German Chancellor: Libya can make fresh start after Gadhafi death


German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday that Libya was now free to make a fresh start and begin peaceful democratic reforms after the death of Muammar Gaddafi.

“This brings to an end a bloody war that Gaddafi waged against his own people. The path is now finally clear for a fresh political start, in peace. Germany is relieved and very happy about this,” Merkel said in a statement.

She said Libya should now carry out political reforms to “ensure the achievements of the Arab Spring cannot be undone.”

Reporting by Stephen Brown and Alexandra Hudson

Obama respond to Gadhafi death


[UPDATE] President Barack Obama said on Thursday the United States would be a partner to Libya following the death of Muammar Gadhafi and said the NATO mission in the North African country would “soon come to an end.”

“This marks the end of a long and painful chapter for the people of Libya who now have the opportunity to determine their own destiny in a new and democratic Libya,” he told reporters in the White House Rose Garden.

Obama also said the death of Gadhafi, as reported by Libyan authorities, was significant in the Arab world where protests have provoked the fall of long-standing dictators. “The rule of an iron fist inevitably comes to an end,” he said.

[Oct. 20, 11 am] President Barack Obama will say publicly on Thursday that he believes deposed Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi is likely dead, an administration official said.

“In his remarks, the president will cite the fact that Libyan officials have announced Gadhafi’s death. We have also received similar reports through diplomatic channels and have confidence in this reporting,” a White House official said.

[Oct. 20, 9:50 am] U.S. officials on Thursday scrambled to check reports that deposed Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi had died after being captured near his hometown of Sirte following months of civil war.

Gadhafi was wounded in the head and legs as he tried to flee in a convoy that came under attack from NATO warplanes at dawn, a senior official with Libya’s National Transitional Council told Reuters.

A senior Obama administration official said the U.S. was working to confirm the reports.

“We’re working on it,” the official said.

Gadhafi’s death followed months of NATO military action in Libya that began over a government crackdown against pro-democracy protesters inspired by protests in neighboring Tunisia and Egypt that ended in the overthrow of long-standing autocratic leaders.

The United States led the initial air strikes on Gadhafi’s forces but quickly handed the lead over to NATO, while taking a secondary role to Britain and France.

The NATO bombing campaign helped Libya’s rebels take power.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Tuesday became the most senior U.S. official to visit Tripoli since Gadhafi’s four-decade rule ended in August.

Clinton hailed “Libya’s victory.” But her visit was marked by tight security in a sign of worries that the country’s new rulers have yet to establish full control over the country.

Gadhafi was wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of ordering the killing of civilians.

He was believed to be hiding deep in Libya’s Sahara desert. His wife, two sons and a daughter fled to neighboring Algeria shortly after Tripoli fell to rebel forces in August.

Reporting by Matt Spetalnick, Alister Bull, Jeff Mason, Laura MacInnis and David Morgan; Editing by Vicki Allen

Don’t confuse Assad and Gadhafi


Think kiwis and kumquats. While it is true that they are both fruits, the similarities between them end right about there. So, too, the similarities between Libya and Syria.

There are no significant parallels that can be extrapolated from the overthrow in Libya to the unrest and potential for overthrow in Syria.

Yes, each country was ruled by a thugocracy. And each country has been run by a despot who is representative of only a very small segment of the population. Bashar Assad of Syria is an Alawite while the majority of the country is Sunni, and Libya’s Muammar Gadhafi is from the tribe of Gadhaffiyah — one of the 140 tribes that compose Libya.

And that’s where the parallels end.

It’s the differences between the countries that are more glaring than their similarities. That’s what makes it almost ludicrous to even think about applying the lessons learned from Libya to the events that are still unfolding in Syria.

The first and most important difference between Libya and Syria is weaponry. The opposition in Syria has almost no weapons; the opposition in Libya is well armed. They are not well trained and their weapons are not of the highest caliber, but compared to the paltry supply the Syrians have, the Libyans boast impressive firepower.

The second and almost as important difference is military intelligence. The opposition in Libya benefited from the aid of British and French special forces and intelligence operatives and from intelligence gathering provided them by the United States, France and England. The opposition in Syria is on its own. In addition to having no weapons and training, they have no friends lending them military support or feeding them crucial intelligence.

While the world cheered on Libyan opposition forces, Syria’s opposition forces have few friends, no leverage and no power. They are cannon fodder for the Syrian military.

