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Libyan fighters ‘return favour’ in Syria battles


20 September 2012 – 16H12
Fighters with the Free Syrian Army regroup at their base in Azaz, some 47km north of Aleppo, on September 13. Firas, a youth who helped topple Libyan dictator Moamer Kadhafi last year, says Syrians aided in that struggle and he has now come to Syria to return the favour.

Fighters with the Free Syrian Army regroup at their base in Azaz, some 47km north of Aleppo, on September 13. Firas, a youth who helped topple Libyan dictator Moamer Kadhafi last year, says Syrians aided in that struggle and he has now come to Syria to return the favour.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (right) joins hands with then-Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi, who went on to be ousted and killed in 2011, at the opening session of the Arab Summit in Damascus on March 29, 2008. Some Libyan fighters who helped oust Kadhafi's regime are now in Syria to join the revolution against Assad.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (right) joins hands with then-Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi, who went on to be ousted and killed in 2011, at the opening session of the Arab Summit in Damascus on March 29, 2008. Some Libyan fighters who helped oust Kadhafi’s regime are now in Syria to join the revolution against Assad.

AFP – Firas, a youth who helped topple Libyan dictator Moamer Kadhafi last year, says Syrians aided in that struggle and he has now come to Syria to return the favour.

“In the Libyan revolution, many Syrians fought on our side, so it is now time to return the favour,” explained Firas, who left his studies in Britain to join the uprising to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Firas said he had been watching the events in Syria unfold on television and knew he had to do something.

“I am tired of peace conferences, of useless sanctions imposed on the Assad government; I am fed up as people look the other way while Russia and China supply weapons to the regime.

“While the world sits down to talk, women and children here in Syria die under the regime’s artillery fire and nobody does anything about it.”

Firas sees a big difference in the two conflicts.

“In Libya, we had a no-fly zone to which civilians could flee without fear of being systematically bombed, but here the cities have become death traps in which the Assad government punishes the people without a thought,” he said.

Abu Omar, another Libyan fighter, also feels it was his duty to fight in Syria.

“I had to do something for them. At the moment it is important to be here with my brothers,” he said.

The Libyans are fighting Syrian government forces in Aleppo’s Saif al-Dawla district, which has witnessed fierce clashes between the rebels and regime troops for several days now.

“After 30,000 dead you think the Syrians expect Westerners to come and help? Nobody will do anything for them because the life of a Syrian child is not worth that of a Western child,” said Abu Abdo, another Libyan.

“How many more children must die for the West to act,” he asked, adding that he is “fighting against a tyrant who uses weapons bought from the West to massacre his own people.”

He said the Libyans are not fighting a holy war.

“It is not jihad, it is a revolution,” Abu Abdo insisted, adding that “in Syria there are many foreign fighters as we no longer believe in promises coming from the West.”

Firas has his own explanation for why the West is not interfering in the Syrian conflict as it did in Libya.

“In Libya there is oil and gas and the West is still looking for wars from which it can derive economic benefits even if it is at the cost of thousands of lives, as was the case in Iraq,” he said.

“The second reason is that Libya is far from Israel, a war out there does not affect Israel as here a large-scale conflict would be devastating.”

He also pointed to talk about the presence of radical Islamists among the rebels as a concern in the West.

“Does our wearing a beard or praying to a god different than yours make us terrorists or members of Al-Qaeda?” he asked angrily. “If that’s the case, then we are all Al-Qaeda,” he added sarcastically.

“Kadhafi used the same technique. He said we were backed by Al-Qaeda so that Europe would not intervene and he could annihilate us. Here too you are fighting against a dictator who is violating human rights every day and killing his own people.”

Firas warned that the West’s passive approach towards the Syrian conflict is contributing to the rise of pro-Qaeda sentiment among the people and rebels.

“It is undeniable that in Syria, as elsewhere, there are people who support Al-Qaeda,” Firas says.

“I have met a number of fighters from a small group very close (to Al-Qaeda) and it would definitely scare you to talk to them. They are very radical and they hate everything that comes from the West.”

Abu Omar echoes similar fears.

“These people are beginning to smear the Syrian revolution,” he laments.

“But what we must understand is that this is not a religious war; this is a war for a people’s freedom. We have not come from Libya to fight against Shiites or Alawites, but the troops who support the regime, regardless of their faith.”

Islamic Scholar Tariq Ramadan on the Growing Mideast Protests and “Islam & the Arab Awakening”


JUAN GONZÁLEZ: To talk more about the protests across the Middle East, we’re joined by Tariq Ramadan, professor of contemporary Islamic studies at Oxford University and a visiting professor at the Faculty of Islamic Studies in Qatar. He is considered one of the most prominent Muslim intellectuals in Europe and was named by Time magazine as one of the most important innovators of the 21st century. He was barred from entering the United States for many years by President George W. Bush. In 2004, Ramadan had accepted a job to become a tenured professor at the University of Notre Dame, but nine days after he was set to arrive, the Bush administration revoked his visa, invoking a provision of thePATRIOT Act. He wasn’t allowed into the United States for another six years.

AMY GOODMAN: Tariq Ramadan is the author of a number of books, includingRadical Reform: Islamic Ethics and Liberation and, most recently, Islam and the Arab Awakening.

