Obama: War in Afghanistan Coming to an End

The anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s death was marked with President Obama’s secret flight to Afghanistan to sign a strategic pact with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, declaring a slow but gradual withdrawal of American troops and a promised long-term US role in Afghanistan through aid and advisers.

Obama Marks the Death of bin Laden with a Surprise Trip to Afghanistan

Beginning on October 7, 2001, a new phase of the War in Afghanistan began through Bush’s commitment of US troops under his National Security Strategy.  The strategy justified the use of US armed forces abroad to ensure US global hegemony, which was to be permanent.  Through this militaristic approach emerged Operation Enduring Freedom, a response to the 9/11 attacks, in which the US entered a decade long war in search of the al-Qaeda terrorist organisation and to remove the Taliban regime from power, a regime that came into power mainly from US arms support and aid during its years of guerrilla warfare against the incursion of the Soviet Union from 1978 to 1989.  Nearly 3,000 US and NATO soldiers have died during the Afghanistan war since the Taliban were ousted in 2001.  More than 130,000 troops from 50 countries serve in Afghanistan, according to the NATO-led International Security and Assistance Force. The US is the largest contributor, providing about 90,000 troops, followed by the UK (9,500), Germany (4,800) and France (3,600). Now, after the successful assassination of Osama bin Laden and the installation of a democratic regime under President Karzai, Obama has signed a pact discussing how the way will end and promised a steady drawdown of US troops.  The Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA) may provide Afghans with reassurances that they will not be abandoned when most NATO combat troops leave as planned in 2014.  For Obama, the plan serves as an opportunity to conclude a war started by his predecessor, George W. Bush, which has become widely unpopular domestically, a move many political ambition theorists suggest will help consolidate his re-election campaign.

“My fellow Americans, we have traveled through more than a decade under the dark cloud of war.  Yet here, in the pre-dawn darkness of Afghanistan, we can see the light of a new day on the horizon.” – Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States

During his speech at Bagram airbase outside of Kabul, Obama committed to pulling 23,000 troops out of the country by the end of the summer and sticking to the 2014 deadline to turn security fully over to the Afghan government.  Some US forces will remain in a post-war Afghanistan as military advisers, but both US and Afghan officials have yet to decide how many troops will continue supporting the Afghan military, and for how long.  The SPA provides a framework for the US-Afghanistan partnership for the decade after the US and allied troop withdrawal.  Specific levels of US forces and funding are not set in the agreement and will be determined by the US in consultation with allies.  With much in store for the future negotiations, the stability of Afghanistan still hangs on a precipice, clearly exemplified by the suicide bombing in Kabul during President Obama’s speech.  The blast killed 7 people outside a compound known as Green Village, illustrating the fragile state of the country.  Some of the more troubling challenges ahead include corruption in Karzai’s weak government, the unsteadiness of Afghan forces in the face of a resilient Taliban insurgency, and Washington’s strained ties with Pakistan where US officials see selective cooperation in cracking down on militants fueling cross-border violence.

“There will be difficult days ahead, but as we move forward in our transitions, I’m confident that Afghan forces will grow stronger; the Afghan people will take control of their future.” – Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States

President Obama’s speech carries different messages for different audiences, one at home and one away.  The more important audience is American voters fed up with a war that will be in its 12th year on Election Day this fall.  Obama is seeking to portray his foreign policy as record as a success.  His campaign team has made bin Laden’s death a key part of that argument, and the President’s visit to the country where militants hatched the September 11 attacks on the United States reinforces that message.   Nevertheless, the message portrayed to the American people is undermined by the hard evidence coming out of Afghanistan.  Politics aside, Afghanistan will remain the third poorest country in the world.  Skepticism is shared by the European Union who have stated that Western aid that has been poured into Afghanistan will have limited impact as long as governance remained poor and corruption widespread.  Moreover, the truth of the troop withdrawal is that even after the US combat mission is concluded in 2014, thousands of US troops will remain for some years to conduct strikes and otherwise train and advise Afghan forces, and help the Afghans collect and exploit intelligence on insurgents and other military targets.  A new Pentagon report describes the capability of the insurgency to replace battlefield losses and launch high-profile attacks, even as it has lost territory to the Us and Afghan forces.  Evidently, the optimistic message given by Obama is largely campaign-drive but the plan behind the message is what is important, a gradual drawdown process through which the US will hopefully avoid another Iraqesque failure.

