist, Shaikh Mikhlif bin Dahham al-Shammari, in Dammam central prison since June 2010 on the charge of "annoying others" over articles he wrote criticizing religious extremists and incompetent officials.
[…] "As the list of Saudi political prisoners grows longer, the silence of the US and the EU becomes more deafening," Wilcke said.
5) Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke and Colleagues call on U.S. Administration to Address "Appalling Conditions" in Haiti’s IDP Camps
Office of Congresswoman Yvette Clarke, April 20
Washington – Today, Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke (D-NY) along with 52 other members of Congress sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton calling on the U.S. Administration to "dedicate significant attention to the critical and urgent task of improving the appalling conditions in IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) camps."
"We cannot forget our brothers and sisters in Haiti who continue to live in the deplorable conditions in IDP camps as a result of the January 2010 earthquake. As a representative of the 2nd largest population of first and second generation Haitian immigrants, I understand how the United States is directly interconnected with this nation. It is important that we continue to help our neighbors and allies in the Caribbean," stated Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke.
The letter, co-sponsored by Rep. Frederica S. Wilson (D-FL) and Rep. Donald M. Payne (D-NJ), chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus Task Force on Foreign Policy, notes that over a year after Haiti’s catastrophic earthquake, hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons (or IDPs) remain in makeshift tent camps, with inadequate shelter that is "progressively deteriorating" and with limited or no access to basic services like water and sanitation.
6) Bradley Manning To Be Moved To New Detention Centre
Amnesty International, 20 April 2011
The US soldier accused of leaking documents to the Wikileaks organisation is being moved to a new detention centre following concerns over his treatment.
Private Bradley Manning, who is accused of providing documents to Wikileaks, is being moved from a maximum security military brig at the Quantico Marine Corps Base to a pre-trial facility in a new, medium-security military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, according to a Pentagon spokesperson.
While at Quantico he has been detained for 23 hours a day in a small cell, sometimes naked, and forbidden from exercising. "We believe sustained public pressure for the US government to uphold human rights in Bradley Manning’s case has contributed to this move" said Susan Lee, Amnesty International’s director for the Americas.
"We hope Bradley Manning’s conditions will significantly improve at Fort Leavenworth, but we will be watching how he is treated very closely. His conditions at Quantico have been a breach of international standards for humane treatment of an untried prisoner."
7) Israeli Luminaries Press for a Palestinian State
Ethan Bronner, New York Times, April 19, 2011
Jerusalem – Dozens of Israel’s most honored intellectuals and artists have signed a declaration endorsing a Palestinian state on the basis of the 1967 borders and asserting that an end to Israel’s occupation "will liberate the two peoples and open the way to a lasting peace."
The signers plan to announce their position on Thursday from the same spot in Tel Aviv where the Jewish state declared its independence in the spring of 1948. The page-long declaration is expected to be read there by Hanna Maron, one of the country’s best-known actresses and a winner of the Israel Prize, the country’s most prestigious award, which is granted yearly on Independence Day.
Of the more than 60 who had signed the declaration by Tuesday, about 20 were winners of the Israel Prize and a number of others had been awarded the Emet Prize, given by the prime minister for excellence in science, art and culture. Signatures were still being collected on Tuesday.
"The land of Israel is the birthplace of the Jewish people where its identity was shaped," the statement begins. "The land of Palestine is the birthplace of the Palestinian people where its identity was formed." It goes on to say that now is the time to live up to the commitment expressed by Israel’s founders in their Declaration of Independence to "extend our hand to all neighboring states and their peoples in an offer of peace and good neighborliness."
Yaron Ezrahi, a political theorist at The Hebrew University in Jerusalem and one of the signers, said the group chose this week to issue its declaration because it was Passover, which marks the freedom of the Jewish people from slavery.
"We don’t want to pass over the Palestinian people," Mr. Ezrahi said. "This is a holiday of freedom and independence." He added that given the struggle for freedom across the Arab world today and the Palestinians’ plans to seek international recognition of their statehood by September, it was important for Israeli voices to be added to the call.