We welcome you back to Democracy Now!, Professor Ramadan.

TARIQ RAMADAN: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for your invitation.

AMY GOODMAN: So, can you talk about the latest that’s happening right now, the beginning in Libya with the killing of the U.S. ambassador, the protests now happening throughout the Arab world? We just heard from what’s happening in Yemen, the protests in Sana’a at the U.S. embassy, in Cairo at the U.S. embassy.

TARIQ RAMADAN: Look, it’s very, very difficult and very sensitive times for many reasons, because just—you know, we were celebrating or at least remembering 11 years after September 11 in the country here. And what happened is, as you were referring, there are two scenarios. One is to say what happened in Libya was not in fact first connected to the movie, but connected to the killing Abu Yahya al-Libi in June, and this was planned—

AMY GOODMAN: And explain who he was.

TARIQ RAMADAN: He was one of the leaders of al-Qaeda, and he was killed in June. And the point was that people were saying there will be retaliation, and they choose the very same date of the September the 11th. So it might be that this connection was in fact used with the symbol at the same time we’re remembering what happened in the States. Add to this that what we have here is very much people who are behind the movie, and it’s very important to check who is behind the movie. What do they want exactly? They were using exactly the same symbol, 11 years later, just before the election, to put the president, also, Barack Obama, and the United States onto something which is a psychological pressure by releasing this and hoping that there will be reactions. It’s a provocation. And I think that here we have something which is very important for us is, first, to condemn what happened, the killing of the ambassador and what is happening in the embassies around the—in the Muslim-majority countries, to start with this, but also to understand that there are people from behind the scenes who are playing on symbols, emotional politics, and pushing toward something which is a clash.

And the second thing that we have to say—and this is important because you were talking about Mohamed Morsi and people, the Islamists in Muslim-majority countries—there is something which is going to be one of the main challenges in the Muslim world today, in the Muslim-majority countries in the Arab world, is the religious credibility. How are you going to react to what is said about Islam? So, by touching the prophet of Islam, the reaction should be, who is going to be the guardian? And you can see today that the Muslim Brotherhood are in a situation where the Salafis, then the literalists, are pushing. And they were in Libya, they were in Egypt, they are now in Yemen. So, everywhere the Salafi are pushing by saying, “We are the guardian, and we are resisting any kind of relationship to the West or provocation coming from the West.” And internally, it’s unsettling the whole situation. Now in Tunisian, in Libya, in Syria, in Egypt, the clash between the literalists and—the Islamists or the reformists is something which is going to be part of what we have to deal with as to the future of this country.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Interestingly, in this—in the incident in Libya yesterday, there appear to be now, as some reports are coming out, two very separate incidents that occurred. There was a mass protest that occurred early in the evening in response to the film, and then there was a much more coordinated military attack that occurred later in the night on the consulate itself. And apparently, the attackers may have known that the ambassador was in Benghazi, when he normally was not in Benghazi. So, this clearly seems to have been more of a—some would call it a blowback on the United States government for its support, its military support, of all kinds of fighters in Libya against Gaddafi, including Islamist extremists.

TARIQ RAMADAN: Yes, I think that this is a very fair point. You know, even after the whole democratization process, it’s quite clear that the United States are not seen in a positive way in all the Muslim-majority countries—in Egypt, in Libya, even in Tunisia—even though we have now a kind of trying to be recognized as democrats by the Islamists who are running, you know, Tunisia and Egypt. But the popular sentiment is very, very negative. So, what happened in Libya, it’s clearly connected to the role of the United States when it comes to dealing with terrorists, dealing with the factions in Libya. This is something which is there, and it’s clearly a bad perception, a negative perception. The point is how this is going to evolve when people are trying to deal with emotions and pushing towards this. So this is where the Islamic reference in such a way is going to be on two fronts. First, what we have within the Sunni tradition is this clash between the literalists and all the other trends and the Salafi movement, that are very much acting on the ground and using the popular sentiment to act against the West.

AMY GOODMAN: People might not know what you mean by the literalists and the Salafi movement.

TARIQ RAMADAN: Yes, that’s a very important point. We have to define this, because, you know, Salafi is a very broad concept in Islam. What we have now is, like, for example, the Nour Party in Egypt or the Salafi in Tunisia are people who, in fact, we call very often Wahhabi, following the Saudi school of thought and law. And they are literalists in the way where it’s black and white, there’s a very narrow interpretation of the scriptural sources. For decades, we knew that they were there, but they were not involved in politics. What is completely new for all of us over the last three years is that they are now within the political arena and playing the democratic game. One year ago, the people from the Nour Party, before even creating a party, was saying democracy is not Islamic. And all of a sudden, in eight months, they enter into the political game, and they got 24 percent, meaning that this is a political power. And they are—they have some credentials, and they are playing with this. And the perception in the West is, oh, they are the same as the Muslim Brotherhood. In fact, no. They were even supporting the candidate who left the Muslim Brotherhood, to put the Muslim Brotherhood in a very difficult situation. And they are backed and supported by financial, you know, support by organizations that are coming from Saudi Arabia, even Qatar, and these organizations are supporting them financially. And they are now in Tunisia. When I was in Tunisia talking to the president, he was telling me, “We didn’t know about these people before. How come, in less than six months, they are there, and they are pushing?” And this is to make the whole democratization process unsettled, on the basis of the Islamic reference.

