Today, the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform is convening its long-awaited hearing on the Sept. 11 attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi -- one that will feature a group of self-described "whistleblowers" from inside the State Department.
According to leaked copies of their testimonies, the witnesses -- Mark Thompson, acting deputy assistant secretary for counterterrorism; Gregory Hicks, the former deputy chief of mission/chargé d'affairs in Libya; and Eric Nordstrom, a diplomatic security officer and former regional security officer in Libya -- will testify that the State Department rebuffed requests for additional security at the consulate and that the Obama administration denied a request to send a team of special forces to Benghazi. According to the witnesses, U.S. soldiers could have made it to the consulate in time to save lives, though that is a highly contentious allegation.
The controversial testimony is sure to generate heated debate among the lawmakers assembled. Here's a guide to what you can expect from the most high-profile antagonists in today's hearing:
Best known for lobbing endless accusations at the Obama administration for the botched "Fast and Furious" operation at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Issa, the committee's chairman, is now staking a claim as a major player in Republican efforts to keep the White House's feet to the fire on Benghazi. On Monday, Issa, a California Republican, told CBS News that there is "no question" that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's inner circle and possibly the secretary herself were involved in covering up the State Department's handling of the Benghazi attack.
"If Hillary Clinton is not responsible for the before, during and after mistakes ... it's somebody close. There certainly are plenty of people close to the former secretary who knew, and apparently were part of the problem," Issa told CBS.
A darling of the Tea Party, Chaffetz, a Utah Republican, has accused the Obama administration of seeking to suppress the testimony of the witnesses slated to appear. "There are people who want to testify that have been suppressed," he told Fox News Sunday. "They're scared to death of what the State Department is doing with them."
Expect Chaffetz to advance the ball on allegations that the U.S. military could have responded to distress calls at the Benghazi consulate. On Monday, he told Fox News that the military was told to "stand down" and that after the attacks the Obama administration worked to cover up orders for the military to not respond to the attack.
A South Carolina Republican, Gowdy is the man behind much of the hype leading up to today's hearing. "There are more Benghazi hearings coming; I think they're going to be explosive," he told Fox News in late April. But don't just expect grandstanding from Gowdy. A former prosecutor, Gowdy told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt that he is concerned his Republican colleagues won't sufficiently focus on fact-finding during the hearing, and that he has been working behind the scenes to educate his colleagues about the art of interrogation. "So I have worked with, now, four of my colleagues whose backgrounds are not in litigation, how to ask these questions in a precise, pithy way that makes the witness the star and not some arm-flailing congressman who wants to be on YouTube," Gowdy told Hewitt.
Expect Gowdy to pursue some interesting lines of questioning. Here's what he promised Hewitt:
My fear over the weekend was that a lot of the information that I thought would be most interesting tomorrow has already been released. So I went to staff, and I went to others, and said with any jury trial, you have to save something back. You have to be interesting on the day of the trial. And I have been assured, in fact, I know, because I've seen it myself, there's going to be new, provocative, instructive, dare not use the word explosive, but there's going to be information that comes out tomorrow that whether people have been so desensitized to government lying to them that they don't care anymore, I cannot speak to that. But if you're interested in Benghazi, there is going to be enough new material tomorrow to make you absolutely livid that it's taken eight months for us to get to this point.
The ranking Democrat on the committee, Cummings has been lambasting Republicans for politicizing the attacks. Expect him to describe the hearing as an exercise in partisan politics. "[Republicans] have leaked snippets of interview transcripts to national media outlets in a selective and distorted manner to drum up publicity for their hearing," Cummings said in a press release. "This is investigation by press release and does a disservice to our common goal of ensuring that our diplomatic corps serving overseas has the best protection possible to do its critical work."
Fresh off losing the Democratic primary in Massachusetts' special election to replace former Senator John Kerry, Stephen Lynch has been doing battle with Jason Chaffetz in recent days. During Wednesday's hearing, he'll likely be one of the louder Democratic voices pushing back on Republican claims. "This has been a one- sided investigation, if you want to call it that," Lynch told Fox on Sunday. "There's been no sharing of information in a significant way with the Democrats staff members who usually conduct this type of investigation. And I think it's disgraceful, to be honest with you."
Grab some popcorn. It should be a good show.
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Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testified to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this morning about the Sept. 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi on that killed four American citizens, including the ambassador to Libya. Her remarks came after four months of controversy and finger-pointing about security lapses, intelligence failures, about and the administration's response to the attack, with critics accusing the White House and State Department of misleading the public (a charge that may have scuttled U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice's chances for a nomination to succeed Clinton in Foggy Bottom).
After months of reporting on the attack, there was little new information to be gleaned from Clinton's testimony, but it did provide an opportunity for both the secretary and her congressional critics to air their perspectives and grievances. Clinton's testimony turned emotional early on, as she choked up in her opening statements describing standing with President Obama as the bodies of the Americans killed in Benghazi arrived at Andrews Air Force Base. She also reiterated that, "as I have said many times since Sept. 11, I take responsibility."
The hearing also turned heated at times. Sen. Ronald Johnson (R-Wis.) expressed his vehement disbelief that the State Department could not determine whether the attack was a planned terrorist action or grew out of a protest in response to the incendiary film Innocence of Muslims, which had provoked rioting at other U.S. facilities throughout the Muslim world that week.
"Madam Secretary, do you disagree with me that a simple phone call to those evacuees [from the Benghazi consulate] would have ascertained immediately that there was no protest?" Sen. Johnson asked. "I mean, that was a piece of information that could have been easily, easily obtained," he continued, before dismissing Clinton's comment that she did not want to interfere with the processes at work on the ground as an "excuse."
The secretary told Johnson "to read the ARB [Accountability Review Board report] and the classified ARB because even today there are questions being raised" about the attackers' interests and allegiance. (Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Ca.) wrote about the ARB for Foreign Policy last month.) When pressed again, a visibly exasperated Clinton responded, "With all due respect, we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest or because of guys out for a walk one night who decided to go kill some Americans? What difference at this point does it make? It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again, Senator."
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Sen. John McCain (R-Az.) were visibly frustrated by Clinton's answers. After the secretary told the committee that she had not personally read all the cables from the diplomatic mission in Libya, including those requesting increased security measures, Sen. Paul remarked that this represented "a failure in leadership," a charge that has been leveled by FP's own Shadow Government as well. "Had I been president at the time," he told Clinton, "and I found that you did not read the cables from Benghazi, you did not read the cables from Amb. Stevens, I would have relieved you of your post.". McCain again voiced his doubts about the veracity of administration messaging about the attack in the early weeks afterwards. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) compared the administration's response to the faulty intelligence behind claims of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq in 2003. Clinton said of the talking points, "The fact is that people were trying in real time to get to the best information."
McCain also "strongly disagreed" with Clinton's characterization of U.S. policy towards Libya after Muammar al-Qaddafi's fall, concluding by saying that the State Department's choice of a "soft footprint" for security contributed to the deaths at Benghazi. Clinton pointed out that Congress had placed holds on funding requests aid and security projects like those McCain cited. "We've got to get our act together between the administration and the Congress. If this is a priority, trying to help this government stand up security and deal with what is a very dangerous environment from east to west, then we have to work together," Clinton replied.
One of the few substantive clarifications was the role of the Marine personnel stationed with the diplomatic mission -- a point of confusion among many policymakers. "Historically, Marine guards do not protect personnel," said Clinton. "Their job is to protect classified material and destroy it if necessary." Several senators suggested that this should change.
Regarding that classified material, Clinton told the committee that no classified documents were left at Benghazi, "although some unclassified material was unfortunately left behind." Foreign Policy reported about this oversight in September when documents found at the razed compound suggested that there had been warning signs an attack was imminent.
