Posts Tagged ‘Libya’
Forces loyal to Ivory Coast presidential claimant Alassane Ouattara launched a heavy attack on Wednesday on the bunker where Laurent Gbagbo was defying efforts to force him to cede power, residents said.
“The fighting is terrible here, the explosions are so heavy my building is shaking,” Alfred Kouassi, who lives near Gbagbo’s residence in the commercial capital Abidjan, told Reuters.
“We can hear automatic gunfire and also the thud of heavy weapons. There’s shooting all over the place. Cars are speeding in all directions and so are the fighters,” he said.
[. . .]
A spokeswoman for Ouattara’s forces said Ouattara’s fighters were storming Gbagbo’s residence, where Gbagbo has been holed up since Ouattara’s forces swept into Abidjan backed by helicopter strikes by the United Nations and France.
“They are in the process of entering the residence to seize Gbagbo,” Affousy Bamba told Reuters. “They have not taken him yet, but they are in the process.”
Residents however said militias close to Gbagbo and his presidential guard were putting up a stiff resistance, even as most soldiers from the regular army had heeded a call to lay down their arms.
What led to this? Gbagbo’s obstinance.
Negotiations led by the United Nations and France aimed at securing the departure of Ivory Coast’s Laurent Gbagbo have failed, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said on Wednesday.
“The negotiations which were carried out for hours yesterday between the entourage of Laurent Gbagbo and Ivorian authorities have failed because of Gbagbo’s intransigence,” Juppe told parliament.
Considering that yesterday Ouattara allies were comparing Gbagbo to one of the Nazis, This probably means he’s probably going to be put on trial in Cote D’Ivoire. But it also is another reason for his supporters to resist the legitimacy of Ouattara.
10:05 EDT: The EU are adding new sanctions to Gbagbo’s government. Seems a little late, but whatever.
10:10 EDT: Both FM Juppe and a military spokesman in Abidjan say that the French are not involved in the assault on the Presidential Palace. Two UN helicopters are flying low overhead the area where the palace is, though.
—This is another reminder that Ouattara likely cannot solve the multitude of problems left in Gbagbo’s wake:
There are now real fears the violence in Ivory Coast could set off a fresh round of regional carnage. Mercenaries and militia who backed the regime of Laurent Gbabgo, the deposed president, have been fleeing across the largely unguarded border with Liberia -raising the prospect they will soon begin building bases there from which a fresh campaign can be mounted.
Former Liberian soldiers, thousands of whom were demobilized after the civil war ended there, are said to have received cash offers to bolster Gbabgo’s militias in southern Ivory Coast. Burkina Faso, where ethnic groups are closely linked to those in northern Ivory Coast, could also find itself sucked into the fighting.
And there’s more bad news.
For one, Ouattara’s triumphant forces haven’t been able to stamp out inter-ethnic clashes. Killings have been reported in the towns of Bangolo, Man and Danane by Medicines Sans Frontieres, the French NGO.
Human rights groups have already documented atrocities by both sides. In March, Gbabgo’s forces butchered at least 37 immigrant workers then Ouattara’s forces murdered nine unarmed supporters of Gbabgo. Last week, Ouattara called on his supporters to refrain from committing atrocities, but it is unclear if the president-elect, a U.S.-educated economist and banker with no real military authority, has the influence to stop the loosely organized forces backing him from settling local feuds.
These are serious, systemic problems that will take monumental resolve to even begin to solve.
10:20 EDT: Al Jazeera has a fantastic interview with journalist Ayo Johnson, who looks at this problem and also broader problems in Africa.
But why does this keep happening in Africa? All the stereotypes and generalisations aside, similar events have occurred in Kenya, Zimbabwe, Cote d’Ivoire and Gabon within a few years of each other.
It is embarrassing and sad – but the reality is that African politics and democracy is at a crossroad. For some countries who I would like to describe as fragile states, fragile because a few have come through war, others have had coups, others have had repeated cycles of poor leadership and bad governance. And the conditions that lead to their fragility is ever so apparent. Hence many of such countries are in recovery mode and if not nurtured and supported could easily slip into their bad ways. This is a fact with Ivory Coast. Currently there are only a handful of African countries that meet the grade of governance – South Africa, Africa super power, Ghana, bright and sparkling and Nigeria aspiring to reach its potential and well on track.
These are a few countries that have met international acceptable standards of governance. Africa as a whole has a long way to go in terms of being responsible and accountable. But with time the African continent can change and be seen to change and the rest of the world will see its better and progressive side.
Q. How do these ”fragile countries” break out of these cycles?
There is also a responsibility from the population to be far more educated to understand that during an election do not vote purely on tribal lines. As is ever so apparent across Africa where most vote for the man or woman that belongs to their tribe and cultural affiliation rather that the person who has the best policies. There is a need for the populace to become more educated and to choose wisely with their vote and understand the ramification of the choices they make and how best to use their vote.
