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Bahrain army demolishes monument at Pearl Square

MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — Bahrain on Friday tore down the 300-foot monument at the heart of a square purged of Shiite protesters this week, erasing a symbol of an uprising that's inflaming sectarian tensions across the region.

The monument — six white curved beams topped with a huge cement pearl — was built in Pearl Square as a tribute to the Sunni-ruled kingdom's history as a pearl-diving center. It became the backdrop to the Shiite majority's uprising after protesters set up a month-long camp at Pearl Square in the capital, Manama.

Security forces overran the camp on Wednesday, setting off clashes that killed at least five people, including two policemen. At least 12 people have been killed in the month-long revolt.

Bahrain's foreign minister, Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, told reporters in Manama that the army brought down the monument because "it was a bad memory."

"We are not waging war, we are restoring law and order," Khalid said at a press conference in Manama.

Shiite anger rose sharply around the Mideast on Friday as large crowds in Iran and Iraq cursed Bahrain's Sunni monarchy and its Saudi backers over the violent crackdown on protesters demanding more rights.

Amateur video footage of security forces shooting and beating protesters has spread across the internet and fueled fury in predominantly Shiite Iraq and in Iran, where a senior cleric on Friday urged Bahraini protesters to keep going until victory or death.

Thousands of Bahrainis gathered for the funeral of Ahmed Farhan, a 29-year-old demonstrator slain Tuesday in the town of Sitra hours after the king declared martial law in response to a month of escalating protests. Sitra, the hub of Bahrain's oil industry, has been the site of the worst confrontations.

A funeral for Abdul-Jaffer Mohammed Abdul-Ali, 40, took place in the village of Karranah, west of the capital. His brother Abdul-Ali Mohammed told The Associated Press that Abdel-Jaffer was killed on Wednesday morning on his way to Pearl Square to reinforce the protesters' lines during the military assault on the encampment.

"My brother was not a political man, but he participated in the protest every day to have a better future for his four children," Abdul-Ali said.

"When he heard the Pearl Square was under attack, he went there," he added. "Our country is under siege and he wanted to help liberate it."

Shiites account for 70% of the tiny island's half-million people but they are widely excluded from high-level posts and positions in the police and military of the country, whic is home to the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet.

"Brothers and sisters" in Bahrain should "resist against the enemy until you die or win," Iranian Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati told worshippers at Friday prayers at Tehran University, a nationally televised forum seen as expressing the views of Iran's ruling Shiite clergy.

Worshippers chanted angry slogans against Saudi Arabia's royal family, which has sent troops to back Bahrain's king.

"There is no God but Allah, Al Saud is God's enemy," some chanted in Arabic. One Persian banner read, "Death to Al Saud."

Across Iraq, thousands rallied in mostly Shiite cities in the country's largest demonstrations since a wave of dissent spread across the Middle East in the wake of Tunisia's overthrow of its autocratic president.

Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani— Iraqi-based Shiism's highest ranking cleric in the Mideast — suspended teachings at religious schools across Iraq on Friday in a show of solidarity with the protesters.

A representative of al-Sistani warned during his Friday sermon in the holy city of Karbala that the brutal images of what is happening in Bahrain will inflame passions and lead to sectarian problems in the region.

Bahrain's rulers invited armies from other Sunni-ruled Gulf countries this week to help root out dissent as the month of protests spiraled into widespread calls for an end to the Sunni monarchy. In declaring emergency rule, the king gave the military wide powers to battle the uprising.

There are no apparent links between Iran and Bahrain's Shiite opposition but the U.S. and Sunni leaders in the Persian Gulf leaders have expressed concern that Iran could use the unrest in Bahrain to expand its influence in the region. Iran has recalled its ambassador from Bahrain to protest the crackdown.

The United States bases the 5th Fleet in Bahrain partly to counter Iran's military reach around the region.


Yemeni police storm protest camp in Aden

SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Police stormed a protest camp in southern Yemen on Saturday, firing live rounds and tear gas that wounded at least 13 people as President Ali Abdullah Saleh's crackdown on dissent grows increasingly deadly.

Yemeni anti-government protesters carry away a wounded youth in Sanaa on Friday as 46 comrades were killed and scores wounded when pro-regime loyalists and police opened fire on them.

The raid follows a dramatic escalation in violence Friday, when security forces in the capital, Sanaa, killed at least 46 people and injured hundreds. The attack suggests Saleh is fearful that the unprecedented street protests, set off by unrest across the Arab world, could unravel his 32-year grip on power in this volatile, impoverished nation.

The United States, which has long relied on Saleh for help fighting terrorism, condemned the violence.

The bloodshed, however, failed to dislodge protesters from a large traffic circle they have dubbed "Taghyir Square" — Arabic for "Change." Hours after Friday's shooting, thousands demanding Saleh's ouster stood their ground, many of them hurling stones at security troops and braving live fire and tear gas.

Saleh declared a 30-day nationwide state of emergency that formally gave his security forces a freer hand to confront demonstrators. The declaration bars citizens from carrying and using weapons.

Protesters on Saturday said police fired tear gas and live rounds before storming a protest camp in the southern port city of Aden. At least 13 were injured, among them three who suffered bullet wounds.

The attack was followed by clashes after thousands surrounded the al-Mualla police station trying to break in, but police were holding them off, firing in the air.

In Sanaa, soldiers in tanks and armored personnel carriers took up positions at intersections and key buildings including the presidential palace, the state TV building and other government institutions. The army also set up checkpoints where soldiers searched motorists and passersby near the encampment site next to Sanaa University.

Many of the victims in Friday's violence were shot in the head and neck, their bodies left sprawled on the ground. They included a Yemeni photojournalist, Jamal al-Sharaabi, who is the first journalist killed in the unrest.

Friday's violence drew international condemnation.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was "deeply troubled," said his spokesman, Martin Nesirky. He "reiterates his call for utmost restraint and reminds the government of Yemen that it has an obligation to protect civilians."

"Those responsible for today's violence must be held accountable," President Barack Obama said. The United States supports Yemen's government with $250 million in military aid this year alone to battle one of al-Qaeda's most active franchises.


Thousands in Iraq protest against Saudis in Bahrain


03/19/2011 | 08:04 PM

BASRA, Iraq, March 19 – Thousands of Iraqis protested in the southern oil hub of Basra on Saturday against the presence of Saudi troops in Bahrain, which has highlighted Iraq's own sectarian divide after years of war.

Anger has been mounting among Shi'ites in Iraq, Lebanon and Iran over the movement of troops from Sunni Arab states to help Bahrain's Sunni royal family stifle pro-democracy demonstrations by majority Shi'ites.

Bahrain said on Friday more troops were coming from other Gulf states to help restore security. It has swept protesters from a central square and arrested opposition leaders.

Saturday's protests saw around 7,000 people, including local government officials and clerics, demonstrate in central Basra, Iraq's second largest city.

"The clock of change is ticking. After Bahrain, the Saudi king is next," protesters shouted. "Woe to those hostile to Shi'ites."

Similar large demonstrations were held in Baghdad and Najaf on Friday. A small demonstration took place in Baghdad on Saturday.

Like Bahrain, Iraq has a Shi'ite majority that complained for decades of oppression under a Sunni ruling class which is dominant throughout the Arab world.

Since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion which toppled Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein and allowed Iraq's Shi'ite majority to take power, Baghdad has had uneasy relations with its Sunni Arab neighbors.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and his ruling Shi'ite bloc have criticized the intervention by Gulf states in Bahrain. Iraqi Shi'ite clerics, including the country's most revered, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, and anti-U.S. cleric Moqtada al-Sadr have spoken out against the crackdown in Bahrain.

"The Saudi government practices a double standard. On the one hand it is with the Libyan people, and on the other hand it is (flexing) a strong arm against Bahrain's people and suppressing them," said Muhanad Sahib, a 41-year-old professor demonstrating in Basra.

"Support for the Bahraini people is a religious and moral duty. Let the Marjaiya (Shi'ite clergy) declare Jihad."



Official: Gulf military force enters Bahrain

Mar. 14, 2011 06:47 AM

Associated Press

CAIRO - A security official in Saudi Arabia says a military force from Gulf states has entered Bahrain to help deal with a month of political unrest in the island kingdom.

The Saudi official says the units come from a special force within the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not allowed to brief media. He did not have information on the size of the force, but says they were deployed by air and road and will help protect key buildings.

The intervention sharply boosts the regional stakes on behalf of Bahrain's embattled Sunni rulers, who have faced growing pressures from the country's majority Shiites for sweeping political reforms.

The GCC members are Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates.


Bahrain fires live ammo at protesters

Mar. 17, 2011 12:00 AM

McClatchy Newspapers

MANAMA, Bahrain - Bahraini police and soldiers, firing live ammunition and backed by U.S.-built Apache assault helicopters, drove protesters from a key traffic square here Wednesday, then blocked wounded people from reaching hospitals, in a brazen crackdown aimed at ending a month of pro-democracy protests.

At least three people were killed and scores injured. Two members of the police force also were reported killed. The government declared a 4 p.m. to 4 a.m. curfew.

It took troops no more than half an hour to clear Pearl Square of hundreds of protesters who had been entrenched there since protests began in February.

First, the Apache helicopters came - six of them - at around 6:30 a.m., circling low over the square where protesters had spent the night in anticipation of an attack. Troops also took up positions on the rooftops of the surrounding buildings.

The helicopters fired tear gas at the protesters - men, women and children - many of whom were sleeping in their tents.

Then they fired live ammunition into the crowd, witnesses said.

Shortly afterward, hundreds of riot police backed by army troops in tanks and machine-gun-mounted vehicles swarmed the small roundabout in the center of the capital. Most protesters retreated, though some threw stones at the heavily armed troops.


Phoenix-Bahrain ties draw demonstrators

by Lynh Bui - Feb. 25, 2011 12:00 AM

The Arizona Republic

As protests in the Middle East continued to swell with demonstrators demanding democratic rule, supporters chanted and marched outside Phoenix City Hall on Thursday in solidarity.

About 50 members of Students for Justice in Palestine waved signs and flags to support protesters in Libya, Bahrain and Yemen.

Protesters also called on Mayor Phil Gordon to denounce the actions of the Bahrain government, whose royalty has seized hundreds of political prisoners and ordered security forces to open fire on protesters. Gordon hosted a delegation of economic development leaders from Bahrain for two days of trade talks between the city the Persian Gulf country.

Since then, though, business discussions have been put on hold. The visit from Bahrain had been in the works for months, but unrest and civil uprisings in the Middle Eastern country exploded just as the delegation and Phoenix business leaders began talks Feb. 14 and 15.

Oday Shahin, a spokesman for Students for Justice in Palestine, said that although putting talks on hold is a good step, the mayor should go even further. "The city should make it a policy that it will not make business with regimes that kill its own people," Shahin said.

Bill Scheel, a co-chief of staff to the mayor, said Phoenix will follow the lead of the U.S. State Department when it comes to the city's relationship with Bahrain.

"The mayor has a lot of concern for the Bahraini people," Scheel said. "He wants to make sure there is peace in Bahrain before the relationship gets taken to another level."


U.S., allies set to strike Libya

by Liz Sly and Sudarsan Raghavan - Mar. 19, 2011 12:00 AM

Washington Post

TRIPOLI, Libya - The United States and its allies prepared Friday to launch military attacks on Libya as forces led by Moammar Gadhafi continued to bombard rebel-held towns despite government promises of a cease-fire.

President Barack Obama warned that Gadhafi faced imminent military action unless his troops were withdrawn from all disputed cities in the country. But the besieged town of Misrata, 120 miles east of Tripoli, was still coming under heavy artillery fire, residents said, and there were reports of continued fighting around Ajdabiya, in the far eastern part of the country.

The conditions set by Obama were more specific than those contained in a resolution approved a day earlier by the U.N. Security Council, suggesting that the United States and its allies are in no mood to countenance delays by a Libyan regime whose forces have recaptured large swaths of territory from rebels in recent days.

U.S. ships in the Mediterranean Sea were preparing to bombard Libya's air defenses and runways to clear the way for European and Arab forces to establish a no-fly zone throughout the country, according to U.S. and European officials. Fighter aircraft from France, Britain and the United Arab Emirates converged on bases in and around Italy to begin operations over Libya under the command and control of the United States at its naval base in Naples.

The military preparations came on a day of bloodshed across the Arab world, as governments appear increasingly willing to use arms to suppress the dissent that has mushroomed since the success of popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt earlier in the year.

In Yemen, more than 40 people were killed when government security forces opened fire on protesters in the capital, Sanaa. There also were reports that unrest was spreading in Syria, a strategically vital country that has been ruled with an iron fist by the Assad family for the past four decades.

In an address at the White House, Obama spelled out conditions that Gadhafi will have to fulfill if his country is to avoid military intervention under the provisions of the Security Council resolution adopted Thursday that authorizes the use of force to stop the violence.

"These terms are not negotiable," Obama said. "If Gadhafi does not comply with the resolution, the international community will impose consequences and the resolution will be enforced through military action."

Obama said that in addition to halting their advance on Benghazi, the last remaining rebel stronghold in the eastern part of the country, Libyan troops will have to pull back from the towns of Ajdabiya, Misrata and Zawiya. He also demanded that Libya establish water, electricity and gas supplies to all areas.

A doctor at the hospital in Misrata said 16 civilians and 25 rebels had been killed in a government assault Friday, at least a dozen of them after the cease-fire supposedly went into effect. In Benghazi, a rebel spokesman said two people had been killed in Ajdabiya in attacks after the cease-fire was announced.

"Until this moment, they have not stopped attacking us. There will be no negotiations," Khaled al Sayeh told reporters Friday night. "The attacks are still happening at this moment."

He said attacks were also taking place in the towns of Zintan and Zuwaytinah well after the cease-fire was announced.

In the area around Zuwaytinah, more than 90 miles south of Benghazi, jets streaked across the sky firing at targets, at least one helicopter flew low across the desert, and artillery bombardment could be heard for several hours Friday afternoon.

A tentative deadline for Gadhafi's full compliance was set for midday today after a meeting in Paris of U.S., European and Arab governments. U.S. and European officials said the British, French and UAE jets, initially flying from a French base on the island of Corsica, could move earlier if Gadhafi continued offensive operations overnight.

It appeared clear that the Libyan government had been caught off-guard by the speed with which the Security Council moved to authorize the use of force, after weeks of indecision during which pro-Gadhafi forces made significant advances.

Libya's deputy foreign minister, Khaled Kaim, denied there had been any violations of the cease-fire since it was announced in the early afternoon. He called on observers from four countries - Malta, China, Germany and Turkey - to send a fact-finding team to Libya to verify that the cease-fire is being observed.

But U.S. officials expressed skepticism.

"We are not going to be responsive and impressed by words," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters in Washington. "We would have to see action on the ground, and that is not yet at all clear."

She added that "the final result of any negotiations would have to be the decision by Colonel Gadhafi to leave."

"But let's take this one step at a time," Clinton added.

British Prime Minister David Cameron also said he was unconvinced by the cease-fire announcement, telling members of Parliament that Britain was preparing to deploy fighter jets and other air support to the region.

"Our forces will join an international operation to enforce the resolution if Gadhafi fails to comply with its demand that he ends attacks on civilians," he said.

A U.S. official with access to classified intelligence on Libya said the CIA and other American spy agencies, monitoring Libya on satellites and from sources inside the country, had seen evidence of continued fighting.

"There are reports out of certain areas that fighting continues," said the official, citing Misrata.

"(The cease-fire) should be considered tenuous at best right now," the U.S. official said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence information.


Libya announces cease-fire after United Nations no-fly vote

by Hadeel Al-Shalchi and Ryan Lucas - Mar. 18, 2011 09:28 AM

Associated Press

TRIPOLI, Libya -- Libya declared an immediate cease-fire Friday, trying to fend off international military intervention after the U.N. authorized a no-fly zone and "all necessary measures" to prevent the regime from striking its own people. A rebel spokesman said Moammar Gadhafi's forces were still shelling two cities.

The cease-fire announcement by the Libyan foreign minister followed a fierce government attack on Misrata, the last rebel-held city in the western half of the country. A doctor said at least six people died.

Mustafa Gheriani, a spokesman for the rebels, said attacks continued well past the announcement.

"He's bombing Misrata and Adjadbiya from 7 a.m. this morning until now. How can you trust him?" Gheriani said.

The U.N. Security Council resolution, which was passed late Thursday after weeks of deliberation, set the stage for airstrikes, a no-fly zone and other military measures short of a ground invasion. Britain announced that it would send fighter jets, Italy offered the use of its bases, and France was making plans to deploy planes. The U.S. had yet to announce its role. NATO also held an emergency meeting.

With the international community mobilizing, Libyan Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa said the government would cease fire in line with the resolution, although he criticized the authorization of international military action, calling it a violation of Libya's sovereignty.

"The government is opening channels for true, serious dialogue with all parties," he said during a news conference in Tripoli, the capital. He took no questions.

In Washington, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that the first goal of international action is to end the violence in Libya.

"We have to see a very clear set of decisions" by Gadhafi's forces, she said. Clinton said government forces must pull "a significant distance away from the east" -- where the rebels now hold sway.

The rebels, once confident, found themselves in danger of being crushed by an overpowering pro-Gadhafi force using rockets, artillery, tanks, warplanes. That force has advanced eastward along the Mediterranean coast in recent days.

A large crowd in the Benghazi, the city where the uprising started on Feb. 15, watched the U.N. vote on an outdoor TV projection and burst into cheers, with green and red fireworks exploding overhead. In Tobruk, another eastern city, happy Libyans fired weapons in the air to celebrate.

"We think Gadhafi's forces will not advance against us. Our morale is very high now. I think we have the upper hand," said Col. Salah Osman, a former army officer who defected to the rebel side. He was at a checkpoint near the eastern town of Sultan.

Western powers faced pressure to act quickly as Gadhafi's forces gained momentum. The U.S. has positioned a host of forces and ships, including submarines, destroyers, and amphibious assault and landing ships with some 400 Marines aboard. It also could provide a range of surveillance.

In an interview with Portuguese television broadcast just before the U.N. vote, Gadhafi pledged to respond harshly to U.N.-sponsored attacks. "If the world is crazy," he said, "we will be crazy, too."

The Libyan government closed its airspace Friday, according to Europe's air traffic control agency, Eurocontrol.

Government tanks rolled into Misrata, 125 miles (200 kilometers) southeast of Tripoli, early Friday, shelling houses, hospitals and a mosque for several hours before pulling back to the city's outskirts, witnesses said. At least six people were killed, raising the total death toll in two days of fighting to nine, a local doctor said.

Misrata is the rebels' last western holdout after Gadhafi recaptured a string of other cities that fell to the opposition early. Its fall would leave the country largely divided, with the rebels bottled up in the east near the border with Egypt.

The city has been under a punishing blockade that has prevented aid ships from delivering medicine and other supplies, the doctor said.

"They haven't stopped shelling us for a week -- we sleep to shelling, and wake up to shelling. They are targeting houses and hospitals," he said, adding the hospital had been overwhelmed.