Interestingly, one of the most interesting moments in the hearing wasn't about the Benghazi attack at all. Clinton spoke briefly about the hostages taken at the In Amenas gas field in Algeria, observing that the same proliferation of weapons that helped arm the terrorists in Benghazi also helped arm the terrorists in southern Algeria. "The vast majority of weapons came out of Qaddafi warehouses," she said, characterizing the spread of small arms and shoulder-fired missiles as a "Pandora's box." As to whether the attacks in Benghazi and at In Amenas were directly related, she said there was insufficient intelligence.
The testimony made for a strange coda to Clinton's otherwise well-regarded term as secretary of state. Her imminent departure was mentioned as a matter of accountability by both her critics and herself. Paul remarked that he saw her decision to step down now as accepting "culpability for the worst tragedy since 9/11." Clinton saw things differently. "Nobody is more committed to getting this right," she told the committee in her opening remarks. "I am determined to leave the State Department and our country safer, stronger, and more secure."
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My colleague Josh Rogin has a more complete and straightforward writeup of this report, an independent look at the State Department's handling of the Sept. 11 attack that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans, over at The Cable, but I want to highlight a few elements of it in the meantime.
In short, it demolishes some of the more outlandish storylines on the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. "special mission" in Benghazi (officially, it wasn't a consulate), from the notion that the Obama administration delayed its response for some strange reason to the idea that anyone gave orders not to come to the mission's aid.
"The Board members believe every possible effort was made to rescue and recover Ambassador Stevens and Sean Smith," it reads, before going on to detail in gripping bureaucratese the heroic efforts of the mission's security officers to save their boss -- going back into the smoke-filled complex multiple times, at great personal risk, to try to find him and bring him to safety.
What about the story, reported by Fox News, that the "CIA chain of command" ordered the rescue squad from the agency's Benghazi annex to "stand down"? Nope: "The departure of the Annex team was not delayed by orders from superiors," the report found.
Nor did officials in Washington dawdle on the night of the attack, though they come in for plenty of criticism for lapses in security planning beforehand. "The interagency response was timely and appropriate," the report concludes," noting that there "simply was not enough time for armed U.S. military assets to have made a difference. ... The Board found no evidence of any undue delays in decision making or denial of support from Washington or military combatant commanders."
That said, the report is focused by design on the State Department. At least in the unclassifed version released Tuesday evening, it doesn't have much to say about the intelligence community's failures or the White House's role in the response to the attack. It doesn't name names, or make clear at what level certain key decisions were made. But it makes a pretty strong case that the conspiracy theorists got this one badly wrong.
As a side note, the report also confirms Foreign Policy's story on the Benghazi mission's concerns about "troubling" surveillance of the compound by a local police officer:
At approximately 0645 local that morning, a BML contract guard saw an unknown individual in a Libyan Supreme Security Council (SSC) police uniform apparently taking photos of the compound villas with a cell phone from the second floor of a building under construction across the street to the north of the SMC. The individual was reportedly stopped by BML [the British contractor's] guards, denied any wrongdoing, and departed in a police car with two others. This was reported to ARSOs [regional security officers] 1 and 2. Later that morning they inspected the area where the individual was seen standing and informed the Annex of the incident. There had not been any related threat reporting. The local February 17 militia headquarters was informed of the incident and reportedly complained to the local SSC on the Special Mission’s behalf. The Ambassador reviewed a Special Mission-drafted complaint to local authorities on the surveillance incident; however, it was not submitted due to the typically early closure of Libyan government offices. Later on September 11, the Ambassador was informed by his Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) in Tripoli of the breach of the Embassy Cairo compound that had occurred that day and briefly discussed the news with ARSO 3. The TDY RSO [regional security officer on temporary assignment] was also informed of the Cairo compound breach by his Regional Security Officer counterpart in Tripoli and shared the information with colleagues at the Annex.
On July 2, Cinnabon made history, becoming the first American franchise to open a location in Libya. The 7,500 square-foot bakery-cafe in downtown Tripoli also sells Carvel ice cream and is the first of at least 10 locations franchisees Arief and Ahmed Swaidek plan to open in Libya in the next four years. Cinnabon, which already has locations in major Middle East markets, also wants to expand into Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco.
Libyan Cinnabons are slated to "feature classic menu items as well as 'locally created' sandwiches, salads and baked goods," along with cakes and pies imported from Italy. Focus Brands International, Cinnabon's overseas expansion partner, also works with other fast-food chains like Moe's Southwest Grill, Schlotzsky's, and Auntie Anne's pretzels. No word yet on whether Libyans will get to experience the wonders of giant pretzels or Tex-Mex in the near future.
Libya will face a laundry list of challenges following its national elections, originally set for June 19, which were postponed to July 7. They key issue, said American-Libyan Council president Fadel Lamen at a panel discussion hosted by the Project on Middle East Democracy on Tuesday, is a lack of central power:
"One of the most important things about Libya is that the revolution started at a very local level, and that is the root of how we should look at the country. The country, no matter how many layers there are at the top level, is still run by local elections."
Though Lamen emphasized the importance of a partnership between the central and local levels, it is unclear whether local militias, which have been responsible for a number of recent attacks, will cooperated. As Manal Omar, director of the Iraq, Iran, and North Africa program at the United States Institute for Peace, explained:
"Even as institutions do begin to grow over the next year, these groups have tasted power. They're going to have little incentive -- even once they are reassured -- to give it up."
Omar added that she anticipates the civil society sector will experience a post-election contraction:
"A lot of institutions that we've seen may actually dissolve because their heads are going to become government leaders."
While it is guaranteed that issues such as arms and economics will dominate Libya's post-election conversation, POMED director Stephen McInerney said the atmosphere surrounding the elections themselves is one of general and genuine confusion, citing a lack of reliable public opinion polling, single non-transferrable voting, and unorganized political parties unaware of campaigning rules.
"In terms of the political process, there's a lot of confusion regarding the electoral system."
Legislative elections in Egypt and Tunisia may have produced a Muslim Brotherhood majority, and it's clear that Libya is headed in the same direction, but hopefully the poster child for armed resistance will come out of elections with an effective government.
A correspondent in Doha, Qatar, sends in these pictures of Libyan ex-foreign minister and spy chief Musa Kusa taking a stroll near his "villa" in the outskirts of town. During the war, following his dramatic defection from Muammar al-Qaddafi's regime, Kusa first fled to London before setting up shop at the five-star Four Seasons Doha, where he was often seen enjoying Italian cuisine and smoking in the lobby, I'm told:
Funny story: a retired CIA case officer, whose name I won't share, was coincidentally placed into a room next to Kusa's, a fact my source discovered when the ex-diplomat at one point was banished from the lobby by either the hotel or his Qatari hosts, and had to resort to pacing the hall outside his room. At one point, Kusa knocked on the former CIA guy's door and asked for a cigarette; on another occasion he tried to enter the wrong room by mistake. Eventually, the Qataris (and the hotel management) got sick of him and he moved out.
In any case, as you can see, Kusa's new digs are not quite so luxurious:
The tiny Persian Gulf state of Qatar, a Connecticut-sized thumb of a nation sticking out of the side of Saudi Arabia, played a huge role in the overthrow of Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi, pushing for a no-fly zone and sending significant amounts of weapons, advisers, and supplies to support the Benghazi-based rebels. Qatar's Al Jazeera satellite channel cheered on the rebel fighters and hosted prominent opposition figures on its airwaves. The country also helped set up a satellite channel for the interim National Transitional Council, and provided its leaders with housing in swank hotels in downtown Doha. Last week, I attended a victory party hosted by Qatar in the capital city's restored souq, which was festooned with banners congratulating the new Libya on its liberation.
In recent weeks, however, some Libyan political figures have been ramping up their criticism of Qatar for allegedly favoring Islamist leaders like exiled cleric Ali Sallabi and Tripoli Brigade leader Abdel Hakim Belhaj, a former head of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, over more secular-minded folks, and for circumventing the NTC.
Until now, such criticism has been couched in polite, but firm terms: Thanks for helping liberate us, but you need to butt out now. Qatar even signed an agreement pledging non-interference in Libya's internal affairs.
