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Finally, the Libyan revolution ended the way it was supposed to.

“A few quick victories, some conspicuous acts of personal bravery on the Patriot side and a colorful entry into the capital,” as Evelyn Waugh would have put it. That was the Western policy for the war—except that the war went on longer than it was meant to, and it might not be over yet, either. On Monday, the rebels reached Green Square and declared victory. On Tuesday, Saif al-Islam Qaddafi, the regime’s dauphin, was driving around Tripoli in an armored convoy, declaring that the rebels had been drawn into a clever trap.

But then, that’s the problem with wars and revolutions: They have a way of diverging from the policy and confounding the planners. They continue even when they are supposed to be all but over. They spill into other areas and lead to new conflicts. Even wars that end with solemn surrender ceremonies and elaborate peace treaties sometimes have unexpected afterlives. World War I begat World War II, World War II begat the Cold War, the Cold War begat the Korean War, and so on.

The Libyan revolution needn’t end in civil war. At the same time, there is no guarantee that it won’t. Either way, our ability to influence the course of events is limited. We can aid the rebels, as we have been doing all along: In fact, they’ve quietly received not only NATO air support but also French and British military training, as well as weapons and advice from elsewhere in Europe and the Gulf, most notably from Qatar. But we can’t fight their war for them, we can’t unify them by force, and we can’t write their new constitution. On the contrary, if we make ourselves too visible in Libya, either with troops on the ground or too many advisers in dark glasses, we will instantly become another enemy. If we try to create their government for them, we risk making it instantly unpopular.

What we should do instead—to use a much-mocked phrase—is bravely, proudly, and forthrightly “lead from behind.” When the NATO engagement started, I argued that Obama’s best weapon was silence—no false promises, no soaring rhetoric, no threats. Keep this their war, not ours. The result: The rebels who marched into Tripoli and waved at Al-Jazeera’s TV cameras looked like a Libyan force, not a Western one—because they were. Those pictures of them stomping on Qaddafi’s photograph looked a lot more authentic, and will play better in Libya and across the Arab world, than the pictures of Marines pulling down a statue of Saddam Hussein in 2003, his head draped with an American flag.

There was a price to pay for our silence. The absence of visible American leadership—indeed, the absence of any Western leadership—might have worked brilliantly for the Libyans, but it has been a disaster for the NATO alliance. Not by accident did the U.S. defense secretary, Robert Gates, lash out at NATO’s European members at the height of this conflict: After only a month of forays, the alliance’s weaknesses were on full display, as never before. European armies that joined the conflict ran out of arms and ammunition; most of those that stayed out didn’t have arms and ammunition to lend them. The two most prominent interventionists, the French president and the British prime minister, hardly spoke about Libya at all. There was no public support for the intervention in the West because it had so few public advocates in the West. That’s not a good sign for the future. But then, that’s our problem, not Libya’s.

Fortunately for us, leading from behind in Libya is not merely the only option, it’s certainly still the best option. This was their revolution, not ours. Now it’s poised to become their transition, not ours. We can help and advise. We can point to the experience of others—in Iraq, Chile, Poland—who have also attempted the transition from dictatorship to democracy and who can offer lessons in what to do and what to avoid. We can keep expectations low and promises minimal. After all, we have a lot to learn about the Libyan rebels, their tribal divisions, their politics, and their economics. And we have a lot of ammunition to replace back home.

GADDAFI FINISHED IN LIBYA UPRISING AGAINST THE TYRANT

Remnants of forces still loyal to Gaddafi have staged a desperate stand in Tripoli as rebels fought their way into the capital, but the whereabouts of the veteran leader was a mystery.

World leaders urged Gaddafi, 69, to surrender to prevent more bloodshed and appealed for an orderly transition of power, as the six-month-old battle for control of the oil-producing North African nation appeared to enter its final stages.

Rebels say they are now in control of most of Tripoli, a sprawling coastal city of two million people on the Mediterranean Sea, but it was not clear whether Gaddafi was still in the Libyan capital.

Rebels swept into Tripoli two days ago in tandem with an uprising within the city. Reuters reporters saw firefights and clashes with heavy weapons, including anti-aircraft guns, as rebels tried to flush out snipers and pockets of resistance.

Hundreds seem to have been killed or wounded since Saturday. But Gaddafi tanks and sharpshooters appeared to hold only small areas, mainly around Gaddafi’s heavily fortified Bab al-Aziziyah compound in central Tripoli.

Civilians, who had mobbed the streets on Sunday to cheer the end of dictatorship, stayed indoors as machinegun fire and explosions punctuated some of the heaviest fighting of the Arab Spring uprisings that have been reshaping the Middle East.

U.S. President Barack Obama, saying the conflict was not over yet, cautioned rebels against exacting revenge for Gaddafi’s brutal rule. “True justice will not come from reprisals and violence,” he said.

The president also made plain that the United States would oppose any group within the loose coalition of rebels from imposing its power over other parts of Libyan society.

