Tags: Egypt Watch

Obama’s Speech on Libya


The President, flanked by Secretary Clinton, just gave his first public remarks on the developments in Libya. I’ll have the transcript up ASAP, but here’s what struck me. 


The speech mostly could have been copied from one of his Egypt speeches (after he prefaced it by urging all Americans to leave Libya ASAP). He said (1) violence must stop (2) universal human rights must be respected and (3) meaningful change toward democratic reform must be made. He promised to send Hillary Clinton to Geneva for more discussion.

There was only one part that seemed more menacing than the Egypt speeches: “I’ve asked my administration to prepare the full range of responses we may take in response to these actions… Like all governments, the Libyan government has a responsibility to refrain from violence… It must be held accountable for its refusal to respect those responsibilities…. We will coordinate our assistance and our accountability measures with the international community.” With Egypt, the U.S. was always willing to reconsider its “assistance posture.” But does that seem to suggest something more aggressive? 

NRO’s Jim Geraghty summed it up on twitter: “Ya hear that, Gaddafi? You keep pulling these stunts, and we’ll continue to evaluate all options! So you better think twice!” and “BOOYAH! Hillary Clinton to Geneva. Bet you didn’t see that coming, huh, Colonel.”

Gaddafi Family Fleeing?


A report from Malta suggests that at least some of Gaddafi’s family members are attempting to flee Libya:


A Libyan plane reportedly carrying the daughter of Muammar Gaddafi, Libya’s leader, has been turned back from Malta after it was denied permission to land.

“The [crew] initially said they had 14 people on board. They were circling overhead saying they were running low on fuel,” Cal Perry, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Malta, said.

“At that point the ambassador from Libya who was here in Malta was called in to take part in the negotiations on whether or not they were going to allow this plane to land.

“As he entered the talks it became clear from the pilots that Aisha Gaddhafi, Muammar Gaddhafi’s only daughter, was aboard the plane. The government said it was an unscheduled flight, it doesn’t matter who is on board; they said it cannot land and diverted the plane back to Libya.”

Maltese government sources said however, that it had no information that she was on a plane which was refused permission to land or that the Libyan ambassador was involved in any negotiations.

Libya has been in turmoil since mass protests broke out against Gaddafi’s 42-year-old rule in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi more than a week ago. 

The protests, which have spread to other cities despite the authorities cracking down on the protesters, is the biggest challenge that Gaddafi has faced during his long rule. The protesters now control much of the country and many senior officials have deserted Gaddafi.

Relatives fleeing?

Wednesday’s attempted landing on Malta is certain to fuel speculation over whether family members of Gaddafi are seeking to flee.

The attempted landing came a day after a private Libyan jet carrying the Lebanese wife of one of Gaddhafi’s sons was prevented from landing at Beirut airport in Lebanon, the Voice of Lebanon radio reported on Wednesday.

It said Hannibal Gadhafi’s wife and several members of the Libyan ruling family were aboard the jet that was denied permission to land at Rafik Hariri international airport on Tuesday.

Several Libyan regime figures could have been among the plane’s passengers, the radio station said.

Lebanon’s Safir daily said that the plane was due to take off from the Libyan capital before midnight but Lebanese authorities asked Libya to unveil the identity of the 10 people on board before allowing the jet to land.

When the Libyans ignored the Lebanese request, authorities in Beirut ordered airport officials to ask the pilot to divert the plane to a nearby country, either Syria or Cyprus.

The People in Charge


Libyan protesters, in several cities, think they are winning: 


Muammar Gaddafi, Libya’s long-standing ruler, has reportedly lost control of more cities as anti-government protests continue to sweep the African nation despite his threat of a brutal crackdown.

Protesters in Misurata said on Wednesday they had wrested the western city from government control. In a statement on the internet, army officers stationed in the city pledged “total support for the protesters”.

The protesters also seemed to be in control of much of the country’s east, and an Al Jazeera correspondent, reporting from the city of Tobruk, 140km from the Egyptian border, said there was no presence of security forces.

“From what I’ve seen, I’d say the people of eastern Libya are the ones in control,” Hoda Abdel-Hamid, our correspondent, said.