But yesterday, Abdel Rahman Shalgham, Qaddafi's longtime foreign minister and later U.N. ambassador who broke with the old regime in a dramatic, tear-filled speech in New York on Feb. 25, unloaded on Qatar. Shalgham, mind you, is still Libya's ambassador to Turtle Bay.
On possible Qatar led coalition in Libya - Shalgam: I don't understand this coalition & I don't accept it
Shalgam: Even the Libyans don't understand this (possible Qatar led coalition) Qatar leading America & France? Who is Qatar?
Shalgam: Does Qatar even have an army? Qatar only has mercenaries, from Nepal & from Bangladesh & from Pakistan.
Shalgam: What capability does Qatar have? Our brothers from Qatar helped us but I fear Qatar will meet the fate of Gaddafi's megalomania.
Shalgam: Qatar might have delusions of leading the region. I absolutely do not accept their presence (in Libya) at all.
Shalgam: The number of Libyan martyrs & injured & missing, if you count them, is greater than the number of Qatar's residents.
Shalgam: What is Qatar doing there (in Libya)? Qatar isn't neutral with all parties. Qatar will gather these weapons & give them to others.
Shalgam: Libya is in no need of Qatar's money. It was Nato that played a decisive role.
Shalgam: The professionals who run the oil & banking industries in Qatar are Libyans.
Shalgam: What makes Qatar so special that it sets up an operations room (in Libya) to lead Britain & the US, this is totally unacceptable.
Shalgam: All of Qatar isn't worth a neighbourhood in Libya. The Libyan experts are the ones who are leading Qatar.
Shalgam: We don't need Qatar in anything, thanks for their efforts, we will decide our own destiny, we don't want them to interfere
Shalgam: We don't consider them neutral in Libya, they are backing certain people, we know their names.
Shalgam: We don't need America or Qatar, we have officers and everything. | Question from anchor - "Was Qatar forced on the Libyans?"
Shalgam: This is unacceptable. There was no document. They gathered in meeting in Doha. Qatar forced Qatar (on Libya)
Shalgam: Sheikh Mustafa Abdul Jalil (NTC head) went to Qatar with apolitical people who don't know the background & didn't read the document
Shalgam: They accepted the document. I warn our brothers in Qatar, if they continue this path to dominate Libya they would be delusional.
Shalgam: We will resist the Qataris by all means. We will not accept to be used by Qatar.
Shalgam: We will not accept to be a new emirate that belongs to the new "Emir of the Believers" in Qatar.
Shalgam: I do not rule out Qatar setting up a Hezbollah party in Libya. We don't want a foreign country to interfere.
So much for gratitude! Let's see how the Qataris respond.
Can North Koreans living and working abroad possibly have it worse than those citizens who stay home? From waitresses who work in government-run restaurants across Asia to seamstresses essentially enslaved in the Czech Republic to the well-documented North Korean football team publically shamed after its World Cup loss, it's obvious that the regime's brutality doesn't stop at the border. Now, the estimated 200 North Korean citizens living in Libya have been banned from returning to North Korea, due to fears that news of the Arab Spring will leak to the country's 23 million subjugated inhabitants.
As the Telegraph reports, Kim Jong Il's regime had a close relationship with Muammar al-Qaddafi -- the North Koreans sent doctors, nurses, and construction workers to Libya, earning hard currency needed to buy missiles and equipment for North Korean's nascent nuclear weapons program. The North Koreans in Libya join other nationals who had been working in Tunisia and Egypt not allowed to return home.
According to the Telegraph, North Korean media hasn't reported on Qaddafi's death and only about one percent of North Koreans are even aware of the uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa -- mainly government officials and a few citizens who travel to China for business.
As an editorial in the Korean Herald says:
Pyongyang's silence about the fall of the dictators in Tunisia and Egypt and the bloody death of Gaddafi reveals Kim Jong-il's awareness of the vulnerability of his regime in the process of a third-generation dynastic succession of power. Despite their boasting of the perfect loyalty of the 23 million people to the party and the leader, the ruling elite are afraid of what effect the information on the fates of the overseas dictatorships will have on the oppressed people of the country.
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During his last, desperate days, Colonel Qaddafi may have turned to an old friend, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi for help in trying to avert the international action being undertaken by NATO's forces.
In a letter published by French weekly tabloid, Paris Match, Qaddafi allegedly wrote to Berlusconi, asking him to help stop the bombing and "turn the page" on the relationship between the Libyan people and Italy.
One quote, translated from Paris Match's website:
Stop the bombings that kill our Libyan brothers and our children. Talk to your [new (striped)] friends and allies (1) to achieve [a solution that guarantees the great Libyan people the total freedom of choice that leads (striped)] that this aggression continues against my country (1).
The controversial relationship between Berlusconi and Qaddafi has been well publicized. In 2009, Berlusconi shut down Rome's largest park to allow Qaddafi and his entourage of female body guards to set up a Bedouin style camp during a state visit. This comes on top of the extensive economic relations between Italy and Libya; along with being Libya's largest trading partner, Libya's sovereign wealth funds had invested in many Italian companies, including football club Juventus F.C. Initially, Berlusconi opposed the NATO mission over Libya, but had an about face in August, as he stood beside interim Prime Minister Jibril, announcing the release of frozen assets to the NTC.
If this letter is true, Berlusconi may have been one of the last world leaders to have received direct communication with Qaddafi before his death. South African President Jacob Zuma may have been the last to meet the Colonel, after an attempt in late May to negotiate an end to the fighting.
LIVIO ANTICOLI/AFP/Getty Images
Colonel Qaddafi's death today has brought about waves of relief, and has raised questions about the future of Libya, but his fall may have been seen by an unexpected source a long time ago.
The pilot of Second Chance, a little known Fox sitcom from the 1980s starring actor Matthew Perry in his first role, featured Colonel Qaddafi being shot by machine gun fire and showing up in heaven, where he was promptly greeted by St. Peter. Colonel Qaddafi's portion begins at 2:18 in the video below:
While we don't know if Second Chance had knowledge of Arab Spring, or any of the comings in Libya from this past year, we can definitely say that they were off by a little over 2 1/2 months.
With the Libyan rebels now largely in control of Tripoli, and two of Muammar al-Qaddafi's sons in custody after a stunning final assault of the capital, the answer seems clear: absolutely.
Many have criticized U.S. President Barack Obama's strategy of "leading from behind" in Libya, but that strategy now seems utterly vindicated. It was Libyans themselves, with significant help from NATO, Qatar, and the UAE, who liberated their country from Qaddafi's grip -- a fact about which they are fiercely and justly proud. It required little from American taxpayers: As of Thursday, NATO operations had cost the United States around $1.1 billion, according to CFR's Micah Zenko -- a rounding error.
Of course, there will be problems. Not only is Tripoli not yet fully secure, but two regime strongholds -- Sirte and Sabha -- appear to remain in regime hands. Libyan state TV is still, incredibly, on the air. The "brother leader" remains at large, as do his sons Muatassim and Khamis Qaddafi, as well as his intelligence chief and brother-in-law Abdullah al-Senussi. They may try, Saddam-style, to mount an insurgency (though the speed of Qaddafi's collapse in Tripoli suggest they will find few takers).
The National Transitional Council won't have an easy time of governing, either. Not only is it not clear how much loyalty it commands among the fighters, but Libya has effectively no institutions: It was a state run for the benefit of the Qaddafi family and its shrinking circle of friends and allies. There is little history of political pluralism in Libya, and no doubt many grievances and cleavages lurk below the surface. (Reuters journalist Michael Georgy raises some important concerns to this effect here.) There will likely be intense disagreements over how to distribute Libya's oil wealth, how to account for the last 42 years of despotic rule, how to incorporate Islam into the state, and how to disarm and integrate the disparate fighting brigades that overthrew Qaddafi. There will be a temptation to overly centralize power, fueled by oil receipts concentrated in a few hands. Hopefully, any conflicts that arise will be resolved peacefully.