Two weeks ago, another group of several dozen prominent Israelis, many of them from the fields of security and business, issued what they called the Israeli Peace Initiative, a more detailed but somewhat similar plan for a two-state solution. Both groups say they are upset by their government’s policies in this regard, which they consider insufficient.
8) As British Help Libyan Rebels, Aid Goes To A Divided Force
Rod Nordland, New York Times, April 19, 2011
Benghazi, Libya – As NATO struggles to break a deepening stalemate in Libya, the British announced on Tuesday that they were sending military advisers to help build up a rebel army that has stumbled against the superior forces of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi.
The first question the British will face is "Whose army?"
For they will find themselves advising a ragtag rebel force that cannot even agree on who its top officer is, amid squabbling between two generals who both come with unsavory baggage.
The dysfunction was on full display here this week. "I control everybody, the rebels and the regular army forces," one of the two, Gen. Khalifa Hifter, said in an interview on Monday. "I am the field commander, and Gen. Abdul Fattah Younes is chief of staff. His job is to support us in the field, and my job is to lead the fighting."
The rebels’ civilian leadership, the Transitional National Council, has insisted, however, that General Younes remains in charge of the military. "This is not true," an official close to the council said Tuesday when told of General Hifter’s claims. "General Younes is over him, this is for sure, and General Hifter is under him."
[…] From the beginning, the NATO military effort has been hampered by the rebels’ disorganization and lack of training, equipment and experience, which have left them unable to capitalize on the damage NATO airstrikes inflicted on Colonel Qaddafi’s forces. The British mission is aimed at addressing those shortcomings, improving the rebels’ organization, communications and logistics.
[…] The Western powers have been looking to the rebel fighters to break the logjam, hoping they can be built into an effective fighting force. But the continuing disorganization and infighting within the rebel leadership is an obstacle; even countries that have expressed support for the rebel cause are balking at arming them, at least in part out of concern over the disarray.
All of which casts doubt on the ability of Britain’s advisers to create an effective rebel military, if the rebel leaders cannot stop fighting among themselves.
The first concrete report of weapons from foreign donors reaching the rebels came Tuesday, but significantly, that shipment, 400 AK-47 rifles, did not go through either of the two generals claiming to be the leader of the rebels. Instead, they went directly to a civilian, Fawzi Bukatef, a petroleum engineer who has been training other civilians.
Mr. Bukatef said he had just sent 400 freshly armed volunteers to the front with the new weapons he had received from the unnamed donor – widely believed to be Qatar, which has freely acknowledged its intention to send weapons to the rebels. He knows both generals, he said, and feels let down by both.
9) U.S., Europeans step up efforts to aid Libyan rebels
Edward Cody and Karen DeYoung, Washington Post, Wednesday, April 20, 2:18 PM
Brussels – Italy and France said Wednesday they would join Britain in sending military advisers to aid beleaguered rebel fighters in Libya, marking another step toward deeper European involvement in the Libyan uprising as NATO struggles to break the stalemate there without directly joining the fight on the ground.
The Obama administration has notified Congress that it will send $25 million worth of "non-lethal" military equipment directly to the Libyan opposition, including vehicles, fuel trucks, ambulances and medical equipment, body armor, binoculars and radios.
But the administration has resisted joining the European advisory team, and has encouraged the rest of NATO to take the lead in the Libyan effort. "We can’t do it all," Vice President Biden said in an interview with the Financial Times.
"It is bizarre to suggest that NATO and the rest of the world lacks the capacity to deal with Libya – it does not," Biden said. "Occasionally other countries lack the will, but this is not about capacity." He said that U.S. efforts were better concentrated on Egypt.
"Should we be spending more time knowing everything there is to know about the make-up of the opposition in Libya," or should the United States be devoting its efforts to "what’s going on in Egypt and the Muslim Brotherhood?" Biden said. "It’s not even close."
The three European governments emphasized that they had no plans to send ground troops to fight alongside the rebels and that they would not provide combat training. But they made clear their goal is to improve the capability of opposition forces trying to defend the rebel-held cities of Misurata and Ajdabiya from Libyan army assaults.
[…] The European dispatch of advisers reflects frustration with the limitations of the NATO air campaign, which has not succeeded in decisively shifting the balance toward the rebellion. The advisers will operate independently of NATO’s command. The three countries are acting outside NATO in part because of the difficulty of getting consensus for such deployments within the alliance.