Finally the electoral process of choosing a president or a leader for a country should be organised and controlled by ECOWAS. They should work closely with the electoral commission and the decision should be final. This way Disputes will be minimal and there will not be a risk that the process ha been compromised or sabotaged by tribalism or cultural affiliation
In any democracy, the cure for almost any problem is the voters becoming more informed. That’s easier said than done, though. See: the United States.
10:30 EDT: Andrew Harding on the siege:
A negotiated ending might have helped ease tensions in this bitterly divided country. After all, Mr Gbagbo won 46% of the vote in the recent election.
But he seems to have over played a weak hand, and so a more forceful denouement beacons, and with it the real risk of greater instability.
What will his militias do if Mr Gbagbo is killed, or dragged out and humiliated?
Civilians, still trapped in Abidjan, say there has been sporadic gunfire across the city, with pro-Gbagbo militias still on the streets, and Ouattara force’s still “mopping up” opposition at several military installations.
This is definitely not the way this should end.
10:40 EDT: I have not mentioned it before, but Ouattara forces have been ordered not to kill Gbagbo. And I’ve seen a lot of calls for him to be tried, but very few, if any, that he should be killed. In this situation a lot of things are possible (and it just takes one soldier and one bullet), but I don’t think that’s the intent of Ouattara forces, by any stretch. They want him tried.
10:50 EDT: A must read piece in the Times by novelist Fatou Keita:
Some days earlier, looters had invaded our parking lot. We watched them from our windows, hidden behind our curtains, powerless. They were intent on stealing our cars: all the windows were broken, the interiors pillaged. “Give us the keys!” one shouted up to us. “If we have to go in there, you’ll be sorry!” They tried several times to drive off with my car, but as stubborn as its owner, it refused to start and they had to give up. Three other cars were taken, but thank heavens, the bandits didn’t try to force open the door to our building.
By the end of our meeting, we had decided that in case of an attack on our building, we would give the alarm by beating on our pots and pans. We also set hours for taking out the trash and going out to look for food when it was possible.
The days are long because, obviously, we are confined to our homes by the gunfire. When the shooting is heavy, I yell at everyone to lie flat in the hallway. My little granddaughter is terrified. Some of my neighbors have bullets in their walls.
The end is a reminder that, for people in Abidjan, this crisis is not over yet.
–A good map in French of the situation in Abidjan.
11:05 EDT: CAFOD, a Catholic aid agency in England, posted some pictures of the refugees. I’d recommend giving to Oxfam before any religious organization (less strings, better reputation) but this is definitely a “all hands on deck” sort of situation. And honestly, any visibility the refugees get along these lines is good visibility.
11:15 EDT: Max Fisher at the Atlantic writes the first comparison of Libya and Cote D’Ivoire that didn’t make me want to pull my hair out. Quite an accomplishment:
Today, the U.S. and France are leading two large-scale, primarily humanitarian interventions, both in Africa. While neither conflict — Côte d’Ivoire and Libya — has yet resolved, and while their immediate as well as long-term damage are not yet clear, in both cases the international intervention appears to have been of tremendous value for three reasons. The civilian death toll, though high in both countries, would likely have been far higher without the United Nations-approved action. Second, intervention looks like it may be able to drastically hasten what could have otherwise been far longer conflict. And perhaps most importantly, the interventions send an important message to the despots and would-be despots of the world that stealing an election or slaughtering one’s own people just became a great deal riskier.
It’s impossible to know what would have happened in Côte d’Ivoire without intervention. But the country looked set to at least return to the civil war of 2004, plunging the country that had become an African success story into yet another of the bloody, sectarian-tinged, insurgent-heavy wars that have plagued West Africa for decades. President Laurent Gbagbo, refusing to cede power after losing his election, would have faced little opposition as loyalist forces and mercenaries mowed down one peaceful protest after another. The corpses dumped along roadsides, in a grisly ritual meant to quietly purge the nation of 20 million of all political opposition, would have continued to mount. As Gbagbo nationalized natural resources and as fighting made the cities, once areas of manufacturing and a slowly growing middle class, inhospitable, this once-vibrant African economy would have headed for collapse.
Côte d’Ivoire’s economy will likely take years to recover. But the armed conflict, which looked ready to drag on for years and to create sectarian tension between the Muslim north and Christian south that could have lasted even longer, appears headed for an imminent and possibly decisive conclusion after only four months. Gbagbo, now holed up in a bunker for the third straight day, hasagreed to negotiate the terms of his surrender and departure. His generals are calling for a cease fire. A United Nations and French assault has crippled his forces and paved the way for fighters loyal to Alassane Ouattara, the rightful winner of the presidential election. Months of U.S.- and French-imposed sanctions have devastated Gbagbo’s ability to pay his troops. U.S.-led diplomatic efforts have isolated him regionally and brought the African Union, normally deferential to dictators and loathe to intervene, to take one of its toughest and most unified stands in the body’s history. Now Gbagbo, rather than slowly burning his country down through years of war and dictatorship, appears, as the Wall Street Journal puts it, “on the verge of being ousted.”