But these problems seem manageable over time, and it is in any case hard to imagine any Libyan government worse than Qaddafi, whose rule was not only deeply repressive and arbitrary at home but also destabilizing abroad. I disagree strongly with those, like CFR's Richard Haass, who would like to see some kind of foreign stabilization force -- not only is it not going to happen, but it's best if Libyans handle their own affairs as much as possible. They will make mistakes, but these will be their own mistakes. It's now their country once again.
And that's the best news about the fall of Qaddafi. It is the only case so far in which Arab revolutionaries themselves will get the chance to overhaul the old order. In Tunisia and Egypt, the old regimes are still very much in power -- at least until new elections are held and new constitutions are written. And even then, gaining full civilian control over the military and the security apparatus will be a years-long struggle. Libya has the chance to wipe the slate clean, and given what a terrible system is being overthrown, that alone seems like reason enough to celebrate.
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How desperate is Muammar Qaddafi to raise cash? According to a new report, the Libyan leader is trying to unload the country's fleet of 22 shipping vessels as economic sanctions and continued fighting take a toll on the regime.
According to the report from Petroleum Economist, which covers the energy industry, two companies based in Hong Kong and Singapore are in talks to buy the ships from the General National Maritime Transport -- a company under the control of Qaddafi's son, Hannibal. A source close to the discussions said the younger Qaddafi is "desperate to have access to money."
Can you blame him? The United States and other countries have frozen his father's assets ($30 billion alone in the United States; and another $5.1 in Canada, Australia, and Britain). And there is evidence that Qaddafi's regime is running low on fuel. Late last month, one of his largest oil pipelines was cut off by rebels -- slashing his reserves by somewhere between a third and a half. The government has reportedly sunk to smuggling fuel into the country from Algeria and Tunisia to bypass sanctions. In Tripoli there are long lines to fill up tanks at gas stations, and more people are using bicycles to get around.
A U.S. intelligence official told the Daily Beast this week: "[Qaddafi's] not going to run out of fuel tomorrow, but over the next month or two he'll have to make tough decisions about how to continue."
Sanctions have taken a toll as well, with Qaddafi finding it difficult to do business around the world -- even Turkey seized control of Libyan assets earlier this month.
Without cash or fuel, Qaddafi's grip on power is showing signs of slipping -- U.S. officials say there are indications of growing discord among his troops. At the same as he is looking for cash, he may also be eyeing the exit door -- quietly negotiating with several countries on a deal that could see him step down from power, but avoid prosecution.
Could Muammar al-Qaddafi remain in Libya if he agrees to give up power? It may sound hard to imagine, but as the conflict drags on and the stalemate shows no sign of ending, the idea is gaining traction -- even among Qaddafi's staunch opponents. Today, France's Foreign Minister Alain Juppe suggested it was a possibility.
"One of the scenarios effectively envisaged is that he stays in Libya on one condition which I repeat - that he very clearly steps aside from Libyan political life," Juppe told France's LCI TV.
The solution would require some major legal maneuvering. The new Libyan government -- most likely made up of leaders of the Transitional National Council (TNC) -- would have to agree not to prosecute Qaddafi or his son for the deaths of thousands of people. Internationally, the move would certainly require some sort of Security Council agreement, since Qaddafi, after all, is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes (and since any agreement would likely require some international oversight).
The fact that France is suggesting this is significant. It was, after all, one of the first countries to recognize the TNC, and it pushed other nations into supporting the NATO air campaign against Qaddafi. Other governments have hinted at a similar solution in the past -- though mainly countries outside the coalition. Recently, Konstantin Kosachyov, the chairman of the international affairs committee in Russia's lower house of parliament, said: "Probably what can be discussed is some kind of guarantees of his personal security, the security of members of his family."
Last week, Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told journalists that "an exit strategy for Qaddafi to leave power, but not necessarily the country, should be sought."
Officially, Britain and the United States want Qaddafi to be handed over to the ICC, but even their positions have softened recently. British officials say they don't regard that demand as a "red line" in negotiations with Qaddafi. And today, in response to Juppe's statement, the United States made it clear the key was getting Qaddafi to leave power, after that, all things could be considered.
"He needs to remove himself from power," White House spokesman Jay Carney said. "And then it's up to the Libyan people to decide."
Earlier this month, the head of the TNC even hinted that a solution that keeps Qaddafi in Libya was possible. Mustapha Abdul-Jalil told Reuters that the TNC had offered Qaddafi that very deal -- allowing him to stay in Libya if he resigned. (Abdul-Jalil quickly back-pedaled, however, saying the next day that while the TNC discussed that scenario internally, there was no "current or future possibility for Qaddafi to remain in Libya.")
So could a solution like this actually work? Qaddafi would need to be assured he would remain free and safe. Some reports have said he is pushing for a role for his son, Saif al-Islam, in a future government -- though it's highly unlikely the rebels would agree to that.
Another reported possibility is that the U.N. would protect him at his tribal home of Sabha in southwestern Libya. But that would require countries guaranteeing he wouldn't be handed over to the ICC at some point in the future. And that might be a step too far.
France is urging the Libyan opposition to sit down and negotiate with Muammar al-Qaddafi, the country's defense minister said yesterday in Paris. Gérard Longuet said it was time to "get round the table" and "speak to each other."
He added, "The position of the [Transitional National Council] TNC is very far from other positions."
You might recall France was the first country to recognize the TNC. And it pushed its NATO allies into initiating the military campaign against Qaddafi. It even fired the first shots against Qaddafi's regime. At the time, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said the world had to prevent Qaddafi's "murderous madness" against civilians.
"This is a huge transformation," said Melissa Bell of France 24. "From the beginning it was always a question of Qaddafi leaving."
France sparked angry responses from Russian and African leaders when it parachuted weapons to Libyan rebels. Last week, Longuet said France would no longer arm the opposition.
So, what changed? Why is France shifting away from its gung-ho anti-Qaddafi position from earlier this spring?
For starters, the war has dragged on far longer than most people anticipated it would, and France seems to be growing impatient.
There is also frustration with the rebels, who have shown little desire to enter negotiations to end the conflict.
According to the Daily Telegraph, a senior Western diplomat said France was "sending a message" to the rebels that the clock is ticking to bring the conflict to an end. NATO's mandate in Libya is due to expire at the end of September.
"There is general recognition among Western diplomats that the structure of the state existing in the western part of the country should not be completely disregarded in the event of a quick collapse of the Qaddafi regime," the source added.
Observers have noted the campaign is not going as well as it could. George Robertson, the former British defense secretary and former NATO secretary-general told Foreign Policy that European countries lack the military capacity to bring the operation to a close.
"In Libya, the Americans did what I always suggested they might do -- which is to say, 'It's your fight; please take the lead. You're big enough; you're brave enough; you're strong enough. You do it,'" Robertson said.
As in Washington, the Libya war is taking a political toll on the administration in Paris.
The NATO campaign in Libya is "not going as well as it should," says George Robertson, the former U.K. defense secretary who served as NATO's secretary general from 1999 until 2003. European countries lack the military capacity to bring the operation to a close and NATO has failed to mount an effective psychological campaign against members of Colonel Muammar al-Qaddafi's regime -- to convince them their days are truly numbered.
All that means "it's taking longer to achieve than it should," he told Foreign Policy, ahead of a speech he will give tonight on the topic at Chatham House in London, where he is an outgoing president.
The NATO bombing campaign, now in its fourth month, has gone on longer than many leaders thought it would. Qaddafi is still in power. Government and rebel forces have fought each other to a standstill.
Yet, NATO officials insist the campaign is going well. "The noose is tightening around [Qaddafi], and there's very few places for him to go," Gen. Charles Bouchard, the Canadian head of the operations, told the Washington Post in late June.
Robertson notes that members of the alliance are committed to achieving their goals in Libya, but "don't express it regularly enough" and that populations are preoccupied with the more immediate concerns of the economic crisis, unemployment, and deficit reduction plans.
