Tag Archives: Middle East

Israel Iran War

Israel asks U.S. for arms that could aid Iran strike

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel has asked the United States for advanced “bunker-buster” bombs and refueling planes that could improve its ability to attack Iran’s underground nuclear sites, an Israeli official said on Thursday.

“Such a request was made” around the time of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu‘s visit to Washington this week, the official said, confirming media reports.

But the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity given the sensitivity of the issue, played down as “unrealistic” reports that the United States would condition supplying the hardware on Israel promising not to attack Iran this year.

Netanyahu told Obama at a White House meeting on Monday that Israel had not yet decided on military action against Iran, sources close to the talks said.

Netanyahu has hinted that Israel could resort to force should Tehran – which denies suspicions that it is covertly trying to develop atomic bombs – continue to defy big powers’ diplomatic pressure to curb its nuclear program.

The risk of an Israeli-Iranian war troubles President Barack Obama, who is up for re-election in November and has cautioned against kindling more Middle East upheaval. A Gulf conflict could send oil prices rocketing upwards.

A front-page article in the Israeli newspaper Ma’ariv on Thursday said Obama had told Netanyahu that Washington would supply Israel with upgraded military equipment in return for assurances that there would be no attack on Iran in 2012.

Israel is widely assumed to have the Middle East’s only nuclear arsenal but its conventional firepower may not be enough to deliver lasting damage to Iran’s distant, dispersed and well-fortified facilities, many experts say.

Israel has limited stocks of older, smaller bunker-busters and a small fleet of refueling planes, all supplied by Washington.

Western powers suspect Iran’s uranium enrichment program is aimed at stockpiling fissile material for nuclear weapons. Iran says it is strictly for civilian energy uses.

http://news.yahoo.com/israel-asks-u-arms-could-aid-iran-strike-091024021.html

 


Europe and U.S. step up pressure on Gaddafi to go

By Michael Georgy and James Mackenzie | Reuters

TRIPOLI/BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Europe and the United States stepped up diplomatic pressure on Muammar Gaddafi to quit, while on the ground his forces used their superior strength to press their advantage against rebels.

President Barack Obama said on Friday the United States and its allies were “tightening the noose” around Gaddafi and European Union leaders meeting in Brussels said they would consider all options to force the Libyan leader to step down.

However, the 27 leaders meeting in Brussels stopped short of endorsing air strikes, a no-fly zone or other military-backed means to achieve that goal. Libyan rebels said their three-week-old insurrection could fail without a no-fly zone.

The summit sidestepped a British and French initiative for a U.N. Security Council resolution that would authorize a no-fly zone.

They also would not back French President Nicolas Sarkozy‘s call to follow his lead and recognize the National Libyan Council as the country’s legitimate authority, or his call for “defensive” air strikes against Gaddafi’s forces if they used chemical weapons or warplanes against civilians.

Libya suspended diplomatic relations with France.

Obama, accused by critics of reacting too slowly, told a news conference he believed international sanctions, an arms embargo and other measures already in place were having an impact but also said a no-fly zone remained an option.

“Across the board we are slowly tightening the noose on Gaddafi. He is more and more isolated internationally,” he said. “I have not taken any options off the table.”

Soon after he spoke, the Treasury Department said it had extended a freeze on assets to Gaddafi’s wife, four of his sons and four senior officials in his government.

TANKS AND AIR POWER

Gaddafi’s forces, with air supremacy and a big advantage in tanks, appeared to be maintaining the momentum on the ground.

The sound of explosions and small arms fire came from the oil port of Ras Lanuf on Friday as government troops landed from the sea, backed by tanks and air power.

Rebels had advanced to the town of Bin Jawad about 60 km (38 miles) west of Ras Lanuf a week ago, but have been driven back across the strip of desert and scrub. Though out-gunned, they have kept up stiff resistance.

“Ras Lanuf is a ghost town. There are skirmishes between rebels and Gaddafi forces going back and forth,” said rebel captain Mustafa al-Agoury, adding that rebels were positioned on the east and Gaddafi’s forces on the west of the town.

Neither side had full control. Libyan state television said the town was cleared of “armed gangs” opposed to Gaddafi and a spokesman for the rebel movement, Hamid al-Hasi, told Al Arabiya that Ras Lanuf was back in rebel hands.