I would add this to the pile of things that are changing as the world becomes figuratively smaller. Africa used to be way over there, now it’s immediately accessible via real time media, social or otherwise. That’s not a cure all – there are still factors for intervention to take into account. But now we all (not just people on the ground cabling in) can more easily judge the risks of not intervening before it’s too late. And that’s meaningful.
11:20 EDT: What’s taking so long? Gbagbo supporters are firing heavy weapons:
Mamadou Toure, a Outtara supporter who has been on France 24 TV, says it’s taking so long to capture Gbagbo’s bunker because Gbagbo’s supporters have heavy weapons. Outtara’s forces reportedly have received orders to take the incumbent president alive.
—More warnings about a humanitarian crisis in Liberia:
Stephen O’Brien, a UK international development minister who has been at the Bahn camp in Liberia, on the border with Ivory Coast, has warned of an “immediate crisis” and has called on all the international community to help people affected by the violence
–Also, more on what the ICC is doing:
The said the prosecutor has been conducting a preliminary examination and the next step will be for the prosecutor to request authorisation to initiate an investigation but the process would be expedited if a country signed up to the Rome statute refers Ivory Coast to the prosecutor of the international criminal court.
All in all, it seems everything is at a stalemate until Gbagbo is captured.
11:25 EDT: Reports from Abidjan are that UN helicopters flying overhead are not firing on the Gbagbo compound, though Gbagbo allies are trying to spread propaganda that they are. The BBC reports that Gbagbo allies have even called this an assassination attempt, but that Ouattara forces know that things will likely only get worse if Gbagbo is in fact killed.
11:30 EDT: The Assistant Secretary for African Affairs spoke in Washington yesterday about Cote D’Ivoire, and echoed the positions of France and the United Nations, as well as other people within the American government, all the way up to Obama. i didn’t catch anything new regarding Cote D’Ivoire (though the information on Nigeria’s election was interesting).
11:35 EDT: More on the French history in Cote D’Ivoire. (French)
11:40 EDT: Irin provides details on the military supporters of Ouattara:
While military support from the UN and France may have proved pivotal in destroying Gbagbo’s last arsenals, the former rebels known as Forces Nouvelles (FN) made up most of the newly formed Forces Républicaines de Côte d’Ivoire (FRCI), which pushed south into the main city Abidjan after winning remarkably easy victories in the centre, east and south of the country in the past week.
Who are the military forces behind Ouattara and how will they proceed once their side takes power?
At a recent celebratory rally in the political capital Yamoussoukro, Ouattara’s Prime Minister Guillaume Soro introduced the crowd to several FN senior commanders: Soumaila Bakayoko, Cherif Ousmane, Tuo Fozié and Touré Hervé, saluted as being among the architects of the FRCI’s victories. Ouattara supporters also talk of the key role played by Col Miche Gueu. These men are associated with the September 2002 rebellion, which nearly dislodged Gbagbo. The FN – a collective of three rebel factions – made offensives against Korhogo, Bouaké and Abidjan. Their secretary-general and main public voice was a then 30-year-old Soro, known primarily as a former student leader.
Ivoirian critics of Ouattara and Soro have not welcomed the sense of déjà vu. “This man is meant to be a prime minister, but he is forever talking about the need for a military offensive and moving on Abidjan,” a man in the Yopougon District said. Many observers noted the difference between Ouattara’s rhetoric and that of Soro in the weeks after the disputed November 2010 presidential election, with the prime minister much quicker to push for a military solution.
The FN included soldiers, particularly northerners, defecting from the national armed forces, but also combatants from outside Côte d’Ivoire and the `dozo’, traditional warrior hunters – said to have mystical powers – who have long acted as informal community police.
In 2006 one of the FN leaders, Martin Kouakou Fofié, was hit with UN sanctions over allegations of child recruitment, abductions, sexual abuse of women, arbitrary arrests and extra-judicial killings by troops he commanded.
Whatever compromises were made in numerous peace accords signed in the years since the rebellion, the FN have effectively retained control of national territory in the west, north and centre. A longstanding concern of Gbagbo supporters and neutrals has been the existence of a state within a state, whose sovereignty has gone largely unchallenged.
More problems for Ouattara to deal with. With each passing hour, this feels more and more like a Pyrrhic victory.
I’ve also referred to the FRCI constantly here, because that’s what they are now; it’s worth highlighting, though, that this is essentially a re-organized group of what came before: the New Forces, that had, as the excerpt shows, many problems of their own.
–Irin also has a piece on refugees:
Ivoirians who have fled to eastern and southeastern Liberia are choosing to settle in villages rather than camps and transit centres, making them harder to help, say NGO workers.
Most of the 130,000 Ivoirians who have fled into in Liberia since December 2010 are scattered across 90 villages in Nimba and Grand Geddeh counties, according to UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) spokesperson Suleiman Momodu.
Ivoirians feel safest staying with host communities just across the border from their homes, as they may have relatives in these villages or share the same ethnic background, said Anika Krstic, spokesperson with the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) in Liberia’s capital Monrovia.