“As we emerge from a decade of conflict abroad and economic crisis at home, it’s time to renew America.  This time of war began in Afghanistan, and this is where it will end.” – Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States

In retrospect, the message here is that the US is trying to reassure the American populace of an ending war, as well as reassure Afghan leaders the US would not repeat its mistake from the 1980s.  Then, Washington withdrew support for anti-Soviet militia forces in Afghanistan and set the stage for Taliban rule.  The US has been able to decimate the ranks of the terrorist organization al-Qaeda that had taken root in Afghanistan and now the US has the duty to end the war in Afghanistan responsibly, ensuring the security and stability of the country for years to come.


Syria: Russia/China Relationship with Syria is “Incomprehensible and Inexcusable”

With yet another United Nations Security Council resolution blocked by the greed of Russia and China, government forces in Syria have begun to shell the central Syrian city of Homs, killing at least 50 people on Monday morning.

Russia and China Have Vetoed Another UNSC Resolution, Prolonging the Suffering of Syrian People

The uprising began with mostly peaceful protests against President Assad, but government forces responded with a fierce crackdown.  Now, army defectors and others are taking up arms to combat such tyranny, raising fears of civil war.  With Russia and China on the receiving end of Assad’s blood money trade, fears have grown that with such international protection from the UN, Assad will be emboldened to intensify repressive actions.  So saying, escalation in the battle has already been seen, as Assad has intensified shelling with a rate of one shell every two minutes.  On Saturday, Syrian forces were reported to have killed up to 200 people in Homs, the highest death toll since the uprising began.  The news of the perpetuating massacre comes after Syrians had observed for the first time in 30 years the anniversary of the massacre carried out in Hama in February 1982.  It is still regarded as one of the most gruesome events in Syria’s modern history.  Parallel to the current uprising, the 1982 massacre involved former President Hafiz al-Assad, who decimated most of the city of Hama with aerial bombings and tanks.  About 30,000 inhabitants were killed and a similar number of people were detained, tortured and many disappeared in while in prison.  Just like today’s Syria allies in the East, the 1982 event occurred under the cover of the Soviet Union.

“Clearly there is a tragedy in that country.  Russia and China are protecting a regime that is killing thousands of people.  We find their position both incomprehensible and inexcusable.  By supporting that regime, they are strengthening it and allowing it to continue with that violence.” – David Cameron, British Prime Minister

As in the past, the tension and disparity between the West and East is evident in the widening gap of relations illustrated in the past UNSC resolution vote.  The UN endorsed norm of ‘responsibility to protect’ mandates a collective response when states wage war on their own populations.  With China and Russia wielding veto powers though, the intransigence of diplomacy in the face of humanitarian genocide is evident.  Moreover, the Syrian regime seems to mock and taunt the UN’s notion of collective action with its brutal assault on the city of Homs just as the UN vote was taking place.  Regional and international hesitancy in dealing with Syria has prolonged the violence, as well as allowing Assad to practice military force without restraint.  In some perverse positive outlook though, the lack of international assistance has aided the Free Syrian Army in recruitment and its ascendancy is now a nearly foregone conclusion.  Nevertheless, the threat of both sides turning to greater force has increased because of Russia and China’s determination to delay any and all international responses to the travesty in Syria.