She said there were no officials manning the border when the Al Jazeera team crossed into Libya.


“All along the border, we didn’t see one policeman, we didn’t see one soldier and people here told us they [security forces] have all fled or are in hiding and that the people are now in charge, meaning all the way from the border, Tobruk, and then all the way up to Benghazi.

“People tell me it’s also quite calm in Bayda and Benghazi. They do say, however, that ‘militias’  are roaming around, especially at night. They describe them as African men, they say they speak French so they think they’re from Chad.”

Major-General Suleiman Mahmoud, the commander of the armed forces in Tobruk, told Al Jazeera that the troops led by him had switched loyalties.

 ”We are on the side of the people,” he said. “I was with him [Gaddafi] in the past but the situation has changed – he’s a tyrant.”

Benghazi, Libya’s second largest city, was where people first rose up in revolt against Gaddafi’s 42-year long rule more than a week ago. The rebellion has since spread to other cities despite heavy-handed attempts by security forces to quell the unrest.

With authorities placing tight restrictions on the media, flow of news from Libya is at best patchy. But reports filtering out suggest at least 300 people have been killed in the violence.

But Franco Frattini, the Italian foreign minister, said there were “credible’ reports that at least 1,000 had died in the clampdown.

Gaddafi Threatens to Blow Up Pipelines


That’s the latest rumor. It would be dangerous, and economically devastating for the impoverished nation, which is almost entirely dependent up on its oil resources.

Libyan Martyrs (Warning: Graphic)


This is extremely graphic. Do not click on the link too hastily. This video purports to show the bodies of Libyan soldiers who were executed for refusing to fire on civilians. 

More Pilots Defect


…thank God. The Lede has the story: 



According to the Libyan newspaper Quryna, a Libyan air force plane crashed near the eastern city of Benghazi on Wednesday after its crew refused to carry out orders to bomb the city, which is in opposition hands, Reuters reports.

The newspaper, which has now reportedly taken the side of the opposition,reported on its Web site that a colonel at an air base near Benghazi, said the two pilots, Attia Abdel Salem al Abdali and Ali Omar Qaddafi, had bailed out of their Soviet-era fighter jet near the city of Ajdabiya rather than obey the order to strafe Benghazi.

The reported crash follows a decision by the pilots of two other Libyan air force jets to fly to Malta rather than take part in attacks on protesters. The Malta Independent reported on Wednesday:

The two Libyan colonels who defected to Malta in Mirage supersonic jets are still being interviewed by the security services.

It has also been learned that the fighters – not quite top-notch aircraft, but still potent weapons – remain the property of Libya. However, it is understood that they will remain impounded until the situation in North Africa settles, a high-ranking Army source told this newspaper.

The newspaper added that, according to a Maltese military source, “the jets, recently refurbished under an agreement signed by Qaddafi and Nikolas Sarkozy, broke out of formation when their squadron was ordered to attack Libyan civilians.”

Death Toll Passes 1,000 Libya


Human Rights Watch has confirmed 300 deaths. That is a low-ball figure, however, as they rely on contacts to individual hospitals and morgues, but this has been disrupted by the internet and media blackout. An Italian MP, meanwhile claims to have an estimate from credible sources that the death toll has surpassed 1,000. From the heaviness of the fire heard on videos that have made their way into the hands of Western media, and from the way protesters appear to have been largely frightened off the streets of Tripoli today, that estimate doesn’t seem improbable.

Mercenaries Patrol the Streets of Tripoli


The Israel Nation News claims that African mercenaries are being paid up to $2,000 a day to squash demonstrations in Tripoli. 

Here is a video that purports to show the mercenaries at night:

Who’s Winning in Libya?


The protesters are convinced they are, at least in some parts. Reuters reports:


OBRUK, Libya (Reuters) – Bursts of celebratory machinegun fire echoed through the streets of Tobruk on Tuesday as anti-government protesters trashed a monument to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s most treasured work.

Truckloads of demonstrators rolled down the streets of the eastern Libyan port city, past low concrete houses, distant smokestacks and the glinting Mediterranean Sea.