As a result, a refugee camp in Bahn in Nimba County, 50km from the border, is sheltering some 2,500 refugees, despite being built to house up to 15,000.
Many Ivoirians return to their villages by day to keep up their livelihoods, re-crossing into Liberia at night, said Krstic. “With population movements continually shifting, it’s hard to figure out who has already been registered and who is being registered for the first time,” she added.
Poor roads impede access to many host villages said DRC, which is helping provide water and sanitation in transit centres, where refugees are temporarily housed before finding longer-term shelter.
Not only are there a significant amount of refugees, they’re not even going to be easy to get help to. This sounds like it’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better.
11:55 EDT: Elizabeth Dickson of Foreign Policy tweets that UN investigators found a third possible massacre site in Cote D’Ivoire.
The man overseeing the UN team investigating mass killings in the Ivory Coast has confirmed to Channel 4 News that in addition to two mass graves which were found in Duekoue in March, reports based on “reliable information” have led the team to investigate a third site in Bloleuquin. The UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Simonovic spoke to Channel 4 News from Abidjan. He had just returned from Duekoue whilst on a week long mission to oversee the investigation into reports of mass killings.
He said “in the second half of March 100 people were killed in Duekoue, and on the 28th March 230 people were killed.”
Whilst Ivan Simonovic did not specifically use the phrase “ethnic cleansing” he told Channel 4 News “here are the hard facts: in the first incident the 100 victims were of a single ethnicity, from the Dioula ethnicity who traditionally support Ouattara, they were found after pro-Gbagbo forces were in control”
“And in the second incident 230 people from the Guerra ethnicity, traditionally supporters of Gbagbo, were killed at the time when Ouattara’s forces were in control.”
–France24 is reporting that Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the prosecutor of the ICC, is officially opening an investigation into “systematic or widespread massacres committed in Côte d’Ivoire.”
12:25 EDT: Kofi Annan, still alive and giving public statements, says that Gbagbo should leave.
12:45 EDT: According to the liveblog of Jeune Afrique, via France24, Gbagbo refused an offer of “legal immunity, a collection of his assets, freedom of movement, and 2 million per year” from African heads of state. Does he think a better offer is coming?
–Ah, the catch, What France 24 didn’t highlight is that this offer was made on March 10, nearly a month ago. That makes the offer much more reasonable. Making that offer now would be idiotic.
12:55 EDT: A military source told Jeune Afrique that the bunker where Gbagbo is has 4-5 layers with men to defend him and enough food to last a year. Wonderful. Exactly what the country needs right now.
–Via AFP, Jeune Afrique reports that Angola still considers Gbagbo the president-elect. Amazing.
1:00 EDT: South Africa, Togo, Angola, and possibly Ethiopia are possible locations for exile for Gbagbo:
South Africa, Togo and Angola are possible safe havens for Ivory Coast’s besieged Laurent Gbagbo should he negotiate an exit from his West African country, African Union (AU) sources said on Wednesday. “South Africa has offered several times before and Togo is now indicating to us that it could be willing to take him in,” a senior AU official told Reuters. “Togo is not a great option, though, as there will obviously be fears that he could cause problems and spoil peace from there — it’s so close to Ivory Coast. I’m betting strongly on South Africa,” said the official, who declined to be named.
[. . .]
Another diplomat at the AU in Addis Ababa said Angola was a strong possibility. “Angola has always been pro-Gbagbo,” one Western diplomat told Reuters. “I think there’s a good likelihood of Angola taking him in if there’s a settlement. You only have to look at their history.” The United Nations said in March it was investigating suspected arms transfers to Ivory Coast in breach of an embargo, including a cargo delivery from Angola. There were also regular reports in 2002 that Angola supplied arms including armoured vehicles to Ivory Coast when rebels tried to oust Gbagbo from the presidency. Angola has denied that mercenaries from the country have fought for Gbagbo.
Diplomats at the AU headquarters in Ethiopia said Uganda was an outside bet to shelter the Ivorian strongman. Long-serving President Yoweri Museveni earlier this year attacked the United Nations for recognising Ouattara as the election winner.
That’s assuming he cuts a deal to give himself exile.
1:15 EDT: The BBC reports that today’s assault on Gbagbo’s residence may have repelled because Ouattara forces could not break through thr heavy weapons on the residence.
1:20 EDT: This Al Jazeera video captures the perspective of Ivorians caught in the crossfire:
1:30 EDT: Gbagbo is rejecting advice of allies to give up and apparently hopes to remain as President.
