Q&A: What the Mideast protests reveal
The scene near the U.S. Embassy in Cairo on Thursday.
September 14th, 2012
09:10 AM ET

Q&A: What the Mideast protests reveal

As outrage over a video that characterizes the Prophet Mohammed as a womanizing buffoon spread across Muslim countries, details emerged about the killings of a U.S. ambassador and three others this week at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.

So, what's next? Fareed Zakaria weighs in on extremism and freedom of speech, why a President Obama apology would be absurd and the future of the U.S.-Egypt relationship in this edited conversation: FULL POST

Topics: Egypt • Libya
September 13th, 2012
01:12 PM ET

Ex-ambassador: No time for accusers, apologists or political gamesters

Editor's note: Daniel Kurtzer is the S. Daniel Abraham Professor of Middle East policy studies at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. During a 29-year career in diplomacy, he served as the U.S. ambassador to Egypt and to Israel. The views expressed are his own.

By Daniel Kurtzer, Special to CNN

Some years ago, while on a trans-Atlantic flight, I was reading a thriller novel when I came across a stunning passage: the American ambassador in Cairo was assassinated by the villains in the novel. What was so disconcerting personally was that I was the American ambassador at that time!

The novel got me thinking about the day after such an assassination: that is, the reactions of family, friends, colleagues and American government. Surely, there would be favorable obituaries and fond remembrances. There would be outrage over the murder and calls for bringing the perpetrators to justice. Over time, the personal sense of loss among family members would linger, while the professional friends would naturally move on.

These ruminations of long ago came back to me upon hearing the news of the assassination of Chris Stevens and three of his colleagues in Benghazi at the hands of heavily armed militants. This was an act of terrorism — horrific, inexcusable, intolerable assaults against a prominent diplomat — and a message to all Americans. FULL POST

Topics: Diplomacy • Egypt • Libya
September 7th, 2012
11:30 AM ET

Fair trials still out of reach in Libya

By Diana Eltahawy, Special to CNN

Editor's note: Diana Eltahawy is Amnesty International’s Libya researcher. The views expressed are her own.

Two years ago, when Asma Sariba wrote articles for Libyan opposition websites based abroad, she put herself and her family at great risk.

Back then, she did not shy away from using her real name, even posting her picture. Today, she is one of the 33 women serving on the 200-member General National Congress after Libya’s historic national elections on July 7, which followed four decades of repression under Moammar -Gadhafi.

Asma Sariba realizes that a great deal of responsibility lies on the shoulders of the Congress, which inherited a country struggling to break the legacy of systematic human rights violations and a population severely damaged by eight months of armed conflict.

FULL POST

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Topics: Libya
A year after the fall of Tripoli, Libya still fragile
August 23rd, 2012
11:02 AM ET

A year after the fall of Tripoli, Libya still fragile

By Christopher Chivvis, Special to CNN

Christopher S. Chivvis is a senior political scientist at the nonprofit, nonpartisan RAND Corporation and teaches at the Johns Hopkins, School of Advanced International Studies. The views expressed are his own.

A year since Tripoli fell to NATO-backed Libyan rebels, progress in achieving lasting security remains elusive and could even be faltering. Recent attacks suggest that Libya’s stability – and one of the Obama Administration’s biggest foreign policy successes – could be in danger. The countries that helped topple Moammar Gadhafi a year ago have a special obligation to ensure the new Libyan government gets all the help it needs to respond to these new threats effectively.

Gadhafi’s death last October marked the end of the war and the beginning of a new age for Libya. But progress on all fronts since then has been slow and hard-won. While Libya held successful national elections last month, a recent spate of terrorist-style attacks in Benghazi and Tripoli indicate the Libyans are not out of the woods yet.

FULL POST

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Topics: Arab Spring • Libya
Is Manaf Tlas the man for Syria?
August 1st, 2012
02:03 PM ET

Is Manaf Tlas the man for Syria?

By Daniel DePetris, Special to CNN

Daniel R. DePetris is the senior associate editor of the Journal on Terrorism and Security Analysis.  The views expressed are his own.

With insurgents from the Free Syrian Army making inroads into areas that were once regarded firm bases of regime support, states backing the rebellion against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad appear to be accelerating efforts to forge an alternative leadership with the potential to take over once the uprising is done.

This task has taken on even greater urgency as more Syrian diplomats defect from the al-Assad regime, and as the Syrian National Council struggles to figure out how a post-al-Assad Syria should be governed.  With European diplomats seemingly giving up on the SNC as a force with the potential to serve as an interim government in the event of al-Assad’s fall, the United States, Europe, and Arab states appear to be searching for viable alternatives.

FULL POST

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Topics: Libya • Middle East • Syria • United States
Clinton’s Legacy: Libya or Syria?
July 18th, 2012
12:09 PM ET

Clinton’s Legacy: Libya or Syria?

By Paul Wolfowitz and Mark Palmer, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Mark Palmer is a member of the board of Freedom House. Paul Wolfowitz is a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, and a former U.S. deputy secretary of defense under President George W. Bush. The views expressed are solely those of the authors.

The recent elections in Libya were an emotion-filled celebration of the Libyan people’s thirst for self-government after four decades of extreme tyranny. Admittedly, those elections are only a first step on what will be a long road. And they weren't perfect, but then neither was the NATO military intervention that made those elections possible.

Nonetheless, those elections wouldn’t have happened without that NATO action, which in turn would have been impossible without U.S. support, hesitant and halfhearted though it was. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton can take some quiet satisfaction in the elections, since she was a leading advocate of U.S. military action within the Obama administration, reportedly taking on her very powerful Pentagon colleague, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.

