U.S. Launches Missile Strikes On Libya

The U.S. military attacked Moammar Gadhafi’s air defenses Saturday with strikes along the Libyan coast that were launched by Navy vessels in the Mediterranean.

A senior military official said the assault would unfold in stages and target air defense installations around Tripoli, the capital, and a coastal area south of Benghazi, the rebel stronghold under attack by Gadhafi’s forces.

Complete details were not immediately available.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss sensitive military operations.

Hours after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton attended an international conference in Paris that endorsed military action against Gadhafi, the U.S. kicked off its attacks on Libyan air defense missile and radar sites along the Mediterranean coast to protect no-fly zone pilots from the threat of getting shot down.

A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity in order to discuss sensitive military operations, said the Obama administration intended to limit its involvement — at least in the initial stages — to helping protect French and other air missions.

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.”

President Barack Obama announced on Friday that he had given the go-ahead for U.S. forces to participate in operations designed to enforce the provisions of a U.N. Security Council resolution demanding that Gadhafi cease firing on civilians. At the outset of a visit to Brazil on Saturday, he spoke briefly about Libya, noting the Paris talks.

“Our consensus was strong and our resolve is clear,” Obama said. “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.”

Among the U.S. Navy ships in the Mediterranean were two guided-missile destroyers, the USS Barry and USS Stout, as well as two amphibious warships, the USS Kearsarge and USS Ponce, and a command-and-control ship, the USS Mount Whitney. The submarine USS Providence was also in the Mediterranean.

Earlier Saturday, the rebel-held stronghold of Benghazi came under heavy bombardment by loyalist forces, despite Gadhafi’s claim that he was honoring a cease-fire. In response, French warplanes began attacking selected targets in Libya
French President Nicolas Sarkozy said the allied nations would use “all means necessary, particularly military” to enforce the U.N. mandate.

The French leader said the military action was being taken “to protect the civilian population” from the “deadly madness of a regime which, by killing its own people, has lost any legitimacy.”

He said that Gadhafi “still could avoid the worst” by complying with the requirements of the international community.

“The door of diplomacy will open when the fighting stops,” he said.

“The future of Libya belongs to the Libyans,” Sarkozy said, adding that the intervention was taking place because of “a universal conscience that cannot tolerate such crimes.”

Canadian, Italian, Danish and Norwegian planes were also participating in the operation, working out of military bases around the Mediterranean region. However, it was still unclear what role Arab nations would play.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement Saturday that it given the situation on the ground in Libya, “it is imperative that we continue to act with speed and decision.”

In an open letter read out hours before the announcement, Gadhafi had a warning: “You will regret it if you dare to intervene in our country.”

Fighting In Benghazi

Earlier Saturday, a plane was shot down over the outskirts of Benghazi, sending up a massive black cloud of smoke.

But it was not immediately clear whether the warplane belonged to loyalist or rebel forces.

“If it did indeed belong to the Libyan government … it would be another sign that [Gadhafi] is in open defiance of the world right now,” NPR’s David Greene said, reporting from Tripoli.

But rebels told NPR the plane was theirs and that it had been shot down by loyalist forces as it tried to defend the city. Opposition forces are known to have obtained at least some aircraft from pilots who defected from the Libyan air force in the opening days of the conflict.

Witnesses said Benghazi was hit by artillery and mortar fire and an explosion was reported near the rebel headquarters. The Red Cross and other aid groups said there was a sharp increase in the number of civilians trying to leave the city.
Rebel leaders fighting to push Gadhafi from power also said cities such as Misrata and Ajdabiya were still being shelled. A Pentagon official told NPR that the U.S. saw surveillance suggesting Libya’s military was still active, firing on areas around the eastern city.

Libya Denies Attacks

Government spokesman Ibrahim Musa denied that a government plane had gone down. He also denied government forces shelled any Libyan towns on Saturday, saying the rebels were 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.

Musa also said the planned U.N. Security Council embargo of Libya’s military airspace was “invalid” because, he said, “the Security Council is not authorized according to the U.N. Charter to intervene in the internal affairs of any country.”