Gaddafi’s warplanes were carrying out air strikes seemingly unhindered by insurgent anti-aircraft guns mounted on pick-up trucks.

Many rebels were angry at international inaction.

“Where is the West? How are they helping? What are they doing,” shouted one angry fighter.

In Tripoli, Libyan security forces used teargas and fired in the air to disperse worshippers near a mosque before they could even attempt any protest, a Libyan man said, citing witnesses.

It was impossible to verify reports about what was happening in the Tajoura district of Tripoli because foreign journalists were prevented from reporting from the area and local anti-Gaddafi activists were not answering phone calls.

The revolt in Zawiyah, 50 km (30 miles) west of Tripoli and held by rebels for days against fierce attacks, appeared to have been crushed.

Foreign journalists brought to the city center by government forces on Friday saw buildings scorched, patches of fresh paint and loyalists chanting “I love Gaddafi.”

HOTEL BURNED OUT

A hotel on the square that had been the rebel command center stood burned out, now guarded by Gaddafi militiamen. Facades not covered by large cloths were pockmarked by bullets from days of battles around the space the rebels called Martyrs’ Square.

“There were bad guys inside. There were 35-40 guys there yesterday with Kalashnikovs and big guns,” said Waleed, one militiaman, pointing toward the building’s ruined facade.

“We cannot live without Gaddafi. He is the king of Africa, not just Libya.”

The only town holding out in western Libya was Misrata, about 200 km (125 miles) east of Tripoli. It was calm on Friday, but rebels said they were expecting an attack in the near future.

Libya’s insurgent leader said any delay in imposing a no-fly zone could let Gaddafi regain control.

“We ask the international community to shoulder their responsibilities,” Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, head of the rebels’ National Libyan Council, told the BBC.

“The Libyans are being cleansed by Gaddafi’s air force. We asked for a no-fly zone to be imposed from day one, we also want a sea embargo,” he said.

About 15,000 worshippers gathered outside the courthouse that has become the council’s headquarters in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi.

“Help us to become a democratic country,” said one banner strung between lampposts and written in English and Arabic.

The Arab League will discuss the no-fly zone and the idea of extending formal recognition to the rebels at a meeting on Saturday, but experts said divisions among them will likely preclude agreement, disappointing the EU which had been looking to the grouping to help guide their next steps.

http://ca.news.yahoo.com/million-libyans-aid-uk-france-seek-no-fly-20110307-195811-643.html

 


Gaddafi launches counter-offensive on Libyan rebels

By Maria Golovnina and Michael Georgy | Reuters

TRIPOLI (Reuters) – Muammar Gaddafi vowed to die in Libya as a martyr in an angry television address on Tuesday, as rebel troops said eastern regions had broken free from his rule in a burgeoning revolt.

“I am not going to leave this land, I will die here as a martyr,” Gaddafi said on state television, refusing to bow to calls from his own diplomats, soldiers and protesters clamoring in the streets for an end to his four decades at the helm.

“I shall remain here defiant,” said Gaddafi.

Earlier, witnesses streaming across the Libyan border into Egypt said Gaddafi was using tanks, warplanes and mercenaries in an effort to stamp out the growing rebellion.

In the eastern city of Tobruk, a Reuters correspondent there said sporadic blasts could be heard, the latest sign that Gaddafi’s grip on the oil and gas exporting nation was weakening.

“All the eastern regions are out of Gaddafi’s control now … The people and the army are hand-in-hand here,” said the now former army major Hany Saad Marjaa.

The White House offered its condolences for the “appalling violence” in Libya and said the international community had to speak with one voice on the crisis.

The U.N. refugee agency meanwhile urged Libya’s neighbors to grant refuge to those fleeing the unrest, which was triggered by decades of repression and popular revolts that toppled leaders in Tunisia and Egypt.

On the Libyan side of the border with Egypt, anti-Gaddafi rebels armed with clubs and Kalashnikov rifles welcomed visitors. One man held an upside-down picture of Gaddafi defaced with the words “the butcher tyrant, murderer of Libyans,” a Reuters correspondent who crossed into Libya reported.