"We have had to perform surgeries in the hallways using the light from our cell phones to see what we're doing. We are also using some clinics around the town, some only have 60 beds, which isn't enough," he said.

Another doctor claimed Gadhafi's forces had surrounded some neighborhoods and were shooting at people who ventured outside. "Militias used two ambulances to jump out of and shoot at innocent people indiscriminately," he said.

Gadhafi troops encircled the city of Ajdabiya, the first in the path of their march, but also had some troops positioned beyond it toward Benghazi, the second largest Libyan city, with a population of about 700,000.

Libya's unrest began in Benghazi and spread east to Tripoli. Like others in the Mideast, the uprising started with popular demonstrations against Gadhafi, rejecting his 41 years of despotic and often brutal rule. The tone quickly changed after Gadhafi's security in Tripoli forcefully put down the gatherings there.

Soon rebel forces began arming themselves, quickly taking control of the country's east centered on Benghazi. Some Libyan army units joined the rebels, providing them with some firepower, but much less than Gadhafi's remaining forces.

There are no reliable death tolls. Rebels say more than 1,000 people have been killed in a month of fighting, while Gadhafi claims the toll is only 150.


Lucas reported from Benghazi, Libya. Associated Press writers Slobodan Lekic in Brussels and Jill Lawless in London contributed to this report.


46 killed by sniper fire during massive Yemen protest

by Ahmed al-Haj and Zeina Karam - Mar. 19, 2011 12:00 AM

Associated Press

SANAA, Yemen - A massive demonstration against Yemen's government turned into a killing field Friday, as snipers methodically fired down on protesters from rooftops and police made a wall of fire with tires and gasoline, blocking a key escape route.

At least 46 people died, including some children, in an attack that marked a new level of brutality in President Ali Abdullah Saleh's crackdown on dissent. Medical officials and witnesses said hundreds were wounded.

The dramatic escalation in violence suggested Saleh was growing more fearful that the unprecedented street protests over the past month, set off by unrest across the Arab world, could unravel his 32-year grip on power in this volatile, impoverished and gun-saturated nation. The United States, which has long relied on Saleh for help fighting terrorism, condemned the violence.

The bloodshed, however, failed to dislodge protesters from a large traffic circle they have dubbed Taghyir Square - Arabic for "Change." Hours after the shooting, thousands demanding Saleh's ouster stood their ground, many of them hurling stones at security troops and braving live fire and tear gas.

They stormed several buildings where the snipers had taken position, dragging out 10 people, including some the protesters claimed were paid thugs. They said the men would be handed over to judicial authorities.

The protest in the capital, Sanaa, drew tens of thousands, the largest crowd yet in Yemen's uprising. It began peacefully. A military helicopter flew low over the square just as protesters were arriving after the main Muslim prayer services of the week.

A short while later, gunfire rang out from rooftops and houses, sending the crowd into a panic. Dozens were hit and crumpled to the ground. One man ran for help, cradling a young boy shot in the head.

Many of the victims were shot in the head and neck, their bodies left sprawled on the ground or carried off by other protesters desperately pressing scarves to wounds to try to stop the bleeding.

Police used burning tires and gasoline to block demonstrators from fleeing down a road leading to the president's residence.

"It is a massacre," said Mohammad al-Sabri, an opposition spokesman. "This is part of a criminal plan to kill off the protesters, and the president and his relatives are responsible for the bloodshed in Yemen today."

Witnesses said the snipers wore the beige uniforms of Yemen's elite forces. Saleh denied that government forces were involved.


Other regimes emboldened by Kadafi's tactics

By Borzou Daragahi, Los Angeles Times

March 18, 2011, 6:09 p.m.

Reporting from Tripoli, Libya— Moammar Kadafi has ruled this country for four decades using tools also at the disposal of other Arab leaders. He shrouded his dirty deeds in nationalist ideology. He tactically doled out the country's oil money. He kept tabs on his enemies here and abroad.

But in the end, it was Kadafi's willingness to use brute force and the tools of his police state that has helped him so far avoid the fate of neighboring autocrats in Tunisia and Egypt who were swallowed up by popular revolutions.

Regimes in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Syria appear to have taken note, confronting their uprisings with a hard wall of state-sponsored violence.

On Friday, government agents fired on a peaceful protest in Yemen, security forces in Syria reportedly killed several demonstrators, and Bahrain's ruling monarchy tore down a 300-foot sculpture at Pearl Square, where protesters had been routed in a deadly confrontation just two days earlier.

Just as activists in Bahrain gleaned lessons from protesters in Tahrir Square in Cairo, and as Egyptians adopted the slogans of revolutionaries in Tunisia, so too have Arab autocrats been learning from one another's missteps and successes.

Libya's so far successful use of force, including the deployment of heavy artillery and warplanes against opposition-held areas, has offered a chilling lesson.

"They are willing to kill, even with their words," said one Libyan scholar, an opposition activist in the Tripoli, describing her country's leadership.

The relatively unrestrained use of force in Libya transformed a popular uprising against Kadafi's rigid rule into a civil war, one from which he may still emerge victorious despite the United Nations decision to impose a no-fly zone over his country. Even some of Kadafi's fiercest opponents concede that his strategy has demoralized some of those arrayed against him.

"When you use extreme force, you instill hopelessness and helplessness in the people," said Essam Gheriani, an opposition spokesman in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi.

The popular movements facing off against Middle East autocracies are not all battling the same kinds of regimes. And they must galvanize vastly different societies.

Libya and Yemen, for example, remain connected to their tribal roots, while Egypt and Tunisia are modern urbanizing societies. Large constituencies in Jordan and Morocco appear to support their monarchies, even as they protest the governments that those rulers oversee. Algeria is more of a military dictatorship, while ruling families in Syria and the Arabian Peninsula states run the show.

Libya, like the regime in Iran, dresses the authoritarian aspects of its state in the cloak of left-leaning populism and oil-financed largesse.

"Libya has been a regime that didn't really brook opposition," said Lisa Anderson, a Libya expert at the Council on Foreign Relations who is president of the American University in Cairo. "Libyans are facing a much more take-no-prisoners regime than the Egyptians or the Tunisians. The Libyan regime has never had any qualms about killing people."

But authoritarian rulers throughout the Arab world appear to be concluding that using state violence, rejecting political compromise and maintaining tight control are a better route to survival than agreeing to the kind of fundamental political reform pressed by the Obama administration.

This week Yemen, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, all close allies of Washington, appeared to ignore U.S. entreaties for reform and instead addressed demonstrators' demands with truncheons and gunfire. The Bahraini government's destruction of the Pearl Square monument that had become a symbol of that nation's protest was a totalitarian gesture that Kadafi might applaud.

Both the violence in the Arabian Peninsula and the crisis in Libya show those long worried about political stagnation in the region may have to do more than sit on the sidelines as calls for political change rattle the Middle East and North Africa.

"As these movements are going forward, if there's something useful for outsiders to do, they have to do it," said Robert Hunter, a former U.S. diplomat now working for Rand Corp.

Kadafi's staying power may also offer other lessons, for both Arab autocrats looking to maintain their grip and those seeking change in the Middle East. Unlike Tunisia and Egypt, Libya is endowed with oil money, and just like the leaders of Saudi Arabia and Iran, Kadafi has used his petroleum wealth to buy off constituencies and quell discontent.

As the crisis enveloped his nation, Kadafi quickly handed each Libyan family $400, a half-a-billion-dollar giveaway that might have bought him some populist goodwill. Similarly, Saudi Arabia, which raised wages for state employees 15% last month, committed Friday to even more wage increases and cash gifts in a bid to undermine a small but growing protest movement. Oil money also allowed Libya to fully mobilize the country's security forces and ratchet up a propaganda machine spewing out questionable truths like never before.

"The hand of the government is so powerful and it's so hard to move," said Idris Tayed Lamin, a Libyan writer, poet and former diplomat in Benghazi, in explaining why street protests have petered out in the capital. "He wants to win and he'll use anything. He has no limits and no moral limitations."

Many agree that Kadafi's deft manipulation of tribal leaders with bribes, threats and appeals to national unity may have bought time and neutralized some of his potential enemies, strategies being successfully used by rulers in Yemen and Jordan.

"We know that 85% of the population is against the Kadafis," said Mohammad, a 22-year-old opposition activist in Tripoli. "The Libyan population is made of tribes, and when the leader threatens the sheik, they all fall into line."

Once the uprising started, Kadafi also flooded the capital with security forces, a step many say has prevented protesters from taking to the streets. His loyalists have wiped the city clean of antigovernment graffiti and quickly fixed up damaged portraits of Kadafi. Security agents have established a massive stranglehold in and around the capital; checkpoints, sometimes positioned one after another, are overseen by swaggering young militiamen armed with AK-47 assault rifles.

"Tripoli is a huge prison, and you cannot get out," said a retired petroleum engineer and resident of the capital. "Now they are even arresting people off the street."

But there are also key differences between Libya and other Arab dictatorships, which may make it harder for them to adopt Kadafi's strategy.

Kadafi and his deputies spent 40 years obliterating the country's middle class. He instituted harsh socialistic policies, including expropriating second properties, and drove out the country's once-significant Italian population.

By contrast, other countries spent the last few decades struggling to build up their middle classes.

Unlike Tunis, Cairo, Manama or Damascus, Tripoli was long kept isolated from the rest of the world. And the Libyan capital has not been a welcome home for people such as Wael Ghonim, the Google executive whose tech savvy helped organize the Egyptian uprising.

"Libya has not had, for the last 100 years, what one would call an urban middle class," Anderson said. "Kadafi deliberately undermined the professional classes. He didn't want them to think of themselves as professionals. His constant revolution was anti-bureaucratic and anti-professional."

Bahrain and Yemen have strong histories of lively opposition politics. In Tunisia, with its powerful unions and small opposition parties, and Egypt, with its robust civil society and history of activism, many players were already in place to take to the streets.

By contrast, Kadafi's Libya, like Saudi Arabia, is a political desert. In Libya, political parties are illegal and elections are considered anti-democratic. Libyans are urged to express their interests and grievances through state-organized "committees" that serve as instruments of surveillance and repression.

"There is no opposition here," Kadafi told the French newspaper Le Figaro last week. "All protests are organized here. The masses support me."

During his four decades of rule, Kadafi has also shaped the nation's armed forces into his vision, cloaking a Stalinist state in tribal gowns, Islamic lingo and populist rhetoric. According to Libyan officials, there is no professional army in Libya. Instead, there are "popular" armed forces consisting of various murky branches of varying degrees of organization and professionalism.

Most Arab countries, though, have professional armed forces with some degree of political and ideological independence. But Kadafi's obsessive control over all aspects of Libyan life, including the military, also offers a warning for Arab rulers. His harsh rule may have made the type of armed, no-holds-barred conflict roiling the country inevitable.

"I don't think the opposition had any alternative to armed struggle," said Anderson, who last visited Libya in 2007. "Both the regime and the rebels knew from the outset that they had no incentive to surrender, that it would be a fight to the finish."



Gadhafi strikes at rebel heartland, 27 dead; diplomats mull international action in Libya

9:36 a.m. CDT, March 19, 2011

BENGHAZI, Libya (AP) — Moammar Gadhafi took advantage of international indecision to attack the heart of the 5-week-old uprising on Saturday, sending troops, tanks and warplanes to swarm the first city seized by the rebels. Crashing shells shook buildings, and the sounds of battle drew closer to Benghazi's center.

"Where is France, where is NATO?" cried a 50-year-old woman in Benghazi, where a doctor said 27 people were killed Saturday. "It's too late."

As leaders from the Arab world, the United States and other Western powers held a summit in Paris, a dozen jets from the U.S. and Denmark landed in Italy as part of the military buildup. France's ambassador to the United Nations, Gerard Araud, told BBC Newsnight that he expected action to begin within hours of the meeting. In an open letter, Gadafhi warned: "You will regret it if you dare to intervene in our country."

On Saturday, a warplane was shot down over the outskirts of Benghazi, sending up a massive black cloud of smoke. An Associated Press reporter saw the plane go down in flames and heard the sound of artillery and crackling gunfire.

Before the plane went down, journalists heard what appeared to be airstrikes from it. Rebels cheered and celebrated at the crash, though the government denied a plane had gone down — or that any towns were shelled on Saturday.

The fighting galvanized the people of Benghazi, with young men collecting bottles to make gasoline bombs. Some residents dragged bed frames and metal scraps into the streets to make roadblocks.

Abdel-Hafez, a 49-year-old Benghazi resident, said rebels and government soldiers were fighting on a university campus on the south side of the city, with government tanks moving in, followed by ground troops. In the city center, tank fire drew closer and rebel shouts rang out.

At a news conference in the capital, Tripoli, the government spokesman read letters from Gadhafi to President Barack Obama and others involved in the international effort.

"Libya is not yours. Libya is for the Libyans. The Security Council resolution is invalid," he said in the letter to French President Nicolas Sarkozy, British Prime Minister David Cameron, and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon.

To Obama, the Libyan leader was slightly more conciliatory: "If you had found them taking over American cities with armed force, tell me what you would do."

Government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim said the rebels are the ones breaking the cease fire by attacking military forces.

"Our armed forces continue to retreat and hide, but the rebels keep shelling us and provoking us," Musa told The Associated Press.

In a joint statement to Gadhafi late Friday, the United States, Britain and France — backed by unspecified Arab countries — called on Gadhafi to end his troops' advance toward Benghazi and pull them out of the cities of Misrata, Ajdabiya and Zawiya. It also called for the restoration of water, electricity and gas services in all areas. It said Libyans must be able to receive humanitarian aid or the "international community will make him suffer the consequences" with military action.

Parts of eastern Libya, where the once-confident rebels this week found their hold slipping, erupted into celebration at the passage of the U.N. resolution. But the timing and consequences of any international military action remained unclear.

In Benghazi, crowds gathered at the courthouse that is the de facto rebel headquarters. About 200 people were in the area, drinking tea and talking. Some brought a tank and a mounted anti-aircraft gun they said they had captured today.

"We are really surprised. When will they come? When will they stop him? It's always, 'In a few hours, in a few hours.' Then what?" said Salah, 42, a travel agent, raising his hands with a shrug. "Everybody is angry about this."

Dr. Gebreil Hewadi of the Jalaa Hospital and a member of the rebel health committee said that 27 dead had been taken to the hospital since Friday night.

Misrata, Libya's third-largest city and the last held by rebels in the west, came under sustained assault well after the cease-fire announcement, according to rebels and a doctor there. The doctor, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared reprisals, said Gadhafi's snipers were on rooftops and his forces were searching homes for rebels.

Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa said that Libyan officials had informed the U.N. and the Security Council that the government was holding to the cease-fire and called for a team of foreign observers to verify that.

"The nation is respecting all the commitments put on it by the international community," he said, leaving the podium before answering any questions about Benghazi.

In the course of the rebellion, Libya has gone from a once-promising economy with the largest proven oil reserves in Africa to a country in turmoil. The foreign workers that underpinned the oil industry have fled; production and exports have all but ground to a halt; and its currency is down 30 percent in just two weeks.

The oil minister, Shukri Ghanem, held a news conference calling on foreign oil companies to send back their workers. He said the government would honor all its contracts.

"It is not our intention to violate any of these agreements and we hope that from their part they will honor this agreement and they will send back their workforces," he said.

Italy, which had been the main buyer for Libyan oil, offered the use of seven air and navy bases already housing U.S., NATO and Italian forces to enforce the no-fly zone over Libya.

Italy's defense minister, Ignazio La Russa, said Saturday that Italy wasn't just "renting out" its bases for others to use but was prepared to offer "moderate but determined" military support.


Al-Shalchi reporter from Tripoli, Libya. Associated Press writers Ben Hubbard in Cairo; Nicole Winfield in Rome and Jamey Keaten in Paris contributed to this report.

Since when is the President allowed to declare war? U.S. Constitution - Article 1 Section 8 - "Congress shall have Power ... To declare War"

I don't remember Congress delegating it's power to declare war to Obama, Bush or to the UN?


Obama Warns Libya, but Attacks Go On


Published: March 18, 2011

WASHINGTON — President Obama on Friday ordered Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi to carry out an immediate cease-fire, withdraw his forces from rebel-held cities and stop all attacks on Libyan civilians or face military action from the United States and its allies in Europe and the Arab world.

“Let me be clear, these terms are not negotiable,” Mr. Obama said from the East Room of the White House. Those terms, particularly lifting the siege of opposition-held territories, would give the rebels a reprieve, if not a military advantage.

Libya had pledged a cease-fire hours before. But reports from rebel-held territory indicated that the attacks by Qaddafi militias continued unabated in the east and west.

Government forces continued to advance on Benghazi, the rebel’s capital in the east, and people fleeing nearby Ajdabiya said troops were shelling and conducting assaults in the afternoon. The western city of Misurata was under siege, its electricity and water cut by the government, and doctors reported that at least 25 people were killed, including 16 unarmed civilians. In Tripoli, the repression of peaceful protests continued, and gunfire was heard late in the evening.

President Obama said he was sending Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to a meeting in Paris on Saturday to consult with France, Britain and members of the Arab League on further action. An allied military strike on Libya did not appear imminent on Friday night.

Mr. Obama spoke 18 hours after the passage of a United Nations Security Council resolution authorizing military action against Colonel Qaddafi, and as violence raged across the Middle East. In Yemen, security forces and government supporters shot and killed at least 45 protesters. In Bahrain, the government tore down the monument adopted by the country’s rebel movement, the pearl in the middle of Pearl Square in Manama. In Syria, a police state where protest is rare, large demonstrations broke out in four cities.

In contrast to the military intervention in Libya, the administration has restricted itself in those countries to statements condemning the violence and urging restraint.

Mr. Obama used tough language that was at times reminiscent of President George W. Bush before the war in Iraq.

“If Qaddafi does not comply with the resolution, the international community will impose consequences, and the resolution will be enforced through military action,” Mr. Obama said, laying out a policy decision made after several weeks in which the administration sent conflicting signals about its willingness to use force to aid the rebels at a time of upheaval throughout the Arab world.

But unlike Mr. Bush, Mr. Obama cast the United States in a supporting, almost reluctant role, reflecting the clear desire of the Pentagon, which has been strongly resistant to another American war in the Middle East. He said that Britain, France and Arab nations would take the lead, and that United States ground forces would not enter Libya.

The White House and the Pentagon offered no other details on what the precise role of the United States military would be in any strikes against Colonel Qaddafi’s forces, but an administration official said late Friday that the United States might take the lead in an attempt to destroy Libya’s air defenses at the beginning of operations.

“We may do the shaping on the front end,” the administration official said. The official was referring to the ability of American forces, greater than that of the allies, to strike targets precisely from long distances, whether by missiles launched from submarines, surface warships or attack jets.

The official said that the goal was to limit American military involvement to the initial stages of any action, and that it was the administration’s expectation that the allies could control the skies over Libya once Colonel Qaddafi’s air defenses are destroyed.

Mr. Obama’s remarks at the White House capped a day of diplomacy mixed with military threats in Washington, London and Paris, where the allies forged a united front against Colonel Qaddafi. Britain, France and then the United States responded with almost identically worded skepticism after Moussa Koussa, the Libyan foreign minister, announced a cease-fire, his hands shaking, and European officials indicated that they were prepared to move quickly if a decision was made to take military action.