"I think the European allies -- especially those that are doing nothing at the moment -- need to do more," says Robertson. "And in the longer term, the European countries have got to achieve the capabilities that will allow them to do things in their own backyard without necessarily depending on the Americans."
Robertson echoes outgoing U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who said on his farewell tour of Europe last month that not all countries were sharing the costs of the Libya operation.
"While every alliance member voted for the Libya mission, less than half have participated at all, and fewer than a third have been willing to participate in the strike mission," Gates said. "We have the spectacle of an air operations center designed to handle more than 300 sorties a day struggling to launch about 150."
Robertson tells FP:
I think Mr. Gates makes a fair point when he says this mighty alliance after only a few weeks against a pretty impoverished country finds itself out of ammunition. We don't have the right planes with precision bombing. We don't have enough deployable troops. We don't have the assets at sea that would allow the bombing campaign to take place. But we've pretended up to now that because the Europeans spend $300 billion a year in defense, that we must be well armed. We are. But it's the wrong stuff. It's for the Cold War not the next war.
Robertson says Libya has become a true turning point for the decades-old alliance. In a nutshell, the old contract between the Europeans and the United States -- that the U.S. would supply the hardware as long as Europeans provided political cover to the operations -- has ended.
"In Libya, the Americans did what I always suggested they might do -- which is to say, ‘It's your fight, please take the lead. You're big enough, you're brave enough, you're strong enough. You do it,'" says Robertson. "I think that's changed things forever. This is the wake up call. People have to realize they are not ready for the next problem that comes up."
Muammar al-Qaddafi likes to play chess, and it may be that he sees a checkmate nearing. According to a respected Russian newspaper today, Moscow officials say the Libyan leader is "sending out signals that he is prepared to relinquish power in exchange for security guarantees." The logic, as summed up by Reuters, is that Qaddafi sees decreasing supplies of money and fuel, and increasing military pressure from NATO and the rebel army.
Of course, no one really knows what is going on inside the Libyan leader's head; his government spokesman categorically denied the report. Many analysts are skeptical. Dirk Vandewalle, a Libya scholar at Dartmouth College who was recently appointed as an advisor to the United Nations mission for Libya, told Foreign Policy that back channel talks between Qaddafi's government and Russia haven't gone anywhere.
"The bottom line is he doesn't want to go," he said.
Western diplomatic sources told Reuters that it is in Qaddafi's interests to "send out conflicting signals about possible deals, in the hope that it will sow confusion among the rebels and the fragile Western alliance trying to push him out."
But according to David Mack, a scholar at the Middle East Institute and a former U.S. diplomat in Libya when Qaddafi first came to power, that analysis doesn't hold up. Qaddafi, he says, is depending on his supporters thinking they don't have any other way out other than backing him until the end. Making the world think his exit is actually an option harms that narrative.
"It's our strategy to try to convince people around Qaddafi that there are better options," Mack said.
One thing is clear -- as NATO bombs continue to target Qaddafi and his backers, and as the rebel army and Qaddafi's forces battle each other in the east and west of the country, there has been a lot of behind-the-scenes diplomatic maneuvering.
Russia, the United Kingdom, and Turkey are all in back channel talks with his government, according to Vandewalle. The United States is participating in defacto talks through the United Kingdom. And South African President Jacob Zuma has been pushing a diplomatic solution since the fighting started. He's met with Qaddafi several times and yesterday said NATO countries should assist in persuading the Transitional National Council (TNC) "to remove some of the preconditions that are making it hard or impossible to start with the negotiations process" -- such as the insistence on prosecuting Qaddafi.
On Sunday, there were signals that the TNC was softening its position. In an interview with Reuters, opposition leader Mustapha Abdul-Jalil said the TNC had offered Qaddafi the option of resigning but staying in Libya. (The next day he backtracked a bit, saying that it was just a scenario that was discussed internally but that there was no "current or future possibility for Qaddafi to remain in Libya").
Yesterday, the Libyan government said it held talks with the TNC on several occasions in Italy, Norway, and Egypt about finding a peaceful solution (an Italian government spokesman called the reports untrue).
"The one thing that is going on is there's an enormous amount of back channels," said Vandewalle.
Vandewalle is skeptical Qaddafi is really looking for a negotiated exit.
Say you're a poorly trained rebel army battling the ruthless military and hired thugs of a dictator who has said he'd fight to the last drop of blood, you'd probably need some help. So, what would be on your wish list of supplies from the international community?
AK-47s, anti-tank weapons, night-vision goggles, body armor ...and underwear.
Reports this week that France parachuted weapons in to rebel troops in western Libya re-energized the debate over supplying the anti-Qaddafi forces. The African Union and Russia both criticized the French move. So far, Qatar is the only other country that is known to have given weapons to the rebellion. The U.S. has shipped non-lethal aid, including medical supplies, uniforms, boots, tents, personal protective gear, and "more than 10,000 halal meals ready to eat," according to State Department spokesman Mark Toner.
Le Figaro reported that the arms from France included rocket launchers, assault rifles, and anti-tank missiles (though France denied sending the latter; a French government spokesman said the supplies included only light arms such as machine guns and rocket launchers).
In Vienna yesterday, Mahmoud Jibril, the head of the rebel's Transitional National Council (TNC), once again called on the international community to supply weapons.
"The rebels have only light arms," he said. "We need weapons to bring the fight to a quick end."
So, what kinds of weapons are the rebels seeking? In fact, the TNC actually has a shopping list. A State Department official said a third-party broker had approached the United States about supplying weapons, but the U.S. turned the request down because there is an embargo against shipping arms to Libya.
According to a source with ties to the TNC, who has seen the list, it consists of about 25-30 items. Some of the weapons the rebels are seeking include:
All in all, not a bad list of items to jumpstart your rag-tag army.
Last month, Mansour El-Kikhia, a Libyan-American activist with close ties to the TNC and its military leadership, presented a second list to the Pentagon. He said the request came from the senior military leaders of the rebellion.
He asked for the following:
The Pentagon rejected the request, according to El-Kikhia.
The United States and other nations have been more compliant when it comes to providing non-lethal assistance. Nevertheless, there is still a massive need for all kinds of supplies ranging from food to clothing, according to the TNC's envoy to Washington, Ali Aujali. He said supplies being sought for the rebel army range from the most high tech (surveillance equipment) to the mundane (underwear).
Aujali reviewed with Foreign Policy a list of supply needs he recently received from Benghazi. It includes:
And then of course, there's money.
"That's the most important thing and that's their primary concern," said Dirk Vandewalle, who was recently appointed political advisor to the UN Mission for Libya.
They've asked the U.S. to unfreeze the $30 billion of Libyan assets seized from Qaddafi and release them to the National Council.
Vandewalle said, beyond weapons, they also need trainers. "Otherwise, the weapons can't be used efficiently."
Aujali said he has not tried to seek arms from the United States, though he made clear the rebels certainly have that need as well. "Qaddafi is not killing Libyan people with potatoes," he said. "He's using real weapons."
Scenes of protest and war from Bahrain to Libya have become more than familiar over the past six months. Still, these satellite images published today by Stratfor, a risk analysis and geopolitics website and publisher, are striking.
The image above shows Cairo's Tahrir Square on February 11, the day Hosni Mubarak gave up the Egyptian presidency. An estimated 300,000 protesters crammed into downtown Cairo.
Below, more aerial shots from the Middle East's uprisings.
Today's news that Muammar al-Qaddafi was indicted by the International Criminal Court on charges he ordered attacks against civilians in the early days of the Libya uprising was greeted by celebratory gunfire in the rebel-controlled east, but it might be a bit early to celebrate.