“We will work to expose those who are still funding the regime and sending it weapons that are used against defenseless Syrians, including women and children. we will work with friends of a democratic Syria around the world to support the oppositions peaceful political plans for change.” – Hilary Clinton, US Secretary of State

China and Russia have drawn the wrath of the US, Europe and much of the Arab world for the weekend veto Protesters could be seen burning Russian and Chinese flags outside of the Russian embassy in Beirut, adding to the increasing numbers of voices demanding that they stop supporting the ongoing massacre. In an attempt to distill and reject such targeted demonstrations and criticisms, both Russia and China have tried to use ethical argument and moralistic diction to bolster their arguments behind vetoing the already watered-down UNSC resolution.  In reality, Syria is Moscow’s only major ally in the Middle East, as well as being home to Russian naval base and client for its lucrative arm sales.  China, on the other hand, has targeted western intervention in Libya, Afghanistan and Iraq, suggesting that the violence still eminent in those territories is evidence enough of the error of forced regime change.  China remains hiding behind its statement that it was not supporting one side and was taking a fair and neutral stance on the civil war in Syria; yet with a 2009 trade quota that was estimated at over $2 billion, the facade is incontestable.

“On the issue of Syria, China is not sheltering anyone nor do we intentionally oppose anyone.  We uphold justice and take a responsible attitude.” – Liu Weimin, Chinese Foreign Ministry

Among those most vocal was Hilary Clinton, a staunch supporter for diplomatic means to end the violence in the tumult that has become Syria.  With US sponsorship, supporters of a democratic Syria intent to create a formal group of like-minded countries to coordinate assistance for Syria’s opposition, similar to the Contact Group on Libya that oversaw international aid for opponents of Qaddafi. Though similar in that sense, the NATO military operations that were seen in Libya is something that is not envision in Syria.  Sadly, with Western pursuits lying rooted in diplomacy and long-winded negotiations, a ragtag army of perhaps 10,000 Syrian rebels must combat and deter an army that while, far from invincible, enjoys an overwhelming advantage in numbers, equipment and firepower.


Syria: Assad-Russia vs UNSC

With the Arab League halting its much criticized and fruitless observer mission to Syria, violence and bloodshed have risen with security forces marching through Damascus, catalyzing the rift in Syria and the UNSC.

The Pleas for UN Involvement have Risen

The rising bloodshed has added urgency to new attempts by Arab and Western countries to find a resolution to the 10 months of violence that has killed at least 5,400 people. With Assad standing as a grim reaper above streets awash in his in the blood of his people, the thoughts of peaceful transition and negotiations between Assad and rebel forces are outside to the scope of rationality.  Many of the hopeful initiatives continue to face two major obstacles.  One problem is Assad’s general unwillingness to consider surrendering power and his recent rejection of an Arab peace plan that called for a transition to a unity government.  The other problem is Russia’s willingness to use its veto power in the UNSC to protect Syria from UN sanctions and the possible intervention by peacekeepers and a general Western intervention.  With Russia standing above Syria as some symbol of protection, Assad appears to feel invincible and untouchable, believing his forces will be able to quell and crush any and all anti-government forces.  Evidently, without the threat of Western intervention, such as NATO in Libya, Assad is escalating repressive actions in order to seize control of his country before the UN or NATO is able to intervene more effectively.

“We hope Syria seriously evaluates the decisions of the Arab League, puts an end to repression against its people and start a reform process in line with the demands of its people.” – Ahmet Davutogly, Turkish Foreign Minster

The Gulf Arab states and Turkey, which have spearheaded regional condemnation of the Syrian regime and have sponsored most plans, have been met with similar ridicule and rejection as the UNSC.  The Arab plan, which envisaged Assad transferring power to his deputy and the formation of a national unity government within 2 months, was rejected by Syria.  Saudi Arabia is the largest member of the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) and other members include Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.  Turkey, once a close ally of Syria, has been at the forefront of international criticism over Damascus regime’s crackdown on protests and has also become a haven for thousands of Syrian opposition activists.  With peaceful transition and international intervention or sanction being taken to the UN, opposition forces have taken it upon themselves, once again, to rekindle efforts to dismantle loyalist forces.  Syria’s military was forced to send tanks to neighborhoods on the outskirts of Damascus in an attempt to quell the most intense fighting yet seen so close to the capital.  The government attack on the suburbs began after the rebel forces, now known as the Free Syrian Army, occupied the area.  According to those forces, the assault involved more than 2,000 troops and 50 tanks.  The spike in violence has already claimed over 100 lives since it started on Thursday, with more dying each day in gun fights and tank bombardment of residential areas.