“We will judge him by his actions, not his words,” Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain told the BBC in London.

A few hours later, Mrs. Clinton said in Washington that the United States would be “not responsive or impressed by words.” She said that the allies would “have to see actions on the ground, and that is not yet at all clear.”

Rebels brought the body of a government soldier into Benghazi, the opposition's self-described capital, on Friday as pro-Qaddafi forces continued their advance. Readers' Comments

In Paris, the French Foreign Ministry spokesman, Bernard Valero, said that Colonel Qaddafi “begins to be afraid, but on the ground, the threat hasn’t changed.”

Obama administration officials said that action against Libya had to include the Arab countries, and they were insistent, as one senior official put it, that the “red, green and black” of Arab flags be prominent in military operations. As of Thursday night, the United States said that it had commitments from Qatar and the United Arab Emirates to contribute fighter jets, and that Jordan had also agreed to take part, although the extent of its participation was not clear on Friday.

Conditions on the ground remained confused and tense in Libya on Friday night. Several hours after Mr. Moussa had declared a cease-fire, explosions could be heard about 30 miles away from Ajdabiya. Residents who left the city after the cease-fire declaration said the announcement of an end to hostilities had in fact caused no break in the fighting.

Two doctors in the city of Misurata said that 25 people were killed on Friday, including 16 civilians.

“What cease-fire?” said Mohamed, a spokesman for the rebels in Misurata. “What lies, what murder!” After watching Mr. Obama’s speech on a generator-powered television at the Misurata medical center, he said, “We are very heartened by Mr. Obama’s words. We feel that he finally grasped the situation and grasped the urgency.”

A spokeswoman for the rebel ruling council, Iman Bugaighis, said on Friday that Colonel Qaddafi’s troops were moving toward Benghazi. “They are using their grenades to shoot up to 30 kilometers,” she said.

But Khalid Kaim, the deputy foreign minister, said emphatically, “We have no intention of entering the city of Benghazi.”

On Friday, residents of Ajdabiya described a vicious battle for their city that had lasted days, killed scores of people and wrecked neighborhoods, including large parts of an area called Seventh of October. They said that Colonel Qaddafi’s loyalists attacked Tuesday from a ring around the city’s outskirts with tanks, missiles and other heavy artillery.

“The houses were shaking,” said a woman named Fatima, who fled with her family on Friday. “We thought it would stop but it didn’t.”

On Wednesday doctors at the hospital in Ajdabiya said 38 people had died in the fighting. By Friday, residents guessed at a far higher number, saying they saw bodies in the streets. Moussa al-Dulaimi, a police officer who fled the city on Friday, said seven neighbors died in the fighting.

The residents described intense shelling around the post office, and especially in the north of the city. Residents were shot at checkpoints and by snipers, they said.

Thousands of refugees have settled about twenty minutes outside of Ajdabiya, on the road to the eastern city of Tobruk, in tents and abandoned homes in the desert. Volunteers from Tobruk bring food, water and fuel to the refugees, who cook on campfires or share small power generators. “The situation is very dangerous. Nobody is going back to the city,” said Khaled Gabally, who left Ajdabiya on Thursday.

By Friday, government tanks were posted most of the city’s entrances, residents said. As people left, soldiers checked for guns and cellphone videos of the violence. A few residents said the soldiers made them repeat an oath: “Only Muammar, God and Libya.”

By early Saturday morning, the Qaddafi government appeared to be laying the groundwork for a potential strike against the rebels in the name of self-defense.

Khalid Kaim, the deputy foreign minister, said government intelligence showed tanks, artillery and weapons from Benghazi attacking a town in the east. Government forces, he said, were holding back to observe the cease-fire.

Obama declares war on Libya! U.S. attacks Libya with cruise missiles.

Last time I checked only the US Congress was allowed to declare war, not the President. U.S. Constitution - Article 1 Section 8 - "Congress shall have Power ... To declare War"

I guess the Constitution is null and void. Not once since WWII has Congress declared war on any of the numerous countries the American Empire has invaded or bombed.

Yes Gadhafi is a tyrant but doesn't give Obama an excuse to flush the Constitution down the toilet and bomb Libya with out Congress declaring war on Libya.


U.S., allies attack Libya forces; Gadhafi vows to defend country

Mar. 19, 2011 04:12 PM

Associated Press

BENGHAZI, Libya -- The U.S. and European nations pounded Libya with cruise missiles and airstrikes targeting Moammar Gadhafi's forces Saturday, launching the broadest international military effort since the Iraq war in support of an uprising that had seemed on the verge of defeat.

The longtime Libyan leader vowed to defend his country from what he called "crusader aggression" and warned the involvement of international forces will subject the Mediterranean and North African region to danger and put civilians at risk.

The U.S. military said 112 Tomahawk cruise missiles were fired from American and British ships and submarines at more than 20 coastal targets to clear the way for air patrols to ground Libya's air force. French fighter jets fired the first salvos, carrying out several strikes in the rebel-held east.

President Barack Obama said military action was not his first choice. [Lying bastard! American Emperor Obama has said all along that Gadhafi better obey the American Empire or he would be attacked!]

"This is not an outcome the U.S. or any of our partners sought," Obama said from Brazil, where he is starting a five-day visit to Latin America. "We cannot stand idly by when a tyrant tells his people there will be no mercy."

Thousands of regime supporters, meanwhile, packed into the sprawling Bab al-Aziziya military camp in Tripoli where Gadhafi lives to protect against attacks.

The strikes, which were aimed at enforcing a U.N.-mandated no-fly zone, were a sharp escalation in the international effort to stop Gadhafi after weeks of pleading by the rebels who have seen early gains reversed as the regime unleashed the full force of its superior air power and weaponry.

Gadhafi, who has ruled Libya for 41 years, said in a telephone call to Libyan state TV that he was opening weapons depots to allow his people to arm themselves in defense.

He said the international action against his forces was unjustified, calling it "simply a colonial crusader aggression that may ignite another large-scale crusader war."

His regime also acted quickly in the run-up to the strikes, sending warplanes, tanks and troops into the eastern city of Benghazi, the rebel capital and first city to fall to the rebellion that began Feb. 15. Then the government attacks appeared to go silent.

Operation Odyssey Dawn, as the coalition operation has been dubbed, followed an emergency summit in Paris during which the 22 leaders and top officials agreed to do everything necessary to make Gadhafi respect a U.N. Security Council resolution Thursday calling for the no-fly zone and demanding a cease-fire, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said.

"Our consensus was strong, and our resolve is clear. The people of Libya must be protected, and in the absence of an immediate end to the violence against civilians our coalition is prepared to act, and to act with urgency," Obama said earlier.

Navy Vice Adm. William E. Gortney, director of the Pentagon's Joint Staff, told reporters in Washington that U.S. ships and a British submarine had launched the first phase of a missile assault on Libyan air defenses to clear the way for the imposition of a U.N.-mandated no-fly zone over the North African country.

Gortney said the mission has two goals: prevent further attacks by Libyan forces on rebels and other civilians, and degrade the Libyan military's ability to contest a no-fly zone.

Mohammed Ali, a spokesman for the exiled opposition group the Libyan Salvation Front, said the Libyan air force headquarters at the Mateiga air base in eastern Tripoli, and the Aviation Academy in Misrata had been targeted.

About 20 French fighter jets carried out "several strikes" earlier Saturday, military spokesman Thierry Burkhard told The Associated Press. He said earlier that one of the planes had fired the first shot against a Libyan military vehicle.

"All our planes have returned to base tonight," he said, and denied a Libyan TV report that a French plane had been hit.

He would not elaborate on what was hit or where, but said French forces are focusing on the Benghazi area and U.S. forces are focused in the west.

The U.S. has struck Libya before. Former President Reagan launched U.S. airstrikes on Libya in 1986 after a bombing at a Berlin disco -- which the U.S. blamed on Libya -- that killed three people, including two American soldiers. The airstrikes killed about 100 people in Libya, including Gadhafi's young adopted daughter at his Tripoli compound.

Libyan regime official Mohammed al-Zwei claimed a large number of civilians were injured when several civilian and military sites in the capital, Tripoli, and the nearby city of Misrata were hit.

"This barbaric aggression against the Libyan people comes after we had announced a cease-fire against the armed militias which are part of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb," he said. The targets could not be independently verified.

The rebels said earlier that they had hoped for more, sooner from the international community, after a day when crashing shells shook the buildings of Benghazi and Gadhafi's tanks rumbled through the university campus.

"People are disappointed, they haven't seen any action yet. The leadership understands some of the difficulties with procedures but when it comes to procedures versus human lives the choice is clear," said Essam Gheriani, a spokesman for the opposition. "People on the streets are saying where are the international forces? Is the international community waiting for the same crimes to be perpetrated on Benghazi has have been done by Gadhafi in the other cities?"

A doctor said 27 bodies had reached hospitals by midday. As night fell, though, the streets grew quiet.

Libyan state television also showed Gadhafi supporters converging on the international airport and a military garrison in Tripoli, and the airport in Gadhafi's hometown of Sirte, in an apparent attempt to deter bombing. In an open letter, Gadhafi warned: "You will regret it if you dare to intervene in our country."

In Paris, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Gadhafi's government had lost all legitimacy and lied about the cease-fire.

"We have every reason to fear that left unchecked, Gadhafi will commit unspeakable atrocities," she said.

Saturday's emergency meeting in Paris, which also included U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa and the foreign ministers of Jordan, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates, was the largest international military action since the beginning of the Iraq war, launched almost exactly eight years ago.

"The time for action has come, it needs to be urgent," British Prime Minister David Cameron said after the summit.

Earlier Saturday, a plane was shot down over the outskirts of Benghazi, sending up a massive black cloud of smoke. An Associated Press reporter saw the plane go down in flames and heard the sound of artillery and crackling gunfire.

Before the plane went down, journalists heard what appeared to be airstrikes from it. Rebels cheered and celebrated at the crash, though the government denied a plane had gone down -- or that any towns were shelled on Saturday.

The fighting galvanized the people of Benghazi, with young men collecting bottles to make gasoline bombs. Some residents dragged bed frames and metal scraps into the streets to make roadblocks.

"This city is a symbol of the revolution, it's where it started and where it will end if this city falls," said Gheriani. But at Jalaa hospital, where the tile floors and walls were stained with blood, the toll was clear.

"There are more dead than injured," said Dr. Ahmed Radwan, an Egyptian who had been there helping for three weeks.

Jalaa's Dr. Gebreil Hewadi, a member of the rebel health committee, said city hospitals had received 27 bodies.

At a news conference in the capital, Tripoli, the government spokesman read letters from Gadhafi to Obama and others involved in the international effort.

"Libya is not yours. Libya is for the Libyans. The Security Council resolution is invalid," he said in the letter to Sarkozy, British Prime Minister David Cameron, and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon.

To Obama, the Libyan leader was slightly more conciliatory: "If you had found them taking over American cities with armed force, tell me what you would do."

In a joint statement to Gadhafi late Friday, the United States, Britain and France -- backed by unspecified Arab countries -- called on Gadhafi to end his troops' advance toward Benghazi and pull them out of the cities of Misrata, Ajdabiya and Zawiya. It also called for the restoration of water, electricity and gas services in all areas. It said Libyans must be able to receive humanitarian aid or the "international community will make him suffer the consequences" with military action.

Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa said that Libyan officials had informed the U.N. and the Security Council that the government was abiding by the cease-fire it had announced Friday and called for a team of foreign observers to verify that.

In the course of the rebellion, Libya has gone from a once-promising economy with the largest proven oil reserves in Africa to a country in turmoil. The foreign workers that underpinned the oil industry have fled; production and exports have all but ground to a halt; and its currency is down 30 percent in just two weeks.

The oil minister, Shukri Ghanem, held a news conference calling on foreign oil companies to send back their workers. He said the government would honor all its contracts.

"We are still considering all our contracts and agreements with the oil companies valid," he said. "We hope from their part that they will honor their agreements, that they will send back their experts and their people to work."

He suggested future decisions on oil deals would favor countries that did not join the international force against Gadhafi: "A friend in need is a friend indeed," he told reporters in Tripoli.

Italy, which had been the main buyer for Libyan oil, offered the use of seven air and navy bases already housing U.S., NATO and Italian forces to enforce the no-fly zone over Libya.

Italy's defense minister, Ignazio La Russa, said Saturday that Italy wasn't just "renting out" its bases for others to use but was prepared to offer "moderate but determined" military support.

Warplanes from the United States, Canada, Denmark arrived at Italian air bases Saturday as part of an international military buildup. Germany backed the operation but isn't offering its own forces.


First wave of allied assault: 112 cruise missiles

Posted 3/19/2011 8:32 PM ET

By Robert Burns, AP National Security Writer

WASHINGTON — U.S. and British ships and submarines launched the first phase of a missile assault on Libyan air defenses Saturday and a senior American defense official said it was believed substantial damage was inflicted.

In the strikes, 112 Tomahawk cruise missiles were fired at more than 20 coastal targets to clear the way for air patrols to ground Libya's air force.

While U.S. defense officials cautioned that it was too early to fully gauge the impact of the onslaught, the official said that given the precision targeting of the Navy's cruise missiles, they felt that Libya's air defenses suffered a good deal of damage.

The official spoke on grounds of anonymity because the ongoing mission.

In announcing the mission during a visit to Brazil, President Barack Obama said he was reluctant to resort to force but was convinced it was necessary to save the lives of civilians. He reiterated that he would not send American ground troops to Libya.

"We cannot stand idly by when a tyrant tells his people there will be no mercy," he said in Brasilia.

While U.S. defense officials said it was too early to gauge the impact of the onslaught, one senior official said that given the precision targeting of the Navy's cruise missiles, they believe Libya's air defenses suffered a good deal of damage.

It was clear the U.S. intended to limit its role in the Libya intervention, focusing first on disabling or otherwise silencing Libyan air defenses, and then leaving it to European and perhaps Arab countries to enforce a no-fly zone over the North African nation.

Navy Vice Adm. William E. Gortney, director of the Pentagon's Joint Staff, told reporters the cruise missile assault was the "leading edge" of a coalition campaign dubbed Operation Odyssey Dawn. Its aim: prevent Moammar Gadhafi's forces from inflicting more violence on civilians -- particularly in and around the rebel stronghold of Benghazi -- and degrading the Libyan military's ability to contest a no-fly zone.

"This is not an outcome the U.S. or any of our partners sought," Obama said from Brazil, where he is starting a five-day visit to Latin America. "Our consensus was strong, and our resolve is clear. The people of Libya must be protected, and in the absence of an immediate end to the violence against civilians our coalition is prepared to act, and to act with urgency."

A chief target of Saturday's cruise missile attack was Libya's SA-5 surface-to-air missiles, which are considered a moderate threat to some allied aircraft. Libya's overall air defenses are based on older Soviet technology but Gortney called them capable and a potential threat to allied aircraft.

Also targeted: early warning radars and unspecified communications facilities, Gortney said. The U.S. military has extensive recent experience in such combat missions; U.S. Air Force and Navy aircraft repeatedly attacked Iraq's air defenses during the 1990s while enforcing a no-fly zone over Iraq's Kurdish north.

Cruise missiles are the weapon of first choice in such campaigns; they do not put pilots at risk, and they use navigational technologies that provide good precision.

The first Tomahawk cruise missiles struck at 3 p.m. EDT, Gortney said, after a one-hour flight from the U.S. and British vessels on station in the Mediterranean.

They were fired from five U.S. ships -- the guided-missile destroyers USS Stout and USS Barry, and three submarines, USS Providence, USS Scranton and USS Florida.

The U.S. has at least 11 naval vessels in the Mediterranean, including three submarines, two destroyers, two amphibious warfare ships and the USS Mount Whitney, a command-and-control vessel that is the flagship of the Navy's 6th Fleet. Also in the area are Navy P-3 and EP-3 surveillance aircraft, officials said.

Gortney initially had said that it could take as long as 12 hours to assess the effectiveness of Saturday's strikes. Then a high-altitude Global Hawk unmanned surveillance plane would overfly the target areas to get a more precise view, the admiral said. He would not say how long the attacks on Libyan air defenses would last, but he stressed that Saturday's assault with cruise missiles was the first phase of a multi-stage mission.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who was scheduled to fly to Russia on Saturday afternoon to begin a week-long overseas trip, postponed his departure for 24 hours. Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said Gates decided he should remain in Washington to monitor developments in Libya at the outset of U.S. strikes.

Gates had been skeptical of getting involved in Libya's civil war, telling Congress earlier this month that taking out Libya's air defenses was tantamount to war. Others have worried that the mission could put the U.S. on a slippery slope to deeper involvement in yet another Muslim country -- on top of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Hours after Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton attended an international conference in Paris that endorsed military action against Gadhafi, the U.S. and Britain kicked off their attacks.

At a news conference in Paris, Clinton said Gadhafi had left the world no choice but to intervene urgently and forcefully to protect further loss of civilian life.

"We have every reason to fear that, left unchecked, Gadhafi would commit unspeakable atrocities," she told reporters.

Clinton said there was no evidence that Gadhafi's forces were respecting an alleged cease-fire they proclaimed and the time for action was now.

"Our assessment is that the aggressive action by Gadhafi's forces continues in many parts of the country," she said. "We have seen no real effort on the part of the Gadhafi forces to abide by a cease-fire."

In addition to the three submarines and two destroyers, the U.S. Navy ships in the Mediterranean include two amphibious warships, the USS Kearsarge and USS Ponce, and a command-and-control ship, the USS Mount Whitney.


Associated Press writer Lolita C. Baldor contributed to this report.


'Enough!' the Arabs say, but will it be enough?

Posted 3/19/2011 5:31 PM ET

By Charles J. Hanley, Associated Press

AMMAN, Jordan — The cry first rang out from the fed-up people of Lisbon and Madrid: "Basta!"

It echoed across South America, to the banging of pots and pans. It resounded in the old capitals of a new Asia, was taken up in a Polish shipyard, awakened a slumbering Africa. And now, a generation later, it's heard in the city squares of the Arab world: "Kifaya!"


From Morocco in the west to Yemen in the east, the sudden rising up of ordinary Arabs against their autocratic rulers looks like a belated postscript to the changes that swept the globe in the final decades of the last century -- a period scholars dubbed the "third wave of democracy."

"Now we're witnessing the fourth wave of democracy," a smiling Oraib al-Rantawi, Jordanian political activist, assured a visitor to Amman. "We're lucky to live to see it."

You could see it one brilliant afternoon on Talal Street in this cream-colored city of minarets and hills, where more than 2,000 Jordanians marched along in a river of flags and protest signs, adding their voices to those in almost a dozen other Arab lands demanding greater freedoms, a bigger say in running their societies.

"The people across the region have risen and our leaders are still asleep," protest leader Sufian Tal told these unhappy subjects of Jordan's King Abdullah II.

"Enough is enough!"

In Amman and Cairo, in Sanaa and Benghazi, it's clear: They've had enough. But is the Arab world truly on the threshold of democracy? Why did it take so long? And why in our lifetimes did this idea of "one person, one vote" spread so swiftly over the globe?


