Monday: Round-up of Libya and the region
Rebels fire missiles towards pro-Gadhafi forces Monday close to the town of Bin Jawad, as they advanced towards Sirte.
March 28th, 2011
09:14 AM ET

Monday: Round-up of Libya and the region

By Tim Lister, CNN

Get up to speed on the fast-changing events in Libya as of Monday morning, ET:


President Obama set the tone for his televised speech at 730p ET Monday (CNN)

"When someone like Gadhafi threatens a bloodbath that could destabilize an entire region; and when the international community is prepared to come together to save many thousands of lives-then it's in our national interest to act." President Obama in his weekly radio address

Why Libya but not Syria? (WSJ)

"Many of the members of Congress of both parties who have gone to Syria in recent months have said they believe he’s a reformer. What’s been happening there the last few weeks is deeply concerning, but there’s a difference between calling out aircraft and indiscriminately strafing and bombing your own cities and then police actions, which, frankly, have exceeded the use of force that any of us would want to see." Secretary Clinton on Face the Nation

Some U.S. lawmakers have argued that Washington has more of a justification—and interest—in seeking Mr. Assad's overthrow than Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's. Syria is Iran's closest strategic partner, and Damascus has played a central role in arming militant groups operating in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories.

Many U.S. and European officials believe Mr. Assad's fall could severely weaken Tehran's regional influence, even though there are fears Syria could succumb to ethnic and sectarian clashes.

U.S. companies helping to stifle Internet in Middle East (WSJ)

As Middle East regimes try to stifle dissent by censoring the Internet, the U.S. faces an uncomfortable reality: American companies provide much of the technology used to block websites.

McAfee Inc., acquired last month by Intel Corp., has provided content-filtering software used by Internet-service providers in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, according to interviews with buyers and a regional reseller.

Senior official, pressed on whether the same standards applied to rebel forces (Wapo)

"It's been very clear up to this point that it is the regime of Colonel Gadhafi that is engaged in horrendous acts against civilians, and therefore, it is those forces that are being targeted. But the mission is clear. It's about the protection of civilians and civilian-populated areas. It is not anything more or anything less than that."

Using bodies to suggest civilian casualties? (DM)

"We do have a lot of intelligence reporting about Gadhafi taking the bodies of the people he's killed and putting them at the sites where we've attacked," Gates told CBS.  Gates stressed that coalition forces have been "extremely careful in this military effort" and commended coalition air forces saying, they "have really done an extraordinary job."


Libya Strikes Focus on Tripoli, Sirte (CNN)

Opposition forces have won back some 200 miles of coastal real estate in the last 48 hours, and so long as their supply lines are not interdicted by Gadhafi loyalists (unlikely given the alliance's control of the air) they may threaten Sirte Monday.

Sirte: Still held by Gadhafi (Reuters)

Contradicting the rebel claim to have a captured Sirte, an important military base about 450 km (280 miles) west of the capital Tripoli, Reuters correspondent Michael Georgy reported from the city that the situation was normal. He had seen some police and military, but no signs of any fighting.

As Gadhafi's birthplace, Sirte has great symbolic importance (Haaretz)

If it fell, the rebels would gain a great psychological boost and the road towards Tripoli would lie open.

There are undoubtedly many die-hard supporters of the regime in Sirte (CSM)

Gadhafi’s hometown is filled with members of his extended family and tribe, the Gaddafa, a once minor group who have grown rich and influential thanks to his patronage.

While there have been scattered rumors of anti-Qaddafi protests in Sirte and accurate information is hard to come by, there are undoubtedly many die-hard supporters of the regime in town. Qaddafi’s best units, including the 32nd Brigade led by his son Khamis Qaddafi, have sent reinforcements to Sirte and it’s been a staging ground for attacks into the east.

Misurata endures heavy civilian casualties (CNN)

While the opposition rolled westward, the city of Misurata - located between the rebels' current position and Tripoli - remained under siege by government forces for the 11th consecutive day, an eyewitness told CNN.

The city remained under shelling and pro-Gadhafi snipers remained on rooftops, he said. Pro-Gadhafi forces appeared to be shelling strategic places like the port and a main industrial area, he said. Busloads of soldiers have arrived in the city dressed as civilians, the witness said. The soldiers ostensibly came to participate in a peace march, but it appeared to be a ploy to set up positions around the city, he said. According to him, 116 civilians have been killed in the last week.

An Al Jazeera reporter who somehow made his way into the city today reports that the siege of that town has left hundreds of civilians dead and hardened locals’ fury at Gadhafi's regime.

Can the rebels start moving oil? (LAT)

The coastal complexes at Ras Lanouf and Brega were responsible for a large chunk of Libya's 1.5 million barrels of daily exports, which have all but stopped since the uprising that began Feb. 15 and was inspired by the toppling of governments in Tunisia and Egypt.

The top financial official for the Libyan rebels said Qatar had agreed to market oil for the opposition - but at this point, it's not clear how the deal would work or whether there's even any oil. The foreign workers with the expertise fled the country when fighting began.

Qatar recognizes rebel Libyan national council as sole, legitimate representative of Libyan people, the first Arab state so to do.