“I grew up hating NATO.  I was taught it was the devil.  It was unimaginable for decades for any Syrian t even think about asking for help from the West.  But now people on the ground want humanitarian intervention.  They want to be rescued.” – Bossma Kodmani, Syrian-French member of the Syrian National Council

Much hope for the Syrian opposition forces lies with the UN, despite their stalemate in the past because of Russia’s stance as a benefactor from the arms trade with the Assad regime.  The request for international assistance will go unanswered for a while yet.  Members of the UNSC are grappling over an appropriate response to Syria’s violent crisis.  The US, Britain and France are pushing for more international involvement, but veto-wielding Russia, backed by China,has blocked efforts to do more.  The recent draft resolution calls for Assad to resign powers to his deputy, mimicking the Arab plan.  Russia has vowed to oppose this draft resolution.  The failure of the observer mission and the GCC plan signals that regional efforts to halt the carnage have failed and the only alternative is to internationalize the crisis.  New York will not be the focus of concerted lobbying, with the Western power, the Arab League and the Syrian opposition all trying to persuade the Russians and the Chinese to not block a resolution adopting the previous Arab peace plan.  Evidently, the pressure is building up, both on Syria itself and on its international allies such as Russia and China who have so far staunchly protected it even from censure at the UNSC.

State of the Union: Rise Against Interpretation

Following the context and tone of the previous blog on Capitalism, this blog pursues a more cynical outlook on the State of the Union address delivered by President Obama on 24th January, 2012.

Many readers have undoubtedly heard of the band known as Rise Against, becoming rather popular for songs such as “Ready to Fall” and “Re-Education Through Labor“.  So saying, much of the bands lyrics are targeted at the US government, environmental crisis, materialistic corruption and capitalism.  One such song, is known as “State of the Union“.  The endeavor of this blog is to interpret and fact-check the 2012 State of the Union address, pursuing a similar tone and cynicism expressed by Rise Against and, as said before, the blog on Capitalism.  In truth, the 2012 address was well written and delivered in a heartwarming, reassuring and charismatic speech.

“If we’re the flagship of peace and prosperity, we’re taking on water and about to fuckin’ sink.  No one seems to notice, no one even blinks.  The crew all left the passengers to die under the sea.” – State of the Union by Rise Against

As most State of the Union addresses, the text has been carefully detailed and though through by multiple secretaries behind multiple desks, ensuring that the current President will not embarrass himself, though this attempt seemed to have been forgotten in Bush’s “sixteen little words” on Iraq pursuing uranium in Niger.  That being said, this year’s address launched Obama’s his re-election year; putting further pressure on the tone, policies and charisma, as it needed to connected with Obama’s winning coalition.  This pursuit for Selectorate appeasement, manipulating public opinion through optimistic dialogue, is the purpose of political ambition theory.  Many, if not all, of the President’s decisions are based on public opinion, which has been rather volatile as of late due to political dysfunction and fiscal ineptitude.  For these reasons, President Obama pursued a speech to which the Selectorate could not easily find fault in; as he targeted his opposition, spoke of his administrative success, spoke of future job creation, new regulative punishment for corporations already hated by the populace and a revivification of the education system which has been neglected for too long.  Nevertheless, the general optimism and appeasing tone of his speech is evidence enough of his attempt to gild the problems and corrosion of America and its political infrastructure.