“This is injustice, it’s a clear aggression and there’s an uncalculated risk for its consequences on the Mediterranean and for Europe,” Musa said.

A Quick End To Weeks Of Debate

In a joint statement to Gadhafi late Friday, the U.S., Britain and France — backed by unspecified Arab countries — said a cease-fire must begin “immediately” in Libya, the French presidential palace said.

The statement urged 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, and said Libyans must be able to receive humanitarian aid or the “international community will make him suffer the consequences” with military action.

The statement followed a U.N. Security Council resolution offering protection to Libya’s citizens late Thursday with the backing of the United States, France and Britain — hours after Gadhafi vowed to launch a final assault and crush the nearly five-week-old rebellion against him.

Western powers faced pressure to act urgently after weeks spent deliberating over what to do about Gadhafi as his regime gained momentum.

“Things really came together quickly at the end,” said NPR’s Greene said. “There was a sense for days that this might never happen, the debate might continue.

“All sides said the support from the Arab League and potentially the willingness of Arab countries to take part in this lent that final needed support to push this through,” he said.

Rebel Forces Falling Back

The shift toward international action reflected dramatic change on the ground in Libya in the past week. The rebels, once confident, found themselves in danger of being crushed by an overpowering pro-Gadhafi force using rockets, artillery, tanks and warplanes. That force has advanced along the Mediterranean coast aiming to recapture the rebel-held eastern half of Libya.

The rebellion began Feb. 15 in Benghazi and spread east to Tripoli. Like other uprisings in North Africa and the Mideast, Libya’s protest started with popular demonstrations against its leader, rejecting Gadhafi’s four decades of despotic and often brutal rule. The tone quickly changed after the regime’s security in Tripoli forcefully put down the gatherings there.

Opposition forces began arming themselves and quickly seized control of the country’s east, basing themselves in Benghazi, which is Libya’s second-largest city and has a population of about 700,000. Some Libyan army units joined the rebels, providing them with needed firepower, but much less than Gadhafi’s remaining forces and, crucially, no air power.

There are no official 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.

With reporting from NPR’s Eric Westervelt in Tobruk, David Greene in Tripoli, Eleanor Beardsley in Paris and Phillip Reeve in London and Alan Greenblatt. Material from The Associated Press was used in this story.

(www.npr.org / 19.03.2011)

Egypte houdt referendum over grondwet

Veel Egyptenaren hebben vandaag hun stem uitgebracht in het referendum over de wijziging van de grondwet. Het referendum is een eerste resultaat na het vertrek van president Mubarak.
Voor de meeste Egyptenaren is het voor het eerst in hun leven dat ze in vrijheid hun stem kunnen uitbrengen.
Mohamed El Baradei, één van de oppositieleiders, werd in Caïro belaagd door een menigte toen hij wilde stemmen. Jongeren gooiden stenen naar zijn auto en schreeuwden: ,,Wij willen jou niet.” Volgens El Baradei gaan de wijzigingsvoorstellen niet ver genoeg. El Baradei heeft gezegd zich kandidaat te willen stellen voor het presidentschap.
Na de val van president Mubarak vorige maand is aanpassing van de grondwet nodig om de weg vrij te maken voor nieuwe verkiezingen aan het einde van de zomer.
Als het voorstel wordt aangenomen, mogen meer mensen dan voorheen zich kandidaat stellen en wordt de zittingsduur van de president beperkt. Het nieuwe parlement moet dan een nieuwe grondwet schrijven.
Leden van de oppositie zijn sceptisch en zeggen dat de voorgestelde wijzigingen cosmetische aanpassingen zijn. Vooral de gevestigde partijen zouden ervan profiteren. Daarmee doelen ze op de NDP, de partij van de verdreven president Mubarak, en de Moslimbroederschap.
Veel oppositieaanhangers willen liever meteen een compleet nieuwe grondwet.
Egypte wordt op dit moment geregeerd door een militaire raad. De militaire leiders hebben beloofd dat ze opstappen als de bevolking een nieuw parlement en een nieuwe president heeft gekozen.