Twenty-six floors up in a Wall Street office tower, near the spot where George Washington took the oath to lead a newborn American democracy, Arch Puddington and his Freedom House staff meticulously track the idea's planetary progress.

For almost 40 years, this think tank's New York researchers have annually assessed the state of democracy and associated freedoms, classifying nations in three categories -- free, partly free or not free. The numbers tell a striking story: Almost half the world's nations were rated not free in 1972, but by last year that proportion had dropped below one-quarter.

"What impresses me is how it's exploded when you had centuries when democracies didn't exist at all, and for quite a few years were restricted to a few places," Puddington said.

Political scientists identify democracy's "first wave" as the revolutionary period of the 18th and 19th centuries, and the second as the post-World War II restoration of traditional democracies.

The third wave, they now see, began in the mid-1970s, when people in Portugal and Spain threw off decades of military dictatorship. That upheaval helped inspire their former Latin American colonies to topple their own authoritarians-in-uniform in the 1980s, when the rhythmic banging of cookware in the Santiago night signaled that Chileans, for one, were fed up.

The wave rolled on to east Asia, to the Philippines' "People Power" revolution, South Korea's embrace of civilian democracy, Taiwan's ending of one-party rule. Then, in 1989, the Berlin Wall came down.

Eastern Europe's post-Communist transition, foreshadowed by Solidarity's rise in a Gdansk shipyard, delivered a dozen nations to Puddington's democratic column. The wave then reached sub-Saharan Africa, where the number of countries with multiparty electoral systems soared from a mere three in 1989 to 18 by 1995.

From about 40 democracies worldwide late in Spain's Franco dictatorship, the number stood at 123 by 2005. Despots by the dozen -- the Duvaliers and Marcoses, Stroessners and Ceausescus -- were abruptly consigned to a grim past.

Elections in some transformed states proved not always free and fair. Some failed to protect minorities against the "tyranny of the majority," the bane of mass rule. Some did little to better their impoverished people's everyday lives.

But, seemingly overnight, the world's political landscape had unmistakably shifted, to power for the people. What had happened?

A complex of factors is usually cited: the failed economic policies and military misadventures of the generals and strongmen; rising education, expanding middle classes, improved communications widening people's horizons; a liberalizing Catholic Church in Latin America; a well-financed push by the U.S. and the European Union to nurture more democracies through aid and political training programs.

Puddington sees another big driver: the fading of what many once viewed as a non-democratic alternative, the communist promise of economic development with social equality in a one-party state.

"In the '70s, looking back, the communist idea had exhausted itself as an economic force," he said.

When the third wave finally ebbed a decade ago, only Arab societies were left untouched, noted al-Rantawi, director of Amman's Al Quds Center for Political Studies.

"Sometimes we believed we were another kind of human," he said with a laugh. "Practically all the world had become democratic, except us."

Why? Again, a list of reasons is cited: poverty and illiteracy; a postcolonial period, including wars with Israel, that empowered local militaries; oil wealth enriching traditional sheiks and other authoritarians; the U.S. and other oil-importing powers favoring the predictability of friendly autocrats.

Now the shock of Tunis and Cairo, the removal of two seemingly immovable presidents, accompanied by explosions of protest elsewhere, seems to be leapfrogging those obstacles, propelled by the Internet and instant communication.

But where the fed-up Arab millions are headed in Egypt and Tunisia, and possibly soon in other lands, is the unanswered question of the moment.

"Democracy is not the certain outcome," said Vidar Helgesen, head of the Sweden-based International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, a 27-nation consortium that aids political transitions.

"Mass protests can overthrow a dictatorship but cannot build democracy," Helgesen said. That requires overhauling constitutions, establishing free, fair elections, adopting laws guaranteeing political rights, freedom of expression, independent judiciaries.

The biggest uncertainties hang over the biggest Arab nation, the 80 million people of Egypt.

Will its military commanders, "interim" leaders now that President Hosni Mubarak is gone, fully surrender the control they have exercised directly or indirectly for almost 60 years? Can strong political parties emerge soon enough? Will the well-organized Islamists of the Muslim Brotherhood dominate a new Egypt?

This prospect of Islamist ascendancy has long been another obstacle to Arab democracy.

Arab leaders, U.S. politicians, Israeli voices spoke nervously of "one man, one vote, one time" -- imposition of undemocratic, puritanical Quranic rule if open elections put religious parties in power. It's a fear that led Algeria's military to suppress an incipient democracy there as Islamists neared election victory in 1992.

But other voices today insist political Islam doesn't endanger democracy. They point to the "Turkish model," where an elected Islamist party governs without remaking the secular, multiparty state.

"The majority of Muslims in the Middle East today believe there is no incompatibility between Islam and democracy," said Radwan Masmoudi, founder of the U.S.-based Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy.

Mideast scholar Lisa Anderson agrees.

"There have been Christian Democrats and Christian Socialists in Europe for 100 years, and nobody thought that was going to capsize democracy," said Anderson, president of the American University in Cairo.

Elsewhere in Cairo, after group prayers in the Muslim Brotherhood's cramped offices beside the Nile, leading spokesman Mohammed Saad el-Katatney outlined plans for a new Freedom and Justice Party to contest elections expected as early as June. He clearly wanted to allay concerns about a takeover.

"We think it would be unsuitable to be opportunistic and seek a majority in Parliament," he told The Associated Press, saying his party instead intends to vie for only a limited number of parliamentary seats.

Ultimately, said this 58-year-old microbiologist, "our goal is to establish a civil state, not a religious state." But it would be a civil state "in reference to the principles of the laws of Islamic sharia" -- something, he noted, already enshrined in Egypt's constitution.

In Cairo's central Tahrir Square, on the edge of a roaring throng of tens of thousands gathered for another Friday demonstration, two very different young women sounded unpersuaded by Brotherhood reassurances.

"Young people, a mixture of people, will dominate the democracy, not Islam," said jeans-clad teenager Amira Esam Shwihi. "We want to separate religion and politics."

Nearby, Samah Amer, 25, black Islamic garb covering all but her eyes, said the Muslim Brotherhood "doesn't represent all of Egypt. I want a changed political system, not turn it into an Islamic system."

Some say the change may occur in the Brotherhood itself.

Tariq Ramadan, grandson of the founder of the Muslim Brothers, sees a "generation gap, generational tension" in which younger members are pressing for acceptance of a Turkish model within the organization.

"Islamism is not a static ideology. People are moving forward," said Ramadan, an Islamic studies professor at Oxford University.

That's what liberal activist Abdallah Helmy said he found in the tumult of Egypt's winter revolution.

"In two weeks of camping in Tahrir Square, we exchanged ideas with young Muslim Brothers," said Helmy, 34. "And we found exactly the same point of view. They would accept having a Christian president, for example. They would accept men and women meeting together."

Ramadan cautioned Islamists and secularists alike, however, against expecting too much too soon. With the army's heavy hand on Egypt's transition, "I think it's going to be very difficult to have an achieved, complete democracy," he said.

It has seldom been easy. It took a civil war and more for Washington's America to evolve into today's democracy. And in just one example from Puddington's latest report, Freedom House downgrades Ukraine's democracy, once viewed as a post-Communist model, to "partly free" because of new authoritarian tendencies.

Stable democracies "will take a very long time in the Middle East," said Carl Gershman, head since 1984 of the non-governmental U.S. National Endowment for Democracy, whose $100 million in annual congressional appropriations help promote democracy worldwide.

"But now it's clear we're entering a new period for democracy," he said. "There's really no large competing idea."

And what of the biggest democracy vacuum of all, the one-party state of China, where a democracy movement was crushed, with hundreds killed, in Beijing's Tiananmen Square in 1989?

"I don't think China will be able to avoid this trend," Gershman said. "It all amounts to a question of human dignity. And that's universal."


U.S. jets strike Gadhafi's forces; coalition continues hitting Libyan air defenses

by Peter Finn and Greg Jaffe - Mar. 21, 2011 12:00 AM

Washington Post

U.S. and allied warplanes continued pounding Libya's air defenses Sunday and launched deadly strikes against ground forces as Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi offered no serious military challenge to the establishment of a no-fly zone over his country.

"We judge these strikes to have been very effective in significantly degrading the regime's air-defense capability," Vice Adm. Bill Gortney, the director of the Pentagon's Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Sunday.

If the military gains were clear, the international and domestic political support for the U.N.-authorized campaign seemed to weaken. The Arab League voiced concern about civilian deaths, and leading Republicans demanded clarity on the ultimate goals.

President Barack Obama has declared that Gadhafi "must leave," but Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen, the administration's most visible spokesman Sunday, acknowledged that the outcome of the conflict remains uncertain.

Despite a plume of smoke around one of his compounds in Tripoli, U.S. officials said that they were not aiming to kill the Libyan leader.

"At this point I can guarantee he is not on the target list," Gortney told reporters at the Pentagon. "We are not targeting his residence."

Air Force B-2 stealth bombers as well as Marine Harrier jets flying from a ship in the Mediterranean followed up on the dozens of Tomahawk cruise-missile strikes that opened the assault on Libya, called Operation Odyssey Dawn. U.S. fighter jets mounted attacks on Libyan soldiers advancing on the rebel-held city of Benghazi as part of a broader mission to protect the besieged opposition forces from being overrun, said a U.S. military official.

The strikes, which were carried out by 15 U.S. fighter jets as well as French and British planes, left a smoking graveyard of military vehicles outside Benghazi.

"We thank the international community for their serious steps to kill this murderer," said Adam al-Libi, an opposition fighter in the rebel capital. "If God is willing, we will win."

The United States also mounted strikes with satellite-guided bombs on an airfield outside the coastal city of Misrata, where the Libyan air force maintained fighter jets in hardened shelters. Gadhafi continued to keep the Soviet-era fighters on the ground and the United States detected no radar emissions from any of the air-defense sites that it had targeted, military officials said.

The intensity of the attacks startled the 22-member Arab League, which had backed the no-fly zone. Secretary General Amr Moussa called a meeting of the organization in the wake of a bombardment that he said "led to the deaths and injuries of many Libyan civilians."

"What is happening in Libya differs from the aim of imposing a no-fly zone, and what we want is the protection of civilians and not the bombardment of more civilians," said Moussa, according to Egypt's state news agency.

Mullen said he had seen no evidence that the attacks had caused civilian casualties but charged that Gadhafi had created human shields around radar and missile sites.

The Libyan leader continued voicing defiance and vowed to conduct a "long, drawn-out war."

"We will not leave our land, and we will liberate it," he said on state television. "We will remain alive, and you will all die."

A Libyan military official announced a 9 p.m. cease-fire by the country's armed forces, but U.S. officials scoffed at the declaration. "Our view at this point is that it isn't true or it's been immediately violated," said national security adviser Tom Donilon, briefing reporters in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday night. "So we'll continue to monitor Gadhafi's actions, not just his words."

McClatchy Newspapers contributed to this article.


Mission's goal unclear, some analysts say

by Mark Seibel, Nancy A. Youssef and Roy Gutman - Mar. 21, 2011 12:00 AM

McClatchy Newspapers

LONDON - With U.S., British and French forces now fully engaged in attacking Moammar Gadhafi's military in Libya from the air and sea, and the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff declaring that a no-fly zone is in effect, the question becomes: How does this end?

The United Nations Security Council resolution that authorized the attacks defines the goal as a cease-fire that stops Gadhafi from assaulting his people.

President Barack Obama on Thursday added to that by saying that Gadhafi "must stop his troops from advancing on Benghazi, pull them back from Ajdabiya, Misrata, and Zawiya" - three cities that had at one time been under rebel control - "and establish water, electricity and gas supplies to all areas."

And, Obama said, "Humanitarian assistance must be allowed to reach the people of Libya."

But whether such a cease-fire could leave Gadhafi in power remains an open question. Neither the U.N. nor Obama has said explicitly that Gadhafi must be removed from power, though Obama had previously called on Gadhafi to step down.

On Sunday, Michele Flournoy, U.S. defense undersecretary for policy, implied in an interview with the BBC that nothing short of a Gadhafi departure from power was acceptable. "He's lost his legitimacy," she said.

Still, Flournoy was unwilling to say explicitly that Gadhafi had to go in order for the U.S.-led campaign to end. "It's too early to speculate as to where this ends up," she said.

Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chief of Staff, was similarly reluctant to make any long-term predictions in an interview with ABC News.

Describing the military objective as "limited," he dodged a question about whether the no-fly zone over Libya might remain in place for as long as the U.S. enforced a similar zone over Iraq - 12 years. "Circumstances will drive where this goes," he said.

That troubles some military analysts, who worry that the West's urgent action over the weekend isn't backed by planning for what sort of Libya will be left behind when the aerial campaign stops.

It also troubles leading lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

"Before any further military commitments are made, the administration must do a better job of communicating to the American people and to Congress about our mission in Libya and how it will be achieved," House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said Sunday.

"I think we're seeing the opening shot of a fairly long campaign," said retired Royal Navy Rear Adm. Chris Parry, a former top planner for Britain's Defense Ministry. Calling the airstrikes against Libya a "something-must-be-done strategy," Parry said he had seen no "evidence of a long-term strategy."

The U.N. resolution "only takes us so far," he said. "Some thought has got to be given to what comes next."

Paul Pillar, a professor at Georgetown University in Washington who spent nearly three decades as a senior U.S. intelligence analyst, said that on its face, the U.N. resolution offers no formula for ending the West's military obligations. "If the mission is to protect Libyans, this is a mission that inherently has no end," he said, as long as Gadhafi remains in power.

That could certainly happen, Pillar said. "A central fact is the disunity of Libya, which is stitched together from three parts," he said. "It is plausible that (Gadhafi) would hold out in the west even if the eastern part of the country remains" in rebel hands.

The specter of an Iraq-like commitment that lasts years and leaves the West ultimately setting up a post-Gadhafi government hovers over the entire operation. Former British Army commander Michael Jackson unintentionally made that point during an interview with the BBC Sunday morning.

"The political goal has got to be a stable Iraq," Jackson said in response to a question about how the conflict might end. The interviewer immediately interrupted - "you mean Libya," she said.

"What did I say?" Jackson asked. Told he had said Iraq, the retired general - who led the British army when the Iraq war began - chuckled. "Forgive me, a Freudian slip."

Jackson said he had no inside knowledge of what is under consideration for Libya.

Swear to God the USA is not trying to murder Gadhafi. OK, maybe not, but that's what Obama is telling us!


Cruise missile blasts Gadhafi's compound near tent

By HADEEL AL-SHALCHI and RYAN LUCAS, Associated Press Hadeel Al-shalchi And Ryan Lucas, Associated Press

TRIPOLI, Libya – A cruise missile blasted Moammar Gadhafi's residential compound in an attack that carried as much symbolism as military effect, and fighter jets destroyed a line of tanks moving on the rebel capital. The U.S. said the international assault would hit any government forces attacking the opposition.

Oil prices jumped to nearly $103 a barrel Monday in Asia after the Libyan leader vowed a "long war" amid a second night of allied strikes in the OPEC nation. Jubilant rebels said they expected to bring him down in a matter of days.

It was not known where Gadhafi was when the missile hit near his iconic tent late Sunday, but it seemed to show that while the allies trade nuances over whether the Libyan leader's fall is a goal of their campaign — he is not safe.

Half of the round, three-story administration building was knocked down and pieces of the missile were scattered around, according to Associated Press photographer escorted to the scene by the Libyan government. About 300 Gadhafi supporters were in the compound at the time. It was not known if any were hurt.

Britain said Monday one of its bombing missions was aborted last night to avoid civilian casualties.

"We believe that a number of civilians had been moved within the intended target area," the Ministry of Defense said Monday. State television had said Gadhafi's supporters were converging on airports as human shields.

The U.S. military said the bombardment so far — a rain of Tomahawk cruise missiles and precision bombs from American and European aircraft, including long-range stealth B-2 bombers — had hobbled Gadhafi's air defenses. More missile strikes overnight did new damage to anti-aircraft sites, the Italian military said.

U.S., British and French planes also went after tanks headed toward Benghazi, in the opposition-held eastern half of the country. On Sunday, at least seven demolished tanks smoldered in a field 12 miles (20 kilometers) south of Benghazi, many of them with their turrets and treads blown off, alongside charred armored personnel carriers, jeeps and SUVs of the kind used by Gadhafi fighters.

"I feel like in two days max we will destroy Gadhafi," said Ezzeldin Helwani, 35, a rebel standing next to the smoldering wreckage of an armored personnel carrier, the air thick with smoke and the pungent smell of burning rubber. In a grisly sort of battle trophy, celebrating fighters hung a severed goat's head with a cigarette in its mouth from the turret of one of the gutted tanks.

The strikes that began early Sunday gave respite to Benghazi, which the day before had been under a heavy attack that killed at least 120 people. The calm highlighted the dramatic turnaround that the allied strikes bring to Libya's month-old upheaval: For the past 10 days, Gadhafi's forces had been on a triumphant offensive against the rebel-held east, driving opposition fighters back with the overwhelming firepower of tanks, artillery, warplanes and warships.

Now Gadhafi's forces are potential targets for U.S. and European strikes. The U.N. resolution authorizing international military action in Libya not only sets up a no-fly zone but allows "all necessary measures" to prevent attacks on civilians.

But the U.S. military, for now at the lead of the international campaign, is trying to walk a fine line over the end game of the assault. It is avoiding for now any appearance that it aims to take out Gadhafi or help the rebels oust him, instead limiting its stated goals to protecting civilians.

Britain also is treading carefully. Foreign Secretary William Hague refused Monday to say if Gadhafi would or could be assassinated, insisting he would not "get drawn into details about what or whom may be targeted."

"I'm not going to speculate on the targets," Hague said in a heated interview with BBC radio. "That depends on the circumstances at the time."

A military official said Air Force B-2 stealth bombers flew 25 hours in a round trip from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri and dropped 45 2,000-pound bombs.

What happens if rebel forces eventually go on the offensive against Gadhafi's troops remains unclear.

Rebels defended their support of the international intervention into Libya — apparently feeling the sting of criticism from other Libyans and Arabs who warned the country could be divided or collapse into a civil war.

"Libya will not turn into Somalia or Iraq. It will not be divided. We are battling — the Libyan people — are battling a gang of mercenaries," Mohammed al-Misrati, a rebel spokesman in the stronghold of Misrata, told Al-Jazeera on Monday.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said late Sunday that the U.S. expects turn over control of the operation to a coalition headed by France, Britain or NATO "in a matter of days," reflecting concern that the U.S. military was stretched thin by its current missions. Turkey was blocking NATO action, which requires agreement by all 28 members of the alliance.

Sunday night, heavy anti-aircraft fire erupted repeatedly in the capital, Tripoli, with arcs of red tracer bullets and exploding shells in the dark sky — marking the start of a second night of international strikes. Gadhafi supporters in the streets shot automatic weapons in the air in a show of defiance. It was not immediately known what was being targeted in the new strikes.

Libyan army spokesman Col. Milad al-Fokhi said Libyan army units had been ordered to cease fire at 9 p.m. local time, but the hour passed with no letup in military activity.