Col. Muammar Gadhafi was almost universally disdained — his rhetoric, his female bodyguards, his total disregard for human life, his active participation in acts of terror. Over the years, Gadhafi successfully offended and alienated so many people, not only in the West and but also in the Arabic world, that even Arabs wanted to oust him. He also considered himself to be an African rather than an Arab, and that also greatly upset his Arab-leader colleagues.

In the West there was a wall-to-wall coalition supporting the ousting of Gadhafi. That support spread to significant parts of the Arab leadership. Even the Arab League called for the fall of the Libyan dictator.

Assad, on the other hand, is a gentlemanly despot: educated, a physician, forced to obey his father’s orders and take up the mantle of thugocracy after the death of his brother. The beginnings of the uprising against Assad were almost totally ignored by the world media.

There has yet to be any orchestrated international protest or public outcry censoring or criticizing Assad. There are no Syrian groups in exile pushing for their freedom or lobbying for their cause on the airwaves. In contrast, there was an almost constant barrage of Libyans in exile begging for international assistance and keeping their cause alive in the media.

President Obama did just recently call for Assad to step down, but the United States still maintains diplomatic representation in Syria. The U.S. ambassador to Syria has not been recalled and neither have the ambassadors from most European countries, with the exception of Italy. And only a couple of Arab states followed Saudi Arabia’s lead when they yanked their ambassadors. The Arab League has just asked Syria to stop killing innocents, which is hardly an indictment of the heinous acts Assad is perpetrating and pales in comparison to the way in which they vilified Gadhafi.

The Arab League ousted Gadhafi and seated the Libyan opposition in his place.

The 140 different tribes in Libya are each fighting for autonomy. While there are family and tribal linkages in Syria, the greatest divisive force in that country is the religious divide. Sunnis constitute 74 percent, the overwhelming majority of the Syrian population; then come the Shiites at 12 percent; and then Assad and his fellow Alawites, a break-off from Shiia tradition, at 9 percent. Although Assad’s Alawite may be the minority religious tribe in Syria, they comprise a very significant and loyal part of the army.

There are only two viable ways for the Syrian revolt to succeed. The opposition needs either international intervention or for Sunni elements within the army to defect and join their cause. There are no other alternatives.

Unfortunately for the Syrian opposition, those are both long shots. Given the current international economic crunch, it is too risky for the West to take on another mission like the one they engaged in with Libya. Do not expect a no-fly zone in Syria like the one in Libya. And unless there is a serious incentive and worthwhile push, there will be no defections from the Syrian army.

Gadhafi has gone underground and may not turn up again. Assad remains in power, and he is not about to leave Damascus anytime soon. He is reaping the fruits of his and of his father’s brutal labor.

Micah D. Halpern is a columnist and a social and political commentator. His latest book is “Thugs: How History’s Most Notorious Despots Transformed the World through Terror, Tyranny, and Mass Murder” (Thomas Nelson).

Obama: Gadhafi "needs to go" [VIDEO]


United States President Barack Obama said on Monday that the U.S. policy on Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi is that he “needs to go.”

Speaking at a news conference with Chilean President Sebastian Pinera, Obama said the military objective in Libya is to guard civilians from attacks by Gadhafi, not oust him from power.

Obama also added that the U.S. expects to transfer the lead military role in Libya to other allies in a matter of days.

Video courtesy of AP.

Read more at Haaretz.com.

Libya declares cease-fire in wake of UN vote to intervene [VIDEO]


Libyan Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa annouces a cease-fire.

Libya declared a ceasefire in the country and will comply with a United Nations resolution passed overnight, Libyan Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa said on Friday. The conciliatory message was in sharp contrast to comments made by Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi just before the UN vote, in which he said that forces loyal to him would mercilessly attack rebels.

“We decided on an immediate ceasefire and on an immediate stop to all military operations,” he told reporters. “(Libya) takes great interest in protecting civilians,” he said, adding that the country would also protect all foreigners and foreign assets in Libya.

The UN Security Council, meeting in a emergency session on Thursday, passed a resolution endorsing a no-fly zone to halt government troops now around 100 kilometers from Benghazi. It also authorized “all necessary measures” – code for military action – to protect civilians against Gadhafi’s forces.

Read more at Haaretz.com.

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