So this is why, as Muslims and as Muslim scholars and intellectuals, we have to be very clear on what is acceptable and what is this accepted diversity in Islam, and things that are done like yesterday, then the day before yesterday, that are completely non-Islamic, against our principles, because there is now a connection between some literalists and violent extremists, who want to kill, who want to get the kind of popular support. And populism is everywhere. We have religious populism in the Muslim-majority countries as much as we have populism in the United States of America. The reaction of Mitt Romney about saying, “Oh, you don’t have to apologize, and you have first to be clear on the fact that this is our values,” is playing with symbols. It’s just to put Barack Obama in a situation where he has to condemn first what happened and to celebrate the American values. I think it’s tricky.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, in your book, Islam and the Arab Awakening, you really concentrate on the complexity of this enormous movement that has developed, that escapes most observers here in the West. And you particularly focus on the question of whether it’s wrong to consider this really revolutions that are occurring here or whether they are more uprisings or popular movements that, yes, are expressing the desires of the people for freedom, but yet are being manipulated and, to some extent, attempts at controlling them from all sides, not just from the West—

TARIQ RAMADAN: Exactly, yeah.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: —but from the religious and other political groups within Islam itself.

TARIQ RAMADAN: Yes, I’m very happy that you are saying “being manipulated” or try to be manipulated from many sides, not only from the West. What I’m advocating in the book, after having studied the whole thing before, is to tell us today that this was not known, that the people were not aware, that they were bloggers and cyber-dissidents, this is completely wrong on both sides. Even the president, Mubarak, and Ben Ali, they knew about people being trained. So, this is one thing.

What is irreversible in the Arab world is this intellectual revolution, the awakening that we can get rid of dictators. That is here, and the people have this sentiment and this political power. They feel that they can do it, and it’s still there. At the same time, we don’t know what is going to happen. So to be very quick by saying, “Oh, revolutions and Arab Spring,” and—you know, what I’m advocating is to take a cautious optimism as the starting point of our analysis and to look at what is happening.

The perception in the Arab world now is that we are dealing—having secularists against Islamists, and that’s it. So the secularists are progressive; the Islamists are reactionary, conservative. This perception is wrong. It’s not only coming from the West, by the way; it’s even in the Muslim-majority countries. In Tunisia, this is where the debate is very superficial on ideological positioning. We have to come to the true questions about which kind of social policy, which kind of state. It’s not enough to tell us it’s a civil state with Islamic reference. We need to know what Islamic reference, because this is exactly where the Salafi are telling us Islamic reference means that you cannot say what you are saying about the prophet, for example, you cannot ridicule, and you’re going to be judged or tried if you do this. So we don’t have a clear understanding of all this challenges. And when it comes to social justice, when it comes to corruption, when it comes to the role of the army—because now we are talking about Mohamed Morsi representing Egypt—we should be much more cautious with the role of the army in Egypt to be playing a very important role from behind the scene.

AMY GOODMAN: On that issue of President Morsi, I want to turn to President Obama’s comments on Egypt. He made them on Wednesday during an interview with Telemundo’s José Díaz-Balart. Obama said he does not consider the new Egyptian government led by the Muslim Brotherhood to be an ally. Excerpts of the interview first aired last night on MSNBC.

JOSÉ DÍAZ-BALART: Would you consider the current Egyptian regime an ally of the United States?

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: You know, I don’t think that we would consider them an ally, but we don’t consider them an enemy. They are a new government that is trying to find its way. They were democratically elected. I think that we are going to have to see how they respond to this incident, how they respond to, for example, maintaining the peace treaty in—with Israel. So far at least, what we’ve seen is that in some cases they’ve said the right things and taken the right steps; in others, how they’ve responded to various events may not be aligned with our interests. And so, I think it’s still a work in progress. But certainly, in this situation, what we’re going to expect is that they are responsive to our insistence that our embassy is protected, our personnel is protected. And if they take actions that indicate they’re not taking those responsibilities, as all other countries do where we have embassies, I think that’s going to be a real big problem.

AMY GOODMAN: So, here you have President Obama saying that the Egyptian government is not considered an ally, but not our enemy, either, he says. NBC is saying Obama’s strong words could mark a dramatic shift in the U.S. relationship with Egypt, which has been consistently pro-American since the late President Anwar Sadat. Tariq Ramadan?

TARIQ RAMADAN: Yeah, look, it’s a very smart and diplomatic statement. I think that he cannot say anything but this, for two reasons. First, if he was to say Egypt, with the Muslim Brotherhood, is an ally, he’s going to be destroyed here by, you know, the opposition saying, “How come you can say that the Islamists are your ally when these people are the same who are Hamas, and Hamas is against Israel?” It’s the end of it. So he’s saying, “We are just wait and see; we are trying to deal.”