The British decision was denounced by Gaddafi loyalists in Tripoli as an act of war, with acting Foreign Minister Abdul Ati al-Obeidi describing it as a "step to exacerbate and prolong the conflict." Libyan officials said their forces would fight any foreign military personnel, even if they were there to escort humanitarian aid convoys – as the European Union has proposed.
10) Libya says it is prepared for free elections, leader’s role negotiable
Simon Denyer, Washington Post, Wednesday, April 20, 6:55 AM
Tripoli, Libya – The Libyan government says it is prepared to hold free elections under international supervision after a transitional period of around six months, with the role of Moammar Gaddafi open for discussion.
Striking a significantly more dovish tone than other members of his government, Libyan Foreign Minister Abdul Ati al-Obeidi called for an internationally monitored cease-fire and said his government was ready to sit down and talk "with our brothers from Benghazi," provided NATO stopped its campaign of airstrikes.
"After all, we are all Libyans, we are all brothers," he said in an interview late Tuesday. "The blood is Libyan. Whoever is killed is dear to all of us." Speaking to reporters from The Washington Post, the Guardian, BBC and ITN, he added: "We are sure that if this bombing stopped, and there is a real cease-fire, we could have a dialogue among all Libyans, about what they want, democracy, political reform, elections."
The rebels headquartered in the eastern city of Benghazi last week rejected a peace plan proposed by the African Union along similar lines, saying they could not accept any proposal that did not include "the departure of Gaddafi and his sons from the Libyan political scene."
But with the military campaign stalemated, and NATO divided over how deeply to get embroiled in the conflict, elements of the Tripoli government apparently are seeking to promote the idea that diplomatic solutions to the conflict need to be explored more deeply.
[…] Obeidi, who took over from Musa Kusa after his defection last month and has been leading his country’s efforts to find a diplomatic solution to the crisis, said Gaddafi’s role should be left for the Libyan people to decide.
"When there is a cease-fire, the Libyans can then say publicly about the leader staying, and in what status, or retiring," he said. "The U.S., Britain and France – sometimes those countries contradict themselves. They talk about democracy, but when it comes to Libya, they say he should leave. It should be up to the Libyan people. This should not be dictated from any other head of state. It is against the central principle of democracy."
11) Egypt unrest: 846 killed in protests – official toll
BBC, 19 April 2011
At least 846 people were killed during the popular uprising that toppled President Hosni Mubarak, an Egyptian government fact-finding panel says. It accuses the security forces of "excessive" use of force during the mass protests which began on 25 January, the AP news agency reports.
[…] The nationwide protests also left more than 6,400 people injured, said the panel’s report. The mission – consisting of a panel of judges – said security forces fired live ammunition, placed snipers on rooftops and used vehicles to run over protesters.
The revised toll of 846 civilians dead is more than twice the previous official figure of 365.
12) Baghdad protest ban is undemocratic: Sadr
AFP, Wed Apr 20, 6:40 am ET
Baghdad – Radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr on Wednesday blasted a ban on public rallies in the Iraqi capital, saying it was "undemocratic" and based on fear of rising protests. Iraq’s government announced last week demonstrations would be allowed only at three football stadiums, ostensibly because shopkeepers in the city’s main Tahrir Square complained of losing trade during weekly protests.
"The government claims democracy, and this is undemocratic," Sadr said in a written response to queries about the protest ban from his supporters.
Sadr loyalists have staged several large rallies in Baghdad and other parts of Iraq, most recently when tens of thousands turned up for an anti-US protest earlier this month in the capital.
[…] Protests against poor supply of basic services such as electricity have grown in Iraq since late February, after uprisings toppled entrenched regimes in Tunisia and Egypt and spread across the Arab world. They have been held in different parts of Iraq at least every week, especially in the Kurdish north, which is dominated by two parties that maintain a stranglehold on the region’s politics.
[…] Authorities in the province of Sulaimaniyah in the autonomous Kurdish north also announced a ban on unauthorised protests on Monday, after dozens of injuries and deaths during near-daily rallies in the past two months.
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