“Countdown to the very end.  Equality, an invitation that we won’t extend.  Ready aim, pull the trigger now.  In Time you firmly secure your place in hell.” State of the Union by Rise Against

The beginning of Obama’s address praises the US military, something the institution has had long in the coming.  Nonetheless, the Obama’s statement is comically reminiscent of the premature stating of ‘Mission Accomplished’ by Bush, as the supposed successful implementation of democracy in Iraq has been far from that.  Since the US departure, Iraq has descended into violence as the religious rift of its society threatens to engulf the sacrifices and efforts of the American military.  The government of Prime Minster Nouri al-Maliki has targeted Sunni opposition figure, even arresting the Sunni political figure that was to be his political partner in the coalition government.  So saying, the sectarian violence seem to undermine the exhilaration of Obama’s pronounced achievement.  Moreover, the Taliban has not been broken, as Obama claimed; rather, the war in Afghanistan is mired in stalemate because of Taliban fighter operating from neighboring Pakistan.

“State of the Union address, reads war-torn country still a mess.  The words: power, death, and distorted truth are read between the lines of the red, white and blue” – State of the Union by Rise Against

Furthermore, Obama does attempt to endear himself by speaking of job creation during the last 22 months.  Most of the job-creation claims are rather debatable, given how every President is at the mercy of the business cycle.  As Obama noted, 4 million jobs were lost at the start of his administration but stating that another 4 million were lost before his policies were in full effect is a stretch.  This is because it took a full 9 months to run up 4 million in job losses, some 8 months after the stimulus was passed into law, and 4 months after many claimed that the recession had ended.  Any who claim that the recession has ended need only take a look at the growing state of disparity and depravity in the nation to understand that the recession has always been here, only some are able to ignore it with their Ferrari and private jet planes.

“Guilty is what our graves will read, no years, no family.  We did nothing to stop the murder of a people just like us” – State of the Union by Rise Against

Among Obama’s statements is the claim that American influence and foreign ties are stronger than ever, suggesting that the world is eager to work with the American people.  Obama’s statement does not include any cities in the Islamist world.  The Pew Research said in May that both the US favorability rating and confidence in Obama had fallen sharply since 2009.  In Turkey, a NATO ally, the confidence in Obama fell from 33% in 2009 to 11% in 2011.  In Jordan, another key ally, the favorability rating for the US fell from 25% in 2009 to 13% in 2011. So saying, US foreign policy has been rather successful in the aspect that Libya was able to usurp Qadhafi, Bin Laden is dead, and both Iran and Syria are facing more sanctions on a daily basis.  Nevertheless, the American people have become selfish and conniving, criticizing any humanitarian efforts that the democratic President aspires to take.  With millions starving around the world, with the Islamic people facing tanks and snipers for their attempts at democratization, the American people only concern themselves with materialism, a pursuit for immediate gratification, which can be blamed for the majority of the country’s problems.

Syria: Arab League Sanctions

The Arab League has approved economic sanctions against Syria after months of violent suppression of anti-government protests, marking an unprecedented and escalated step against the former Arab Member State.

Bashar al-Assad Stands as the Grim Reaper of the Anarchic Syria

With Syria on the brink of civil war, the tension and conflict within the region has exponentially intensified, as the Free Army heads its insurgents from its headquarters in Homs, using the border of Lebanon as a trade route for support and medical assistance.  Fueled by demand in Syria, the price for a black market Kalashnikov has gone up to $1,200 in Lebanon, evidently illustrating the significance and external influences the conflict is now causing in the Arab world. With the bloodshed of 8 months of conflict resulting in an estimated 3,500 casualties, the resistance movement against Bashar al-Assad has only deepened.  Syria’s government has maintained, almost since the start of the mass protests, that it was facing armed groups.  Coincidentally, after months of peaceful demonstrators being killed in the streets, the myth has become reality.