At the same time, we should know that the American administration is very much involved with the Egyptian army. And when you talk about the Egyptian army, we don’t only talk about, you know, political power, we talk about economic power. And in all the discussion, what I’m saying in the book, which is for me very important, is that not to underestimate the economic reasons of all what is happening there, because we have China, and we have Russia, and we have new actors in the region that are helping us to understand the situation from another angle.

On the other side, he is saying about the Muslim Brotherhood, we are talking—we know that they were in touch with the Muslim Brotherhood for years trying to understand what is their stand and what is their vision. And if he was to say now—

AMY GOODMAN: Your grandfather, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood.

TARIQ RAMADAN: Yeah, yes, yes. So, this is the—what I’m saying here is that, in his positioning with the Muslim Brotherhood, what he’s saying is we wait and see, and we know that they were dealing with them. The Muslim Brotherhood on this, if he was to say, “They are our allies,” they will lose their credibility within. So the Muslim Brotherhood should be perceived as not very much Western, not very much with the current Obama administration. From behind the scenes, there are some questions that we have to ask the Muslim Brotherhood, when it comes to economic options and choices with the IMF, straightaway, with the World Bank. So I think that on many economic—on other sides, economic sides and political sides, it’s quite clear that, for the time being, there is an agreement between the American administration and the Muslim Brotherhood to try to find a way to deal to one another and to try to find solutions. So, this is why I’m critical of what is happening with the Muslim Brotherhood, not only on the political side, but the economic choices.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I wanted to ask you about the economic imperatives in another battle of the Arab awakening, in Libya. You, in your book, give a masterful recounting of the behind-the-scenes operations of France and the United States in the only popular uprising in which they interceded directly. Could you talk about that and the role of France in cornering much of the oil market in Libya even before the Western intervention?

TARIQ RAMADAN: Yes. If we study the facts before and what was happening in Libya, you know, the reaction of Russia and China should be understood in the light of what happened in Libya, their reaction on Syria, because they lost the economic—their economic interest and their access to the oil resources in Libya because of what happened. They took the United Nations, you know, resolution on no-fly zone as, you know, a permission for NATO to go there and intervene. In fact, this was not for the sake of, you know, the Libyan blood. It was for economic geostrategic interests and to secure their interests. So, Barack Obama was unable to go there for many reasons, because he had internal crisis, and there is these Afghani and Iraqi fronts. It’s impossible to add another one. So there was a deal with France. And France was involved, you know. Even we had, you know, a new foreign ministers, like [inaudible]. He went there, and he was, you know, the figure who was helping France to find the [inaudible] and to create this transitory national council. But this was not done for the sake of, you know, the democratization in Libya. It’s quite clear now that all the economic interest and the access to resources is secured between four countries. The first one is the United States of America, France, Britain and Qatar, who are also involved in the whole thing. So we need to be less naive in the whole process and to deal with the situation, country per country, and understanding that there are challenges, there are from behind-the-scene alliances that are now important.

There is something that I want to say. All this discussion about the Islamists—and I’m studying it in the book—you know, we have to deal with the Islamists on the ground, see what they are going to do. Remember 10 years ago what was said about Erdogan? He’s going to change the country into an Islamist country, a new Iran? It’s not going to happen.

AMY GOODMAN: The Turkish leader.

TARIQ RAMADAN: The Turkish leader. So now we have to deal with them and see what they are going to do. But there is one point which is clear: the United States of America or the Western countries, they don’t have a problem with Islamists as long as they are neoliberal capitalists and promoting the economic order. And the best example is the petro-monarchies. The petro-monarchies, they don’t want democracy. They say there is no democracy in Islam. But they are within the economic system. So the question—

AMY GOODMAN: Who are the petro-monarchists? Which countries?

TARIQ RAMADAN: The petro-monarchies are Saudi Arabia, Qatar, even Bahrain. Bahrain, we had protests in Bahrain, and they were tortured and repression. We don’t cover this. We didn’t cover this. And no one was saying that the government—it was translated into Shia-Sunni clashes. It’s wrong. There is clearly a lack of democracy there. And we need to come with something which is, don’t tell us that Islam in itself is a problem—is exactly what Barack Obama just said yesterday. If they are with us, protecting our interests, we will deal with them; if not, we will struggle.

AMY GOODMAN: Al Jazeera’s role in covering the Arab world?

TARIQ RAMADAN: Yes, I’m talking about it in the book, saying it’s quite—it’s quite—we have to look at the way they were dealing with this, pushing in Egypt, pushing In Tunisia, silent in Bahrain, silent in—so, it’s a selective—

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And pushing Libya, as well.

TARIQ RAMADAN: Exactly. Of course, they were, even, you know, sending armies and people. So, all—you know, Jazeera in itself, perceived as a counter, you know, Fox News Channel, has to be also questioned as to the intention. And we know now—you know, the Arabs and the people in the Arab world are very much supportive of Al Jazeera, taking it as a credible source of news. Now it’s much more questioned by the people. When I was in Tunisia, I say, “What do they want exactly? For whom are they running ? What do they want?” And there is something which is connected to the government. So I think that in all this, it’s clear that it played a very positive role in Egypt by pushing the people. But we need to look at political—the whole scene and the whole region to understand that there are much more questions to be asked about what are the intentions from behind—you know, from supporting some uprisings and forgetting others.