–A report to France24 indicates that Gbagbo is still broadcasting defiantly on state television. A very rough translation:
“URGENT: President Gbagbo IS NOT IN A BUNKER PALACE AND ITS NOT SENT OR ITS GENERAL ALCIDE DJEDJE ASK ANY PRESENTING AS STATED IN PARIS by François Fillon • URGENT: THE GENERAL AND MANGOU Ksarat NEVER negotiated the surrender of President Gbagbo FROM THE EMBASSY OF France ABIDJAN AS ANNOUNCED ON BFM TV and ITEL by François Fillon • URGENT: THE PRO-OUATTARA were defeated by the pro-Gbagbo NEAR THE PRESIDENTIAL RESIDENCE. • URGENT: President Gbagbo STATED IN PERSON, TUESDAY NIGHT ON LCI, IT REMAINS WELL TO HIS POST AS PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC BECAUSE HE WON THE ELECTION “
–Meanwhile, SOSs are being broadcast here, including one about a two year old child who has not eaten for three days.
–Reuters has also reported that the Ouattara attack on Gbagbo’s residence has been repelled today.
1:45 EDT: The Telegraph has chilling pictures of the assault on Gbagbo’s bunker.
–AFP is also reporting that Ouattara forces have retreated from Gbagbo’s bunker.
–A representative from UNICEF told the BBC that they had to turn back because people were being killed right in front of them.
2:15 EDT: The EU is committed to helping Cote D’Ivoire rebuild. (French link)
The European Union today expressed its readiness to help rebuild the economy and institutions when the Ivorian conflict between the president recognized by the international community and its rival has been set.
“We are ready to consider a range of measures to provide institutional and financial package” for the country, once the political situation stabilizes, “said Minister Delegate for Foreign Affairs Hungarian, Zsolt Nemeth, whose country holds the six-month presidency of the EU. He was speaking before the European Parliament on behalf of the Head of European diplomacy Catherine Ashton, who could not make the trip.
The minister did not elaborate on the proposed European aid. But the needs in Côte d’Ivoire are very important. The country’s economy, which relies heavily on exports of cocoa, has been in crisis since the beginning of the crisis created after the presidential election in November between the outgoing Head of State Laurent Gbagbo and Alassane Ouattara, recognized President of the international community.
Once Congress tops playing around with budget issues, they should make the same commitment.
–An interesting interview with an African expert from the Institute for International and Strategic Relations:
euronews: Can Alassane Ouattara legitimately be a reconciliation president, considering that his troops are already accused of mass killings during their advance on Abidjan?
Hugon: That’s certain, but to earn that stature it’s imperative that there be an effort of remembrance, the equivalent of a truth and reconciliation commission, and that crimes that may have been committed by one side or another be spoken of.
euronews: Paris is involved in three wars, in Afghanistan, Libya and Ivory Coast. Why this commitment at the end of Nicolas Sarkozy’s term as president? For electoral reasons?
Hugon: It is true that a warrior stance, military commander in chief can have a positive effect on public opinion. I don’t believe that is the main motivation. I believe that Nicolas Sarkozy wanted to partly disengage from Africa, to normalise France-Africa relations — France-Afrique some people have called it — and finds himself facing the classical dilemma: must there be indifference or interference? History will decide whether he was right or wrong.
3:00 EDT: I’m not sure this has been widely reported yet, but in yesterday’s State Department briefing, it was announced that the US Ambassador to Cote D’Ivoire, Phillip Carter, has been in touch with both Ouattara and Gbagbo, even now.
The State Department has posted the full remarks of Asst. Sec. Carson, mentioned earlier:
3:05 EDT: Stunning photos of the conflict in Cote D’Ivoire over the past month. The pciture of the women protesting soldiers stands out to me.
3:15 EDT: France24 reports that Gbagbo’s soldiers returned fire, injuring one Ouattara soldier today.After a break, Ouattara foreces anticipate launching another offensive on the stronghold.
4:15 EDT: AFP reports that the Japanese embassy was attacked by mercenaries. As if things weren’t bad enough.
–American diplomats are also requesting to leave Abidjan.
–The attack on the Japanese embassy was worse than that initial report let on:
The residence of the Ambassador of Japan to Abidjan was attacked Wednesday by “mercenaries”, who then fired rockets and cannon fire from the building, said the diplomat told AFP, indicating that four members of its local staff had “disappeared “. “There are four people, security officials and the gardener, who disappeared. There are a lot of blood in the house, cartridges everywhere. I do not know if the four are alive, ” said Yoshifumi Okamura. “They were probably mercenaries, they entered my home in the morning by pulling (with rocket launchers) RPG. With a dozen people we’ve locked in my room, whose door is reinforced, ” said he said. His residence is located in the Cocody district (north), in a wide perimeter around that of outgoing President Laurent Gbagbo, defended by his last against fighters loyal to Alassane Ouattara, head of state recognized by the international community. “From 9:00 to 2:00 p.m. (GMT), they fired machine guns, guns, RPGs from my residence. I do not know where they’re fired because we were locked up. It’s terrible, ” the diplomat continued. “They looted, stole everything of value in the house. Around 14:00, they are gone, ” said Yoshifumi. But “they are in front of me. I’m afraid they will come back, ” he said. (AFP)
–There’s now a report of a sniper on top of that residence.
4:30 EDT: The French language site Jeune Afrique lists Gbagbo’s remaining allies.