Gadhafi vowed to fight on. In a phone call to Libyan state television Sunday, he said he would not let up on Benghazi and said the government had opened up weapons depots to all Libyans, who were now armed with "automatic weapons, mortars and bombs."

"We promise you a long war," he said.


Lucas reported from Benghazi, Libya. Associated Press writers Maggie Michael in Cairo and Lolita C. Baldor and Robert Burns in Washington contributed to this report.


Pentagon: Gadhafi forces in disarray after assault

Posted 3/21/2011 8:29 AM ET

By Richard Lardner, Associated Press

WASHINGTON — A U.S.-led coalition has succeeded in scattering and isolating Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi's forces after a weekend of punishing air attacks, Pentagon officials say, and American military authorities are moving to hand control of the operation to other countries.

Gadhafi is not a target of the campaign, a senior military official said Sunday, but he could not guarantee the Libyan leader's safety.

Navy Vice Adm. William E. Gortney, staff director for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a Pentagon news conference there is no evidence civilians in Libya have been harmed in the air assault, code named Odyssey Dawn. Gortney also said no allied planes have been lost and all pilots have returned safely from missions that used stealth B-2 bombers, jet fighters, more than 120 Tomahawk cruise missiles and other high-tech weapons.

"We judge these strikes to have been very effective in significantly degrading the regime's air defense capability," Gortney said. "We believe his forces are under significant stress and suffering from both isolation and a good deal of confusion."

But Gortney did not rule out the possibility of further attacks aimed at preventing Gadhafi from attacking civilians in Libya and enforcing a no-fly zone.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the U.S. expects to turn control of the mission over to a coalition -- probably headed either by the French and British or by NATO -- "in a matter of days."

Late Sunday, however, NATO's top decision-making body failed to agree on a plan to enforce the no-fly zone over Libya, although it did approve a military plan to implement a U.N. arms embargo.

On Saturday night, three Air Force B-2s, launched from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, dropped precision munitions on an airfield near the city of Misurata, destroying hardened military aircraft shelters while avoiding commercial structures nearby. A military official said the B-2s flew 25 hours in a round trip from Whiteman and dropped 45 2,000-pound bombs.

And fifteen Air Force and Marine Corps aircraft, along with jets from France and Great Britain, hit a heavy infantry unit advancing on the rebel capital Benghazi. "To protect the Libyan people, we took them under attack," Gortney said.

Gortney said the coalition had control of the air space between Benghazi and Tripoli, Libya's capital. "The no-fly zone is effectively in place," he said. "Anything that does fly that we detect, we will engage."

Inside Gadhafi's huge Tripoli compound, an administration building was hit and badly damaged late Sunday. An Associated Press photographer at the scene said half of the round, three-story building was knocked down, smoke was rising from it, and pieces of a cruise missile were scattered around the scene.

Gadhafi and his residence are not on a list of targets to be hit by coalition aircraft, Gortney said. But Gadhafi won't be safe "if he happens to be at a place, if he is inspecting a surface-to-air missile site and we don't have any idea that he's there or not," Gortney said.

Earlier Sunday, Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the goals of the operation are to protect civilians from further violence by pro-Gadhafi forces, while enabling the flow of humanitarian relief supplies. But it was unclear how long the military effort would continue or on what scale.

That uncertainty led to criticism from senior Republicans in Congress.

House Speaker John Boehner said that the Obama administration "has a responsibility to define for the American people, the Congress and our troops what the mission in Libya is" and how it will be accomplished.

Rep. Howard P. "Buck" McKeon, the Republican chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said Obama needs to tell the American public "to what extent military force will be used and for how long."

Army Gen. Carter Ham, the top officer at U.S. Africa Command, is in control of the operation. But the U.S., which is heavily engaged in Afghanistan and still has troops in Iraq, is working to transfer command to another member of the coalition. Gortney did not provide details on when that would happen or which country would take the lead.

The U.S. role would shift to mostly providing support with aerial refueling tankers and electronic warfare aircraft that can jam or monitor enemy communications -- assets that other countries don't have in their inventories.

Gen. Norton Schwartz, the Air Force chief of staff, told lawmakers last week that intelligence-gathering and surveillance aircraft being used in Iraq and Afghanistan may be shifted to Libya. These aircraft are limited in number, Schwartz said, and "trade-offs" may have to be made.

Schwartz said he expected the supersonic F-22 Raptor -- a jet fighter yet to be used in combat -- to play a prominent role in the initial attacks on Gadhafi's forces. With its stealth design, the F-22 can evade radar and has advanced engines that allow it to fly at faster-than-sound speeds without using gas-guzzling afterburners.

But Gortney would not say whether the F-22 had been or will be used. The Air Force has said only that the B-2 and F-15 and F-16 fighters participated in the operation.

As of Sunday, Gortney said members of the coalition included the U.S., Great Britain, France, Canada, Italy, Belgium and Qatar. More are expected to join, but Gortney said those countries, and not the U.S., would make that announcement.


Associated Press writer Lolita C. Baldor contributed to this report.


Double standard seen in Arab response to Libya

By Jeffrey Fleishman, Los Angeles Times

March 21, 2011

Reporting from Cairo—

Arab leaders don't relish attacking one of their own. But bloodshed across Libya and Western pressure have forced them into supporting international airstrikes against Col. Moammar Kadafi, who in many ways is merely a caricature of monarchies and autocrats throughout the Middle East.

The Arab League urged the United Nations to impose a no-fly zone over Libya. Now, with French warplanes and U.S. Tomahawk missiles streaking across the North African sky, the league is criticizing the air assault as Arab kings and presidents confront decades-old ironies, religious animosities and fears they will be blamed for siding with Western imperialism.

There are concerns that foreign intervention may reignite Islamic radicalism that so far has not resonated with largely secular protest movements not rooted in religion or ideology. Kadafi has few sympathizers in the region but rallying against him is likely to pose credibility problems for regimes attempting to calm growing dissent at home.

It is a potent combination that highlights the hypocrisy and dangers of Arab politics. The Gulf Cooperation Council, which includes the Sunni-led nations of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, condemned Kadafi's regime for killing dissidents even as Saudi troops assisted Bahraini security forces last week in a deadly crackdown against Shiite Muslim protesters.

"It's a double standard," said Mohammed Tajer, a lawyer defending detained protesters in Bahrain. "The Arab League consists of dictatorships that want to protect their own interests."

Islamists, who have found scant traction in the region in recent years, have accused Arab leaders of confronting Kadafi to appease the West. They have conjured the U.S.-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to suggest that Arab capitals are complicit in a Washington-inspired scheme to dominate the Muslim world.

It is not only religious conservatives and extremists who worry about the troubling pattern of Western intervention in Middle East affairs.

The members of the Arab League "have overlooked their own backyards, where discontent is brewing and similar kind of rebellion is already knocking at their doors," Ajaz Ahmed wrote in the Arab News in Saudi Arabia. "They need to work out a solution … instead of involving the foreign forces, which have a history of occupying Arab lands."

On Sunday, Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa, who a week ago led the call for military action, criticized the withering airstrikes on Kadafi's forces. "What is happening in Libya differs from the aim of imposing a no-fly zone, and what we want is the protection of civilians and not the bombardment of more civilians."

Libya has become the dark side of the burgeoning Arab spring. The idiosyncratic and provocative Kadafi has exasperated and threatened Arab leaders for decades. He is an easy man to demonize, providing regional capitals with a bit of diplomatic cover for supporting international action. His forces have targeted hospitals and indiscriminately bombed civilians in rebel-held eastern Libya.

There have been no "demonstrations against the no-fly zone in any Arab city," said Mustafa Alani, director of the Gulf Research Center in the United Arab Emirates city of Dubai. "People might not like it but the only other option is to allow a civil war to develop in Libya; you're going to create another Somalia. They don't like military intervention, but in this case it is seen as the lesser evil."

That attitude is different from the mood in 2003, when tens of thousands of protesters in Egypt and other countries marched against their governments' tacit support of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. Those demonstrations were not targeted at toppling regimes; the protests today are more volatile and the leaders more desperate.

"Countries like Saudi Arabia, Algeria and Syria are in a delicate situation," said Mustafa Labbad, director of Al Sharq Center for Regional and Strategic Studies in Cairo. "They're afraid of setting a new trend in the region that could backlash on them. They wouldn't want to see foreign powers aiding rebels against their regimes. They also don't want the prospect of another Iraq."

So sensitive is attacking another Arab country that most leaders are saying little about their roles in enforcing the no-fly zone. Qatar has publicly offered its military to help in airstrikes. Saudi Arabia and other nations have been more reticent. It is not clear if weapons or aircraft from any Arab country will be tapped by a coalition coordinated by the U.S. and Europe.

The Kadafi dilemma is the latest and most dangerous challenge to the region's established order. The leaders of Tunisia and Egypt have been overthrown. The police in Bahrain and Yemen are shooting protesters. The Arab world, which has been loath to change for generations, is confronting an unsettling burst democratic fervor that is tearing down icons and demanding free elections.

Kadafi has drawn rebuke from Cairo to Dubai. Arab leaders have not been as harsh in criticizing Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh's attacks on protesters. More than 40 Yemeni demonstrators were shot and killed by security forces on Friday after weeks of spiraling unrest.

Bahrain's violent response to protests underlines another issue roiling the Middle East: the sectarian tensions between Sunnis and Shiites. The Arab world is dominated by Sunni regimes, including Bahrain's, which was startled in February when the majority Shiite population rose up over discrimination and issued calls for reform. Protesters have complained that Arab governments have not condemned Bahrain's tactics.

Yemen and Bahrain are strategically more important to Washington and Arab interests than Libya, despite the latter's vast oil supplies.

Saleh is cooperating with the U.S. and Saudi Arabia to defeat an Al Qaeda organization that threatens to export terrorism throughout the Middle East and the Horn of Africa. Bahrain is home to the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet, which patrols the Persian Gulf and is regarded by Arab nations as a counter to Shiite Iran's growing regional influence.

Some analysts suggest the Arab world should be more active in policing its neighborhood rather than relying on Western help, which often leads to failed policies and recriminations.

"The Arabs should participate militarily in the no-fly zone [over Libya] and so far they have not because they are reluctant to do so, they want someone else to do it for them," said Paul Salem, director of the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut. "That is not the right position."


It sure sounds like the US government is propping up a dictatorship that terrorizes it's people. Of course the American like is "but he is OUR dictator"


US sees few good options if Yemen government falls

Posted 3/22/2011 7:26 AM ET

By Matt Apuzzo And Adam Goldman, Associated Press

WASHINGTON — For two years, the Obama administration has had a relationship of convenience with Yemen: The U.S. kept the Yemeni government armed and flush with cash. In return, Yemen's leaders helped fight al-Qaida or, as often, looked the other way while the U.S. did.

That relationship is about to get a lot less convenient.

Of all the uprisings and protests that have swept the Middle East this year, none is more likely than Yemen to have immediate damaging effects on U.S. counterterrorism efforts. Yemen is home to al-Qaida's most active franchise, and as President Ali Abdullah Saleh's government crumbles, so does Washington's influence there.

Saleh's 32-year hold on power has weakened during street protests over the past month. Several foreign diplomats have turned against him. On Monday, three senior army commanders joined a protest movement calling for his ouster, and as rival tanks rolled through the streets of the capital, current and former government officials and analysts said Saleh's days appeared to be numbered.

"In the counterterrorism area, it will be a great loss," said Wayne White, a former senior State Department intelligence analyst.

Whoever replaces Saleh will inherit a country on the brink of becoming a failed state. There is a secessionist movement in the south. Pirates roam its waters. A rebellion in the north has been a proxy fight between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Half of Yemen's citizens are illiterate. A third are unemployed. Drinking water is scarce, yet the population is growing at one of the fastest clips in the world, far outpacing the government's ability to provide even the most basic services. Half the country lacks toilets.

With all that, the challenge for the U.S. will be to persuade Yemen's next leader to continue an unpopular campaign against al-Qaida. Sheik Hamid al-Ahmar, a leading member of the opposition who has been mentioned as a possible president, has dismissed al-Qaida in Yemen as a creation of Saleh's government. The Obama administration, however, considers the group to be the most serious terrorist threat to the U.S.

The group, known as al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, includes about 300 people sheltered by tribal allies in a rugged, hard-to-travel country twice as big as Wyoming. The group was behind the nearly successful bombings of U.S. cargo jets last fall and a passenger airliner on Christmas 2009. The attacks grabbed the attention of Washington, which previously had regarded the terrorist group as a threat only in the Middle East.

The Obama administration responded by stepping up airstrikes in Yemen and encouraging Saleh to carry out raids based on U.S. intelligence. Aid to Yemen more than doubled. Green Berets and Navy SEALs trained Yemeni counterterrorism forces, and U.S. security teams arrived with airport screening equipment.

Last year, the CIA established a new department in the Counterterrorism Center to deal with al-Qaida in Yemen and al-Shabab in Somalia. The CIA station in Yemen's capital, Sana'a, meanwhile, has grown in recent years from an office of a few dozen people to a bustling station several times larger.

Despite the recent push, the U.S. still has little clarity about what the Yemeni government would look like without Saleh. The Obama administration has not speculated publicly about it, but officials believe the two countries share a counterterrorism interest that goes beyond any one person.

For years, the U.S. knew it could influence Yemen by influencing Saleh and those close to him. Because the government there is notoriously secretive, and influence is traded among tribal and tribal leaders, the U.S. has struggled to understand the world behind Saleh's leadership.

"I don't think we know who runs Yemen and what they think," said Christopher Boucek, a scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace who briefs government officials and recently testified before Congress about Yemen. "I don't think we know very much about who they are, how they're connected to each other, what their family relationships are."

Earlier this month, the Congressional Research Service produced a 48-page analysis for lawmakers on the situation in Yemen. The question of who might replace Saleh was among the first topics. But the research paper devoted just two paragraphs to it, mostly speculation.

"Currently, there is no real consensus alternative to President Saleh," researchers wrote. "The security forces are led by members of his extended family and uprooting all of them may lead to civil war and the dissolution of the country."

Further complicating U.S. efforts to build a new partnership in Yemen is the fact that one of the driving forces behind the protests is the country's fundamentalist Islamic opposition party, known as Islah. The party's spiritual leader, Sheik Abdel-Majid al-Zindani, is on a U.S. list of terrorists and has been described as a loyalist of Osama bin Laden. Though experts caution that Islah today is held together by shared opposition to Saleh, the group's ties to al-Zindani would make it harder for Washington to justify spending more money to arm or stabilize an Islah-led Yemen.

In its statements about Yemen, the Obama administration has been careful not to put too much pressure on its fragile ally. After 40 people died in a government crackdown on protests last week, the White House called for calm. But it has not publicly backed Saleh or the protest movement.

"Our message to everybody involved is that this should be channeled into a political dialogue in pursuit of a political solution and a government that is responsive to Yemenis," deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said Monday.

On the question of who succeeds Saleh, perhaps the worst possible answer for Washington is no one. A civil war, a series of unsuccessful leaders or a failed state would provide al-Qaida with even more mobility and sanctuary. The worse things get for Yemen, the harder it would be for the government to turn any attention toward fighting terrorism.

"You're talking about three insurgencies, no water, no oil, a failing economy, a food crisis," Boucek said. "How much can this country take?"

Why on earth does the American Emperor need to consult Congress before declaring war on Libya? Sorry I forgot, the Constitution!


Obama faces growing criticism for Libya campaign

By Paul Richter and Christi Parsons, Los Angeles Times

March 21, 2011, 6:48 p.m.

Reporting from Washington— President Obama is facing growing criticism at home and abroad over whether the military campaign in Libya is the wrong policy — or the right policy at the wrong time.

Obama, on a five-day tour of Latin America, defended his administration's muscular approach in Libya, saying it was "very easy to square our military actions and our stated policies."

Speaking in Chile, Obama said U.S. military forces would focus on the goal approved by the U.N. Security Council last week, preventing longtime leader Moammar Kadafi's army from attacking Libyan civilians. But he also reiterated that Kadafi should be removed.

He said the United States also would use nonmilitary means, including economic sanctions and an arms embargo, to try to end Kadafi's four-decade rule.

Obama sent a letter to congressional leaders Monday attempting to assure them that the administration was seeking a "rapid but responsible transition" of military command to other members of the United Nations-backed coalition. The letter followed complaints that he had failed to consult Congress before launching military action.

Political analysts say Obama could benefit if Kadafi is quickly ousted, or if there is another quick and relatively bloodless resolution. But if the conflict becomes a stalemate, criticism is likely to mount.

Complaints have already started to escalate. Some early advocates of military intervention, including Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), said Obama may have waited too long to help the opposition in Libya.

A contingent of liberal Democrats, normally allied with the president, condemned the use of military force. Some conservatives, as well as foreign policy experts, said Libya is not a vital U.S. interest.

An antiwar group announced plans for protests in Los Angeles, Chicago and nine other cities this week.

"The president seems to have angered almost every major group: He's either done too much or too little or he's done it too slowly," said James Lindsay, a former official in the Clinton White House who is now with the Council on Foreign Relations. "There's a very real political risk for Barack Obama in all of this."

Among the critics Monday was Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.), ranking minority member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, a widely respected voice on foreign policy who has often sided with the administration.

"There needs to be a plan about what happens after Kadafi," Lugar said. "Who will be in charge then, and who pays for this all? President Obama, so far, has only expressed vague hopes."

A group of liberal Democrats, including Reps. Jerrold Nadler of New York, Donna Edwards of Maryland, Dennis J. Kucinich of Ohio and Maxine Waters and Barbara Lee of California, issued a statement over the weekend saying they "all strongly raised objections to the constitutionality of the president's actions."

Complaints also came from the Arab League, which initially called for imposing a no-fly zone in Libya, a decision that helped persuade the White House to join the fight. Russia's prime minister, Vladimir Putin, lashed out at Washington for launching what he called "a crusade," saying it justified Russia's military buildup.

Administration officials acknowledged the political risk of involvement in Libya at a time when the U.S. is engaged militarily in Iraq and Afghanistan, and polls indicate that Americans want Obama to focus on the economy. But they say the president's insistence that he won't send ground troops, the involvement of other countries, and the promise to hand off command should help bolster support for Obama.

Robert Danin, a former State Department official who is a Mideast specialist, said he could not imagine how the mission could prove a political winner for Obama.

Americans are likely to worry, he said, that the United States will be stuck with part of the bill for rebuilding Libya. And U.S. officials, he noted, are still unsure whether the anti-Kadafi forces are necessarily pro-America and pro-democracy.

"The politics of this are just bad," Danin said.




Pentagon says Libya no-fly zone to be extended soon

By David S. Cloud, Los Angeles Times

March 21, 2011, 8:40 p.m.

Reporting from Washington— As the American-led air attack pounded Libya for a third day and Moammar Kadafi's embattled forces retreated south from the rebel stronghold of Benghazi, the Pentagon said the no-fly zone soon would be extended, paving the way for the United States to eventually hand off command of the mission to its allies.