The Free Army, responsible for the armed resistance against security forces and army unites still loyal to al-Assad, has said that its objective is to protect civilians – especially the street protesters they believe will bring down the regime.  Despite widespread defections from loyalist forces, a whole unit has yet to change sides, depicting the element of brinkmanship that exists in the country.  The Free Amy leadership says that they need outside help from the West to bring that about.  Many are hoping for a no fly-zone, similar to those imposed by NATO on Libya, stating that such actions would be enough to decay the remaining pillars of support for the authoritarian regime.

“70% of the army are ready to defect.  Whole brigades with their officers; even the Special Forces.  But no battalion dares to move even 10 meters because they fear the Syria air force will attack.” – Walled al Abdullah, Lieutenant of the Free Army in Homs

Nevertheless, the cried for direct intervention by NATO or any Western power will go unanswered, as foreign powers are unwilling to risk casualties, the certain escalation of international tension and domestic resentment.  Rather, the European Union and the United States have involved themselves through economic sanctions.  Coupled with the newly approved sanctions by the Arab League, the sanctions have led to a travel ban against Syrian officials and politicians, a halt to all dealing with the Syria central bank and cessation of Arab-financed projects, all of which will be another tough blow to the already struggling Syrian economy.

In conjunction, the recent intensification of Arab League intervention has come after decades of irrelevance, reflecting the ossified politics of most of its members.  In early November 2011, the Syrian government accepted a plan brokered by the League to halt its violent suppression of demonstrators and convene talks with the opposition.  Nonetheless, the al-Assad regime launched a bloody assault to retake Homs.  Since this supposed period of detente, that only serve to exacerbate the conflict, Human Rights Watch has approximated an additional 104 casualties in the Homs area alone.  In response, on November 12th, the League voted to supposed Syria’s membership, targeting al-Assad’s clear breach of the agreement to stop the violent repression of demonstrators, the League further promised political and economic sanctions if al-Assad did not comply.  The moved served more so a symbolic purpose, as the Syria regime has long prided itself on bring an axis of Arab politics and a proponent of Arab unity.  Lastly, the approved sanction, effective immediately, have come after Syria’s refusal to admit international monitors in Syria to determine whether it was abiding by the league-brokered peace plan.

“The position of the people, and the Arab position, is that we must end this situation urgently.  It has almost been a year that the Syria people have been killed.” – Hamad bin Jassem, Qatari Foreign Minister

The Arab League resolution, also calls to the United Nations Security Council to adopt similar measures.  Consequently, the UNSC will remain ineffective due to the power of China and Russia.  As seen in the past blog (Syria: Failure of the UNSC), the trade routes between these countries mark a profit margin that neither would relinquish willingly.  Moreover, the move by Russia to have 3 of its warships enter Syria territorial waters to prevent US military interference mark the Russian intentions to ensure its interests are protected in Syria.  There are over 100,000 Russia citizens in Syria and Russia has used this presence to explain the supposedly obligatory measures to protect its citizens in Syria from any sort of military aggression by the US.

Furthermore, the power keg that is Syria will be an area of large international tension and conflict as the Obama presidency has taken a concentrated focus on the issues of the Middle East, escalating sanctions against Syria and Iran, both trade partner of Russia, as well as having intervened directly in Libya.  In the region there already exists the US nuclear aircraft carrier HW Bush, as well as a compliment of supporting ships, part of a carrier battle group, that includes support ships and frigates that provide unmatched fire power and force projection capabilities.  It is unclear what will happen if the US decides to start bombing targets in Syria but with intensified relations between the US and Russia, it could be seen as an attack against Russian citizens living in that country.

In retrospect, the movement within and without of Syria does not mark the trend seen in Libya, in which progressive actions were taken to institute a final objective of reform.  Instead, the violence and weak infrastructure that continues to be undermined by sanctions will result in anarchistic destruction, rather than reform.  Moreover, the international tension that is beginning to surmount because of the geopolitical situation, the destruction could also result a shift in the balance of power in which Russia and Iran will see Syria’s demise as a result of Western interference, vindicating some sort of counter offensive of political, fiscal and military means.