“Above all we will call for an inclusive transition that leads to a democratic Libya,” Obama said.

In an audio broadcast on Sunday before state TV went off the air, Gaddafi said he would stay in Tripoli “until the end”. There has been speculation, however, he might seek refuge in his home region around Sirte, or abroad.

In a sign Gaddafi allies were still determined to fight, NATO said government forces fired three Scud-type missiles from the area of Sirte towards the rebel-held city of Misrata.

Bab al-Aziziyah, a huge complex where some believe Gaddafi might be hiding, was the focal point of fighting in Tripoli.

NATO warplanes bombed the compound in the early hours of Tuesday, al-Arabiya television reported citing rebel sources.

“I don’t imagine the Bab al-Aziziyah compound will fall easily and I imagine there will be a fierce fight,” Abdel Hafiz Ghoga, spokesman for the rebel National Transitional Council, said in an interview aired by Al-Jazeera.

Al-Jazeera television, quoting its correspondent, said violent clashes were also reported near the oil town of Brega.

Rebels said they held three of Gaddafi’s sons, including his heir apparent Seif al-Islam. Al-Jazeera TV said that one of them, Mohammed, had escaped, adding that the body of another son, military commander Khamis, might have been found along with that of powerful intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi.

FEARS OF REPRISAL, REVENGE

Western powers are concerned that tribal, ethnic and political divisions among the diverse armed groups opposed to Gaddafi could lead to the kind of blood-letting seen in Iraq after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.

In a move that could ease tensions, a rebel official in the eastern city of Benghazi said, however, that efforts were under way to make contact with authorities hitherto loyal to Gaddafi.

Foreign governments which had hesitated to take sides, among them Gaddafi’s Arab neighbours, Russia and China also made clear his four decades of absolute power were over.

A U.S. State Department spokeswoman said Libyans claiming to represent Gaddafi were making “more desperate” efforts to negotiate with the United States in the last 24 to 48 hours.

Washington did not take any of them seriously because they did not indicate Gaddafi’s willingness to step down, she added.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who took an early gamble on the rebels and may now reap diplomatic benefits, called on the Gaddafi loyalists “to turn their back on the criminal and cynical blindness of their leader by immediately ceasing fire”.

Late on Monday, Sarkozy spoke to Britain’s David Cameron by telephone about the Libya situation, according to a press release from the French presidential palace.

“They both agreed to pursue efforts in supporting the legitimate Libyan authorities as long as Colonel Gaddafi refuses to surrender arms,” the statement read. Paris has offered to host a summit on Libya soon.

Yemeni ‘thugs’ kill 30 protesters

yemeni thugs

Anti-government protestors react as they gather at a field hospital to check on friends and relatives during clashes with security forces in Yemen. Picture: AP Source: The Australian

MORE than 30 anti-regime protesters were shot dead and over 100 wounded last night during a demonstration in the Yemeni capital.

Pro-regime “thugs” opened fire from houses close to the square at Sanaa University on protesters calling for the ousting of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, witnesses said.

Medics said more than 30 were killed and more than 100 wounded. “Most of the wounds were to the head, neck and chest,” one medic said.

Thousands have camped out in the square since February 21 demanding the departure of Mr Saleh, who has been in power since 1978.

Yesterday’s bloodbath came after five Yemeni protesters were wounded in an attack on Wednesday night by masked men on the Sanaa University sit-in.

Anti-government activists said that the attackers, wielding guns, clubs and daggers, were thugs loyal to the regime.

On Sunday, witnesses said, dozens were injured when police and loyalists of the ruling General People’s Congress party attacked protesters in the square with live rounds and tear gas .

On Thursday, security forces and government loyalists struck protest camps across Yemen, hurling rocks, beating protesters with sticks and firing rubber and live bullets, hoping to break the will of thousands camped in squares for more than a month.

The violence underscored the attrition tactic of Mr Saleh, who does not appear to have the will – or perhaps the capabilities – to disperse the demonstrators conclusively.

In the past few weeks, he has unleashed fiery assaults on protesters in different cities using a mix of security forces and paid thugs, apparently hoping to wear them out.

It is just one of the problems this extremely poor, tribal country faces. Even before protests began in the middle of last month, Yemen’s government was struggling to confront one of the world’s most active al-Qa’ida branches, a secessionist rebellion in the south and a Shia uprising in the north.

Mr Saleh is a key ally in the US campaign against the al-Qa’ida terror network. On Thursday, al-Qa’ida militants ambushed police as they ate lunch at a checkpoint. In a gunfight, three militants and three police were killed, said a security official in Marib province.

In the southern province of Taiz, police hurled canisters of choking gas to break up a rally of several thousand. Government loyalists joined in, attacking protesters with iron rods, sticks and knives, witnesses said.

“Thugs – security forces in plain clothes – attacked us,” said demonstrator Bushra al-Maqtari.