ICC indictments are notoriously difficult to follow through on, given that the court relies on individual states to make the arrest -- and many states have not ratified the treaty establishing the court and do not recognize its jurisdiction -- including Libya. Ask Sudan's leader, Omar al-Bashir, who was indicted in 2009 for war crimes committed during the conflict in Darfur. Since then, he's traveled to Kenya, Eritrea, Egypt, Libya, Qatar, Iran, and was supposed to visit China this week, though his plane was mysteriously diverted.
Likewise, it's doubtful that Qaddafi will face the wrath of the international justice system -- as long as he clings to power, says Max Fisher at the Atlantic.
"In practice, an ICC arrest warrant can be little more than a lifelong ban against traveling to certain countries," wrote Fisher.
In fact, argues Simon Tisdall in the Guardian, the warrant could make the international community's goal of removing him quickly even harder to attain. Qaddafi is more likely to feel he has nothing left to lose and must stay and fight until the bitter end -- that's bad news for the United States and its allies since it means Qaddafi is less likely to accept a negotiated solution. Though still possible, it's certainly a more difficult prospect today since it means there are fewer countries that would be willing to take him in -- not to mention his son Saif al-Islam, who was also named in the indictment.
As usual, there is a large dose of unreality and wishful thinking about all this. The ICC's action could easily backfire, as have other aspects of Libyan policy. The court's personal targeting of Gaddafi will revive questions about the wisdom of the Anglo-French-US approach (distinct from that of NATO) of making his removal from power the key measure of success in Libya. It will also fuel claims that the ICC is only interested in pursuing African leaders, as in Sudan and Kenya, and that the US in particular (which is not a party to the ICC) is guilty of double standards.
The Christian Science Monitor's Howard LaFranchi reported that "some US officials have acknowledged privately that an indictment of Qaddafi would very likely complicate the diplomatic environment and render more remote a solution that includes Qaddafi departing for another country."
Publicly, the United States has given the thumbs up to today's news. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the United States "believes that the decision to refer the case to the ICC was the right decision; that the ICC has spoken now about the need for justice and accountability. With regard to whether this hurts or helps, it doesn't change the fact that Gaddafi's got to take the message that it's time to go."
Human Rights Watch issued a similar statement.
"Muammar Gaddafi already made clear he intended to stay until the bitter end before the ICC process was set in motion, and his son's February vow to ‘live and die in Libya' speaks for itself,'" said the group's international justice director, Richard Dicker, in a statement today. "It beggars belief that a dictator who has gripped power for over 40 years would be frozen in place by this arrest warrant."
Ultimately, the indictment could wind up being "another bargaining chip in any negotiations over ending Libya's civil war," wrote Fisher. It would mean having to find him a home where he will be free from the threat of arrest -- say Venezuela or South Africa.
"That's a good thing," Fisher said. "As fighting worsens and civil society degrades, anything that makes peace more likely is essential -- but it's not quite international justice in the legal sense of the term."
The decision by the Associated Press -- the world’s most influential wire service-- to begin calling the conflict in Libya a “civil war” is worth noting since it’s where most newspapers (and websites, and television networks) across the United States and many outlets around the world derive their foreign news.
The move is more than a mere semantics debate, as the Huffington Post’s Michael Calderone explains:
“The White House may find it tougher to sell the public on taking sides in a North African ‘civil war’ rather than getting involved in a NATO-supported, limited military campaign to protect democracy-seeking rebels from a dictator's brutality”.
A recent memo from Tom Kent, the AP’s deputy managing editor for standards, to editors and reporters explained the rationale.
We avoided the term initially because of the short duration of the conflict. But it has gone on now at length, and shows no sign of ending.
It also has become more than an insurrection by a small group or region. The rebels, led by the National Transitional Council, are well in control of nearly a third of the inhabitable part of the country.
The term civil war also implies a conflict in which each side consists of a coherent group with a clear concept of what it’s fighting for; each side has some real military power; the fighting is basically over internal issues; and the conflict is protracted.The conflict in Libya has met those standards. Although the rebels represent a broad base of ideology, they are united in their desire for an end to Gadhafi and the system he established. The rebels have a degree of military power apart from NATO's air assets. They also appear to have the outlines of a coherent military strategy. And armed resistance to the regime is approaching its fifth month.”
Calderone noted that Bloomberg News and the Wall Street Journal already have a similar policy, while the New York Times “has no set policy” on language of the conflict, according to the paper’s standards editor Phil Corbett.
The media had a similar debate over the fighting in Iraq back in 2006. NBC News became the first major outlet to refer to that conflict as a civil war.
Meanwhile it seems that the White House doesn’t even think the United States is at “war” there.
A confrontation is brewing between the executive and legislative branches over the legality of America's continued military role enforcing the no fly zone over Libya. On Tuesday, June 14, House Speaker John Boehner warned the president he had until Sunday to seek authorization from Congress for the operation, or else he'd be in violation of the War Powers Resolution-the controversial 1973 law that requires presidents to get congressional approval for any military conflict lasting longer than 60 days. The bombing campaign in Libya is now up to day 89.
The White House said it would provide a legal defense to Congress later today for why it isn't in violation of the War Powers law.
"We are in the final stages of preparing extensive information for the House and Senate that will address a whole host of issues about our ongoing efforts in Libya," national security spokesman Tommy Vietor said in a statement.
On Tuesday, the same day as Boehner's warning to Obama, the House voted 248-163 to cut off funding for the U.S. mission in Libya, which is costing at least $40 million a month. The amendment to a military appropriations bill was introduced by Brad Sherman (D-CA) as a reaction to what he said was the President's violation of the War Powers Act. It still has to be approved by the Senate. Foreign Policy spoke to Sherman about his decision to pursue the drastic step of defunding the war.
Foreign Policy: You've used some strong language with regard to the White House-accusing the president of deliberately violating the law by not seeking congressional approval for Libya. And saying he's "embraced the idea of an imperial presidency."
Brad Sherman: Look, there has been a move over the last three or four decades toward an imperial presidency. Many historians and constitutional scholars have commented on that. And, I don't think that's what the founders had in mind. They were students of ancient Rome. They knew that Rome rose as a republic and that it declined under an imperial executive. And this isn't about the current president. This is about the last three or four decades.
FP: But this particular vote is about the current president.
BS: Well, this is the president now. No president has said they would follow the war powers law, even though it's the law of the land. Even though it's an extremely generous allocation of authority to the president. For a president not to adhere to the War Powers Act is a president-and, there are many-who takes a truly extreme view of executive power.
FP: Lee Hamilton and James Baker argued that this has more to do with political turf battles than foreign policy...
BS: This is not a foreign policy dispute. This is a domestic constitutional dispute. And if I agreed with absolutely everything a president was doing in foreign policy, I would still not support the violation of law. How you do it is a domestic issue and that's far more important than foreign policy. People have got to understand that America cannot play the role that it wants to play in foreign policy if it ignores its own constitution. And no matter how important they think foreign policy is, constitutional policy is more important.
FP: On Libya specifically, what about the argument that NATO is running the show...that the U.S. handed off responsibility to them?
BS: There is nothing in the U.S. Constitution that says you can violate the law as long as NATO blesses it. There is nothing in the American Constitution that says you can violate the law as long as you're consistent with a resolution of the Arab League. And there is nothing in the Constitution that says you can violate the U.S. law as long as your acting consistent with the UN Security Council resolution.
FP: But there is some dispute about the War Powers Act, isn't there? The Supreme Court has never decisively come down one way or the other on who has the ultimate power when it comes to declaring war.
BS: There are certain constitutional issues where the Supreme Court doesn't want to weigh in. That doesn't mean the Constitution is void.
FP: I know you said it's a constitutional issue, but are you concerned that this could be seen as undercutting the president overseas?
BS: There are those in the executive branch under this and former and future administrations who believe America can go forward only if we shred the Constitution in favor of an imperial presidency. They are advocates for an imperial presidency. They are not advocates for the Constitution and they are not advocates for the rule of law.