Libya: Saif-al Islam Captured

Saif al-Islam Qaddafi, the son of the now deceased Libyan leader Moammar Qaddafi, has been captured by revolutionary fighters in a firefight in the Libyan desert.

Saif al-Islam Qaddafi, son of Moammar Qaddafi

After 15 days of pursuit in the area between southwestern oasis town of Obari and southern town of Sabha, military commanders were able to capture on of the most-wanted elements of the former Qaddafi regime.  Saif al-Islam, infamous for his vigilance and perseverance in supporting military suppression and the brutality of Qaddafi, had sworn to die fighting. Nevertheless, Saif al-Islam was taken without firing a shot.  Surprisingly, Saif al-Islam was not killed in the firefight, especially considering the extenuating circumstances concerning the death of Moammar Qaddafi and one of his sons during the raid that resulted in his death over a month ago.

“That is very important because we consider him – the judges consider him – the principal, with his father Moammar, of the crimes committed in Libya after February 13.  He’s arrested, he’s alive and now he will face justice and that is the most important news.” – Luis Moreno-Ocampo, Chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court

The International Criminal Court in the Netherlands has confirmed the arrest.  The court wants Saif-alIslam Qaddafi for alleged crimes against humanity, including murder, committed during the uprising.  Moreno-Ocampo will travel to Libya next week to bring Saif al-Islam to justice.  The next steps, though, will be the most trying for the new transcriptional government in Libya that is to be set up on Tuesday.  The Zintan fighters, who make up one of the most powerful militia factions holding ultimate power in a country still without a government, plan to keep Saif al-Islam in Zintan, until they could hand him over to the authorities.  Prime minister-designate, Adburrahim El-Keib is scheduled to form a government by Tuesday, and the fate of Saif al-Islam will be an early test of its authority.  Libyans want to try Said al-Islam at home before considering the possibility of handing him over to the ICC.  The European Union has urged Libyan authorities to ensure Saif al-Islam was brought to justice in cooperation with the ICC.  The statements come after the suspicious death of Moammar Qaddafi under Operation Unified Protector.  Moammar Qaddafi’s beating, abuse and ultimate death in custody of former rebel fighters was an embarrassment to the previous transitional government.  Officials in Tripoli said they were determined to hand his son’s case with more order.

“I think the Libyan people can finally actually breathe a big sigh, finally relax to some extent, because he has been threatening to come back with revenge for some time now.  So, it’s a close for many, many people.” – Abdelraham Busin, National Transitional Council military liaison

In retrospect, the capture of Saif al-Islam has come as welcomed relief to many Libyans, ending months of insecurity and fear.   The capture of Saif al-Islam marks the suppression of opposition but it also marks the new democratic era of Libya, which has begun with a more than questionable start.  Many officials highly doubt that Saif al-Islam will be handed over to the ICC; rather, officials believe that the son of Moammar Qaddafi will be executed in Libya beforehand.  This does not mark bode well for the start of the formation of the new government and with militia groups holding power on the country side, with large stockpiles of weapons,t he centralization of power will be problematic.


Libya: A New Democratic Era

As the now deceased Colonel Qaddafi lays in an old meat store on Friday waiting for a secret burial, Libya’s new leaders begin to launch to formal start of a new era of democracy.

The Libyan People Welcome a New Democratic Era

With this new era, defunct of a common enemy that united regional and ideological rivalries between the NTC and other rebel forces, new challenges loom for the free Libyans.  With NATO secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen announcing that the alliance of power involved in Libya will conclude the NATO mission, launched in March under a UN mandate to protect civilians, the security of Libya come sunder question.  Despite being a protective and offensive force through the long 8 months of interstate conflict, NATO’s presence embodied foreign interest and involvement in Libya, a country holding large amounts of viable oil.  With French, British, German and US representative having begun visits months ago, it is clear that the stake of foreign interests will intensify divisions among pro-West forces and large amount of anti-West forces, which has always been a wide sentiment throughout the region.