6:30 EDT: There is speculation that the presence of heavy weapons outside of Gbagbo’s residence may lead to the UN intervening again. But the bigger question, as posed by Senam Beheton, is who exactly is in charge of Abidjan and the country now? Can anyone guarantee security? As long as ambassador residences are attacked, it’s unclear if anyone is in charge.
Every other liveblog is closed. So I’ll follow suit, but be monitoring anything. If anything looks breaking, I’ll throw up a new thread. Thanks for following today.
The CIA is in Libya and this has some people very upset.
Spencer Ackerman describes what they are doing:
[A]ccording to the Times, the CIA role in Libya is more furtive. The agency isn’t giving guns to the rebels. It’s finding out precisely who they are — important, since the U.S. has “flickers” of intel that they include some al-Qaeda members. And along with British spies, the CIA teams are learning “the location of Colonel Qaddafi’s munitions depots [and] the clusters of government troops inside Libyan towns.” And figure they probably have some tasking to get Gadhafi’s inner circle to abandon him.
Dave von Ebers gives historical context:
Anyway, here’s the thing. This, unfortunately, is exactly what every president has done with the CIA, since its inception in the late 1940s.The CIA was on the ground in Vietnam long before the United States was at war there; meddled in the affairs of Guatemala dating back to the 1950s; was neck deep in the 1953 Iranian coup d’état that secured the brutal reign of Shah Mohammad-Reza Pahlavi; aided the Chilean military in the coup that brought Augusto Pinochet to power; worked with El Salvadoran death squads for decades; established secret prisons in Eastern Europe to detain and interrogate detainees in the “war on terror” … and on and on and on. I’m not suggesting that any of that was right – it most definitely wasn’t – but note that for decades the CIA was, in almost every instance, on the side of brutal dictators who were oppressing their own people.
And don’t forget that with or without the CIA’s assistance, past American presidents tacitly supported Pol Pot in Cambodia after Vietnam overthrew him in 1978 (later Pres. Reagan doubled down on America’s covert support for Pol Pot, leading to years of civil war there); supported the Shah throughout his dictatorial reign despite hishorrific record of human rights abuses; supported the Contra rebelsin Nicaragua, many, if not most, of whom formerly worked under the dictator Somoza; and only grudgingly (and ineffectively) came to oppose Apartheid in South Africa in the 198os.
Dave concludes that here, at least, the CIA is on the right side. (BTW: follow Dave on Twitter.) But even more broadly speaking, it makes sense to have some sort of communication with these rebels and to find out who they are, what their factions are, etc. We shouldn’t have to just wonder.
And it makes sense to give them basic intelligence of what we know about Gaddafi’s approaching forces. I don’t think warning them that they’re about to be outflanked works so well when you say it from inside the cockpit of an F-15.
And I’m really at a loss as to how the CIA being on the ground means there’s boots on the ground. We’ve had numerous memoirs such as this one written from CIA agents about how they were on the ground in places the US was not at war with. I remember a lot of stories when Anna Chapman, alleged Russian spy, was captured. None of which were: “OMG, Russia is invading the United States! Wolverines!” I’d certainly have hoped the CIA or Mi6 or some similar agency was on the ground making contacts in Libya, Algeria, Bahrain, Yemen, etc. That information is crucial for policymakers to actually make the right choices.
What’s doubly surprising about the leak is that we’ve known about MI6 being on the ground in Libya for weeks now. In fact, this defense of human intelligence ought be read by anyone confused about the role of intelligence services (putting aside the role of SAS support):
First, much is made of the notion that the British could have simply put in a phone call. Such an assertion is naive in the extreme, and conveniently forgets the fact that telecommunications in Libya are vulnerable – as the British ambassador to Libya knows all too well.
As any intelligence officer would tell you, signals intelligence is vital, but it needs to be supplemented by human intelligence. When business people broker deals, they like to see each other first, check out the cut of their jibs, have a drink, build up a rapport – in short, build trust. Gathering secret intelligence is no different, and it is essential for agencies such as MI6 to build personal relationships with parties such as the Libyan rebels. A mere phone call will not do. [. . .]
Some have also speculated that all the British needed to have done was to have popped into Benghazi to see the rebel leadership, rather than head off into the desert. This is another naive assertion, and supposes that the rebel forces are a unified bunch under a centralised command structure. As we shall see, there are numerous groups of rebels, and it is possible that Tom had made contact with a group that was not represented in Benghazi. Besides, it is just as possible that Tom and his team had in fact received some sort of blessing from Benghazi. We don’t know, but what we do know is that the lives of two MI6 officers, six SAS men and a helicopter crew are not risked on a mere jaunt.
Why people thought MI6 was running around Libya then and not the CIA boggles the mind (not everyone was so dense). The risk in early March was that the rebellion would not look endemic; by now it’s clear that there is no reason for that particular concern – which is one reason why it seems the Administration intentionally leaked this news now.