Kadafi's forces near Benghazi "now possess little will or capability to resume offensive operations," said Gen. Carter Ham, the officer in charge of the operation, briefing Pentagon reporters via video from his headquarters in Germany. The United States already has begun taking a smaller role in the mission, he added. Fewer than half the air missions flown Monday were piloted by Americans.

The no-fly zone will soon be expanded across the coastal north to Tripoli, Port Brega and Misurata. It is unclear to whom the U.S. will hand over the operation, though. At the North Atlantic Treaty Organization headquarters in Brussels, defense ministers remain divided between countries such as Britain and France that favor military action and Turkey and Germany, which are more hesitant.

Although the initial phase of the assault had stopped the Libyan advance on Benghazi, the larger goal of the U.S.-led operation — preventing attacks on civilians throughout the country — is a much tougher military challenge, according to current and former military officers.

As the U.S. and its allies have discovered in past conflicts, it is no simple matter to use fighters and bombers to prevent a determined adversary from targeting enemies on the ground. Even if the airstrikes succeed in halting large-scale attacks, there is the danger that Kadafi will shift to less obvious but no less deadly tactics, including the use of security forces and armed gangs to terrorize the ragtag opposition that has tried to drive him from power.

If the killing continues, the White House and its allies could face growing pressure to expand the military operation, either by broadening the list of targets struck from the air, by arming the rebels whom the U.S. admits it knows little about or by explicitly going after Kadafi in an effort to oust him.

President Obama reiterated Monday that "it is U.S. policy that Kadafi has to go." But Pentagon officials have said the airstrikes and missile attacks have not been specifically aimed at the longtime leader.

In fact, Ham said he had received no information about the whereabouts of Kadafi. But the general added that the possibility that Kadafi might use surrogates to launch a terrorist attack outside Libya in response to the air attacks "is a very, very legitimate concern."

In Libya on Monday, state television broadcast nonstop stock footage of steely-eyed soldiers driving tanks, launching rockets and boarding transport helicopters, suggesting that the war effort was continuing. A barrage of antiaircraft and tracer fire lighted up the sky over Tripoli, the Libyan capital, early Tuesday.

In Misurata, opposition supporters described intense combat between rebels and pro-Kadafi fighters.

"The Kadafi troops are in the main street of Misurata with their snipers," said a doctor who asked that his name not be used to protect his family. "Our fighters are trying to fight them and finish this. Now in Misurata you can hear the sound of machine guns everywhere."

A source in the city said nine people had been killed in the previous 24 hours, and that the injured were inundating hospitals and a major clinic.

The Obama administration has so far sought to limit its role in the air campaign and turn over command of the operation to its allies. But with forces engaged, it could become harder to resist pressure to escalate the U.S. role if the campaign does not unfold as neatly as planned.

"My concern is how does that all end," said retired Brig. Gen. C. Jerome Jones, who was vice commander of the Air Force Special Operations Command. "We have very few, if any, historical examples of where air power can solve a political problem. And what we have in Libya basically is a political problem."

Though U.S. commanders have described the military goal as establishing a no-fly zone since launching the effort Saturday, what they are attempting is more difficult, requiring finely nuanced judgment from fighter pilots about how to respond to multiple scenarios on the ground.

Commanders say their objective is to protect civilians from reprisals by the regime without intervening on the rebels' side, but they also acknowledge that they are attempting to halt government attacks on remaining rebel positions, which comes close to intervening on behalf of the opposition forces.

If the rebels respond to this intervention by resuming the offensive against Kadafi's forces, the coalition has no intention of providing air support to assist the opposition in driving the Libyan leader from power. But whereas that seems like a logical distinction now, it could become tougher to stick by if, in coming weeks, Kadafi's power begins to crumble and the rebels regain the momentum.

"These are situations that brief much better at a headquarters than they do in the cockpit of an aircraft," Ham acknowledged Monday.

The last time the U.S. undertook an air war largely for humanitarian purposes was in 1999, in Kosovo, a tiny province in Serbia where police and military forces loyal to Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic were carrying out a ruthless assault on ethnic Albanians.

Clinton administration officials expected Milosevic to fold quickly after NATO launched airstrikes, but it took a 78-day bombing campaign. As Obama has done with Libya, the Clinton White House vowed early on not to send U.S. ground troops into Kosovo, which seemed to only embolden Milosevic to resist.

Officials at the Pentagon on Monday said that the Libya operation was going as planned.

Having neutralized much of Libya's air defense system, the coalition will focus in coming days on extending the no-fly zone, Ham said, gradually bringing more and more cities along the Libyan coast under air protection. If all goes according to plan, U.S. military officers say, there will be several more weeks of air attacks, largely by British, French and other countries' fighters.

Simply keeping watch on those Libyan forces will become tougher as more of the country falls under the no-fly zone. "This is by no means over," a senior U.S. officer said Monday. "Kadafi still has ground forces and we still believe that he intends to use them."



U.S. F-15 crashes in Libya; crew ejects

Associated Press

March 22, 2011, 4:24 a.m.

LONDON— A U.S. Air Force F-15 Strike Eagle jet has crashed in Libya, the U.S. military said Tuesday. Both crew members ejected -- one was safely recovered and the U.S. military was on a mission to recover the other one.

Vince Crawley, a spokesman for the Africa Command, says the crash could have been due to a mechanical failure.

"We do not believe it was shot down," Crawley said Tuesday.

It was not immediately known where or when the plane went down. Crawley said until the second crewman is recovered the U.S.'s Africa Command would not offer further details.

The crew members were separated because they ejected at high altitudes and ended up in different areas, Crawley said, adding that both had minor injuries.

He declined to say who was aiding in the recovery of the crewmember, noting that before each mission the military already has recovery plans in place.

"That operation is taking place as we speak," Crawley said.

The Air Force has said only that B-2, F-15 and F-16 fighters are participating in operations over Libya. The U.S.'s involvement in Libya is being run by Africa Command, which is based in Stuttgart, Germany.

Africa Command launched in Oct. 2008 after the Pentagon abandoned efforts to base the command on the continent after it hit resistance among the African nations, and instead posted about two dozen liaison officers at African embassies.


NATO flotilla starts patrolling off Libyan coast

by Slobodan Lekic - Mar. 23, 2011 07:43 AM

Associated Press

BRUSSELS - NATO warships started patrolling off Libya's coast Wednesday to enforce the U.N. arms embargo, as the alliance appeared set to assume responsibility for the no-fly zone over the North African nation to protect civilians.

Canada's Brig. General Pierre St. Amand said naval operation Unified Protector "is now under way" with six vessels involved during the first day of patrols. NATO had already received offers for up to 16 ships to patrol the Mediterranean off Libya, he said.

Turkey, NATO's sole Muslim member, is an integral part of the naval blockade, having offered four frigates and one submarine, St. Amand said. Other nations offering vessels are the United States, Romania, Italy, Canada, Spain, Britain and Greece.

Separately, Turkey has been seen as holding up agreement on a command structure for a no-fly zone, but diplomats say an agreement is gradually emerging about the role NATO would play, after the United States - which has effectively commanded the operation until now - reiterated that it was committed to the transition.

The compromise proposal would see NATO take a key role in the military operation guided by a political committee of foreign ministers from the West and the Arab world. Officials said the North Atlantic Council - NATO's top decision-making body, which already has approved military plans for enforcing the no-fly zone - may decide to start them later Wednesday.

"These are difficult discussions on very difficult issues," Lungescu said. "What you are seeing now is all 28 allies discussing them in a very constructive spirit."

Spanish Defense Minister Carme Chacon endorsed the proposal for handing over control of the Libya operation to a political committee. "We are comfortable with that," she said.

Germany is in a more difficult situation. The government, which is refusing to participate in the no-fly operation, approved on Wednesday sending air crews to man NATO's surveillance planes over Afghanistan after withdrawing troops from the alliance's Mediterranean Sea missions to avoid involvement in Libya.

The government's decision to send up to 300 troops to man AWACS surveillance planes over Afghanistan is intended to help ease the strain on other NATO members, who may need to deploy to the Mediterranean.

Military experts say coordinating the enforcement of a no-fly zone over a nation the size of Libya requires a specialized and experienced staff of several hundred people. The U.N. Security Council authorized the no-fly zone to protect Libyan civilians after leader Moammar Gadhafi launched attacks against anti-government protesters who wanted him to leave after 42 years in power.

The mission to provide round-the-clock coverage of Libyan airspace would require not just fighter planes patrolling the skies, but also attack jets armed with anti-radar missiles to suppress any threat from the ground. It would entail several aerial tankers flying circular patterns over the Mediterranean to refuel the warplanes. At least one and probably two AWACS airborne surveillance and control aircraft would also have to be nearby to monitor and coordinate the entire operation.

The United States is one of the few nations with the operational headquarters capable of controlling such a complex mission. None of NATO's European members have that capability and therefore rely on the alliance to provide it.

"The best outcome would be to have NATO handle military coordination, but hand political decisions to an ad hoc council of states participating in the coalition, including Arab countries," said Francois Heisbourg, director of the Foundation for Strategic Research, a think tank funded by France's Defense Ministry.

If NATO assumes responsibility for the enforcing the no-fly zone over Libya and the U.N. arms embargo against Libya, this would be controlled from NATO's operational center in Naples, a NATO official said, speaking on condition of anonymity due to restrictions on talking to the press.

Alliance spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said the action was to "cut off the flow of arms and mercenaries. We have intelligence reports that this activity is continuing, so it is quite important that NATO take action to stop this," she said.

The operation will be similar to a naval mission carried out by NATO ships in the Adriatic Sea during the 1992-1995 war in Bosnia that also enforced an arms embargo.

The European Union agreed Wednesday to increase financial pressure on Gadhafi by extending their assets freeze to the National Oil Corporation but went beyond U.N. requirements by adding five subsidiaries of the company.

Meanwhile, Turkey's president called on Gadhafi to step down as soon as possible, saying that would help stop the bloodshed. Abdullah Gul said Wednesday such a move would also "deny the opportunity to others to plunder" their country.

Turkey has been insisting on a narrow military mandate for a NATO role in the military operation in Libya and assurances that no occupation of Libya will ensue.

In Moscow, Russia's parliament passed a measure calling on the U.N. to impose a cease-fire in Libya and stop the violence against civilians.

There are no reliable civilian death tolls from Libya. Rebels say over 1,000 people have been killed in a month of fighting, while Gadhafi claims the toll stands at 150.

In Oslo, Norway gave the go-ahead for six F-16 fighter jets to join the no-fly zone operation. The planes were transferred to an air base on Crete on Monday.

Defense Minister Greta Faremo said the Norwegian planes would be ready to join the operation in a few days.

You mean Moammar Gadhafi is no longer "Our Dictator"?

Perhaps we should invade China. Their dictators are much worse then Moammar Gadhafi. Of course that won't happen because China has nukes and can defend it's self against any American aggression. America like all bullies only picks on people that can't defend themselves.


Why intervene in Libyan civil war?

Why is the United States intervening in a civil war in Libya?

Moammar Gadhafi is a despicable despot. But the world is full of them. Gadhafi’s repression is, in fact, less extensive and brutally efficient than that of the House of Saud, to pick an example not at all at random.

Before a rebellion broke out in his country, the world accepted Gadhafi, despite his despicableness, as the ruler of Libya. In fact, he was almost a shoo-in to win the international community’s Most Improved Autocrat Award.

In 2003, Gadhafi renounced terrorism and gave up his weapons of mass destruction program. International sanctions against his regime were lifted.

In 2006, the United States removed Libya from the list of state-sponsors of terrorism. In 2009, we restored full diplomatic relations. European countries clambered to do business with Libya.

Now, the operative phrase is that Gadhafi has “lost legitimacy.” U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon used it. President Barack Obama used it. Several of the members of the Security Council used it in explaining their vote to authorize the use of military force against him.

Never mind the question of what ever gave Gadhafi legitimacy to begin with. What has he done to “lose” it?

His troops took violent action against peaceful protesters, was the initial rational. Well, that’s now also been done in Bahrain, Yemen, Iran and Syria. Saudi Arabia is even sending troops to another country, Bahrain, to take violent action against peaceful protesters.

He has threatened devastating retaliation in rebel-held territories, is the latest refrain. But Gadhafi is probably militarily incapable of matching the destruction Russia visited on rebellious Chechnya.

Gadhafi, whom the world accepted as the ruler of Libya, is facing an armed rebellion that seeks to depose him. Make no mistake about it, this is a civil war.

The despicable despot deserves to lose. The question is what makes this a fight in which the United States should get involved?

Supposedly, our military intervention is to protect civilian populations under the U.N. mandate. But that’s clearly a fig leaf. Our actions are clearly intended to try to prevent Gadhafi from winning the civil war.

Obama flatly said that Gadhafi’s troops would not be allowed to advance on Benghazi and other rebel-held territory. How does a sovereign win a civil war without advancing on rebel-held territory? Moreover, our air attacks are destroying Gadhafi’s ground armaments as well as his air assets.

The Obama administration is clearly uncomfortable with what it is doing. Defense Secretary Robert Gates grits his teeth when talking about the military action taking place. Obama pledges that, in days not weeks, the United States will recede into a logistical support role, with other countries patrolling the airspace over Libya.

If Obama can pull that off, it will be a neat, and useful, trick.

Europe has a much bigger stake in Libya than does the U.S., and it collectively spends over $300 billion a year on its armed forces. Yet it is incapable of conducting relatively minor military missions without the United States taking the lead.

There is a lot of hurt in the world. According to Freedom House, there are 47 countries in which basic human liberty is thoroughly repressed. Most of the time, their people suffer in silence.

When they risk their lives to stand up to authoritarianism, it is stirring. Watching them get crushed is heart-breaking. The desire to do something to help, if we can, is almost irresistible. And with our military capability, we can almost always help.

Yet we don’t help everywhere. And in the post-Cold War era, there doesn’t seem to be any logical basis as to when we help and when we don’t.

We stood by as Saddam Hussein slaughtered Shiites, even though an American president had urged them to rebel. Yet we intervene in Libya.

There needs to be serious discussion and a national consensus developed about when and how the United States becomes involved in conflicts in which we don’t have a large direct stake. Because it seemed a good idea at the time isn’t much of a policy.


Libya's Gadhafi not fazed despite airstrikes

by Liz Sly and Greg Jaffe - Mar. 23, 2011 12:00 AM

Washington Post

TRIPOLI, Libya - Four days of allied strikes have battered Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's air force and largely destroyed his long-range air-defense systems, a top U.S. commander said Tuesday. But there was little evidence that the attacks had stopped regime forces from killing civilians or shifted the balance of power in favor of the rebels.

Gadhafi loyalists made further advances into the besieged western city of Misrata, continued to pound the small town of Zintan southwest of Tripoli, the capital, and fired artillery to hold at bay rebels attempting to regroup outside the strategic eastern town of Ajdabiya.

The Libyan military's attacks and the mounting civilian deaths call into question whether the internationally imposed no-fly zone can achieve its goal of protecting civilians, let alone help loosen Gadhafi's grip on power. It seemed unlikely that the coalition, which has argued in recent days over the scope and leadership of the allied mission, would countenance a significant escalation.

Late Tuesday, Gadhafi made his first televised appearance since the bombing campaign began, delivering a defiant address to supporters at his Tripoli compound, which was struck by Tomahawk missiles a few days earlier.

"I am here. I am here. I am here," he said, as celebratory gunfire echoed across the city. "We will win. We will be victorious in this historic battle."

President Barack Obama, meanwhile, sought to shore up support for the international mission, saying that the U.S. and allied efforts to halt advances by Gadhafi's forces have "saved lives."

"In Benghazi, a city of 700,000 people, you had the prospect of Gadhafi's forces carrying out his orders to show no mercy," Obama said at a news conference while in San Salvador, El Salvador. "That could have resulted in catastrophe in that town."

Hours earlier, a top U.S. military official had touted the limited gains that allied forces had made over the course of the four-day military intervention.

Since the bombing began Saturday, U.S. and allied forces have launched 162 Tomahawk missiles and conducted more than 100 attacks with precision-guided satellite bombs, said U.S. Navy Adm. Samuel Locklear, commander of the allied task force charged with enforcing the U.N. resolution that authorized action in Libya.

But he conceded that the airstrikes have been unable to halt attacks by Libyan government forces against civilians.

"They are conducting attacks against civilians in Misrata in violation of the Security Council resolution," said Locklear, referring to the city 131 miles east of Tripoli. He added that allied commanders are "considering all options" to halt attacks by Libyan forces but declined to provide specifics about any future military actions.

A doctor at a Misrata hospital said about 80 people had been killed in the city since the adoption Thursday of the U.N. resolution, which called for a halt to attacks on civilians. Among the 12 said to have died Tuesday was a family of six. A tank shell hit their car. The doctor said that he had stopped counting the injured, that patients are being treated on the floor and that the hospital is running out of almost all medicines and supplies.

"This no-fly zone doesn't mean anything to us because Gadhafi only had a few planes, and they were doing nothing," said the doctor, who spoke by telephone on condition of anonymity because he fears Libyan forces may soon retake the city. "We need a no-drive zone because it is tanks and snipers that are killing us."

Gadhafi loyalists, who launched a major assault on Misrata just hours before the U.N. Security Council vote, have secured several neighborhoods on the outskirts of the city, but rebels are holding out in the city center. To halt the Libyan government's advance, allied forces would probably have to launch airstrikes in densely populated urban areas.

In Moscow, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Tuesday that the pace of attacks will wane in the days ahead as the United States hands over responsibility for maintaining the no-fly zone to its allies and the number of clear targets diminishes.

Meanwhile, there were indications that international support for the coalition effort is beginning to flag, with China joining Russia in calling for a cease-fire to avert feared civilian casualties. China, like Russia, abstained from voting on the U.N. resolution.

"The U.N. resolution on the no-fly zone over Libya aimed to protect civilians," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told reporters at a news briefing. "We oppose abuse of force causing more civilian casualties."

U.S. and other coalition officials dispute Libyan assertions that the strikes have caused civilian deaths. "It's perfectly evident that the vast majority - if not nearly all - of civilian casualties have been inflicted by Gadhafi," Gates told reporters after meeting with Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov. "We've been very careful about this."

Britain's Channel 4 TV reported that six villagers were injured by American troops, who apparently opened fire during the rescue of two U.S. crew members forced to eject over eastern Libya when their F-15 fighter jet malfunctioned and crashed overnight Monday. Among the injured civilians was a young boy who is likely to lose a leg, Channel 4 said.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton suggested Tuesday that the Libyan leader and some members of his inner circle may be searching for a way out of the country - and the conflict.

"We've heard about other people close to him reaching out to people that they know around the world - Africa, the Middle East, Europe, North America, beyond - saying what do we do? How do we get out of this? What happens next?" Clinton said in an interview with ABC News.

But, at least in Tripoli, the government appears to be in firm control nearly a month after the last major protests were crushed by security forces using live ammunition.

On Tuesday, Libyan government officials took journalists to see a cluster of bombed warehouses struck the previous night at a central harbor that appeared to have housed military hardware.

In one warehouse, four mobile missile launchers had been destroyed by a direct hit, along with a multiple-barreled rocket launcher. Three Soviet-made surface-to-surface missiles were unscathed, but officials said they were used only for training. Libyan navy Capt. Abdul Bassit told reporters that no one had been killed in the attack because officials had suspected the site would be targeted and had evacuated it.


