By Jay Holmes
I thought it was time for a renewed analysis of some of the Middle East and North African hot spots. Let’s look at a few of the ongoing domestic struggles, starting with Libya.
On Saturday night, a NATO air strike hit a command center/Gadhafi family compound, and one of Momo’s dozen sons, Saif al Arab, was killed. Saif al Arab is one of the family’s least powerful siblings. Momo’s spokesmen claim that Momo was at the bombed home, but that he was unharmed.
The relative positions of the rebels and forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi haven’t changed much during the last month. NATO indicated that it will increase its strikes to include command and control centers (like the Saturday night strike), but it still declines to further arm the rebel forces with more powerful weapons. President Obama authorized the use of US drones to enable NATO to assist the rebels in Misrata against the besieging forces without unintentionally killing more rebels than Gadhafi forces.
The African Union visited Benghazi to try to negotiate a cease-fire, but the rebels gave them a cold shoulder. The rebels have made it clear that they have little confidence in the African Union. Also, if the Arab league is lending much support to the rebels, they are doing it quietly.
The rebels have shown a small increase in ability on the battle field, and they were able to take a border crossing post on the Tunisian border. This might open an avenue of supply to rebels in Western Libya. The rebels maintain a tenuous grip on Adjibaya, but have been unable to retake the valuable oil port in Brega.
Against the rebels’ small improvement in military performance, they are showing signs of strain in their leadership, the Libyan National Council. Their military chief of staff, General Abdel Younis, has repeatedly criticized NATO for its minimalist approach to assisting them.
Younis was Gadhafi’s interior minister until the rebellion began to take traction, and both the Libyan National Council and NATO respect his professional skills, but neither has any confidence in his ethics. As to his loyalty, Younis is undoubtedly loyal to Younis.
The United Kingdom, France, and Italy announced they will send military advisors to assist the rebels in their operations and in their communications with NATO. If nothing else, the advisors might be able to establish a clearer picture of who the rebels are, and, more importantly, who they will be if, and when, Gadhafi & Sons, Inc. are deposed. Keep in mind that the ousting of one dictator does not guarantee that another will not take his place.
The rebel forces claim that Gadhafi’s loyalists have organized systematic “rape patrols,” that these patrols have been issued Viagra, and that they have been responsible for raping children as young as eleven years of age in Misrata. International aid workers who are working in Bengahzi with refugees evacuated from Misrata say that these claims are consistent with a variety of refugees’ reports, and that the children have the signs and symptoms of rape victims. Whether or not Gadhafi, himself, ordered the rape patrols is unknown. It may be the work of tribal factions within Gadhafi’s army.
The rhetoric from Gadhafi spokesmen has shifted from confident threats of annihilating all rebels and their families to a campaign of seeking cease fires and negotiations. Neither the rebels nor NATO show any indication of believing anything Gadhafi and his pals say.
Major news outlets such as BBC, the New York Times, and the Washington Post have all published articles explaining that the CIA has numerous agents operating in Libya to liaison with the rebels and to provide targeting data in loyalist areas. The news outlets all cite that charming and famous US official, Mr. Anonymous Government Official, as the source of their not particularly fascinating information. The CIA remains mute with the press, as they should.
The Syrian people continue to protest against the government of Bashar Assad. Assad inherited an incompetent, despotic government from his ruthless father, Hafez Assad, in 2000 when Hafez died. Based on his Western medical training and his more cosmopolitan experience, many Syrians had hoped for reform under Bashar, but he has not taken the opportunity to reduce human rights violations in Syria. The Syrian working class and unemployed citizens might be at the point where denouncing the USA and Israel and serving as Iran’s lackey aren’t quite enough of an output from their expensive and annoying government.
On March 23: Reporters in Syria claimed that around 100 anti-government protestors were killed in the southern town of Daraa, Syria.
On March 30: Assad broadcast a public speech and announced that the protesters were part of a conspiracy. Yes, Bashar, the conspiracy rotates around the protestors’ notion that you would look better dead.