The State Department believes in democracy and the rule of law in every country, except the United States. It is official policy of the State Department that no president should ever actually admit that the War Powers Act is binding or is the law. Look at how extreme a position it is. Whether or not we are under attack, whether or not there is an emergency situation, whether or not an ally is attacked, a president may send American forces in any quantity he or she thinks necessary for any duration, for any purpose. I mean is there any constraint that the State Department is willing to acknowledge?
FP: Isn't it in the U.S. interest to see that Muammar Qaddafi step down?
BS: Yes. The second most important thing is that we bring democracy and the rule of law to Libya. The first most important thing is that we have democracy and the rule of law in the United States.
What a difference four years makes! The new order of the day when it came to foreign policy and national security at last night's New Hampshire GOP debate was caution. On both Afghanistan and Libya, candidate after candidate urged an end to military adventurism -- sounding more like Ron Paul than George W. Bush or John McCain.
"We've learned that our troops shouldn't go off and try and fight a war of independence for another nation," front-runner Mitt Romney said. "Only Afghanis can win Afghanistan independence from the Taliban."
"Our policy in Libya is substantially flawed," said Michele Bachmann, who just announced last night she was running. "We were not attacked, we were not threatened with attack, there was no vital national interest."
"We need to think fundamentally about reassessing our entire strategy in the region," Newt Gingrich said. "I think we should say to the generals we'd like to get out as rapidly as possible...we have got to have a totally new strategy for the region."
"Is it in the vital interest of the United States of America? If the answer is no, then we don't go any further," said Herman Cain, the businessman turned candidate, summing up his thinking on national security questions overseas. He quoted his mother on Libya: "It's a mess. There's more that we don't know than we do know. So it would be very difficult to know exactly what to do until we learn from the commanders in the field."
Ron Paul went further than the other candidates, not surprisingly: "I'd bring them home as quickly as possible. And I'd get them out of Iraq as well. And I wouldn't start a war in Libya. I'd quit bombing Yemen and I'd quit bombing Pakistan...our national security is not enhanced by our presence over there."
Despite the candidates' general agreement, foreign policy played a very small role in the debate -- taking up all of eight minutes at the end of the CNN-hosted event.
Germany's Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle announced today during a visit to Benghazi that his government would now recognize the Transitional National Council (TNC) as the official representatives of the Libyan people. Here's a breakdown of which major countries have officially recognized the Benghazi-based leadership and which countries haven't.
France was one of the first countries to recognize the rebels on March 10, some nine days before the NATO intervention began. Qaddafi broke off diplomatic relations with Paris the next day.
Qatar was the first Arab country to back the rebels, establishing diplomatic ties on March 28. Kuwait followed in April, Jordan in May, and the United Arab Emirates last week.
Despite a long-standing friendship between Qaddafi and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Italy backed the rebels as the "only legitimate interlocutor" in April.
In mid-May, Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague recognized the TNC and invited them to open a mission in London. Spain and Australia soon followed.
NOT RECOGNIZED BY:
The United States. Despite playing a leading role in the airstrikes against Qaddafi and his loyalist forces, Washington hasn't officially recognized the Transitional Council. White House spokesman Jay Carney said last month the U.S. is "continuing to assess the capabilities of the TNC," but it was up to the Libyan people to decide their government, not foreign states.
Regional power house Turkey has not completely renounced Qaddafi, despite lobbying efforts by Libyan rebel leader Mustafa Abdul Jalil, who visited Ankara late last month.
Russia and China. Both countries abstained in the Security Council vote authorizing a no-fly zone in Libya and have yet to cut off ties with Qaddafi. A Russian envoy might meet with him again this week in Tripoli.
Neighbor Egypt is allowing aid and medical material to cross its western border to resupply and aid the Libyan rebels, but it hasn't yet renounced Qaddafi's government. In fact, Jalil has alleged that Qaddafi's associates are in Egypt, selling Libyan assets to get around international sanctions and recruiting mercenaries, charges that Cairo denies.
Today, Foreign Policy is lucky to play host to Ryan Calder's Benghazi diary. Calder, a Ph.D. candidate in sociology at the University of California, Berkeley, has been blogging from Libya since he arrived there four days before the international intervention began. He is now based in Benghazi.
One of the details we at FP loved the most about his piece is his observation of the rebels' nickname for embattled Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi: "Uncle Curly." Calder notes how graffiti denouncing Qaddafi is ubiquitous in Benghazi:
Spray paint, incidentally, is vital in revolutions. When you liberate a building, you spray-paint your slogans on it. When you come across a destroyed enemy tank, you spray-paint that too. Someone tagged this one "Athar Bu Shafshufah": "Uncle Curly's Ruins."
Uncle Curly, of course, is Muammar al-Qaddafi. The colonel's hair gets a lot of attention in this country. Caricatures highlighting his famous 'do now cover the walls of central Benghazi.
And in a later entry, describing the scene along the road from Ajdabiya to Benghazi:
The atmosphere here is even more carnivalesque than at the other site. One dad walks his young son and daughter across the street, while another helps his kid up onto a tank and hands him a rebel flag, posing him with it for a picture. Passing drivers rubberneck and clog traffic, honking and taking pictures on their camera-phones as they move down the highway. Tractor-trailers pass by, hauling tanks and MRLs taken intact from the enemy, with the rebel flag planted atop them, ready to be recycled by the rebels. On a destroyed tank across the street, someone has spray-painted "Rabish Bu Shafshifah: Al-Bi'ah bi-l-Jumlah" -- "Uncle Curly's Junk: All for Sale."
For more photos of the graffiti of the Libyan revolution, click here.
ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images
In case there were any remaining question that Seif al-Islam Qaddafi, the scion of Libya's fast-fading leader, is not exactly the brightest star in the galaxy, he dispelled those doubts today by appearing on the Al-Arabiya satellite channel to declare that "everything is normal" in Tripoli even as news outlets reported on growing signs that the Qaddafi family is losing its grip on Libya.
Earlier this week, Seif had invited foreign journalists to the Libyan capital so they could see for themselves just how wonderfully the Qaddafis were handling what he downplayed as the work of foreign-backed, pill-popping Al Qaeda terrorists bent on Libya's destruction.
But correspondents for both Al Arabiya and the New York Times, two news outlets that took up his invitation, managed to break away for their minders and report that all was not, in fact, under control.
The Times' David Kirkpatrick "discovered blocks of the city in open revolt" and spoke with eyewitnesses who told of "snipers and antiaircraft guns firing at unarmed civilians, and security forces were removing the dead and wounded from streets and hospitals, apparently in an effort to hide the mounting toll." Al Arabiya reported that Qaddafi's security forces appeared to be abandoning Tripoli's streets to the rebels. And the Associated Press relayed word that the Libyan regime "passed out guns to civilian supporters, set up checkpoints Saturday and sent armed patrols roving the terrorized capital."
Recent reports from eastern Libya, where Western news organizations have had correspondents for days now, make it clear that the Qaddafis have lost control of everywhere east of Ajbadiya, some 850 kilometers from Tripoli, while the opposition has held onto Misurata, the country's third-largest city, and is closing in on the capital from the west as well. The Qaddafis still have plenty of firepower in Sirt, their home base, and in Tripoli, but their room for maneuver is shrinking rapidly.
So, what was Seif thinking?
Perhaps he thought that the regime really could control the flow of information, present a cleaned-up Potemkin village inside the capital, and earn some goodwill from foreign news organizations by appearing to be cooperative. But nobody's buying the spin, and newspapers and satellite channels have become extremely sophisticated in how they leverage citizen networks in difficult reporting environments. Libyans inside the country are still, miraculously, risking their lives to take gritty cell-phone videos and upload them to Facebook or other social networking sites, where Libyan exiles pick them up, translate and provide context, and pass them along to a broader audience. Activists and journalists have been using tools like Skype to communicate directly with sources in and around Tripoli, and then spreading the news quickly on Twitter.
So, even if Kirkpatrick were stuck being driven around by government minders who only showed him what they wanted him to see, his colleagues in Benghazi and Cairo would still be able to get the real story from brave Libyan eyewitnesses who want the world to hear their story.