Libyan soldiers told a Reuters correspondent they no longer backed Gaddafi and the eastern region was out of his control.

General Soliman Mahmoud al-Obeidy said the Libyan leader was no longer “trustworthy”, adding he decided to switch allegiances after hearing the authorities had given orders to fire on civilians in the eastern city of Benghazi.

“He bombs with airplanes and uses excessive force against unarmed people,” he told Reuters. “I am sure he will fall in the coming few days.”

Residents said Tobruk, site of major battles between German and Allied forces in World War Two, was now in the hands of the people and had been so for about three days. They said smoke rising above the city was from a munitions store bombed by troops loyal to one of Gaddafi’s sons.

Near the main square, some battered a portrait of Gaddafi with clubs. Others smashed pieces of green painted concrete, the remnants, they said, of a statue of Gaddafi’s “Green Book”.

“There’s that absurd book!” one shouted. “There’s that absurd book!”

Some burned copies of the book which was first published in 1975 and in which Gaddafi outlined the political philosophy that has underpinned his long years in power.

Naji Shelwy, 36, said: “This is a revolution. We are not protesting and we are not doing a sit-in. We want it to be called a revolution. We have spilled more blood than in Egypt and in Tunisia.”

Libya’s revolt comes hard on the heels of uprisings that have unseated the leaders of Tunisia and Egypt.

Abdel Monim Muftah, 24, a teacher, said: “We want a constitution for the country and we want a parliament.”

“The first day of the protests here, the people who sell hashish and stuff like that were fighting alongside the state,” Ramadan Faraj, 19, said. “They killed four people here and they wounded 50.”

He pointed to a banner reading, “Down, Down with the Butcher.” “Gaddafi wants to blow us up and leave,” Faraj said.


Protesters were delighted to find foreign journalists, organising trips around the city in army trucks and rushing up to talk and posing for photographs.

“Why were you so late?” one hotel worker asked this correspondent.

The message from protesters and the soldiers who celebrated was clear: Gaddafi has no power here. Eastern Libya is free.

“All the eastern regions are out of Gaddafi’s control now … The people and the army are hand-in-hand here,” said the now former army major Hany Saad Marjaa.

Salem al-Mabry, 41, a former soldier, said: “We aren’t with anyone except for the country now.”

Graffiti sprayed on walls declared “down, down Gaddafi” and “enough, enough”. Men in military uniform stood in the main road directing traffic. They said they no longer had any allegiance to the leader who has ruled for 41 years.

“Food is available, the pharmacies are open, the hospitals are open. Everything is open. Everyone has extended their hand to help, young and old, men and women,” said Fayyez Hussein Mohamed, 59.

Protesters gathered near a mosque in the middle of city centre, where more graffiti read “go 2 hell Gaddafi”, “game over Gaddafi” and “Tobruk free today”.

Nearby stood the burned-out shell of a police station, which residents said was set ablaze on Feb. 18, the same day they say four young men were killed by police.

One held a poster with a Libyan flag with a boot kicking a cartoon Gaddafi out. It read: “Libya is free, free and Gaddafi should get out”.

Milquetoast Diplomacy


The Times recounts the U.S.’s diplomatic responses to the developments in Libya so far:


The Obama administration on Tuesday reiterated its condemnation of bloody clashes between protesters and those loyal to the Libyan leader, Col.Muammar el-Qaddafi, but it stopped short of threatening concrete measures, like sanctions or a no-flight zone above Tripoli.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the Libyan government was responsible for the bloodshed, which she called “completely unacceptable.” But with the United States not yet able to get its diplomats out of the country, she said, “the safety and well being of Americans has to be our highest priority.”

“We are in touch with many Libyan officials, directly and indirectly, and with other governments in the region to try to influence what is going on inside Libya,” Mrs. Clinton said to reporters at the State Department.

On Monday, the State Department ordered 35 diplomats and their dependents to leave the country. On Tuesday, it was not able to move them because of a shortage of seats on commercial flights. It has asked commercial carriers to fly larger planes to Tripoli and has charter flights on standby, said the State Department spokesman, Philip J. Crowley.