(www.nos.nl / 19.03.2011)

Arab regimes need change: Analysts

Feb 13, 2011

Within less than a month, popular uprisings toppled the long-time presidents of Egypt and Tunisia, and revolts could spread to other Arab countries if they do not implement reforms quickly, analysts say.

Egyptian soldiers stand behind veiled women opposition supporters at Tahrir Square in Cairo February 13, 2011. Egypt's new military rulers, who have promised to hand power to civilians, faced impatient protesters on Sunday who want swift steps to prove their nation is set for democracy after Hosni Mubarak's overthrow.

Egyptian soldiers stand behind veiled women opposition supporters at Tahrir Square in Cairo February 13, 2011. Egypt’s new military rulers, who have promised to hand power to civilians, faced impatient protesters on Sunday who want swift steps to prove their nation is set for democracy after Hosni Mubarak’s overthrow.
“The Arab leaders are in a race against time: either they quickly adopt liberal changes, or they suffer the same fate as (the leaders) of Tunisia and Egypt,” said Anwar Eshki, the director of the Middle East Institute for Strategic Studies in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

Egypt’s president Hosni Mubarak, who resigned on Friday after being in power since 1981, and Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who departed after ruling for 23 years on January 14, both bowed to unprecedented waves of popular protests.

Angered by injustice, unemployment and corruption, “the Arab citizen is not the same as he was two months ago” and “has proven he can bring down an Arab head of state after two or three weeks of demonstrations,” said Paul Salem, the director of the Carnegie Middle East Centre.

Various Arab leaders, some of whom, such as Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi, have been in power for over 40 years while many of those who have ruled with an iron fist have suddenly announced social security measures and political reforms.

The popular uprisings in those two countries “will have repercussions throughout the region” and the United States, which encouraged change in Tunisia and Egypt, will try to do the same in other Arab countries, said Saleh al-Qallab, a former Jordanian information minister.

“Who is next? No one can predict,” he said, adding that this excludes Saudi Arabia, a rich oil state governed by the ultra-conservative Wahhabism doctrine, where “the process of reforms initiated by King Abdullah is moving slowly due to the weight of tradition and religion.”

Eshki echoed that assessment, saying that “the United States will seek to avoid sudden change in the Gulf monarchies that could disrupt oil supplies to the world economy,” but Washington “will advise them to engage in reforms and accelerate their implementation.”

But he added that “the winds of change will blow on these (Gulf) countries. And if the leaders do not take the initiative, their people will.”

The uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, which were initiated and led by young people using the social networking site Facebook and micro-blogging site Twitter, have showed the limits of Islamist activism, which Arab regimes have used as a scarecrow to ward off calls for reform, Salem said.

“Without adhering to an ideology,” the uprisings have succeeded where Islamist movements have failed for decades, during which “they were presented or presented themselves as the only alternative to repressive Arab regimes,” he said.

Salem added however that Mubarak’s fall, in the eyes of Riyadh, “exacerbates the imbalance of power in the favour of Iran,” which wants “an Islamic Middle East,” and sees the departure of the Egyptian president as “the failure of the United States and Zionism in the region.”

“The alliance of the Arab countries and the United States will weaken in favour of a degree of autonomy on the Turkish model, but these countries have no choice but to remain in the American fold,” Salem said.

(www.timeslive.co.za / 19.03.2011)

French military jets over Libya

French military jets are preventing forces loyal to Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi from attacking the rebel-held city of Benghazi, French President Nicolas Sarkozy says.

It is believed to be the first act of intervention since the UN voted on Thursday for a no-fly zone over Libya.

Western and Arab leaders have been meeting in Paris to agree a course of action to confront Col Gaddafi.

“Our air force will oppose any aggression,” Mr Sarkozy said.

Hours earlier, Pro-Gaddafi forces launched an assault on the Libyan rebel stronghold of Benghazi, a BBC journalist witnessed.

However, the Libyan government has denied it is attacking.

‘Stop the bombardment’

The French Rafale jets took off from their base at Saint-Dizier in eastern France, a military source told the Agence France-Presse news agency.

The planes encountered no problems during the first few hours of their mission, the source said, and the flights will continue for the next several hours.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte told journalists at the summit in Paris that he believed British, French and Canadian aircraft would launch the first airstrikes, the BBC’s Carole Walker in Paris reports.