Hundreds of Egyptians flowed in the opposite direction on tractors and trucks, taking with them harrowing tales of state violence and banditry.

In the eastern town of Al Bayda, resident Marai Al Mahry told Reuters by telephone that 26 people including his brother Ahmed had been shot dead overnight by Gaddafi loyalists.

“They shoot you just for walking on the street,” he said, sobbing uncontrollably as he appealed for help.

Protesters were attacked with tanks and warplanes, he said.

“The only thing we can do now is not give up, no surrender, no going back. We will die anyways, whether we like it or not. It is clear that they don’t care whether we live or not. This is genocide,” said Mahry, 42.

Human Rights Watch said 62 people had died in clashes in Tripoli in the past two days, on top of its previous toll of 233 dead. Opposition groups put the figure far much higher. U.N. rights chief Navi Pillay said the killing could amount to crimes against humanity and demanded an international probe.

The revolt in Libya, the third largest oil producer in Africa, has driven oil prices to a 2 1/2 year high above $108 a barrel, and OPEC said it would produce more crude if supplies from member Libya were disrupted.

With no end in sight to the crisis, refugees fled to Egypt.

“Five people died on the street where I live,” Mohamed Jalaly, 40, told Reuters at Salum on his way to Cairo from Benghazi. “You leave Benghazi and then you have … nothing but gangs and youths with weapons,” he added. “The way from Benghazi is extremely dangerous,” he said.

Libyan guards have withdrawn from their side of the border and Egypt’s new military rulers — who took power following the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak on February11 — said the main crossing would be kept open round-the-clock to allow the sick and wounded to enter.

Groups of rebels with assault rifles and shotguns, waved cheerily at the passing cars on a stretch of desert road, flicking the V-for-victory sign and posing with their guns, a Reuters correspondent reported.

Libyan security forces have cracked down fiercely on demonstrators across the country, with fighting spreading to Tripoli after erupting in Libya’s oil-producing east last week, in a reaction to decades of

As the fighting has intensified some supporters have abandoned Gaddafi. Tripoli’s envoy to India, Ali al-Essawi, resigned and told Reuters that African mercenaries had been recruited to help put down protests.

“The fall of Gaddafi is the imperative of the people in streets,” he said. The justice minister also quit and a group of army officers urged soldiers to “join the people.” Two pilots flew their warplanes to nearby Malta.

DEFIANCE AND CONDEMNATION

Gaddafi’s son Saif on Sunday vowed his father would keep fighting “until the last man standing” and the Libyan leader appeared on television after days of seclusion to dismiss reports he had fled to the Venezuela of his ally Hugo Chavez.

“I want to show that I’m in Tripoli and not in Venezuela. Do not believe the channels belonging to stray dogs,” said Gaddafi, who has ruled Libya with a mixture of populism and tight control since taking power in a military coup in 1969.

World powers have condemned the use of force against protesters, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon accusing Libya of firing on civilians from warplanes and helicopters. The Security Council met in closed session to discuss Libya.

Washington and Europe have demanded an end to the violence and Germany’s Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said: “A ruling family, threatening its people with civil war, has reached the end of the line.”

Demonstrations spread to Tripoli from the second city Benghazi, cradle of the revolt that has engulfed a number of towns and which residents say is now in the hands of protestors.

Residents said anxious shoppers were queuing outside stores to try to stock up on food and drink. Some shops were closed.

Spain’s Repsol suspended all operations in Libya and sources said operations at cargo ports at Benghazi, Tripoli and Misurata had shut due to the violence.

Trade sources said Libyan oil port operations had also been disrupted and others said gas supplies from Libya to Italy had slowed since Late Monday, though Italy said they had not yet been interrupted..

Shell said it was pulling out its expatriate staff from Libya temporarily and a number of states were seeking to evacuate their nationals.

http://ca.news.yahoo.com/libyan-online-protesters-prepare-day-rage-20110216-164747-420.html


Libya cuts off Internet service: network monitor

By Deena Beasley | Reuters

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Internet service has been cut off inLibya as protesters step up demonstrations against longtime leaderMuammar Gaddafi, according to a U.S. company that monitorsInternet traffic.

Massachusetts-based Arbor Networks said data collected from 30 Internet providers around the world showed that online traffic in and out of Libya was disconnected abruptly at 7:15 p.m. EST on Friday.