Libyan plane destroyed by French jet

by Ryan Lucas and Maggie Michael - Mar. 24, 2011 08:30 AM

Associated Press

BENGHAZI, Libya -- French fighter jets struck an air base deep inside Libya and downed one of Moammar Gadhafi's planes Thursday, and NATO ships patrolled the coast to block the flow of arms and mercenaries. Other coalition bombers struck artillery, arms depots and parked helicopters, officials said Thursday.

Libyan state television on Thursday showed blackened and mangled bodies that it said were victims of airstrikes in Tripoli, the capital. Rebels have accused Gadhafi's forces of taking bodies from the morgue and pretending they are civilian casualties.

The international military operation against Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's forces may last days or weeks -- but not months, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said. But the rebels who largely control Libya's east remain outgunned and disorganized -- on Thursday, instead of handing out weapons at a checkpoint, they handed out sneakers to would-be fighters.

The French strikes overnight hit a base about 155 miles south of the Libyan coastline, French military spokesman Thierry Burkhard told reporters in Paris on Thursday without elaborating on the target or possible damage.

A French fighter jet reported attacking and destroying a Libyan plane believed to be a military trainer aircraft, a U.S. official said, providing the information about the event Thursday on condition of anonymity because it has not been publicly announced by the French government.

The French Rafale fighter helping enforce a no-fly zone over Libya destroyed what was identified as a Libyan G-2/Galeb, which is a trainer aircraft, near the coastal city of Misrata.

The U.S. official said the Libyan plane may have been landing at the time of the attack. The official cautioned that details were still being confirmed.

Burkhard declined to comment.

In Tripoli, Libyan deputy foreign minister Khaled Kaim said that the "military compound at Juffra" was among the targets hit before dawn. Juffra is one of at least two air bases deep in Libya's interior, on main routes that lead from neighboring countries in the Sahara region that have been suppliers of arms and fighters for the Gadhafi regime.

The town of Sabha, about 385 miles south of Tripoli, has another air base and international airport and is a major transit point for the ethnic Tuareg fighters from Mali and Niger who have fought for Gadhafi for the past two decades. Malian officials say hundreds of Tuareg men have left to fight in Libya in the recent uprising.

Abdel Rahman Barkuli, a Libyan in exile originally from Sabha, said communications with his family there were abruptly cut on Wednesday night and heavy security is barring residents from moving in or out.

"My last contact with them, they said that the city is cordoned off by heavy security forces, of Faris Brigades. Snipers are on the rooftops," he said. "My family told me that Sabha has turned into a barracks."

Barkuli said members of two anti-Gadhafi tribes in the city were rounded up early in the protests that began Feb. 15. "No one knows anything about their whereabouts," he said.

NATO warships began patrolling Wednesday off Libya's Mediterranean coast in an effort the blockade's commander described as "closing the main front door" to weapons and mercenaries for Gadhafi.

Vice Adm. Rinaldo Veri said the Mediterranean was the most efficient way to get weapons into Libya and that it was impossible to patrol its entire coast. He expected to have enough vessels in place in a few days for effective operations.

Veri said NATO was prepared to board any suspect ships that don't voluntarily submit to inspections. "If they should find resistance, the use of force is necessary," he said, noting that the Security Council had mandated all means necessary to enforce the embargo.

Coalition bombers planes and ships continued to strike at Gadhafi positions, including artillery, tanks, an ammunition bunker and a small number of helicopters as they sat on an airfield along the coast, a U.S. defense official said Thursday on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the record.

More than a dozen Tomahawk cruise missiles were fired from U.S. and British ships in the Mediterranean Sea late Wednesday and early Thursday, their targets including Gadhafi's air defense missile sites in Tripoli and south of the capital. Other attacks were launched against an ammunition bunker near Misrata and forces south of Benghazi, the official said.

The U.N. Security Council authorized the embargo and no-fly zone to protect Libyan civilians after Gadhafi launched attacks against anti-government protesters who wanted him to leave after 42 years in power. But rebel advances have foundered, and the two sides have been at stalemate in key cities such as Misrata and Ajdabiya, the gateway to the opposition's eastern stronghold.

Ajdabiya has been under siege for more than a week, with the rebels holding the city center but facing relentless shelling from government troops positioned on the outskirts.

Residents fleeing the violence said the situation inside the city has deteriorated in recent days. Two airstrikes targeted the area early Thursday, said a rebel, Taha el-Hassadi.

Mohammed Ali, 56, who fled with his family in a station wagon said, "They've cut everything -- the electricity, the water. It's getting worse and worse inside."

Government troops also continued barraging the western city of Misrata on Thursday but were forced to roll back their tanks periodically amid coalition airstrikes.

A 42-year-old doctor in the city said shelling had damaged a mosque and a hotel near the hospital. "When the allies' planes were seen flying in the sky, the shelling stopped and the tanks fled," he said. "We still have to deal with snipers in the main street in Misrata and try to warn people to stay away from it."


Worried Syrian regime promises change

by Hussein Malla and Zeina Karam - Mar. 25, 2011 12:00 AM

Associated Press

DARAA, Syria - The Syrian government pledged Thursday to consider lifting some of the Mideast's most repressive laws in an attempt to stop a weeklong uprising in a southern city from spreading and threatening its nearly 50-year rule.

The promises were immediately rejected by many activists who called for demonstrations today around the country in response to a crackdown that protesters say killed dozens of anti-government marchers in the city of Daraa.

"We will not forget the martyrs of Daraa," a resident said by telephone. "If they think this will silence us they are wrong."

The coming days will be a crucial test of the surge of popular discontent that has unseated autocrats in Tunisia and Egypt and threatens to push several others from power.

On one side in Syria stands a regime unafraid of using extreme violence to quash internal unrest.

In one infamous example, it leveled entire sections of the city of Hama with artillery and bulldozers to put down an uprising by the Sunni Islamist Muslim Brotherhood in 1982.

Facing the regime is a loosely organized protest movement in the main city of southern Syria's drought-parched agricultural heartland.

Sheltering in Daraa's Roman-era old city, the protesters have persisted through seven days of increasing violence by security forces, but have not inspired significant unrest in other parts of the country.

President Bashar Assad, a close ally of Iran and its regional proxies, Hezbollah and Hamas, appears worried enough to promise increased freedoms for discontented citizens and increased pay and benefits for state workers - a familiar package of incentives offered by other nervous Arab regimes in recent weeks.

"To those who claim they want freedom and dignity for the (Syrian) people, I say to them we have seen the example of Iraq, the million martyrs there and the loss of security there," presidential adviser Buthaina Shaaban told reporters in the capital, Damascus, as she announced the promises of reform.

Shaaban told reporters that the all-powerful Baath party would study ending a state of emergency that it put in place after taking power in 1963.

The emergency laws, which have been a feature of many Arab countries, allow people to be arrested without warrants and imprisoned without trial. Human-rights groups say violations of other basic liberties are rife in Syria, with torture and abuse common in police stations, detention centers and prisons, and dissenters regularly imprisoned for years without due process.

Syria's state TV said later Thursday that Assad ordered the release of all detainees in connection with the unrest of the past few days.


Yemeni leader makes rare speech to supporters

Posted 3/25/2011 7:36 AM ET

SANAA, Yemen (AP) -- Witnesses say Yemeni forces are trying to prevent anti-government protesters from reaching the capital Sanaa.

The troops are manning checkpoints on roads leading to Sanaa, trying to identify protesters. Witnesses say they have prevented some from entering. The witnesses declined to be named, fearing retribution.

Protesters are trying to gather a million people Friday to demand the ouster of Yemen's ruler of three decades, Ali Abdullah Saleh

The witnesses said security forces are allowing pro-Saleh demonstrators to enter the capital in buses.

Last Friday, security forces opened fire on demonstrators, killing more than 40. Following their deaths, Saleh lost key support in his inner circle.

Obama Propaganda? One TV talk show had a guest who said that while on paper this may be true, but in reality America literally dominates NATO and will continue to run the day to day operations of the NATO war on Libya.

The guest said that 1) politically and financially American pretty much dominates NATO and 2) with out American weapons like aircraft carries, AWACs planes and so on the no fly zone would be impossible.


Mar. 25, 2011 12:33 AM ET

NATO takes command of part of Libya operation

BRUSSELS (AP) — NATO agreed late Thursday to take over part of the military operations against Libya — enforcement of the no-fly zone — after days of hard bargaining among its members. But the toughest and most controversial portion of the operation — attacks on the ground — will continue to be led by the U.S., which has been anxious to give up the lead role.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who announced the agreement in Brussels, said the alliance could eventually take more responsibility, "but that decision has not been reached yet." It appeared that some NATO members balked at any involvement in attacks on ground targets, something the alliance's sole Muslim member, Turkey, has resisted.

In Washington, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton praised NATO for taking over the no-fly zone, even though the U.S. had hoped the alliance would take full control of the military operation authorized by the United Nations, including the protection of Libyan civilians and supporting humanitarian aid efforts on the ground. The operation cost the U.S. close to $1 billion in less than a week, and has drawn criticism in Congress from members of both parties.

NATO said late Thursday that it expected to commence enforcement of the no-fly zone within two to three days. The operation will be commanded from Naples by Adm. Samuel J. Locklear.

NATO also agreed to launch military planning for a broader mandate, including a "no-drive" zone that would prevent Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's armor and artillery from moving against rebels his forces had been routing before the coalition's air assault began late last week.

"If we are led to hit tanks, it is because the tanks target the civilians," French President Nicolas Sarkozy said, adding that Gadhafi troops stationed tanks in neighborhoods to provoke civilian casualties.

The North Atlantic Council is scheduled to meet on Sunday to consider the broader plans.

"Without prejudging deliberations, I would expect a decision in coming days," Fogh Rasmussen said.

Diplomats also have drawn up plans to put political supervision of NATO's effort in the hands of a broader international coalition. U.S., European, and Arab and African officials have been invited to London next week to work out the details.

"The political coordination cannot be only NATO because there are countries there that are not members of NATO," Sarkozy said.

U.S. weapons are being used less frequently than they were when airstrikes began. French fighter jets used deep inside Libya on Thursday hit aircraft and a crossroads military base.

"Nearly all, some 75 percent of the combat air patrol missions in support of the no-fly zone, are now being executed by our coalition partners," Navy Vice Adm. William Gortney, told reporters Thursday at the Pentagon. Other countries were handling less than 10 percent of such missions Sunday, he said.

The U.S. will continue to fly combat missions as needed, but its role will mainly be in support missions such as refueling allied planes and providing aerial surveillance of Libya, Gortney said.

Allies have especially sought military assistance from Arab countries, seeking to avoid an all-Western military presence. Qatar is expected to begin flying air patrols this weekend, and on Thursday Clinton praised a second Arab nation, the United Arab Emirates, after it agreed to deploy 12 planes.

NATO's top decision-making body, the North Atlantic Council, had been struggling for six days to reach an agreement on using its military command and control capability to coordinate the operation in Libya.

Senior Obama administration officials said the breakthrough came in a four-way telephone call with Clinton and the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Turkey. The four worked out the way forward, which included the immediate transfer of command and control of the no-fly zone over Libya, and by early next week of the rest of the U.N.-mandated mission.

The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive military planning, said the actual handover of the no-fly zone would occur in one or two days.

Turkey's parliament on Thursday authorized the government to participate in military operations in Libya, including the no-fly zone.

Libya's air force has been effectively neutralized. Briefing reporters in Tripoli late Thursday, Libyan Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kaim said no Libyan planes have been in the air since the no-fly zone was declared.

But the rebels demanding Gadhafi's ouster after 42 years in power remain less organized and less heavily armed than Gadhafi's forces, and they have had trouble taking full advantage of the international airstrikes. A U.N. arms embargo blocks the rebels and the government from getting more weapons.

The rebels were so strapped Thursday that they handed out sneakers — and not guns — at one of their checkpoints.

"We are facing cannons, T-72 and T-92 tanks, so what do we need? We need anti-tank weapons, things like that," said Col. Ahmed Omar Bani, a military spokesman told reporters in Benghazi, the de facto rebel capital.

The airstrikes may have prevented Gadhafi from quickly routing the rebels, whose control extends mainly to eastern portions of Libya. But the weakness of both sides could mean a long struggle for control of the country, and international support is not open-ended: French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said the international action would last days or possibly weeks, but not months.

Representatives for the regime and rebels were expected to attend an African Union meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on Friday, according to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who described it as a part of an effort to reach a cease-fire and political solution.

Ban said Gadhafi has ignored U.N. demands to declare a cease-fire and risks further Security Council action if he doesn't halt the violence. In his report to the 15-member council, Ban expressed concerns about Libya's precarious humanitarian situation, protection of civilians, and human rights abuses.

U.N. human rights experts said hundreds of people have disappeared in Libya over the past few months, and said there were fears that those who vanished were taken to secret locations to be tortured or executed. Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the International Criminal Court's prosecutor, said he was "100 percent" certain that his investigation into attacks on Libyan protesters will lead to crimes against humanity charges against the Gadhafi regime.

Ban, taking questions from reporters after the Security Council meeting, insisted that the resolutions intend to protect Libya's civilian population, not push Gadhafi from power.

"The primary aim is to provide protection for civilians, to save lives," Ban said. "It's not aiming to change any regime."

Sarkozy also said Gadhafi would not necessarily have to step down for the operation to end. "It is when Gadhafi forces go back to their barracks and the civilians would no longer be threatened," that the U.N. mandate would be completed, he said.

The French airstrikes hit a base about 250 kilometers (155 miles) south of the Libyan coastline, as well as a Libyan combat plane that had just landed outside the strategic city of Misrata, France's military said.

Kaim, the Libyan foreign minister, said no Libyan planes have flown since the no-fly zone began but that a plane might have been destroyed in an allied attack on an air base.

Kaim said earlier that the "military compound at Juffra" was among the targets hit. Juffra is one of at least two air bases deep in Libya's interior, on main routes that lead from neighboring countries in the Sahara region that have been suppliers of arms and fighters for the Gadhafi regime.


AP writers Robert Burns and Erica Werner in Washington, Ryan Lucas in Benghazi, Libya, Hadeel Al-Shalchi in Tripoli, Libya, Ben Hubbard and Maggie Michael in Cairo, Jamey Keaten in Paris, Anita Snow at the United Nations, Suzan Fraser in Ankara and Alessandra Rizzo in Rome contributed to this report.


Mar. 24, 2011 6:10 PM ET

US likely to keep combat role after Libya shift

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. warplanes will keep flying strike missions over Libya even after the U.S. relinquishes the lead command role to NATO as early as this weekend in the fight against Moammar Gadhafi's forces, the Pentagon indicated Thursday.

As an anxious Obama administration pressed for a quick handoff, NATO's governing North Atlantic Council was meeting in Brussels to try to finalize a deal for the alliance to take the lead. It has been meeting for nearly a week, but a series of disagreements, including questions of overall political control and how aggressive the mission should be, have so far blocked agreement.

At the Pentagon, Navy Vice Adm. William Gortney, staff director for the military Joint Chiefs, told reporters that the American role will mainly be in support missions such as refueling allied planes and providing aerial surveillance of Libya. But the U.S. will still fly combat missions as needed, Gortney said.

"And I would anticipate that we would continue to provide some of the interdiction strike packages as well, should that be needed by the coalition," he added, referring to combat missions such as attacks on Libyan mobile air defenses, ammunition depots, air fields and other assets that support Libyan ground forces.

White House press secretary Jay Carney was more circumspect, calling the next phase of U.S. involvement a "support and assist role," using U.S. intelligence resources and military capabilities including electronic jamming to throw off missiles or rockets. He did not mention any combat airstrikes.

In a new development Thursday, one of the Tomahawk cruise missiles fired from ships in the Mediterranean struck a surface-to-air missile site near the city of Sabha, far inland at the southern tip of the allies' designated no-fly zone, Gortney said. The missiles had previously struck mostly along the coastline. Another cruise missile hit a Scud missile site near Tripoli on Thursday, he said.

Criticized by some for committing U.S. forces to a foreign conflict without explicit endorsement by Congress, the Obama administration pressed for the allies who first pushed for the campaign to come up with a workable alternative. Gortney said such a handoff of command could come this weekend.

In Ankara, Turkey, state-run TV quoted Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu as saying NATO would indeed take command, but alliance officials in Brussels said last-minute details had yet to be worked out.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton held a conference call with British Foreign Secretary William Hague, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe and Davutoglu on coordinating the process.

Meanwhile, President Barack Obama spoke by phone with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, expressing his appreciation to the leader who has been criticized in Russia for not using the country's veto in the United Nations Security Council to block the action in Libya.

Obama also convened top-level national security advisers Thursday to consider the direction of events in Libya and the future U.S. role.

With the costs of the campaign growing by the day and members of Congress raising complaints over the goals in Libya, the administration wants its allies to take the lead soon.

"We are still operating under that timeline, that it will be days, not weeks," Carney said.

American and allied planes and ships pummeled Libyan air defenses and other military targets Thursday as the international alliance confronting Gadhafi moved toward shifting its command lead from Washington to NATO.

Uncertainty also hung over the domestic politics of U.S. handling of an air campaign that is being executed by a coalition of countries, including Canada and several European allies, under a U.N. resolution.

Carney disputed complaints from Congress about inadequate consultation prior to the start of the military campaign, and he discounted the need for a specific response from the White House to a letter Wednesday from House Speaker John Boehner asking for details on the goals, costs and scope of the operation.

Carney said that if the president had waited for Congress to return from its recess before moving on Libya, "Gadhafi's forces would control Benghazi and there would have been a great deal of people killed in the process."

The U.S. assumed command of the operation, which began on Saturday, largely because it alone possesses the military wherewithal to coordinate the complex array of movements, targeting and intelligence collection that was required to enable the establishment of a protective no-fly zone over Libya. Now that Gadhafi's air force has been grounded and his air defenses largely silenced, the mission could be pursued under a different command such as NATO.

An American Army general now oversees the campaign from Europe, and an American Navy admiral is the day-to-day commander from a floating command post off the Libyan coast. An American Air Force two-star general is running the air portion of the mission, and one official said it was possible that the Air Force officer would remain in charge of the air campaign even after the overall operation was shifted to NATO or other non-U.S. command. That official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal military deliberations. Associated Press

Obama makes lame excuses to justify the bombing of Libya!


Obama defends U.S. military action in Libya

Mar. 28, 2011 07:30 PM

Associated Press

WASHINGTON - Vigorously defending American attacks in Libya, President Barack Obama declared Monday night that the United States intervened to prevent a slaughter of civilians that would have stained the world's conscience and "been a betrayal of who we are" as Americans. Yet he ruled out targeting Moammar Gadhafi, warning that trying to oust him militarily would be a mistake as costly as the war in Iraq.

Obama announced that NATO would take command over the entire Libya operation on Wednesday, keeping his pledge to get the U.S. out of the lead fast -- but offering no estimate on when the conflict might end and no details about its costs despite demands for those answers from lawmakers.