Even before the violence, the United States has worried about the safety of its diplomats in Tripoli. The State Department called home its ambassador, Gene A. Cretz, after his name appeared on cables made public by WikiLeaks, which disclosed embarrassing details about the personal habits of Colonel Qaddafi.

“It is a totally legitimate concern, given Qaddafi’s past behavior,” said Tom Malinowski, the head of the Washington office of Human Rights Watch. “But the more they signal that their chief concern is for the safety of their people, the more the incentive for the Qaddafi government to hold hostages.”

Mr. Crowley said the Libyan government had pledged to cooperate with the United States in evacuating Americans. A senior diplomat, Assistant Secretary of State Jeffrey D. Feltman, has spoken several times by telephone with Libya’s foreign minister, Moussa Koussa. The United States is exploring other options to move people, including by ferry. But for now, Mr. Crowley said, the focus was on using aircraft.

In addition to the embassy personnel, there are about 600 American citizens registered with the embassy in Tripoli, as well as several thousand people with dual American-Libyan citizenship. Many of those work for energy companies and were also trying to get out of the country, he said.

The Scramble Out of Libya


An account of fleeing foreigners is here.

In the Qaddafi Household


A portrait of dysfunction, derived from WikiLeaks, here

Clinton Speaks


The Secretary of State “strongly condemns” the violence in Libya.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Morocco “Should be the Rule”


The Moroccan American Center for Policy (MACP), Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International have joined in praising the progress of the demonstrations in Morocco, and the regime’s relatively benign response. From an MACP press release: 

37,000 Moroccans in largely peaceful march for reform; Amnesty International lauds “maturity” of protesters & police; Human Rights Watch says Morocco’s “calm response” should be “rule, not exception” in volatile region.

Washington, DC (February 22)–As Morocco returned to business Monday following largely peaceful demonstrations for continued reforms in more than 30 cities, Amnesty International (AI) commended Moroccans’ “maturity” and Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Morocco’s restraint and “calm response” to Sunday’s protest “should be the rule, not the exception for tolerating peaceful dissent” in the region. HRW noted that “Thousands of Moroccans in cities across the country demonstrated in favor of political reform on February 20, 2011. Mostly peaceful demonstrations and marches took place in towns and villages largely without interference from police, who in some areas were barely in evidence.”

HRW added that “Morocco’s demonstrators encountered none of the deadly force utilized by the security forces against protesters in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Bahrain, and Yemen. Security forces allowed Moroccan citizens to march peacefully to demand profound changes in how their country is governed.” “We applaud the maturity shown by the Moroccan authorities,” said AI in a statement, adding that “we are satisfied with the behavior of the security forces.” It also praised the “maturity” shown by demonstrators. On Monday, Moroccan officials put the number of protesters nationwide Sunday at 37,000, a moderate turnout for a country that regularly sees much larger demonstrations.

The protests, which are legal in Morocco when sanctioned by the authorities, took the form of sit-ins, rallies, and demonstrations. “In many ways, this was Morocco at its best,” said former US Ambassador to Morocco, Edward Gabriel, who witnessed the demonstration in Rabat. “Protesters were respectful and polite, but intent on expressing their legitimate concerns that government work better for them. They wanted the government to quicken the pace of the far-reaching political, social, and economic reforms Morocco has instituted in the last decade. In most locations, there was no violence, no heavy-handed tactics, just people showing their desire to make Morocco a better place, with more freedom, democracy, and jobs.”

“The positive example Moroccans are setting is one that others in the region would do well to observe, and US policymakers should be more active in supporting,” said Gabriel. “It certainly stands in stark contrast with the dreadful violence in Libya and other parts of the Middle East/North Africa region in recent weeks.” US Senator John McCain (R-AZ) in Morocco on Friday before the protests noted that “we have seen progress during the last 10-15 years” in Morocco’s respect for human rights and advances in its parliamentary system. 

Bahrain Ongoing


The flamboyant colonel has managed to steal the news cycle in recent days. But significant protests continue throughout the middle east, including those led by the Shiite majority in Bahrain. Here’s the latest


MANAMA, Bahrain — More than 100,000 protesters poured into the central Pearl Square here on Tuesday in an unbroken stream stretching back for miles along a central highway in the biggest antigovernment demonstration yet in this tiny Persian Gulf kingdom.