TARIQ RAMADAN: Like Bahrain, for example, as I was saying, and being silent, for example, about what also was happening in Libya, what also is happening in Iraq, and very much nurturing this sense of “be careful, al-Qaeda is there, the terrorists.” You know, it’s also nurturing a mindset. It’s as if, you know, doing the job of “be careful, terrorism is around the corner,” and I think that this is—this is to be questioned.

AMY GOODMAN: Comparison of how the U.S. has dealt with Syria and Bahrain?

TARIQ RAMADAN: Well, I think that—no, they are not dealing with; they are supporting silently what the Saudi are doing with Bahrain, which is supporting the current regime. You can’t have anything happening today within the petro-monarchies, is going to be too risky for the United States and the oil interests there.

In Syria, for eight months—and this is why I’m saying it’s not all under control—all the people who are saying, “Oh, it’s all done by the U.S., and it’s a conspiracy.” I say, no, in Syria for eight months, President Barack Obama and the European administrations were hoping Bashar al-Assad was going to reform the regime from within, and it appeared that the people were more courageous. They didn’t want him to stay. So they were trying to find opposition and people with whom they can deal, because they had two problems. The driving force of the opposition in Syria was also the Muslim Brotherhood and leftists who were not very much supportive of the Americans. So they were trying to find who are the people with whom we can deal. And it took eight months. Now they want to change the government, but it’s as if they are facing Russia and China, and both are in agreement not to agree on what to do.

And, in fact, the unsettled situation in Syria could be, in fact, interesting for both sides. And unsettled Middle East, in these times where the people are trying to find their way towards democracy, could be interesting for many reasons—for weapons to be sold, for new geostrategic interests to be protected, and something that we are not talking about, which is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The people who are lost in the whole discussion here are the Palestinians. We have demonstrations in Palestine in West Bank. Nobody is covering this. It’s as if they don’t exist anymore. And this is, in fact, central. And Israel is silent. The only thing that we heard once is Mubarak should stay because, if he’s not going to come, we would have Islamists, and then we have the Muslim Brotherhood, and this is what—and then nothing. It’s as if Israel is not playing in the whole run. And I think that this is wrong.

Add to this a second question, which will be very important for the United States, but also for the European countries, is the new actors. What I’m saying here is theBRIC countries—Brazil, India, China, Turkey, South Africa, Indonesia even, and Russia—are now new actors. Over the last eight years, China multiplied by seven its economic presence and penetration in the Middle East. And if this happens on economic terms and there is a shift towards the East, the relationship between these countries and Israel is completely different from the United States. And it means that the challenges are going to be different, because China is not supporting Israel the way the U.S. are supporting Israel. So we need to have all these factors in mind. I’m trying to analyze this in the book by saying, be cautious, but there is still optimism, because the people now are facing challenges. A what I would like, knowing that in the Muslim-majority countries you can’t do without Islam, we can’t do without their culture, in which way they are going to come back to this Islamic reference to find a way to deal with the true challenges and not the superficial political questions.

AMY GOODMAN: We want to thank you very much for being with us, Tariq Ramadan, heading back now to Britain. His latest book is called Islam and the Arab Awakening. Tariq Ramadan is a professor of Islamic studies at Oxford University and visiting professor at the Faculty of Islamic Studies in Qatar. He is the author of a number of influential books. Time magazine has named Tariq Ramadan one of the most important innovators of the 21st century. This isDemocracy Now! When we come back, the Poverty Tour 2.0. We’ll speak with Tavis Smiley and Cornel West as they travel the country confronting poverty. Stay with us.

Gaddafi foretold end of Arab dictators (English subtitles)

this is the arab league meeting in damascus 2008

Hypocrisy knows no limits

Mazin Qumsiyeh

Obama celebrated the killing of Gaddafi. He did not talk about Gaddafi’s cozy relationship with the US and the west for the past 8 years including torturing people for the CIA**. On several occasions, the US administration said that revenge should not be practiced yet no western leader said a word about lynching happening daily in Libya.

A Libyan rebel leader told Al-Jazeera that Gaddafi came out and greeted them but was shot anyway. I spent two months in Libya (studying its fauna) and know how bad the regime was and I am certainly happy that his rule ended. Congratulations to the Libyan people. But we must be cautious.

The US government considers this its first victory in getting a government moved from an erratic despotic western stooge to a government that will be (at least they hope) more reliably dominated and subjugated.

My inside information tells me that they hope Syria would be next so that it will be two for two: Egypt and Tunisia changing from pro-US/Israel to perhaps a democracy (which would mean against US and Israeli interests) vs. Libya and Syria changing from unpredictable western allies to more predictable western puppets (not democracies).

Let us not forget that Bashar Assad (and before him his father) and Gaddafi were not bastions of support for Arab causes. After all, both had close CIA ties and were more than happy to receive and torture prisoners captured by US forces (a process known as rendering which was never stopped under the Obama administration).

The Syrian regime was also an ally with the US in the destruction of Iraq (including the genocide of over 1 million civilians).

By US/Israeli calculations, if the Yemeni or Bahraini dictator is toppled first then the score will be 3:1 and they want Syria’s dictator first.