He declined to label the U.S.-led military campaign as a "war," but made an expansive case for why he believed it was in the national interest of the United States and allies to use force.

In blunt terms, Obama said the U.S.-led response had stopped Gadhafi's advances and halted a slaughter that could have shaken the stability of an entire region. Obama cast the intervention in Libya as imperative to keep Gadhafi from killing those rebelling against him and to prevent a refugee crisis that would drive Libyans into Egypt and Tunisia, two countries emerging from their own uprisings.

"To brush aside America's responsibility as a leader and -- more profoundly -- our responsibilities to our fellow human beings under such circumstances would have been a betrayal of who we are," Obama said. He spoke in a televised address to the nation, delivered in front of a respectful audience of military members and diplomats.

"Some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries. The United States of America is different," Obama said. "And as president, I refused to wait for the images of slaughter and mass graves before taking action."

Obama spoke as, in Libya, rebel forces bore down Monday on Gadhafi with the help of airstrikes by the U.S.-led forces. His speech was his most aggressive attempt to answer the questions mounting from Republican critics, his own party and war-weary Americans -- chiefly, why the U.S. was immersed in war in another Muslim nation.

So far, the nation is split about Obama's leadership on Libya. Across multiple polls, about half of those surveyed approve of the way Obama is handling the situation. A Pew poll out Monday found that the public does not think the United States and its allies have a clear goal in Libya -- 39 percent of those polled said they do; 50 percent said they do not.

Amid protests and crackdowns across the Middle East and North Africa, Obama stated his case that Libya stands alone. Obama said the United States had a unique ability to stop the violence, an international mandate and broad coalition, and the ability to stop Gadhafi's forces without sending in American ground troops. The message to his country and the world: Libya is not a precedent for intervention anywhere else.

In essence, Obama, the Nobel Prize winner for peace, made his case for war. He spoke of justifiable intervention in times when the United States, as the world's most powerful nation, must step in to help.

"In such cases," Obama said, "we should not be afraid to act."

Reaction to the speech in Congress tended to break along partisan lines, with Republicans faulting the president for what they said was his failure to define the mission clearly.

"When our men and women in uniform are sent into harm's way, Americans and troops deserve a clear mission from our commander in chief, not a speech nine days late," said Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, a member of the Armed Services Committee and head of the Senate Republicans' political arm.

"President Obama failed to explain why he unilaterally took our nation to war without bothering to make the case to the U.S. Congress."

Obama steered away from turning this into a country-by-country dissection of the Arab revolts that are testing him at every turn. Instead, he spoke in sweeping terms to draw a connecting thread.

Citing a failure to act in Libya, he said: "The democratic impulses that are dawning across the region would be eclipsed by the darkest form of dictatorship, as repressive leaders concluded that violence is the best strategy to cling to power. The writ of the U.N. Security Council would have been shown to be little more than empty words, crippling its future credibility to uphold global peace and security."

The president also sought to address critics who have said the U.S. mission remains muddled.

Indeed, he reiterated the White House position that Gadhafi should not remain in power but the U.N. resolution that authorized power does not go that far. That gap in directives has left the White House to deal with the prospect that Gadhafi will remain indefinitely. Obama said the U.S. would try to isolate him other ways.

He said that the tasks U.S. forces were carrying out -- to protect Libyan civilians and establish a no-fly zone -- had international support. If the U.S. were to seek to overthrow Gadhafi by force, "our coalition would splinter," the president said.

"Broadening our military mission to include regime change would be a mistake," Obama said.

Left unclear is what happens if Gadhafi stays.

He then raised the issue of Iraq and the move to rid Iraq of Saddam Hussein, a war that deeply divided the nation and defined the presidency of George W. Bush.

"Regime change there took eight years, thousands of American and Iraqi lives and nearly a trillion dollars," Obama said. "That is not something we can afford to repeat in Libya."

Domestic politics got a nod, too, in a nation saddled in debt and embroiled over how to cut spending.

"The risk and cost of this operation -- to our military and to American taxpayers -- will be reduced significantly" Obama said.

The president said transferring the mission to NATO would leave the United States in a supporting role, providing intelligence, logistical support and search and rescue assistance. He said the U.S. would also use its capabilities to jam Gadhafi's means of communication.

Obama spoke before an audience at the National Defense University not far from the White House. He has tended to speak and appear more comfortable in such settings than from behind his Oval Office desk.

Obama shovels the BS on America's latest war in Libya!


Analysis: Obama doesn't mention Libyan rebels

Posted 3/29/2011 8:11 AM ET

By Anne Gearan, AP National Security Writer

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama wanted to tell a hesitant America why he launched a military assault in Libya, and he wanted to describe it on his terms -- limited, sensible, moral and backed by international partners with the shared goal of protecting Libyans from a ruthless despot.

Trouble is, the war he described Monday doesn't quite match the fight the United States is in.

It also doesn't line up with the conflict Obama himself had seemed to presage, when he expressly called for Moammar Gadhafi's overthrow or resignation. Obama's stated goals stop well short of that. And although Obama talked of the risks of a long war, he did not say just when or on what terms the United States would leave Libya.

Obama never directly mention the Libyan rebels seeking Gadhafi's overthrow, even though the heavy U.S.-led firepower trained on Gadhafi's forces has allowed those rebels to regain momentum and push toward Gadhafi's territory.

"We have intervened to stop a massacre," Obama said.

Ten days into a conflict many Americans say they do not understand, Obama laid out a moral imperative for intervening against a murderous tyrant, and doing so without the lengthy international dithering that allowed so much blood to be spilled in Bosnia. His address at the National Defense University echoed campaign rhetoric about restoring U.S. moral pride of place after squandering it in Iraq.

"Mindful of the risks and costs of military action, we are naturally reluctant to use force to solve the world's many challenges," Obama said. "But when our interests and values are at stake, we have a responsibility to act."

Gadhafi's forces have been largely pinned down and unable to mount a massacre since the first hours of the war, while U.S. and NATO warplanes have become an unacknowledged aerial arm of the rebels. Obama said the United States will help the opposition, an oblique reference to the rebels.

Over the weekend U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt aircraft, designed to provide battlefield support to friendly ground forces, flew attack missions for the first time in this conflict. The Pentagon also disclosed Monday that Air Force AC-130 gunships, low-flying aircraft armed with a 105mm howitzer and a 40mm cannon, had joined the battle. Those two types of aircraft give the U.S. more ability to confront pro-Gadhafi forces in urban areas with less risk of civilian casualties.

The Pentagon's lead spokesman on Libya operations, Navy Vice Adm. William Gortney, told reporters Monday that the U.S. military is not coordinating with the rebels. But he left little doubt that, by design or not, Western air power is propelling the rebels forward.

"Clearly they're achieving a benefit from the actions that we're taking," Gortney said. He displayed a chart that showed rebels advancing within 80 miles of Sirte, Gadhafi's home town.

If the purpose of the U.N.-sanctioned military action is to protect civilians, does that include pro-Gadhafi civilians who are likely to be endangered in places like Sirte that are in the rebels' crosshairs? If not, it is difficult to see the Western intervention as a neutral humanitarian act not aligned with the rebels.

The first goal of the intervention was to prevent a massacre of civilians in Benghazi, the eastern Libyan city where Gadhafi forces were threatening to crush the rebellion two weeks ago. Gadhafi said he would "show no mercy."

A U.S.-led assault quickly accomplished that first goal. A no-fly zone was established two weekends ago with little resistance. The U.S. and its partners then launched airstrikes on Gadhafi supply lines and other military targets not only near Benghazi but around other contested areas as well.

But the role of Western air power then went beyond that initial humanitarian aim, to in effect provide air cover for the rebels while pounding Gadhafi forces in a bid to break their will or capacity to fight.

Now U.S. forces are pulling back, handing much of the responsibility for the open-ended military campaign to allies, as Obama said they would.

"So for those who doubted our capacity to carry out this operation, I want to be clear: The United States of America has done what we said we would do," Obama said with clear satisfaction.

He meant that the U.S. had hewed to its stated role under a U.N. Security Council resolution that authorized force.

But he acknowledged that the U.N. mandate doesn't extend to Gadhafi's ouster, even if many of the nations carrying it out might wish for that. Obama was frank about the reasons why.

"Broadening our military mission to include regime change would be a mistake," Obama said.

It would shatter the international partnership he relies on for diplomatic cover and security backup. It would probably mean sending U.S. ground forces into yet another Muslim nation, something Obama has said he will not do in Libya. It would undoubtedly increase the risk to the U.S. military, the costs of the war and U.S. responsibility for shoring up and protecting whatever Libya might emerge, Obama said.

"To be blunt, we went down that road in Iraq," Obama said, where thousands of U.S. forces remain eight years after the fall of Saddam Hussein.

"That is not something we can afford to repeat in Libya," Obama said.

Getting rid of Gadhafi "may not happen overnight," Obama warned, in his first acknowledgement of the stalemate with the rebels that many analysts and some of his own military advisers suspect is coming. Gadhafi, Obama said, might well cling to power for some time.

The United States is considering arming the rebels, directly or indirectly, and U.S. officials say the U.N. resolution would allow that. Obama mentioned nothing about the possibility of civil war in Libya, or what the U.S. might do if the war grinds on for months.

Obama still faces questions about why Libya and not Yemen, or not Syria. One of his closest national security advisers, Denis McDonough, told reporters Monday that the administration doesn't "get very hung up on this question of precedent."

"We don't make decisions about questions like intervention based on consistency or precedent," McDonough said.

Throughout his address, Obama seemed to be answering his own criticism of past wars and past leaders who committed military force too hastily or too hesitantly.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner never used the word "war" to describe what's happening in Libya, but made a point of addressing what the conflict he chose "says about the use of America's military power, and America's broader leadership in the world, under my presidency."

His book "The Audacity of Hope" and his Nobel speech established the same predicates for U.S. military intervention -- an allied coalition and use of multinational power.

"We know that the United States, as the world's most powerful nation, will often be called upon to help," Obama said Monday. "In such cases, we should not be afraid to act, but the burden of action should not be America's alone."


EDITOR'S NOTE -- Anne Gearan has covered national politics and national security in Washington since 1999.

US pretends to let NATO take over the war in Libya. Of course NATO and the American Empire are one and the same.


FACT CHECK: How Obama's Libya claims fit the facts

Posted 3/29/2011 4:01 AM ET

By Calvin Woodward And Richard Lardner, Associated Press

WASHINGTON — 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.

NATO partners are bringing more into the fight. But the same "unique capabilities" that made the U.S. the inevitable leader out of the gate will continue to be in demand. They include a range of attack aircraft, refueling tankers that can keep aircraft airborne for lengthy periods, surveillance aircraft that can detect when Libyans even try to get a plane airborne, and, as Obama said, planes loaded with electronic gear that can gather intelligence or jam enemy communications and radars.

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 said "we continue to pursue the broader goal of a Libya that belongs not to a dictator, but to its people," but spoke of achieving that through diplomacy and political pressure, not force of U.S. arms.


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's defense secretary, Robert Gates, said Sunday that the crisis in Libya "was not a vital national interest to the United States, but it was an interest."


OBAMA: "And tonight, I can report that we have stopped Gadhafi's deadly advance."

THE FACTS: The weeklong international barrage has disabled Libya's air defenses, communications networks and supply chains. But Gadhafi's ground forces remain a potent threat to the rebels and civilians, according to U.S. military officials.

Army Gen. Carter Ham, the top American officer overseeing the mission, told The New York Times on Monday that "the regime still overmatches opposition forces militarily. The regime possesses the capability to roll them back very quickly. Coalition air power is the major reason that has not happened."

Only small numbers of Gadhafi's troops have defected to the opposition, Ham said.

At the Pentagon, Vice Adm. William Gortney, staff director for the Joint Chiefs, said the rebels are not well organized. "It is not a very robust organization," he said. "So any gain that they make is tenuous based on that."


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.


Associated Press writers Jim Drinkard and Robert Burns contributed to this report.

He might be a blood thirsty dictator, but he is OUR dictator! Ain't you proud to be a member of the American Empire!!!! (I'm just joking! I realized the American government is run by a bunch of hypocrites who are no better then this tyrants in Yemen. But if I don't say say I am that joking that jerk David Dorn will probably make up a bunch of lies and say I support these tyrants in Yemen along with the American tyrant Obama!)


U.S. Shifts to Seek Removal of Yemen’s Leader, an Ally


Published: April 3, 2011

SANA, Yemen — The United States, which long supported Yemen’s president, even in the face of recent widespread protests, has now quietly shifted positions and has concluded that he is unlikely to bring about the required reforms and must be eased out of office, according to American and Yemeni officials.

The Obama administration had maintained its support of President Ali Abdullah Saleh in private and refrained from directly criticizing him in public, even as his supporters fired on peaceful demonstrators, because he was considered a critical ally in fighting the Yemeni branch of Al Qaeda. This position has fueled criticism of the United States in some quarters for hypocrisy for rushing to oust a repressive autocrat in Libya but not in strategic allies like Yemen and Bahrain.

That position began to shift in the past week, administration officials said. While American officials have not publicly pressed Mr. Saleh to go, they have told allies that they now view his hold on office as untenable, and they believe he should leave.

A Yemeni official said that the American position changed when the negotiations with Mr. Saleh on the terms of his potential departure began a little over a week ago.

“The Americans have been pushing for transfer of power since the beginning” of those negotiations, the official said, but have not said so publicly because “they still were involved in the negotiations.”

Those negotiations now center on a proposal for Mr. Saleh to hand over power to a provisional government led by his vice president until new elections are held. That principle “is not in dispute,” the Yemeni official said, only the timing and mechanism for how he would depart.

It does remain in dispute among the student-led protesters, however, who have rejected any proposal that would give power to a leading official of the Saleh government.

Washington has long had a wary relationship of mutual dependence with Mr. Saleh. The United States has provided weapons, and the Yemeni leader has allowed the United States military and the C.I.A. to strike at Qaeda strongholds. The State Department cables released by WikiLeaks gave a close-up view of that uneasy interdependence: Mr. Saleh told Gen. David H. Petraeus, then the American commander in the Middle East, that the United States could continue missile strikes against Al Qaeda as long as the fiction was maintained that Yemen was conducting them.

“We’ll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours,” Mr. Saleh said, according to a cable sent by the American ambassador. At other times, however, Mr. Saleh resisted American requests. In a wry assessment of the United States, he told Daniel Benjamin, the State Department’s counterterrorism chief, that Americans are “hot-blooded and hasty when you need us,” but “cold-blooded and British when we need you.”

The negotiations in Sana began after government-linked gunmen killed more than 50 protesters at an antigovernment rally on March 18, prompting a wave of defections of high-level government officials the following week. The American and Yemeni officials who discussed the talks did so on the condition of anonymity because the talks are private and still in progress.

It is not clear whether the United States is discussing a safe passage for Mr. Saleh and his family to another country, but that appears to be the direction of the talks in Sana, the capital.

For Washington, the key to his departure would be arranging a transfer of power that would enable the counterterrorism operation in Yemen to continue.

One administration official referred to that concern last week, saying that the standoff between the president and the protesters “has had a direct adverse impact on the security situation throughout the country.”

“Groups of various stripes — Al Qaeda, Houthis, tribal elements, and secessionists — are exploiting the current political turbulence and emerging fissures within the military and security services for their own gain,” the official said. “Until President Saleh is able to resolve the current political impasse by announcing how and when he will follow through on his earlier commitment to take tangible steps to meet opposition demands, the security situation in Yemen is at risk of further deterioration.”

In recent days, American officials in Washington have hinted at the change in position.

Those “tangible steps,” another official said, could include giving in to the demand that he step down.

At a State Department briefing recently, a spokesman, Mark Toner, was questioned on whether there had been planning for a post-Saleh Yemen. While he did not answer the question directly, he said, in part, that counterterrorism in Yemen “goes beyond any one individual.”

In addition to the huge street demonstrations that have convulsed the country in the last two months, the deteriorating security situation in Yemen includes a Houthi rebellion in the north, a secessionist movement in the south and an active Qaeda operation in the southeast. Houthi rebels seized control of Saada Province a week ago, and armed militants have taken over a city in the southern province of Abyan where Al Qaeda is known to have set up a base.

Among Yemenis, there is a feeling that there is a race against the clock to resolve the political impasse before the country implodes. In addition to the security concerns, Yemen faces an economic crisis.

Food prices are rising; the value of the Yemeni currency, the rial, is dropping sharply; and dollars are disappearing from currency exchange shops. According to the World Food Program, the price of wheat flour has increased 45 percent since mid-March and rice by 22 percent.

Analysts have also expressed concern that Mr. Saleh is depleting the national reserves paying for promises to keep himself in power. Mr. Saleh has paid thousands of supporters to come to the capital to stage pro-government protests and given out money to tribal leaders to secure their loyalties. In February he promised to cut income taxes and raise salaries for civil servants and the military to try to tamp down discontent.

“It’s not a recession, it’s not a depression, it’s a mess,” said Mohammed Abulahom, a prominent member of Parliament for Mr. Saleh’s governing party who now supports the protesters.

The fact that the Americans are “seriously engaged in discussion on how to transfer power shows their willingness to figure out a way to transfer power,” he said.

He said the Americans “are doing what ought to be done, and we will see more pressure down the road.”

The criticism of the United States for failing to publicly support Yemen’s protesters has been loudest here, where the protesters insist the United States’ only concern is counterterrorism.

“We are really very, very angry because America until now didn’t help us similar to what Mr. Obama said that Mubarak has to leave now,” said Tawakul Karman, a leader of the antigovernment youth movement. “Obama says he appreciated the courage and dignity of Tunisian people. He didn’t say that for Yemeni people.”

“We feel that we have been betrayed,” she said.

Hamza Alkamaly, 23, a prominent student leader, agreed. “We students lost our trust in the United States,” he said. “We thought the United States would help us in the first time because we are calling for our freedom.”

Late Saturday night, Yemen’s opposition coalition, the Joint Meetings Parties, proposed an outline for a transfer of power that has become the new focus of the talks. The proposal calls for power to be transferred immediately to Vice President Abd al-Rab Mansur al-Hadi until presidential elections are held.

The young protesters have rejected the proposal, or any that would leave a leading Saleh official in charge.

Late Sunday, the Gulf Cooperation Council, an association of oil-rich countries in the Persian Gulf, added its backing to the talks, issuing a statement saying it would press the Yemeni government and opposition to work toward an agreement to “overcome the status quo.” The group called for a return to negotiations to “achieve the aspirations of the Yemeni people by means of reforms.”

So far the council, including Yemen’s largest international donor, Saudi Arabia, has not taken part in the negotiations, Yemeni officials said.

There were also more clashes between security forces and protesters on Sunday and Monday in the city of Taiz. Hundreds of people were injured by tear gas, rocks and gunfire. Witnesses said security forces fired at the protesters and into the air. Reuters, speaking by phone to anonymous hospital workers in Taiz, reported at least a dozen protesters had been killed on Monday and 30 injured from the gunfire.

Early Monday, security forces in Hodeidah, a western port city, used to tear gas to break up a protest march on the presidential palace there.

According to Amnesty International, at least 95 people have died during two months of antigovernment protests.

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