Perhaps two of the organizations least known for leaking, the CIA and the Obama White House, the latter of which has made a special habit of prosecuting leakers, appear to have both leaked the same story at the same time to the New York Times and to Reuters, the latter of which cites four separate sources. Together, they report that President Obama signed a secret finding authorizing the clandestine operations in support of Libya’s rebels, including Central Intelligence Agency agents on the ground but not including arms for the rebels. . . .
. . . [I]t’s also possible that the leak was planned, as so many U.S. government leaks are. [. . .] Such a leak makes appear Obama more bullish on Libya without requiring him to explain the plan for this new secret authority. It wards off domestic pressure without actually engaging those pressuring him. It also prepares the American people for the possibility of clandestine actions without actually carrying them out or even promising to consider carrying them out. After all, though the finding’s approval may be broad, very little appears to have actually been done with it. Arming the rebels, the first logical step in a serious clandestine commitment, doesn’t have the necessary congressional approval.
Perhaps most significant of all, leaking news of the finding would send a clear and no doubt chilling message to Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi and the remainders of his regime: if you allow this war to continue, you could go up against the CIA . . .
With the rebel advance stalled, and the war appearing to head for either Qaddafi’s victory or a costly stalemate that could consume Libya for years, Obama faces a dauntingly hard choice: escalate U.S. involvement and risk entangling the country in another Afghanistan or, by refusing to escalate, put make the U.S. culpable for the rebels’ failure and Qaddafi’s sure-to-be bloody victory. The best possible way forward, then, could be to coerce Qaddafi into stepping down voluntarily, as both Egypt’s Mubarak and Tunisia’s Ben Ali did. These hints of greater U.S. involvement could be Obama’s way of showing Qaddafi the door. Also on Wednesday, a senior official with the government of Uganda, a close U.S. ally, suddenly announced to Al Arabiya, a pan-Arabic TV network, that his country would consider an asylum request from the Libyan leader.
The whole article is worth reading.
There’s no evidence that ground troops would be welcome by regional partners in the coalition. But liaising with the rebels, getting on the ground intelligence to match with satellite overlays, and maybe looking for creative ways to push Gaddafi out? That’s just prudent.
There are ways the Libya conflict could potentially escalate in ways I would not support. This is not one of them.
Can anyone square the circle this paragraph presents:
The answer surprised many in the room because Clinton plainly admitted the administration would ignore any and all attempts by Congress to shackle President Obama’s power as commander in chief to make military and wartime decisions. In doing so, he would follow a long line of Presidents who have ignored the act since its passage, deeming it an unconstitutional encroachment on executive power.
It’s shocking that a President agrees with previous Presidents on executive power?! I have no idea why this is surprising to anyone. But I’m also expecting this to become the new scandal for the far left.
Deciding that calling Samantha Power the new version of Bill Kristol (I eagerly await Kristol’s version of this article) and glossing over all the differences between the two (Power opposed the war in Iraq and wanted to get out quickly)
Juan Cole gets at the silliness of this sort of comparison:
Allowing the Neoconservatives to brand humanitarian intervention as always their sort of project does a grave disservice to international law and institutions, and gives them credit that they do not deserve, for things in which they do not actually believe.
Sullivan quotes two objections from OTB: first that there is inconsistency in when responsibility to protect is applied (well no shit, Sherlock); secondly, that “there is an absolute sense of certainty that causes people to ignore the facts on the ground.” Regarding Libya, this is because “it’s absolutely certainty that merely being guided by the desire to “help” people is sufficient to accomplish their goals, meaning that there’s no need to worry about the fact that the rebels you’re protecting are allied with a terrorist group.”
Well of course both those facts are true. No one says that they are not.
There is not a single person in the world claiming the United States is being perfectly consistent. Not one. But there are other facts: that Gaddafi’s actions were reasonably threatening to be worse than just about anywhere; that there was a regional buy in for action, and third that it was easy to do. There’s certainly terrorist elements among the rebels. And there’s terrorist elements among Gaddafi’s forces too (I think the history speaks for itself, or maybe his behavior at least does). But we can quantify who that is, not just speculate wildly.
Secondly, there’s people out there saying (re: this) that this might fail, but it’s a worthwhile chance to take. Obama wants to give the rebels a chance to take Gaddafi down, not to guarantee he will. To quote Tom Ricks from Sunday’s Meet the Press: Give war a chance. There are real costs to inaction on Libya. Sullivan ignores them all.
What Sullivan is doing is trolling for any anti-intervention article, no matter how poorly written, excerpting whatever he first sees that he emotionally agrees with, and then running it along side outrageous accusations in headlines; he augments that with poorly researched screeds calling supporters glib when he doesn’t even mention the rationales for this intervention. If someone had made this poor a case against the Iraq war, 2003 Andrew Sullivan would take it apart instead of resorting to cheap parlor tricks of calling the writer a fifth columnist.