Asked if those strikes would take place later on Saturday, Mr Rutte said that was a possibility, our correspondent says.

The new UN resolution authorised “all necessary measures” to protect Libyan civilians.

The rebels’ leader has appealed to the international community to stop the bombardment by pro-Gaddafi forces.

Reports from Benghazi suggest hundreds of cars packed with people were fleeing eastwards as fighting spread.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon says the world must “speak with one voice” on Libya.

Earlier, US President Barack Obama said forces loyal to Col Muammar Ghaddafi had to stop attacking rebel areas or face military action.

“Gaddafi must stop his troops from advancing on Benghazi, pull them back from Ajdabiya, Misrata and Zawiya and establish water, electricity and gas supplies to all areas,” he said on Friday.

(www.bbc.co.uk / 19.03.2011)

Police disperse pro-unity protest in Gaza

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — Security forces in the Gaza Strip dispersed a demonstration between Al-Azhar University and the Unknown Soldier Square in Gaza City on Saturday morning.

Police imposed an apparently impromptu ban on a number of students who were calling for unity.

About 800 youths gathered in front of Al-Azhar University, but police dispersed the protesters and beat some of them, participants said.

Young people attempted to stay inside the courtyard of the square but police cars encircled the area and prevented any gatherings, a protester in the coalition told Ma’an.

The coalition said it asked for permission to hold the protest but never heard back from police.

(maannews.net / 19.03.2011)

Muhammad Nabbous

Over the past few days I have been observing a webcam channel sponsored by the Libya17Feb folks and in particular the citizen journalism of a young married Libyan man named Muhammad Nabbous. “Mo” as he is nicknamed, has been an inspiration to many Libyans across North America, Europe, and the Middle East.

I do not know much about Muhammad Nabbous, or rather I only know him by watching his webcam broadcast over the last few days. He was an intelligent, very tech savvy young man who spoke English very well which made him very popular as he attempted to raise awareness in North America regarding the violence taking place in Libya, and specifically from Benghazi.

Muhammad’s activities were particularly interesting to me. While at home in front of his webcam, we would take phone number requests from the thousands of people monitoring his web channel and reach out to loved ones on behalf of those overseas. All phone calls to Libya continue to be blocked by the government, but telecommunications works inside Libya, so to many hundreds Muhammad would function as a lifeline to connect families and provide status updates to those concerned outside Libya.

Muhammad would also conduct other activities as a citizen journalist, for example, last night while I was monitoring his channel there were around 20-30 explosions inside Benghazi. The young man connected one cell phone to his webcam, grabbed another cell phone and his camera, and drove around to various checkpoints to investigate the explosions while live streaming audio descriptions to those watching. He would hold the camera with one hand, drive with the other, hold the cell phone in his lap and describe all activities.

During these times media would often tune in and report through Twitter what was being said and done during this young mans live investigations. Once he would return home after his investigations, he would upload the video to the same channel and people could watch these investigations that would add video to the audio for more context to explain events unfolding in Benghazi. It really has been incredible to observe this citizen journalist in action inside a war zone, in particular a city under siege like Benghazi.

This morning Muhammad Nabbous was shot and killed during one of these investigations. The channel is always being viewed by thousands of people, and it is remarkable the outcry of inspiration and mourning taking place in chat this morning after his wife confirmed the young mans death.

I can’t help but observe how important Muhammad Nabbous is as an example of the intersection between technology and war. As people become more aware and more capable utilizing these technologies, the ability of people to connect out of war zones on a personal level to a large audience poses challenges to decision makers as sympathetic movements can force the hands of political leaders and influence decision making. There were many news organizations that reported the activities of Muhammad Nabbous with as much if not more credibility as Libyan State TV (for good reason).

As I watched Muhammad Nabbous and began to observe major news organizations linking to his webcam feed, my impression was he on the verge of becoming an enormously popular individual world wide for his efforts in Libya, indeed last night he conducted several phone interviews with the western media and I suspected we would see these stories about this young man on cable news networks over the coming days.