Several hours later, police and paid thugs rushed at the demonstrators again, adding rubber bullets and live fire to violently disperse the crowd. Medics said about 80 protesters were injured, at least four with gunshot wounds.

Over the past month, security forces have killed 78 demonstrators, according to a Yemeni rights group. Most of those were in the port-side province of Aden.

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha

 

PEOPLE/PROTESTORS  KILLED IN CAIRO EGYPT

Bursts of heavy gunfire rained into Cairo’s Tahrir Square before dawn on Thursday as anti-government demonstrators tried to hold the site after a dramatic assault hours earlier by supporters of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

At least four people were killed in the pre-dawn gunfire aimed at anti-regime protesters, medics say, taking the death toll in the past 24 hours to seven.

“All (four) were killed by gunshot, with one hit in the head,” said Dr Mohammed Ismail, at a makeshift clinic in Abdulmenem Riad Square, next to Tahrir Square.

Protest organiser Mustafa el-Naggar said he saw the bodies of three dead protesters being carried toward an ambulance, while another medic, Dr Amr Bahaa, reported receiving a wave of protesters hit by bullets.

“Most of the casualties came in the last three hours, many with gunshot wounds,” Bahaa told Agence France-Presse early today, putting the total wounded toll since Wednesday at more than 1000 people.

Sporadic gunfire started about 4am (1300 AEDT) and lasted for about two hours, while some of the army tanks positioned around the square appeared to move from their positions but they stayed in the area, AFP reported.

El-Naggar said the gunfire came from at least three locations in the distance and that the Egyptian military, which has ringed the square with tank squads for days to try to keep some order, did not intervene.

Egyptian Jurists Alliance said in a statement that anti-Mubarak protesters in Tahrir Square were coming under fire and that several had been killed or wounded.

The gunfire came after backers of Mubarak stormed the Cairo stronghold of anti-regime protesters on Wednesday, sparking clashes in which the government said three people were killed and more than 600 injured.

Throughout Wednesday, Mubarak supporters charged into the square on horses and camels brandishing whips while others rained firebombs from rooftops in what appeared to be an orchestrated assault against protesters trying to topple Egypt’s leader of 30 years.

The protesters accused Mubarak’s regime of unleashing a force of paid thugs and plainclothes police to crush their unprecedented nine-day-old movement, a day after the 82-year-old president refused to step down immediately.

The notion that the state may have coordinated violence against protesters, who had kept a peaceful vigil in Tahrir Square for five days, prompted a sharp rebuke from the United States.

“If any of the violence is instigated by the government, it should stop immediately,” said White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.

Washington, which has called for restraint since demonstrations broke out 10 days ago, deplored the violence against “peaceful protesters” while UN chief Ban Ki-moon said the attacks on demonstrators were “unacceptable”.

America’s top diplomat Hillary Clinton condemned the “shocking” bloody clashes on Wednesday, in a call to Egypt’s Vice President Omar Suleiman.

Wednesday’s clashes marked a dangerous new phase in Egypt’s upheaval: the first significant violence between government supporters and opponents.

From early afternoon until well into the night, regime supporters and opponents threw stones and battled with sticks and fists in Tahrir Square, the epicentre of the 10 straight days of protests that have rocked the Egyptian regime and sent shock waves around the Arab world.

Several foreign journalists covering the confrontations in Cairo became the target of violent attacks, a media watchdog and news organisations said.

Protesters have said they will proceed with plans for a massive demonstration on Friday, their designated “departure day” for Mubarak.

US State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said the attacks on the protesters were a “direct threat” to the Egyptian people.

The US State Department issued a stark travel warning for citizens in Egypt on Wednesday, urging those who want to leave to “immediately” head for the airport, adding that any delay was “not advisable”.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard issued her strongest statement yet on the situation, indicating she was not satisfied with Mubarak’s pledge to step down later this year.

“Clearly, a transition is required in Egypt,” Gillard told reporters.

“The time for that transition has come.

“We want that transition to be peaceful and orderly.”

Close to 200 Australians arrived in Germany on today after escaping Cairo on a government-chartered evacuation flight.

The Qantas Boeing 747 had been expected to pick up about 400 people. But Melbourne couple Peter and Penny Duncan, who were on the flight, said people who had wanted to leave had been left behind because of a “miscommunication” by Australian officials.

They had met at a downtown hotel at a scheduled time but officials had failed to get them to the airport in time, Ms Duncan said.

“They are still stuck in the middle of Cairo.”

However, a spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) said everyone who had wanted to be on the plane had been on it.

“No one was left behind in the hotel,” the spokesperson said.

Some people had registered for the flight but later decided to stay in Egypt, DFAT said.

A second evacuation flight will depart Cairo for Frankfurt on Friday, Australian time. More than 200 people have told DFAT they intend to be on it.

A further 54 Australians have escaped Egypt aboard four Canadian charter flights.

AFP

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