On April 10: Four protesters were killed in Banias, Syria. Nine Syrian soldiers were killed in an ambush the same day, but it is unclear who the ambushers were.
On April 14: Assad’s new Prime Minister, Abdel Safar, announced he will creating a cabinet to lead reforms.
On April 15: The protests continue. Apparently, nobody believes Adel Safar, including Adel Safar.
On April 21: Assad declares an end to the 48-year “temporary” state of emergency and abolishes the extra-legal security apparatus courts. The Syrians remain unimpressed.
On April 22: Courts? Who needs a court? Syrian security forces gun down an additional 80 protesters.
On April 23: Assad’s thugs gun down 25 people at a funeral. Apparently, funerals are a capital offense in the new reformed Syria.
On April 24: Thirteen protesters were shot and killed in Jableh, Syria.
On April 25 thru 28: Protesters report 42 killed in Daraa, Syria.
On April 27: Britain, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain summon their Syrian ambassadors to formally protest the crackdown against protesters in Syria. Two hundred, thirty-three members of the Syrian Ba’ath party resign in protest against Assad.
On April 30: The Syrian army used tanks and troops to seize control of a mosque which was a center of anti-government protests in Daraa, Syria. Witnesses report that six protesters were killed.
Critics of the US administration offer the opinion that President Obama should have gotten tougher on Syria “a long time ago.” The US is embroiled in Iraq, Afghanistan, and, to a lesser degree, Libya, while conducting humanitarian aid in Japan, and maintaining a strong presence in the northern Indian Ocean against threats from Iran. Ex US UN ambassador John Bolton and other Obama critics fail to specify precisely what measures the US should be taking against Syria this week.
Iran remains a strong supporter of their Syrian houseboy, Bashar Assad, but Iran has their own problems this week.
In Iran, the vast state security apparatus operating on the theory that you can never conduct too many hangings and stonings continues to suppress smoldering protests.
At no surprise to anyone but the trained monkey, Iranian President Ahmadinejad, the Iranian dictator Ayatollah Khameni has grown weary of his pet monkey’s increasing influence in Iranian affairs. The notion that a mere president should pretend to direct the government of Iran is more than Khameni can tolerate. Ahmadinejad may find himself “resigned” due to health problems or to take over some urgent new project like conducting a donkey census for Iran.
If Ahmadinejad “steps down” (or falls down repeatedly and hurts himself) it won’t mean much in Iran. We will simply see a new pet monkey pretending to be President of Iran while Khameni continues to give the orders.
The distraction for the Iranian police state does at least mean that they will be momentarily slightly less troublesome for the rest of the planet while they plot amongst themselves. Plot away, guys. Have fun.
I have a question. Isn’t Syria like the “hub” for all the crap that Iran and it’s other allies like to pull? I mean isn’t it where they hide weapons and money if they don’t want to get easily detected?
You are right. I would say it is “a hub” rather than “the hub.” Shortly before the start of the second US invasion of Iraq in 2003, US and British satellites tracked a large convoy from a major WMD site in Iraq as it traveled into Syria. One of the members of the convoy was allegedly an agent reporting to Israeli Mossad, and Israel remains convinced that those chemical weapons are still in Syria. Syria also housed Saddam Hussein’s homicidal sons, Uday and Kusay, and allowed them to cross back and forth into Iraq. Saddam’s sons made one too many trips back into Iraq, and they were found and killed in Tikrit.
Syrian security forces murdered Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005. Syria remains involved in efforts to manufacture nuclear weapons. Under Syrian dictator Assad, Syria remains a forward base of operations for Iran in Iran’s war in Lebanon. Iran will do everything in it’s power to keep Assad in power, or, failing in that, to replace him with a replacement lackey. The current protests in Syria concern Iran as much as they do Syria. The average Syrian person has no love for Iran, and Iran has no real “allies,” but thanks to Assad, Syria is as close as they come.
Busy world out there…thanks for the update.
So Momo came that close to being taken out? Fascinating. This recap is the most news I will ever read on the ME. Thanks for putting it all together.
Thank you Clay. My pleasure.