In their chess game, they are also trying to turn the loss of Tunisia and Egypt into a gain. The US and Israeli governments are meddling in Egypt and Tunisia to stop them from having governments that reflect the will of the people (including the people’s will to boycott Israel and stop helping the US/Israeli designs).

I think they underestimate the Arab people. In Libya, they believe that Abdul Jalil will stay in his self appointed seat and then open the country (like Iraq) for Western oil exploits, for the US military base (closed in 1969), and establish friendly diplomatic ties with Israel (which already met with the so called national transitional council or NTC).

The NTC is talking about elections “maybe in two years” (in other words after they consolidate power and money and can manipulate the system). US lawmakers in congress (prostituting themselves for their AIPAC masters) are talking about Libya and Iraq paying (financially) for their “liberation” and that they expect these countries to have friendly relation with Israel! But there are already voices within Libya and Iraq who say “enough” BS. I think the Arab spring and Arab people will surprise the (Zionist) US foreign policy makers. Democracy is coming. Stay tuned.

PS: A note to my Kurdish friends and people with contacts in Kurdish areas of Iraq and Turkey: you do have a right to freedom and self determination but please do not (continue to) accept the recently offered support of the regimes in Damascus and Tel Aviv (both regimes have no future in the new democratic Middle East).

** For examples on Gaddafi’s CIA ties see

(Recall Saddam Hussain’s similar CIA ties)

A Living Movement: Toward a World of Peace, Solidarity, and Justice: Joint Conference of the Peace & Justice Studies Association (PJSA) and the Gandhi King Conference. Hosted by the Christian Brothers University, Memphis, TN, October 21-23, 2011

Secret CIA/FBI files of NUMEC nuclear diversions to Israel could aid $170 million toxic cleanup


Libya: Mazin Qumsiyeh – “Western powers have interests in Libya,”


Libya without Qaddafi: Decoding an Uncertain Future

Richard Falk

There is so much spin surrounding the Transitional National Council victory in Libya that it is difficult to interpret the outcome, and perhaps premature to do so at this point considering that the fighting continues and the African Union has withheld diplomatic recognition on principled grounds. Almost everything about the future of Libya has been left unresolved, beyond the victory of the rebel forces as massively assisted by NATO air strikes as well as a variety of forms of covert assistance given to the anti-regime Libyans on the battlefield. Of course, in the foreground is the overthrow of a hated and abusive dictator who seemed more the outgrowth of the surrealist imagination than a normal political leader who managed to rule his country for more than 42 years, and raised the material standards of the Libyan people beyond that of other societies in the region.

It does seem that the great majority of the Libyan people shared with others in the region a thirst for political freedom. The initial uprising seems definitely inspired by the Arab Spring. But unlike the other populist challenges to authoritarian Arab states, in Libya the anti-regime forces abandoned nonviolent tactics at early stage and became an armed uprising. This raised some doubts and widespread fears about the onset of a civil war in the country, but it also brought forth a variety of explanations about the murderous behavior of the regime that left its opponents no alternative.

Now with Qaddafi gone as leader, if not yet captured or killed, a new central concern emerges. What will the morning after bring to Libya? At the moment it is a matter of wildly divergent speculation as the unknowns are so predominant. There are a few observations that clarify the main alternatives. More favorably than in Egypt or Tunisia, this populist uprising possesses a revolutionary potential. It has seems poised to dismantle the old order altogether and start the work of building new structures of governance from the ground up. The fact that the TNC resisted many calls for reaching an accommodation or compromise with the Qaddafi regime gives the new leadership what appears to be a clean slate with which to enact a reform agenda that will be shaped to benefit the people of the country rather than foreign patrons. This opportunity contrasts with the messy morning after in Egypt and Tunisia where the remnants of the old order remain in place. In Cairo numerous demonstrators were sent to jail, and reportedly tortured, after new demonstrations were held in Tahrir Square led by those fearful that their political aspirations were being destroyed by the same old bureaucracy that had provided Mubarak with his oppressive structures of authority that made the country safe for neoliberal exploitation and unsafe for constitutional democracy. Let’s hope that the TNC can sustain Libyan unity and commit itself to the building of a democratic constitutional order and an equitable economy step by step. It will not be easy as Libya has no constitutional experience with citizen participation, an independent judiciary, or the rule of law. Beyond this, political parties, non-state controlled media, and civil society were absent from Libya during the Qaddafi era.

And then there is the big possible problem of NATO’s undefined post-Qaddafi role. The air war inflicted widespread damage throughout the country, and already NATO entrepreneurial interests are staking their claims, and TNC spokespersons have indicated that those who lent their cause support will be rewarded in appreciation. Fortunately, NATO does not purport to be an occupying force, but the United States and the principal European countries that took part in the war are pulling strings to release billions of dollars of assets of the Libyan state that were frozen in compliance with Security Council Resolution 1973 and various national directives, and may well be playing a major advising role behind the scenes. Will this dynamic of enabling the new leadership to achieve a finance recovery and reconstruction in Libya come as part of a package containing undisclosed political conditions and economic expectations? There are signs that oil companies and their government sponsors are scrambling to get an inside track in the current fluid situation. It does not require paranoia about imperialist geopolitics to take note of the fact that the two major military interventions in the Arab world within the last decade were both situated in significant oil producing countries whose leadership rejected integration into a world order in which global energy policy was under the firm control of the market interests of international capital. And, oh yes, the other likely target of major Western military action is Iran, and it too ‘happens’ to be a major oil producer. Let us recall that the UN failed to respond in oil-free Rwanda in 1994 when a small expansion of a peacekeeping presence already in the country might have saved hundred of thousands from an unfolding genocidal onslaught. In the realm of world politics, it may be worth observing, coincidences rarely happen.