It was not to be. God bless Muhammad Nabbous and comfort his wife. I never met the young man, but I found him both inspiring and admirable for the courage he repeatedly demonstrated to do all he could for his country and his people as they struggle to break from the grips of dictatorship.

Posted by Galrahn


Egypt seeks to end gas exports to Israel

A popular campaign by a group of Egyptian activists against gas exports to Israel has won a court case on the terms of the country’s gas deal with Tel Aviv.

The court ruled on the ministry of petroleum “not to export one single unit of gas before satisfying the local needs,” head of the Campaign against Gas Export to Israel Ibrahim Yousri told Press TV on Wednesday.

For Egyptians, the issue of supplying the Israeli regime with gas has always been a contentious one. Egyptians view Israel as an enemy and oppose engaging in any kind of business with the regime.

Egypt’s gas supply to Israel has been one of the main economic conditions of the US-sponsored 1979 peace treaty between the two sides.

Under a $2.5-billion export deal with Tel Aviv, signed in 2005, the Israeli regime gets around 40 percent of its gas supply from Egypt at a considerably low price.

However, after Egyptians faced electricity blackouts last summer due to gas shortages, most experts are demanding an extensive revision of the deal.

Muslim Brotherhood Spokesman Walid Shalaby also told Press TV, “This deal was made in the dark, away from the sight of supervisory and legislative bodies. It has to be proposed to the new parliament which will decide on who to export to and to determine the price of the exported gas.”

The development comes despite a reported Israeli plan to opt for gas instead of nuclear energy following the recent crises in Japan over radiation leaking from a crippled nuclear power plant.

On Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that Tel Aviv is going to reconsider its nuclear energy plans for the coming years and choose natural gas as the main alternative.

Egypt has resumed exporting natural gas to Israel after a one-month hiatus due to an explosion that damaged the pipeline delivering gas to Israel, Jordan and Syria.

On Wednesday, Israeli firms confirmed that supplies had resumed but that initial quantities were below normal level. The resumption of gas deliveries was delayed repeatedly due to leaks.

(www.presstv.ir / 19.03.2011)

President Tunesië zoekt toevlucht in België

BRUSSEL – De verdreven Tunesische president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali zou toevlucht willen zoeken in België. De Belgische politie en inlichtingendiensten houden rekening met zijn komst, meldde de Vlaamse krant De Morgen zaterdag.

In de Vlaams-Brabantse plaats Relegem bij Brussel woont aangetrouwde familie van Ben Ali. De politie is er naar eigen zeggen attent op zijn eventuele bezoek. Naar verluidt zou de ex-president een reünie plannen met zijn familie, die uit elkaar werd gescheurd door de volksopstand in Tunesië.

Ben Ali werd in januari verdreven en vertrok naar Saudi-Arabië. Sinds enkele weken beschikt de Belgische politie over informatie die ”niet uitsluit” dat hij naar België probeert te komen.

(www.parool.nl / 19.03.2011)

German Left Party leader votes in favour of military intervention in Libya

On Thursday, the UN Security Council approved a resolution paving the way for the US and other major imperialist powers to conduct a direct military intervention in Libya, under the pretense of a “humanitarian” mission. The resolution, which goes far beyond earlier proposals for a no-fly zone, was sponsored by the US, France, Britain and Lebanon. Germany and Russia were among those abstaining in the vote.

The European Parliament has been aggressively pushing for military intervention in Libya. On March 10, it passed a resolution by 584 in favour and 18 against, with 18 abstentions, calling for official recognition of the National Transitional Council in Benghazi and supporting a military intervention by the European Union.

Article 10 of the resolution stresses that “none of the measures provided for in the options of the UN Charter can be ruled out,” and called upon the EU External Representative Catherine Ashton, to make “arrangements for a possible decision in the UN Security Council for further action, such as the establishment of a no-fly zone “.

The resolution was supported by all factions of the European Parliament from the conservative right to the Socialists and Greens, and even won the support of leading members of the so-called Party of the European Left (EL).

The adoption of the resolution by the European Parliament was a direct preparation for more aggressive action against Libya. EU foreign ministers subsequently intensified sanctions against the Libyan regime and NATO defence ministers strengthened military surveillance of the Libyan coast.