Unfortunately for Seif, Kirkpatrick managed to go a step beyond that and even managed to speak with some anti-Qaddafi folks in person:
[A]t another stop, in the neighborhood of Tajoura, journalists stumbled almost accidentally into a block cordoned off by makeshift barriers where dozens of residents were eager to talk about a week of what they said were peaceful protests crushed by Colonel Qaddafi’s security forces with overwhelming, deadly and random force.
A middle-age business owner, who identified himself only as Turkey, said that the demonstrations there had begun last Sunday, when thousands of protesters inspired by the uprising in the east had marched toward the capital’s central Green Square. He said the police had dispersed the crowd with tear gas and then bullets, killing a man named Issa Hatey. [...]
Asked why he and his neighbors were rising up now, after living under Colonel Qaddafi for 42 years, Mr. Turkey, 46, shrugged. “No one can tell the time,” he said. After forty years of pressure, “you explode.” Two funerals were taking place nearby for those who died on Friday, and he said they expected another big protest on Sunday.
It seems hard to imagine the regime can hold out much longer, given how quickly the information walls are coming down, but let's not forget that the Qaddafis have said repeatedly and emphatically that they will fight to the death. Their loyalists have every reason to believe that the rebels -- who say they are preparing to march on Tripoli and liberate the city even if it takes "pilots who are ready to crash their planes in a suicidal way" -- will exact furious retribution after 42 years of tyranny. Expect them to go down swinging.
It took a little under a month for Tunisians -- with a vital assist from their military -- to oust Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. In Egypt, Hosni Mubarak went from pillar of stability to disgraced ex-president in just 18 days.
Now, as we enter a seventh day of protests and armed street battles raging across Libya, the unimaginable fall of Muammar al-Qaddafi suddenly seems very imaginable indeed.
So far, ant-government demonstrators have more or less taken over major cities in eastern Libya, including Benghazi, the country's second-largest. The uprising has been bloody: Human Rights Watch reports that as many as 233 people have died, and probably more.
Last night, events seemed to reach a tipping point, as representatives of several large tribes voiced their support for the rebels and several diplomats -- including Libya's envoy to the Arab League and its No. 2 man in China -- resigned in protest.
Then, as protesters reportedly thronged Tripoli's Green Square and marched on Qaddafi's compound, Seif al-Islam Qaddafi, the son of the ruler, appeared on state television, dressed in a black suit and tie and slouching in front of a green map of Africa.
In a bizarre, apparently off-the-cuff speech, Seif accused the protesters of receiving foreign help and seeking to set up "Islamic emirates" in eastern Libya -- that is, when they weren't doing LSD and working with African mercenaries. Warning of a "civil war" in the making, he vowed to fight "until the last man, until the last woman, until the last bullet."
Many things still aren't clear in Libya, where rumors are flying fast and furious and foreign journalists aren't able to operate. Last night, there was a rumor going around Twitter that Qaddafi had fled to Venezuela; Caracas denied it. Another story had it that Seif had been shot by his brother Mutassim, who as the national security advisor theoretically controls large parts of the security apparatus.
Seif's speech was certainly crazy, but he may be right about one thing: There is a nasty internecine conflict on the way in Libya. From all that we've seen, the regime will do anything to stay in power, including shooting people in cold blood with heavy-caliber weapons. It doesn't look like there will be a nice, friendly "let's all hold hands and clean up Tahrir Square" moment. After four decades of unspeakable tyranny, Libyans will be out for vengeance.
For those interested in following events in Libya on Twitter, I've made a list of key sources to follow. Please bear in mind, however, that much of what goes around in hearsay and unconfirmed rumor -- much of it no doubt wrong. Unfortunately, it's the best information we have to go on right now. I'll keep adding good feeds to the list as I find them, and feel free to recommend your own.
Revolutionaries in Benghazi, Libya's second largest city, have taken over a radio station and are broadcasting their message on the Internet. Benghazi has long been a center of dissent against the rule of Muammar al-Qaddafi, who has ruled Libya with a mercurial iron fist for more than four decades.
While it's hard to know what's going on in Libya given the difficulties in reporting there -- the country has no independent press to speak of, basically zero civil society, and is not at all welcoming to foreign journalists -- Libyan exiles have been working hard to get the word out.
The radio commentary itself is gripping, with breathless amateur announcers calling on the international media to cover what "the criminal Qaddafi" is doing and warning fellow Libyans about "foreign mercenaries."
"This is an Arab revolution not just a Libyan revolution. This is a Muslim revolution," I heard one announcer say.
Perhaps the best source in English is the Libya February 17 blog, which is posting videos and short dispatches sourced to Twitter. What seems clear so far is that the government's response to widespread and growing protests has been brutal, with reports of at least 24 deaths so far and likely many more. This is not going to be the kind of peaceful revolution that I witnessed in Cairo.
Media machine and Libyan leader Col. Muammar Qadaffi pitched his infamous tent for his fourth Italian trip in the last year on Sunday, and wasted very little time in adding to his list of classics when commenting on Europe's immigration problems:
Libya turns to the European Union to support what Libya asks because Europe, in the future, might not be Europe any more but might turn black because of all the illegal immigrants.
It gets better:
We don't know what will happen, what will be the reaction of the white and Christian Europeans faced with this influx of starving and ignorant Africans … We don't know if Europe will remain an advanced and united continent or if it will be destroyed, as happened with the barbarian invasions.
(Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was standing right next to Qaddafi when he made his comments.)
Qadaffi and Berlusconi are apparently firm friends. In 2008, Berlusconi signed an agreement granting the North African nation $5 billion over 25 years as reparations for Italy's former colonial rule. Last year, Qaddafi agreed to take in migrants intercepted at sea by Italy, and he is now requesting an additional $6.3 billion to help pay for costs associated with the policy. Controversially, Italy does not screen the migrants for refugee status before shipping them back across the Mediterranean to squalid detention camps.
While in Rome, Qaddafi also delivered an address to a few hundred women -- selected by a modeling agency -- in which he encouraged them to convert to Islam:
May Islam be the religion of all of Europe, convert to Islam, the true religion.
Can someone get this man on Twitter?
Giorgio Cosulich/Getty Images
Muammar Qaddafi has eradicated and restructured the Libyan calendar, publicly supported international terrorism and then called the Security Council the "terror council," ordered an entourage of virgin bodyguards and a Saharan camel to accompany him to public events, and even demanded that the U.N. abolish Switzerland.
So what's the next move from the maniacal megalomaniac? The most shocking of all: a random act of kindness. Colonel Qaddafi has personally procured a plan to save a fledgling Italian town, ostensibly harboring no motivation in the project aside from altruism and affection.
The fateful meeting between Qaddafi and his newly adopted medieval mountain town was love at first sight. Last year, while traveling to the G8 Summit, Qaddafi feared the recent 6.3 magnitude earthquake had weakened the infrastructure in central Italy and demanded his caravan take a detour. The new route took Qaddafi through the financially struggling town of Antrodoco, where the 2,800-person population showed him such warmth and hospitality that he reportedly declared, "You have entered my heart and I won't forget you." Promptly after his return home, Qaddafi sent his Roman ambassador and various other envoys to the village with promises of building luxury hotels, clean-water manufacturing plants, and a sports complex, and a general commitment to facilitating improvements in tourism and employment rates. A week-long conference to discuss the plans is now in the works.
It's a bit difficult to imagine Qaddafi and his motorway pulling around a mountain bend somewhere in Italy, the Libyan leader emerging from the depths of his flashy limousine -- decked out in his floor-length cape and Miami Vice-inspired G8 Summit suit, no less -- as Antrodoco's knight in shining armor. Then again, it was difficult to imagine him inviting five-hundred models to an evening out on the town, only to give each a personal copy of the Koran and attempt to convert them to Islam. Touché, Colonel -- you've surprised us again.
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