OK, that’s a very gross exaggeration for the title, but amidst all this upheaval in the Middle East, what’s being lost is the role of human rights treatise. To realist IR thinkers, there is no effect international organizations or treaties have. Part of their argument is that any effect of human rights treaties and NGOs is ancillary. Jack Goldsmith and Eric Posner make that argument in their book on pages 125 and 126*
In the current uprisings, there is direct evidence that these international norms do increase the credibility of the NGOs though. Tweets such as this one are widely circulated:
It links to this article, which accuses the Bahraini government of murder of 18 people.
The realist model fails to capture what adequately is happening here; there are things the realist model does well, but social change is not one of them.
The rational institutionalist model of Beth Simmons is preferable. I’ve cited her before, but it’s worth repeating the background:
In her recent book, Mobilizing for Human Rights, Beth Simmons framed the chances of political mobilization as a function of how much citizens value a right versus the chance they have of achieving their goal. In fact, for Simmons, human rights treaties are primarily about the relations between a state and its society, not between states (as in traditional reciprocal treaties – we won’t charge your companies tariffs if you won’t charge ours, etc. ).
Simmons argues that even if regimes choose not to enforce human rights treaties, the consequences of signing them locally can be profound as citizens are exposed to different concepts of rights; this is even more true in an even more connected world, given the omnipresence of social media. And while Simmons was referring to treaties, a special investigator (or Rapporteur) may have that same sort of effect – which is why the Iranian regime feared and fought this resolution.
This is a very brief excerpt from her book at pages 125-26**:
What we are seeing now in Bahrain, Egypt, and Libya is this model actually taking place. Take for instance, this tweet:
There’s two main preconditions of the Arab Spring: first is the people feel oppressed; second, that they network. The human rights treaties and general standards are right at the intersection of those two, because they provide a standard to compare their situation to and share. That doesn’t make everyone in Bahrain a human rights lawyer, but it does mean that the general work of human rights law actually matters, not just as ethical boilerplate as realists would say.
Moreover, it also explains why as that tweet says, that there are no consequences: these are the consequences for the repression. That doesn’t mean it’s going to end well for them. These are better understood as human right norms and not “law” the way we understand, say, the law to not commit murder in the United States.
But these norms have mattered, they do matter, and they will continue to matter. Just not in the way you might have thought.
*A good chunk of Posner and Goldsmith’s book is online at Google Books and I would recommend glancing through it. Sometimes realism really does work, my disagreement with it here aside.
** I excerpted a very small amount of a PDF of Simmons’ book I possessed. I’m going to hope that didn’t violate any copyright laws (since I could have quoted just as much I think). But it’s a very good book, you should look at it, and regardless I’m making no money off this blog and don’t have any assets so don’t bother suing me. 🙂 On a brighter note, you should really watch this lecture of Simmons if you’re interested in her argument.
Comes, not so surprisingly, from FDL. Jon Walker:
According to the Obama administration, imposing a no fly zone doesn’t count as war. Nor does launching long-range smart missiles against a sovereign country or using high altitude bombers. Apparently, even using low-flying, heavily armed, ground-attack aircraft to hit a foreign country’s ground forces or providing direct air support to a rebel army count as war, either.
I’m curious just how far this “as long as American troops are technically in the air it isn’t actually a war” logic can be stretched. Is there specific altitude threshold, or is it as long as our armed forces don’t physically touch the ground that it isn’t a war? Do helicopters count? Do ground-hugging flying armed drones count?
From here, it gets more silly. A few points from reality:
First, every nation-state is sovereign; it’s inherent in the definition. The question is when that sovereignty ends or becomes over-riden by another principle.
Second, the theory behind the United Nations Charter and article 42 in particular is that it is possible that humanitarian violations can inherently cause a loss of sovereignty. I notice there were no major complaints when Obama said that Gaddafi or other dictators had lost the right to rule. That was not respective of sovereignty either. When it does not suit him, Walker ignores issues of sovereignty and instead claims the US keeps dictators in power. And you’ll be happy to know he’s never written on Bahrain or Yemen. Are those leaders sovereign? What about in Syria? It’s easy to say a country is sovereign if you have no idea what that means or when it ends. This is because nowadays we understand sovereignty comes, generally, from the populace, even if not directly through the democratic process. So yes, Gaddafi sending his army to the edge of the city and credibly threatening a massacre would certainly have to have some effect on sovereignty. If you disagree with that, you’re basically disagreeing with all progress in international law the past 150 years.
Third, it’s not the air attack that makes this not a war – that simply makes casualties far less likely which buttresses public opinion (see Mogadishu). A war can be by any one or a combination of at land, war, or sea. Whether action is a war is determined pro forma by the process leading to it, not by the fact that weapons are used. When Bill Clinton fired cruise missiles on (allegedly) terrorist locations or into Iraq, was he declaring war? What about when Clinton intervened in Haiti or Kosovo? And maybe all of these were terrible tactical decisions (or maybe all brilliant) – that’s not the point. But did they amount to war? No, even if the people participating in the actions could not tell the difference. A lot of smart people have thought about when the war powers clause ought be invoked; none have been this glib about it.