The data also showed two partial service interruptions earlier in the day.

It was unclear if service was still unavailable.

Dozens of protesters were killed in clashes with Libyan security forces in the eastern city of Benghazi on Saturday, a witness said, in the worst unrest in Gaddafi’s four decades in power.

The Internet has been used in recent weeks by anti-government protesters in North Africa and the Middle East to help coordinate their demonstrations.

Egyptian authorities cut Internet service for a few days during a revolt that succeeded last week in toppling Hosni Mubarak after 30 years in power.

http://ca.news.yahoo.com/libyan-online-protesters-prepare-day-rage-20110216-164747-420.html

 


The next steps for Egypt….???

Behind White House applause for Egypt’s protesters, unanswered questions, uncertain future

By The Associated Press

WASHINGTON – The United States faces an intensely uncertain future in Egypt, a stalwart ally of decades in the volatile Middle East, where key tenets of American foreign policy are now thrown into doubt.

Behind President Barack Obama’s praise for Egypt’s protesters and the outcome they achieved lie major unanswered questions about what will come next now that President Hosni Mubarak has been overthrown after 30 years of authoritarian rule. For many people in Egypt, they were years of oppression, corruption and poverty; but for the U.S., Mubarak was an anchor of stability at the helm of the world’s largest Arab nation, enforcing a peace treaty with Israel and protecting vital U.S. interests, including passage for oil through the Suez Canal.

For now, the military is in charge, but whether, when or how a transition will be made to the kind of democratic society that meets the protesters’ demands remains unknown. Speaking at the White House on Friday, Obama acknowledged difficult days ahead and unanswered questions but expressed confidence that the answers will be found.

Most tellingly, as the U.S. warily eyes the days ahead, Obama singled out the Egyptian military for praise in the restraint it showed through more than two weeks of largely peaceful protests. But the president emphasized the military’s role as a “caretaker” leading up to elections now set for September and said it must now “ensure a transition that is credible in the eyes of the Egyptian people.”

He said that means lifting Egypt’s hated 30-year-old “emergency” police powers laws, protecting the rights of citizens, revising the country’s law and constitution “to make this change irreversible and laying out a clear path to elections that are fair and free.”

But just as the U.S. had limited influence during the uprising that seemed to spring almost out of nowhere to overtake Egypt, it has limited influence over what happens next. The U.S. provides some $1.5 billion a year in aid to Egypt, the vast majority of it to the military, and has a good relationship with the Egyptian military, which often sends officers here for training. That doesn’t guarantee a commanding U.S. role.

“Do we have leverage or influence?” asked Aaron David Miller, a former Mideast adviser to six U.S. secretaries of state. “Well, did we have leverage and influence over the past few weeks? That’s highly arguable.”

Miller, now with the Woodrow Wilson Center think-tank , said it will take weeks or months to sort things out. And in the end, he said, “I think Egypt will be a far less forgiving place for American interests as democracy takes root — if in fact it does.”

Asked about the uncertainty ahead, especially with respect to the role of the military, presidential spokesman Robert Gibbs could only answer: “I don’t think we have to fear democracy.”

Beyond the question of who will end up in control in Egypt and whether the U.S. will still be able to count the country as a firm and stable ally, there are concerns over whether the unrest that brought down Mubarak will spread to other nations in the Middle East, including oil-rich autocratic neighbours.

That prospect looms even as the U.S. handling of the Egypt situation has angered some leaders in the region who thought Washington was too quick to abandon Mubarak — although Obama and his administration studiously avoided ever calling outright for the president’s ouster.

On Friday, after Mubarak’s resignation was announced, Obama was able to give fuller expression to his views.

“By stepping down, President Mubarak responded to the Egyptian people’s hunger for change,” Obama said, in words reminiscent of his own presidential campaign.

Of the protesters, the president said: “This is the power of human dignity, and it can never be denied.” He compared them to the Germans who tore down the Berlin Wall and to independence leader Mohandas K. Gandhi‘s nonviolent ranks in India.

Mubarak’s resignation came less than 24 hours after he’d surprised the White House and many others by delivering a defiant speech Thursday in which he refused to step down, confounding widespread expectations that he’d do so. Obama learned of the announcement of his resignation Friday morning when an aide brought him a note during a meeting in the Oval Office.