The protesters, mostly members of the Shiite majority, marched along the eastbound side of Sheikh Khalifa Bin Salman Highway in a wide, unbroken column of red and white, the country’s colors. Men of all ages walked with women and children waving flags and calling for an end to the authoritarian government of King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa.

In a nation of only a half a million citizens, the sheer size of the gathering was astonishing. The protest, organized by the Shiite opposition parties, began in the central Bahrain Mall, two miles from the square and seemed to fill the entire length of the highway between the two points.

Security forces were nowhere to be seen along the demonstration route. The Ministry of the Interior, which has been regularly providing updates on the situation in the capital via its Twitter feed, issued a terse acknowledgment of the protest: “Sheikh Khalifa Bin Salman towards Manama is now closed.”

Gaddafi’s Sound and Fury


Gaddafi’s speech has now been going on for more than an hour, and he shows no sign of slowing. Here are some of the important take-aways and quotes. First, Gaddafi looks like a lunatic; he appears delirious and physically unbalanced, and is set before a bizarre background. Second, he claims that he will die in Libya and will not be forced out. Third, his speech is so long and rambling and illogical, that it is hard to make sense of what is intended as a concession, and what he intends, delusionally, as a statement of fact.

He begins by speaking of his accomplishments as a war hero and revolutionary, and asks, “Is this gratitude?” He claims that protesters wish to turn Libya into an Islamic state. He accuses them of threatening the military and the country as a whole. He says they will be caught and begging for mercy, and he will not be merciful. But he promised some reform. He said there would be “new committees.” He picked up his own Green Book and read from his criminal statutes to prove that demonstrators deserved death. And he has suggested that though he has not yet ordered any military action against protesters on the streets he reserved the right to do so; he said, “the unity of the people of China was more important than the people in Tiananmen square.” And he would “cleanse Libya, house by house.”

 “Libyan oil should be distributed to all the people. Take your share and do whatever you like with it.”

“I myself led peaceful demonstrations in the old regime, but I did not seek destruction.”

“Libyans don’t need to resort to demonstrations; they can go to the People’s Committee.”

He made very many anti-American references. The Libyan State TV station kept switching to a statue of a sand-colored hand grasping a model of a U.S. fighter jet. He said, “The Davidian cults in Waco was dealt with armored vehicles.”

“Peaceful demonstrations are acceptable. Conspiring with foreign governments is a totally different issue.”

“Muammar Gaddafi is not the president, he is the leader of the revolution. He has nothing to lose. Revolution means sacrifice until the very end of your life.”

“We challenge America with its mighty power, we challenge even the superpower.”

“Muammar Gaddafi is not a normal person that you can poison, or lead a revolution against.”

“I will fight until the last drop of blood with the people behind me.”

“A new administration will be formed; new municipalities; new authorities.”

“I don’t have money, I don’t have a palace; I want everything I have for the people, and to preserve its oils.”

“I haven’t even started giving the orders to use bullets — any use of force against authority of state will be sentenced to death.”

“They are just imitating Egypt and Tunisia.”

“Protesters want to turn Libya into an Islamic state.”

“If you love Muammar Gaddafi you will go out and secure Libya’s streets.”

“Are you gangsters?”

“Don’t destroy the country for no reason. What’s come over you? We had peace and happiness, then we burn our country down.”

The youth are “following the orders of foreign agents and fundamentalists. If they do not follow Gaddafi, who would they follow? This is impossible. I brought them up. Everywhere they are shouting slogans in favor of Muammar Gaddafi.”



This is the setting in which Gaddafi is giving his speech. It looks bombed out: 

Gaddafi Speaking Now


This is surreal. Watch here:

Transcript will be posted ASAP. 

Currently Gaddafi is threatening protesters that if he goes, America will occupy Libya, “Like Iraq, like Afghanistan.”



Here is what Libyan state television broadcast of Gaddafi proving he was still in Tripoli:

Dictator in Chic


A pictorial retrospective on the life and times of Muammar al-Gaddafi:






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