On March 11, the heads of state and government of the 27 EU countries demanded the immediate resignation of Col. Muammar Gaddafi and stepped up the military threats. All of these measures are aimed at installing a government in Tripoli sympathetic to the interests of the international oil companies and the European powers.

The resolution was supported by leading members of the European Left Party, Lothar Bisky (Left Party, Germany), Marie-Christine Vergiat (Front de Gauche, France) and Miguel Portas (Bloco de Esquerda, Portugal). Bisky is the chairman of the Joint Group of the European Left Party and the European United Left–Nordic Green Left in the European Parliament (GUE/NGL). Up until May of last year Bisky was also joint chairman of the German Left Party alongside Oskar Lafontaine, and until December, chairman of the Party of European Left. Marie-Christine Vergiat is treasurer of the GUE / NGL and the head of French delegation.

In supporting the all-party resolution, Bisky, Vergiat and Portas opposed a previously prepared resolution put forward by their own group. This resolution explicitly opposed “any foreign military intervention to resolve the crisis in Libya”. Bisky and company then undertook a delicate balancing act by first voting against article ten of the resolution, only to vote shortly afterwards for the entire resolution, including article ten.

The newspaper Junge Welt reported that originally the three members of parliament intended to sign the resolution on behalf of the entire Group. That plan was then dropped after protests from other EL members. In addition to Bisky, Vergiat and Portas, eight other members of the GUE/NGL group voted in favour of the parliamentary resolution—including the chairman of the French Left Party, Jean-Luc Mélenchon. Another nine abstained, while just 15 of the 35-strong group voted against a military intervention in Libya.

After the vote Bisky issued a press statement, with five other EU members of the Left Party, which cynically declared: “We also oppose any military intervention. We believe that the compromise contained in the resolution of the European Parliament calling for a no-fly zone to be false, even if it takes up demands from sections of the Libyan opposition and states belonging to the Arab League and the African Union. A no-fly zone always poses the risk that it must be enforced militarily. This would involve EU member states into a military confrontation. This will certainly not strengthen democracy movements from Morocco to Yemen.”

The glaring contradiction between Bisky’s support for the all-party EU resolution and the official line of his party reveals the hollow character of the Left Party’s left rhetoric. Up to this point, representatives of the party still had the luxury of voting no when their vote made no difference anyway. But now the leadership of the Left Party has concluded that it is necessary to send a clear signal of support to the ruling elite. Bisky continues to play an important role in the party, and one can assume that he is in close contact with party leaders in Berlin concerning his work in the European Parliament.

So far, the leadership of the Left Party has been remarkably reticent in responding to Bisky’s initiative. If the party took its official stance of anti-militarism seriously it would have immediately called for Bisky’s expulsion from the party or at least his resignation from his leading posts. However, no one in the entire party has uttered a word of criticism and the party executive has refrained from any official comment. Instead party members have sought rationalisations for Bisky’s action.

Thomas Handel, one of two speakers of the German delegation in the GUE/NGL group, told the newspaper Neues Deutschland on Saturday he saw no conflict in the delegation, there was only “need for discussion”.

Handel justified Bisky’s support for the parliamentary resolution by saying that “it did not restrict itself to the issue of no-fly zones”. It also raised demands for the isolation of the Gaddafi regime. “These are key elements that you can and must support. And they are points that we now have to work out in more depth in our continued work in the European parliament.”

Handel’s justification reveals more than he intended. Both he and the Left Party faction in the EU parliament are in fundamental accord with all other parties regarding punitive measures against Libya designed to safeguard European interests in the oil-rich country and to stifle revolution throughout the Arab world.

The leadership of Libya’s National Transitional Council consists of former ministers of Gaddafi, who turned their back on him at the last minute and immediately guaranteed the country’s contracts with international oil companies. They have as little to offer the impoverished masses of Libya as Gaddafi in Tripoli.

Handel objects to the only logical conclusion of the entire political line of the EU resolution, i.e. military intervention, but Bisky has already gone a step farther.

