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Putin’s Rage

by Matthew Shaffer

The Russian PM is not happy with the coalition intervention in Libya: 

 

Putin Monday likened the U.N. Security Council resolutionsupporting military action in Libya to medieval calls for crusades.

Putin, in the first major remarks from a Russian leader since a coalition of Western countries began air strikes in Libya, said that Muammar Gaddafi’s government fell short of democracy but added that did not justify military intervention.

“The resolution is defective and flawed,” Putin told workers at aRussian ballistic missile factory. “It allows everything. It resembles medieval calls for crusades.”

Putin said that interference in other countries’ internal affairs has become a trend in U.S. foreign policy and that the events in Libya indicated that Russia should strengthen its own defense capabilities.

So why did Russia abstaind from vetoing this medieval crusade?

Egyptians Approve Constitutional Referenda

by Matthew Shaffer

 

… including provisions to bar emergency laws, limit presidents to two terms, and prevent presidents from having foreign wives. Interesting, this constitutional referendum was opposed by the young, secular, democratic protesters, but supported by the NDP (Mubarak’s old ruling part) and the Muslim Brotherhood. And yet the latter coalition won the day. But the eagerness of the voters — the lines stretched out for three hours at some points — seems hopeful for democracy in Egypt. From the New York Times:

Elated that for the first time in their lives every ballot mattered, Egyptians flocked to the polls in record numbers on Saturday to vote in a referendum on a package of constitutional amendments that will shape the country’s political future after Hosni Mubarak’s overthrow.

From this provincial capital in the Nile Delta, across the sprawling capital of Cairo and beyond, voters were already waiting when the polls opened at 8 a.m. and the lines grew throughout the day, sometimes stretching to more than three hours.

Gone was the heavy security presence of the Mubarak years, with only a few police and soldiers lingering around the crowded entrances but mostly standing apart from the proceedings.

“Before, I was not even allowed into the polling station — the police would tell me go home, we already voted on your behalf, we know what is best for Egypt better than you,” said Mohamed el-Sayid Auf, a stooped 52-year-old engineer and Muslim Brotherhood supporter voting in a poor Mansoura neighborhood.

“Now there is freedom, there is organization. The people of Egypt are happy today,” he continued. “I feel like I am flying, it is something coming from deep within my soul.”

Voters had to either accept or reject the eight amendments as a whole — all of them designed to establish the foundations for parliamentary elections in June and a presidential race in August. Most addressed some of the worst excesses of previous years — limiting the president to two four-year terms, for example, to avoid another president staying in office 30 years as Mr. Mubarak did.

The referendum itself divided political movements jousting to steer Egypt into the future. Remnants of the former ruling party, the National Democratic Party, were joined with their old enemies, the Muslim Brotherhood, in supporting the changes, while most of the leaders of the youth uprising opposed the referendum, saying they needed more time to fully overhaul the Constitution. The Muslim Brotherhood, allowed to campaign openly for the first time since it was banned in 1954, wants voters to approve the changes, saying that they will hasten a return to stability and the disbanding of the military council now running the state. But their position was widely perceived as an attempt to take early advantage of their superior experience and organization to capture a larger part of the vote.

The opponents want interim military rule in conjunction with a civilian-dominated presidential council for at least six months, preferably with an elected council to write a new Constitution before selecting a president and a Parliament.

Presidential candidate Mohammed ElBaredei was reportedly assaulted on the way to the polls, possibly as a representative of secularism. 

Real War in Libya

by Matthew Shaffer

 Today, on the 8th anniversary of the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom, an international coalition began military action in Libya.

No boots on the ground, yet, and apparently that was a main condition of Obama’s willingness to involve U.S. forces; and, also, French president Nicolas Sarkozy has said that as soon as the violence has stopped the west will be open to negotiations with Qaddafi.

But… the fighting today is quite serious. The French have struck a military vehicle (i.e. going beyond mere no-fly-zone enforcement). For a reason I don’t understand, it does appear that the French are leading the way at the moment. Secretary Clinton seems to relish the lack of American leadership:

Clinton emphasized that the United States is not taking the lead role in the action.“We did not lead this. We did not engage in unilateral action in any way,” she said.

Qaddafi sent a personal letter to PM David Cameron, President Nicolas Sarkozy, and Secretary General Ban Ki-moon:

“Libya is not yours. Libya is for all Libyans. The resolutions of the Security Council are invalid because the Security Council is not authorized, … to intervene in the internal affairs of any country. This is injustice, it’s a clear aggression, and it’s uncalculated risk for its consequences on the Mediterranean and Europe.”

And he sent a much weirder letter to Obama: 

 

To Obama, he wrote: “If Libya and the US enter into a war you will always remain my son, and I have love for you.” Libya is battling al-Qaeda, he said, seeking Obama’s advice. “How would you behave so that I can follow your example?” he asked.

Meanwhile, this dramatic video shows a downed fighter jet, purportedly shot down over Benghazi. 