There are also significant unresolved issues associated with the precedent set by the UN in authorizing a limited protective intervention that when acted upon ignored the guidelines set forth by the drafters of the Security Council resolution. The actual scope and ill-disguised purpose of the intervention shortly after it became an operational reality in Libya was to tip the balance in a civil war and achieve regime change. Such goals were never acknowledged by the pro-intervening governments in the course of the extensive and sharp Security Council debate, and had they been, it is almost certain that two permanent members, China and Russia, given their reluctance to approve of any use of force in the Libyan situation, would have blocked UN action by casting a veto. The UN is confronted by a dilemma. Either it refuses to succumb to geopolitical pressures as was the case when it withheld approval from the United States plan to attack Iraq in 2003, and steps aside while a so-called ‘coalition of the willing’ is hastily formed to carry out an attack, or they grant some kind of limited authority that is cynically overridden by the far more expansive goals of the intervening governments as has been the case in Libya. Either way respect for the authority of the UN is eroded, and the historical agency of geopolitics is confirmed.

In the Libyan case, the evaluation of the UN role is likely to depend on what happens in the country during the weeks and months ahead. If a humane and orderly transition takes place in the country, and national resources are used to benefit the people of Libya and not foreign economic interests, the intervention will be effectively marketed as a victory for humane governance and a demonstration that the international community can engage in humanitarian intervention in an effective and principled manner. If the country descends into chaos as the Libyan victors fight among themselves for the political and economic spoils or take revenge on those associated with the Qaddafi regime, the intervention will be retrospectively discredited. This will happen also if the country becomes one more neoliberal fiefdom in which the majority of the population struggles to subsist while tiny elites sitting in Tripoli and Benghazi collaborate with foreign financial and corporate interests while skimming billions off the top for themselves.

This assessment of the intervention as a precedent is based on considering only its consequences. As such, it does not take into account the importance of maintaining as a matter of principle, the integrity of UN authorizations of military force both in relation to the UN Charter and with respect to confining the military undertaking to the strict limits of what was authorized. I will consider in a companion essay this issue of sustaining constitutionalism and the rule of law when the Security Council authorizes military action.


Richard Falk

Richard Falk is an international law and international relations scholar who taught at Princeton University for forty years. Since 2002 he has lived in Santa Barbara, California, and taught at the local campus of the University of California in Global and International Studies and since 2005 chaired the Board of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. He initiated this blog partly in celebration of his 80th birthday.

History Repeats Itself, With Mistakes of Iraq Rehearsed Afresh

With Gaddafi at large, a guerrilla war eroding the new powers is inevitable

By Robert Fisk

August 25, 2011 “The Independent” – –Doomed always to fight the last war, we are recommitting the same old sin in Libya.

Muammar Gaddafi vanishes after promising to fight to the death. Isn’t that just what Saddam Hussein did? And of course, when Saddam disappeared and US troops suffered the very first losses from the Iraqi insurgency in 2003, we were told – by the US proconsul Paul Bremer, the generals, diplomats and the decaying television “experts” – that the gunmen of the resistance were “die-hards”, “dead-enders” who didn’t realise that the war was over. And if Gaddafi and his egg-headed son remain at large – and if the violence does not end – how soon will we be introduced once more to the “dead-enders” who simply will not understand that the lads from Benghazi are in charge and that the war is over? Indeed, within 15 minutes – literally – of my writing the above words (2pm yesterday), a Sky News reporter had re-invented “die-hards” as a definition for Gaddafi’s men. See what I mean?

Needless to say, all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds as far as the West is concerned. No one is disbanding the Libyan army and no one is officially debarring the Gaddafi-ites from a future role in their country. No one is going to make the same mistakes we made in Iraq. And no boots are on the ground. No walled-off, sealed-in Green Zone Western zombies are trying to run the future Libya. “It’s up to the Libyans,” has become the joyful refrain of every State Department/ Foreign Office/Quai d’Orsay factotum. Nothing to do with us!

But, of course, the massive presence of Western diplomats, oil-mogul representatives, highly paid Western mercenaries and shady British and French servicemen – all pretending to be “advisers” rather than participants – is the Benghazi Green Zone. There may (yet) be no walls around them but they are, in effect, governing Libya through the various Libyan heroes and scallywags who have set themselves up as local political masters. We can overlook the latters’ murder of their own commanding officer – for some reason, no one mentions the name of Abdul Fatah Younes any more, though he was liquidated in Benghazi only a month ago – but they can only survive by clinging to our Western umbilicals.