Bisky’s vote to support military intervention in Libya is an important lesson for all those seeking to oppose militarism and social attacks in North Africa and Europe. When the interests of the ruling class are seriously threatened, it can rely on Bisky and the Left Party. These pseudo-left forces will play the same role in the near future in Europe as social resistance develops.

(www.wsws.org / 19.03.2011)


Government Turns to Force Against Protests in Bahrain and Yemen

Government Turns to Force Against Protests in Bahrain and Yemen [VIDEO]

The governments of Bahrain and Yemen cracked down even further on pro-democracy protesters on Thursday. In Bahrain, the pearl monument at the center of Pearl Square that had come to serve as a symbol of the protestswas torn down by bulldozers. And in Yemen, the police fired live ammunition into protesters just after daily prayers at the mosque, killing 45, says the Guardian.

The official line about the destruction of the Pearl Square monument was, according to Bahrain’s foreign minister, Sheik Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa, to give the square a ‘facelift.’ According to the New York Times, Said al-Khalifa:

“We did it to remove a bad memory….The whole thing caused our society to be polarized. We don’t want a monument to a bad memory.”

But the monument’s demolition can be seen as capping a string of actions taken by the government to put down the protests. On Tuesday, the government declared a state of martial law. Rallies have been outlawed, tanks surround the central hospital and troops from Saudi Arabia are stationed in Bahrain, also at the government’s request.

Authorities had also prevented the body of 30-year-old Ahmed Farhan to be returned to his family. Farhan was shot by security forces on Tuesday in Sitra, an activist Shiite village south of the capital, but permission for his body to be returned to his family had been met with denials for most of the week. Farhan’s body had shotgun pellet wounds on his back and a gaping hole in his skull. Some 5000 people attended his funeral:

Basel Hamad, a 35-year-old information technology manager, lives in Sitra as did his parents and grandparents, and he took part in the funeral march on Friday. He has three daughters and is wondering whether to move to Europe given what has happened in recent days.

“When this started, I thought the king would accept the changes,” he said. “Now the people are very angry.”

Ali Hbel, a taxi driver injured in the police action at Pearl Square on Wednesday, was also at the funeral. He showed his splintered arm and pointed at the coffin of Mr. Farhan and said, “This is not going to go for free.”

The crackdown of protesters has turned even more violent in Yemen. On Friday, government supporters turned live ammunition on a peaceful crowd of some 100,000 demonstrators in Sana’a on Friday, with at least 45 killed and some 200 wounded. This video shows protesters in the street walking towards a burning car until the sound of a sniper’s gun is heard from a second-story window:

The Guardian describes the scene:

As the prayers came to an end, however, the sight of billowing black smoke from a burning car caught the attention of protesters who began surging en masse towards it. Witnesses say security forces fired six shots into the air before turning their weapons on those charging towards them. As violence flared, plainclothes men appeared on the roofs of nearby houses and began firing down on the demonstrators with Kalashnikovs.

Sana’a University, the scene of the bloodshed, is next door to the mosque where many of the dead and dying were taken, the deafening sound of the muezzin’s call to prayer intermixed with the noise of gunfire echoing off the walls. Medics scrambled to reach the wounded as the wheels of decrepit ambulances, trying to escort them to a proper hospital, spun hopelessly in the mud.

Inside the mosque a throng of veiled women wailed with grief and tried to force their way past a line of students who had linked arms to ensure only medics and those in need of their help made it over the threshold. Meanwhile injured men, most in their early 20s, writhed in agony on shabby mattresses on the ground.

The New York Times says that ‘the violence on Friday dwarfed that seen in earlier clashes’ and suggests that the Yemeni government has ‘taken up the same playbook that Libya and Bahrain followed this week, using overwhelming force against protesters.’

At a protest in the south Syrian city of Deraa, two people were killed by security forces, the BBC reports. President Bashar al-Assad ‘tolerates no dissent’; his ruling Baath party has been the dominant force in the country’s politics for nearly 50 years. Some 7000 protesters had gathered to chant ‘””God, Syria, Freedom” and anti-corruption slogans, and to accuse the president’s family of corruption.

The hoped-for Arab spring has only spread in some places, like Egypt, and something colder, and much more violent and authoritarian, is still in place.

(www.care2.com / 19.03.2011)