For instance, controversy over the final moments of Qaddafi’s death has raised questions over the ability of the NTC to control the men with guns, especially considering the tribal and regional cleavages in Libya.  The interim Prime Minister has insisted that Qaddafi, shown alive (though bloodied) and talking in videos, was killed in crossfire between loyalist and rebel forces, few Libyans seem concerned that he was more probably summarily executed on the spot.  This has raised discomfort for Western allies about the respect for justice and human rights among those who claim to be fighting for just those ideals.

“This is a time to start a new Libya, with a new economy, with a new education and with a new health system – with one future.” – Mahmoud, Kibril, chairman of the National Transitional Council’s executive board

Moreover, a key division in Libya is between Libya’s Islamist, a sect that is fragmented internally as well, and the NTC.  These Islamist forces were oppressed under Qaddafi and participated in some of the toughest fighting, which will result in Islamist calls for a share in the power.  Given the intensity of difference in Libya, these differences could easily escalate.  Another problem comes from the need for the transitional authorities to determine how to incorporate former loyalist forces and technocrats into a new Libya society, which will be far from receptive.

Although President Obama states that Libya has won its revolution, thoughts linger of a new revolution emerging.  A power vacuum is evident, large weapon caches are up for grabs and populace is without basic needs, such as water and power. The NTC needs to consolidate control over the country’s security situation, ensuring that criminals and gangs don’t take advantage of the weapons still circulating.  With secular, nonsecular, pro-West, anti-West, tribal forces and regional forces, the safety of Libya is threatened and any self-proposed leader could threaten the safety of Libya’s civilian population.   Laying the grounds for an underground militia group, possibly resembling any terrorist group, such as al-Shabbab in Somalia, the self-proposed leader could thus create a fractiousness and anarchistic state.  Clearly, the new democratic era needs to bolster its legitimacy and reassure all sects of a government reflecting their values.

The rivalries and grounds for open civil war among rebels were exploited by Qaddafi at time to control the thinly populate country of 6 million and its substantial oil and gas resources.  His repression and firm-handed rule ensured stability, as Saddam Hussein did in Iraq.  So saying, the links between these two are not so far off, as Iraq’s status quo is summarily explained by a historic Sunni-Shia war, which was sparked by foreign involvement that ended the oppressive hand of Saddam that ensured stability, of some sort.  International relations suggest that most interstate wars are caused by a preliminary intrastate war, as exhibited in Iraq and could very well be submitted again in Libya between the NTC and Islamist groups.

“Libya will travel a long and winding road to full democracy.  There will be difficult days ahead.” – Barack Obama, 44th President of America

Nevertheless, revenue from Libya’s oil will go a long way toward paving a democratic road, bolstering its legitimacy and tending to social and public needs.  The country has already begun producing an estimated 350,000 barrels of oil per day, which is a huge jump from 0 oil barrels during the conflict.  With surefooted moves, Libya could easily double its current production and because of global dependence on such a commodity, the exports would result in approximately $80 million in funding per day.  A return to its prewar output, 1.6 million barrels a day, which would net hundreds of millions of dollars a day, is still above the NTC capacity as it would require slow and complicated work.  Another move open to the NTC, and is being taken, is lobbying for the release of its frozen assets, which analysts estimate to be at $150 billion.  The assets range from real estate, staked in the Italian bank UniCredit, British publisher Pearson which owns Financial Times, and Italy’s soccer club Juventus.  Libya, with all its tribal and cultural division, was united into one colony by Italy until 1947, which explains the Italian assets.

In retrospect, the coming days will be witness to scenes of celebration and tears of relief but the road ahead for the people of Libya will be difficult and full of challenges both domestically and internationally.