Horror as Qaddafi Loyalists Move on Benghazi

by Matthew Shaffer

My colleague Dan Foster beat me to it over at the Corner

As he writes:

“Al-Jazeera English reports that pro-Qaddafi forces could be as close to 50km from Benghazi, putting him in a race with American, European, and Arab forces slated to enforce a cease-fire.

Meanwhile, al-Jazeera Arabic reports on the indiscriminate slaughter taking place as Qaddafi “tightens the noose.”

Telecommunications have been cut from Benghazi

Geminis and Sullog areas (approximately 50km south west of Benghazi) currently under heavy attack

Gaddafi has used the navy to deploy troops in Gargoora region to make headwayGaddafi’s troops have progressed 60km in 2 hours towards Benghazi

Reports that Gaddafi’s troops entered Misratah hospital today and killed the wounded

Reports of 1200 families fled Ajdabiya via Al Kufrah headed towards Qubbah and Tobruk

AlHurra Radio in Benghazi is calling on the Benghazi youth to take arms and prepare for battle

Residents in Ajdabiya, one of the areas from which the UN has ordered Qaddafi to withdraw, are reporting “horrors and massacres” over the past 24 hours.

Merciless killings that spared no one be they young or old, man or woman. Residential areas that housed peaceful families were heavily bombed with tanks and heavy artillery. The civilians were unarmed and were simply overwhelmed. Many have fled and are now near the Libyan-Egyptian border.”

Obama Speaks on Libya; Explains UNSC, Delimits Response

by Matthew Shaffer

Video is here. It lasts 10 minutes.

And here is everything I thought noteworthy:

President Obama began by clearly expressing sympathy with the Libyan demonstrators: “Last month, protesters took to the streets to demand their universal rights… But they were met with an iron first. Within days, whole parts of the country declared their independence from the brutal regime… Qaddafi clearly lost the confidence of his own people, and the legitimacy to lead. Instead of respecting the rights of his people, Qaddafi chose the path of suppression…”

He justified his records so far: “In the face of this injustice, the United States and the international community moved swiftly. Sanctions were put in place…”

He explained the swift move to stronger action by Qaddafi’s rantings from yesterday: “Just yesterday, speaking of the city of Benghazi, a city of roughly 700,000 people he said, and I quote, “We will have no mercy and no pity.” “

Obama slowed his speech when speaking fully of the reasons for intervention: “Here is why this matters to us,” he began. “Left unchecked, we have every reason to believe Qaddafi would commit atrocities against his people, many thousands could die, a humanitarian crisis would ensue, the entire region could be destabilized, endangering many of our allies and our partners. The calls of the Libyan people would go unanswered, and the democratic values we stand for would be overrun. Moreover the words of the international community would be rendered hollow.

The president then gave a basic explanation of what exactly was in the U.N. Security Council Resolution.

He went on, becoming more explicit about demands: “Now, once more Qaddafi has a choice. The resolution that passed laid out very clear conditions that must be met. The U.S.,  the U.K., France, and Arab states agreed that a ceasefire must be implemented immediately. That means all attacks against civilians must stop. Qaddafi must stop his advance on Benghazi, pull them back from Misrata, and establish, water, and gas supplies to all areas. Humanitarian assistance must be allowed to reach the people of Libya. Let me be clear, these terms are not negotiable… The resolution will be enforced through military intervention.”

He then got into the uni/multilateralism question: “In this effort, the United States is willing to act as part of a coalition. American leadership is essential, but that does not mean acting alone. It means shaping the conditions for the international condition to work together…” He described his orders to Robert Gates to form plans with other states, and to send diplomats to Europe to organize.

“I have no doubt that the men and women of our military are capable of carrying out this mission,” he said.

He also clearly delimited the U.S. response: “I also want to be clear about what we will not be doing — the United States is not going to deploy ground troops to Libya. And we are not going to use force to go beyond a well-defined goal: specifically, the protection of civilians in Libya…Let me be clear, the change that will happen in the Arab world, cannot and will not be imposed by the United States or any foreign power. “

He said there is no decision he takes so seriously as that to command American soldiers into war — especially with the wars in Afghanistan in Iraq. But, he said,  “the United States will not stand idly by in the face of events that undermine global peace and security… Our goal is focused, our cause is just, and our coalition is strong.”

What Ceasfire?

by Matthew Shaffer

This video, dated today, purports to show the continued shelling in Misrata:

Confirmed: ‘Ceasefire’ is a Ruse

by Matthew Shaffer

CNN.com has testimony from a doctor in Misrata who is treating casualties of government shelling within the last hour.

Libya’s government announced a “immediate” cease-fire on Friday, but witnesses in western and eastern Libya said the conflict is raging.

Witnesses in the western city of Misrata said a pro-government assault is persisting and casualties are mounting.

“What cease-fire,” asked a doctor in Misrata, who described hours of military poundings, casualties, and dwindling resources to treat the wounded. “We’re under the bombs.”

“This morning they are burning the city,” the doctor said. “There are deaths everywhere.”

“Misrata is on fire,” according to an opposition member — who said tanks and vehicles with heavy artillery shot their way into the city Thursday night and the assault continued on Friday. He said Gadhafi’s regime announced a cease-fire to buy time for itself. “Please help us.”