FULL POST

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Topics: Arab Spring • China • Libya • Russia • Syria • United States
Are Libya's elections premature?
Clashes between the Toubou tribe and Arab tribesmen broke out in Sabha, Libya, in March.
May 14th, 2012
08:23 AM ET

Are Libya's elections premature?

Mohamed Eljarh is a UK-based Libyan academic researcher and political/social development activist. He is from the city of Tobruk in Eastern Libya. Follow on Twitter: @Eljarh. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Mohamed Eljarh.

By Mohamed Eljarh, Special to CNN

In less than 40 days, Libya is set to witness the first elections since the ouster of the late Moammar Gahdafi. But are the elections coming too early?

Post-conflict elections should mark the pinnacle point in the recovery and reconstruction of Libya. Libyans and the international community look at the election on June 19 as a milestone toward peace and democracy.

But some studies show history can paint a gloomy picture of elections held soon after bloody armed struggles, when political institutions may be weak or non-existent. FULL POST

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Topics: Libya • Politics
May 3rd, 2012
10:26 AM ET

Libya's upcoming elections

Editor's Note: Isobel Coleman is a Senior Fellow for U.S. Foreign Policy, Director of the Civil Society, Markets, and Democracy InitiativeThis blog post is reprinted with the permission of the Council on Foreign Relations.

By Isobel ColemanCFR.org

Libya’s emergence from years of dictatorship is predictably a rocky one. The country is moving toward its first post-Gadhafi national elections next month, but the process is marked by considerable confusion and deep disagreements.

On Tuesday, Libyan candidates and voters began registering for June elections for a constituent assembly that will be tasked with writing a new constitution. However, a recent law restricting political parties has sparked some bewilderment.

Last week, the NTC banned political parties “based on religion or ethnicity or tribe,” but the implications are not clear. When the law was first announced, the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated party complained, “We don’t understand this law… it could mean nothing or it could mean that none of us could participate in the election.” FULL POST

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Topics: Libya
March 15th, 2012
01:53 PM ET

Libya's frustrating transition

Editor's Note: Barak Barfi is a research fellow at the New America Foundation.  You can read more from Barak Barfi at Project Syndicate and be sure to check it out on Facebook and Twitter.

By Barak BarfiProject Syndicate

Although Libyans are now celebrating the first anniversary of the revolution that toppled Moammar Gadhafi, they are increasingly frustrated with their new leaders. Libyans complain that the interim government, known as the National Transitional Council (NTC), has not moved quickly enough to purge and prosecute senior Gadhafi officials, or to rein in the militias that overthrew his regime.

Though the NTC is dedicated to implementing Libyans’ demands, it lacks the technical capacity and time necessary to do so before the elections tentatively scheduled for this coming summer. Facing such constraints, it must concentrate on a small number of important initiatives, before turning power over to an elected government. FULL POST

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Topics: Libya
February 10th, 2012
12:07 PM ET

How Syria differs from Libya

By Tim Lister, CNN

Amid growing outrage over civilian casualties in Syria, there are ever more urgent calls to aid - or at least protect - the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad. There is renewed talk of creating safe havens and humanitarian corridors inside the country. And those demanding tougher measures are again asking why events in Syria should not prompt Libyan-style intervention by NATO and its Arab allies.

In Washington Tuesday, Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, said the United States "should consider all options, including arming the opposition. The blood-letting has got to stop."

So far, the international community's response to the violence in Syria has been limited. There has been diplomatic censure, with envoys withdrawn or "recalled for consultations," and Syrian ambassadors expelled from several Arab states. A growing raft of sanctions is draining the Syrian regime's coffers but only gradually sapping its strength. This is not a country that has relied on international trade for its survival. FULL POST

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Topics: Libya • Syria
December 26th, 2011
09:18 AM ET

Barfi: Rebuilding the ruins of Gadhafi

Editor's Note: Barak Barfi is a research fellow at the New America Foundation.  You can read more from Barak Barfi at Project Syndicate and be sure to check it out on Facebook and Twitter.

By Barak BarfiProject Syndicate

TRIPOLI – With the creation of a new government, Libya’s leaders should finally be able to focus on organizing the transition from the authoritarian state that they inherited to the more pluralistic one they envisage. But are they really able and willing to achieve that goal?

In the United States, the debate on Libya has focused on what steps its government should take next. Senator Robert Menendez argues it “must move quickly to embrace democratic reform,” while international development specialists, such as Manal Omar of the U.S. Institute for Peace, believe that success lies in the cultivation of a vibrant civil society.

These views, however, overlook Libya’s unique history, and treat Libya as though it were just another Third World country in need of generic solutions. In fact, remedying the country’s ills requires building strong state institutions. FULL POST

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Topics: Libya • State-building
November 7th, 2011
08:00 AM ET

Why did Gadhafi fall? He was too nice

Editor's Note: Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Alastair Smith, both professors of politics at NYU, are the authors of The Dictator's Handbook: Why Bad Behavior is Almost Always Good Politics

By Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Alastair Smith – Special to CNN

Generally, acting like a dictator is the best way for political leaders to achieve their most sacred goal - staying in power.  That’s the basic message of our book, The Dictator’s Handbook. Yet, dictators have been falling all over the world.  Here we outline where one infamous dictator veered away from dictator guidelines:

Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi has been vilified by the West but his 42 year reign came to an end because he violated one of the basic rules of survival in office: In the few years running up to his end, he was too nice to the people.  The wealth Gadhafi needed to pay his supporters came from his control of oil revenues. He did not need an educated and connected workforce to raise taxes. Yet, he gave Libyans considerably more education than his neighbors. As can be seen in the graph below (based on data from Reporters Without Borders), in recent years he also relaxed press restrictions. His "benevolence" allowed the people to organize against him.

The views expressed in this article are solely those of Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Alastair Smith. This is the first of several quick posts from the authors highlighting their counterintuitive views.

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