Regime Implodes? (ST)

"We have a lot of evidence that people around him are reaching out," said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on NBC's "Meet the Press." "We're also sending a message to people around him: Do you really want to be a pariah? Do you really want to end up in the International Criminal Court? Now is your time to get out of this and to help change the direction."

Gates, on CBS' "Face the Nation," said Gadhafi "could see elements of his military turning, deciding this is a no-win proposition. The family is splitting. Any number of possibilities are out there, as long as the international pressure continues and those around him see no future in staying with him."

Russians warns against Libya mission (CNN)

"There are reports – which go undenied – that the air forces of the coalition conduct air strikes on Gadhafi's troops and support the military actions of rebels. There is an obvious controversy there. We believe that the interference into what is, essentially, an internal civil war is not sanctioned by the UN Security Council resolution." Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.


Assad prepares concessions (Reuters)

In the city of Daraa more than 55 people are believed to have been killed in a week of protests, Amnesty International said on March 25. In an attempt to placate protesters, Assad freed 260 prisoners on March 26, and 16 more on Sunday.

End of the state of emergency (National)

Bouthaina Shaaban, a senior adviser to Mr. al Assad, said yesterday the decision to end a state of emergency that has endured for 48 years had "already been made". While that statement went further than a previous pledge given last Thursday to "study" lifting the law, Ms Shaaban said she had "no information" as to when the draconian legislation would actually be lifted,

There was further speculation that parliament would "soon" be notified of plans to suspend martial rule, perhaps within a matter of hours.

Sectarian fears in Syria (LAT)

State media seemed to stoke fears of further sectarian violence, saying foreigners had entered Syria to threaten the people's "coexistence" and political analysts spoke of a plot by the United States to send the country back to the Stone Age.

"Everybody wants to contain the problem before it gets bigger," said Maen Akl, a resident of Damascus. "People are so worried about a sectarian conflict, and they are chasing those who made some trouble yesterday."

Christians and other minority groups have taken solace over the years in the fact that Assad is an Alawite, believing he was a counterbalance against the Sunni majority.

"If there is really a change of regime in Syria, that would mean a change from Alawite rule to Sunni rule," said Marina Ottaway, director of the Middle East program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace


Brinkmanship continues over Saleh exit (National)

As Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh maintained he was prepared to step down quickly if a peaceful transition can be negotiated, his ruling party, in an emergency meeting yesterday, rejected any change in leadership before the scheduled 2013 elections.

Ahmed al Sufi, the president's press secretary, said yesterday: "We think that Saleh staying, even after 2013, is a necessity because of the absence of a political force to negotiate with. There is nobody who can take over power."

Al Qaeda loots ammo plant, seize town (AFP)

A blast at an ammunition factory killed at least 40 people and wounded 90 others on Monday near the south Yemeni town of Jaar, a day after Al-Qaeda suspects looted the plant, a local official said.

"At least 40 people, including children, were killed in the explosion," said local government official Mohsen Salem, adding that 90 others were wounded.


Egypt sets election date (Reuters)

Egypt will hold a legislative election in September and will lift emergency laws before the vote, the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces said on Monday. Mamdouh Shaheen, a member of the military council, said a date for a presidential election had yet to be set. The legislative election date means parties that were crushed under Hosni Mubarak's rule have some five months to prepare for the first free parliamentary polls in decades.

Islamists breathe freedom in Egypt (Wapo)

The Egyptian revolution has brightened the future for many of the 3,000 people in the dusty farming village of Dubanah al-Kabirah. Bribery has diminished at city hall, police have stopped harassing peasants and city-slicker businessmen can no longer buy their way into juicy land deals.

But perhaps the most obvious winners are the scowling men in long, black beards. They are the Salafists, Islamic fundamentalists who would like to see the strictest form of Islam applied to the way people live in Dubanah al-Kabirah, all of Egypt and across the Middle East.


Moderate opposition accepts Kuwait mediation (WSJ)

In a sign of the movement's weakened position, Al Wefaq—the largest opposition bloc and only antigovernment group whose leadership wasn't subject to arrest—said it dropped some key preconditions for dialogue with the government.

U.S. VP calls for dialogue (VOA)

Vice President Joe Biden has urged Bahrain's Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa to hold a national dialogue with the opposition on political reform.


Latest Middle East unrest interactive (CNN)

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Topics: Egypt • Libya • Middle East • Revolution • United States • Yemen

soundoff (One Response)
  1. CharlieSeattle

    The current Government of Iran is the result of a popular uprising against the secular/authortarian Government lead by the Shah of Iran.

    Libya, Algeria, Jordan, Lebanon, Yemen, Sudan and Egypt, can look in the mirror of Iran and see what it will become.

    After the ""armed"" Muslim Brotherhood, Hezzbollah, Hamas etc. quiets the ""unarmed"" voices of democracy through intimidation and murder all the above states will become radicalized Islamic theocracies.

    Calls to abrogate the peace treaty with Israel have already been announced by the Muslim Brotherhood. That is not a goal of a peaceful democratic movement.

    Google this Thread: Muslim Brotherhood, abrogate the peace treaty with Israel.

    March 28, 2011 at 8:56 pm | Reply

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