Then he spent a few moments, along with the rest of the world, watching the joyous celebrations in Cairo on TV.

“Egyptians have inspired us, and they’ve done so by putting the lie to the idea that justice is best gained through violence,” Obama said. “For in Egypt, it was the moral force of nonviolence — not terrorism, not mindless killing — but nonviolence, moral force that bent the arc of history toward justice once more.”

The protests arose in a country with enormous social problems, with vast differences between the haves and the have-nots. It is a country where more than 50 per cent of the adult population is illiterate and some 40 per cent live below or close to the poverty line. Rising costs of food were among the leading factors underpinning the protests. Some of the impoverished Egyptians are beneficiaries of U.S. food aid; officials said Friday that U.S. aid to Egypt was not expected to be affected by Mubarak’s departure.

It was not clear what role Islamic militant groups such as the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood might play in the new government that emerges. Egypt’s ruling military on Saturday moved to resolve one area of uncertainty by reassuring its international allies that there would be no break in its landmark 1979 peace deal with Israel.

The top U.S. military officer, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen, will be in Israel on Sunday and Monday, with developments in Egypt expected to be at the top of the agenda. The meeting was previously scheduled. Mullen is also visiting Jordan, another Mideast ally facing the prospect of civil unrest.

http://ca.news.yahoo.com/egyptians-hopeful-face-uncertain-future-military-charge-20110212-011858-751.html

 


International reaction to crisis in Egypt

By London World Desk

Protesters have intensified their campaign to force Egypt‘s President Hosni Mubarak to quit as world leaders struggled to find a solution to a crisis that has torn up the Middle East political map.

Following are official comments on the crisis from around the world:

Finland’s Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb told Reuters ahead of a European Union meeting to discuss policy on Egypt and Tunisia, among other issues:

“The big picture is that there is something big, something historic happening in the Arab world.

“The genie is out of the bottle and I don’t know whether anyone is able to or wants to put it back in. I know I don’t.

“It’s too early to say whether this is the Berlin Wall moment, or the 1989 moment, because there are of course huge differences between Europe and the Arab world and there are huge differences within the Arab world countries.

“There is, however, one general trend that I think we can all agree on: those countries which are not doing economically well, where people do not feel that their welfare is taken care of, that they don’t have an equal opportunity to prosper, those are the ones that have a tendency to start moving.”

British Prime Minister David Cameron told BBC TV:

“It’s very important that if it’s President Obama or whether it’s me, we’re not saying who should run this country or that country.

“It’s sensible to say that you do have a choice here, this repression, if you opt for that, that will end badly for Egypt, badly for the world. It’s the wrong choice to make.”

Germany’s Foreign Ministry spokesman said at a regular news conference:

“We are asking that the current president respect the freedom of opinion of the people and their other civil rights, not to resort to force under any circumstances — that would only help extremists. We are not going to say anyone should step down or someone else should take office.

“That’s something the Egyptians need to decide and where we clearly request from the Egyptian government that all those who want to stand for election can do so.

“Those conditions have to be created and we hold the Egyptian government accountable on that but we won’t ask anyone to step down.”

Middle East peace envoy and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair told Sky News from Jerusalem:

“What is inevitable is there’s going to be change, the question is what change and how do you manage it.

“What is necessary, and this is where I think the western governments, America, the European Union, have got to get themselves into position where they can not merely commentate on this situation but help partner that process of change.”

“I’ve said for years, this is a region in transition. The question is where is it transiting to?

“It can transit to a concept of society and the economy and politics that is 21st century. Or it can be taken backwards into a very reactionary form of religious autocracy, we don’t want that.”

Austrian Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger said on Austrian radio:

“There is nothing better we can do at the moment. At the end of the day this is a revolution … and (we know) from past examples we have to wait and see how it ends.

Asked if EU foreign ministers would adopt a united front at meeting today: “What I expect is that we agree on the steps, on the procedure that we will use together. With our national foreign policies we all have to pull in the same direction as the European Union.”

http://ca.news.yahoo.com/factbox-international-reaction-crisis-egypt-20110131-034028-523.html