Of course, this war is not the same as our perverted invasion of Iraq. Saddam’s capture only provoked the resistance to infinitely more attacks on Western troops – because those who had declined to take part in the insurgency for fear that the Americans would put Saddam back in charge of Iraq now had no such inhibitions. But Gaddafi’s arrest along with Saif’s would undoubtedly hasten the end of pro-Gaddafi resistance to the rebels. The West’s real fear – right now, and this could change overnight – should be the possibility that the author of the Green Book has made it safely through to his old stomping ground in Sirte, where tribal loyalty might prove stronger than fear of a Nato-backed Libyan force.

Sirte, where Gaddafi, at the very start of his dictatorship, turned the region’s oil fields into the first big up-for-grabs international dividend for foreign investors after his 1969 revolution, is no Tikrit. It is the site of his first big African Union conference, scarcely 16 miles from the place of his own birth, a city and region that benefited hugely from his 41-year rule. Strabo, the Greek geographer, described how the dots of desert settlements due south of Sirte made Libya into a leopard skin. Gaddafi must have liked the metaphor. Almost 2,000 years later, Sirte was pretty much the hinge between the two Italian colonies of Tripolitania and Cyrenaica.

And in Sirte the “rebels” were defeated by the “loyalists” in this year’s six-month war; we shall soon, no doubt, have to swap these preposterous labels – when those who support the pro-Western Transitional National Council will have to be called loyalists, and pro-Gaddafi rebels turn into the “terrorists” who may attack our new Western-friendly Libyan administration. Either way, Sirte, whose inhabitants are now supposedly negotiating with Gaddafi’s enemies, may soon be among the most interesting cities in Libya.

So what is Gaddafi thinking now? Desperate, we believe him to be. But really? We have chosen many adjectives for him in the past: irascible, demented, deranged, magnetic, tireless, obdurate, bizarre, statesmanlike (Jack Straw’s description), cryptic, exotic, bizarre, mad, idiosyncratic and – most recently – tyrannical, murderous and savage. But in his skewed, shrewd view of the Libyan world, Gaddafi would do better to survive and live – to continue a civil-tribal conflict and thus consume the West’s new Libyan friends in the swamp of guerrilla warfare – and slowly sap the credibility of the new “transitional” power.

But the unpredictable nature of the Libyan war means that words rarely outlive their writing. Maybe Gaddafi hides in a basement tunnel beneath the Rixos Hotel – or lounges in one of Robert Mugabe’s villas. I doubt it. Just so long as no one tries to fight the war before this one.


Victory in Tripoli


“Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.”

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After six months of struggle, the Libyan revolution has arrived (again) in Tripoli. There may still be a trick or two up the megalomaniac’s sleeve, but the news coming in at the moment suggests a precipitous collapse. Saif-ul-Islam al-Qaddafi has been arrested. The tyrant’s daughter Aisha’s house is under the revolutionaries’ control, as is the military base of the formerly feared Khamis Brigade. The brigade in charge of protecting Qaddafi himself has surrendered. (The foreign supporters of Qaddafi and his supposedly ‘loyal’ subjects must be feeling rather silly now). Inhabitants of Tripoli’s neighbourhoods are pouring into their streets to greet the revolutionary forces.

Much of the credit for this victory must go to the revolutionaries of Misrata and the Jebel Nafusa. While the Transitional Council in Benghazi was busy fighting itself, the people of Misrata fought their way out of Qaddafi’s siege and then liberated Zlitan. The fighters of the Jebel Nafusa broke the siege around their mountains and then liberated Zawiya – which has suffered so much – and moved towards the capital. Last night revolutionaries in Tripoli, who have been launching small-scale operations nightly for months, rose in Fashloom, Souq al-Juma’a and other areas. Today they were met by their comrades arriving from the west and east.

Of course, the controversial NATO-led intervention has also played a major role. Western policy has been clever on Libya, winning friends by helping the people when they asked for help. Credit must be given where credit is due, and the West will understandably have deep credit reserves in the new Libya.

This will be worrying for anyone who wishes to see the Arabs shake off imperialist influence, and the Transitional Council does not inspire confidence either. It’s largely made up of ex-Qaddafi officials and it’s been too willing to have NATO go beyond its mandate to protect civilians. Some form of neo-liberal pro-West semi-democracy seems likely in Libya, at first at least; in fact that may be the best case scenario. There is an immediate danger that the revolutionary forces will now split into competing militias and that chaos will follow.

A semi-democracy would still be a great improvement on Qaddafi’s capricious and sadistic dictatorship. I very much hope the revolution continues and deepens and that the Libyans won’t settle for ex-Qaddafi officials – but that’s up to them. At least we’re in a position tonight where we can hope for that. If there had been no intervention, we wouldn’t be in this position. An Arab intervention would have been incomparably better, but the Arabs aren’t there yet.

So many martyrs have fallen, including, a couple of days ago, the cousin of our brave reporter Nafissa Assed. But tonight, as we enter the last ten days of Ramadan, there is cause for celebration. We congratulate the Libyan people on their victory, and thank them for giving a boost to revolutionaries around the Arab world. We remember the tens of thousands of martyrs murdered by the dictatorship since 1969. Takbeeeeeer!

Cynthia McKinney in Libya

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