Deadly crackdown of protesters in #Libya … paging EU’s Catherine Ashton, where are you?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland, Commissioner, Tr...Image via WikipediaLibya’s regime learned exceptionally well from Egypt’s revolution. First, it has scruplously controlled its borders especially with visitors coming in as members of the press. So no Richard Engle or Anderson Cooper. And it blocked Al Jazeera’s  TV signal.

Today, NYT’s Kristof in Bahrain tweets:

Reports from Libya are horrific. It shld be getting more attention, but we journalists can’t get visas. I’ll keep trying.|
about 10 hours ago  via web  

Then, Libya pulled down the internet switch on February 18.  Although connectivity was reportedly restored today, reports indicate that the internet is still cut off the eastern side of Libya, where the protests have spread to six cities.

Most of all, I think Libya learned that not using a heavy hand (like the willingness to kill your own people), is quite dangerous for a sitting ruler who could get swept away in such a tsunami.

It rectified that very seriously and now wields its iron fist even more brutally.

Al Jazeera quoted a Benghazi resident saying that at least 150 people, injured and dead were at a nearby hospital.

Human Rights Watch says that Libyan security forces have killed 84 people over the past three days.

Protests in the country began on February 14. Reax from the following:

UK’s foreign secretary William Hague, a day after his department revoked all British arms licences to Libya and Bahrain, condemned the “unacceptable and horrifying” use of violence by Gaddafi’s security forces against his own people, “including reports of the use of heavy weapons fire and a unit of snipers against demonstrators”.

“The United States urges the governments of Bahrain, Libya and Yemen to show restraint in responding to peaceful protests and to respect the rights of their people,” President Obama said in a statement read to reporters by White House press secretary Jay Carney.

German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle has also denounced the violence across the region, saying that citizens are “only realizing their rights” and that a “spark of freedom” has been lit after the Tunisian government fell. Germany is one of the three major import partners of Libya.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay says security forces responded in an “illegal and excessively heavy-handed” manner against peaceful demonstrators and condemned the use of live ammunition against protesters in Libya, the use of electric tasers and batons in Yemen, and the use of military-grade shotguns in Bahrain.

The EU Observer reports that EU calls for dialogue as Bahrain, Yemen, Libya kill protesters.  In Libya …. Ms Ashton’s spokeswoman had said earlier on Wednesday that her boss was: “following the situation very closely. As in other cases, we call on the authorities to listen to all those who are taking part in the protests … and to allow freedom of expression.”

That last one is so lame. But why single out Catherine Ashton?

Catherine Ashton is a British Labour politician who has been the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy of the European Union (EU) since 1 December 2009.  That post is equivalent to the Foreign Minister or Secretary of State.  

The European Union is the first trading partner for Libya, covering almost 70% of its total trade that amount approximately to €26.4 billion in 2009. The EU is also Libya’s major source of imports and is its largest market for exports in 2009.

Certainly with that kind of trade, the EU can do more than “follow the situation very closely.” Whether it’ll do more to pressure Libya is the  €26.4 billion question.

And by the way, Libya has also been trying to join the WTO. So there is that. If Gaddafi survived this protest movement, a bunch of somebodies may be in great danger of sitting next to him in future World Trade Organization powwows. You may even have to shake his bloody hands. 

In a related news, on February 16, four days after the first protest broke out in Libya, Russia’s natural-gas exporter, Gazprom, signed an agreement to take a stake in Italian oil and natural gas company, Eni’s Elephant oil project in Libya. The oil project is located in Libya’s south-western desert some 800 km from Tripoli. The deal is reportedly worth $170 million.  The agreement was signed in the presence of President of Russian Federation, Dmitry Medvedev and Italy’s Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi.

According to Gazprom’s press statement, the Elephant field contains 110 million tonnes of estimated recoverable oil reserves. The maximum annual oil output is expected to reach some 6 million tonnes.

We should hear statements of concerns on this brutal crackdown from President Medvedev and Prime Minister just about now.







US Embassy #Libya Issues Warden Msg for Protests and Violence in Six Cities

On February 19, the US Embassy in Tripoli issued a Warden Message to advise U.S. citizens of reported protests and violence  in the Eastern Libyan cities of Benghazi, Ajdabiya, Al-Bayda, Al Marj, Derna and Tobruk.  It recommends that  non-essential travel to these cities be deferred.

Anti-government  demonstrations have  reportedly occurred in Benghazi, Ajdabiya, Al-Bayda, Al Marj, Derna and Tobruk.  There are reports of violence, injuries and deaths.    The U.S. Embassy wishes to advise U.S. citizens of the occurrence of these demonstrations, the reports of violence, and the potential for further such incidents, and that even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can quickly turn confrontational and escalate into violence.  In addition, U.S. citizens should be advised that there may be unannounced changes to road access in and nearby those cities. The U.S. Embassy recommends deferring non-essential travel to Benghazi, Ajdabiya, Al-Bayda, Al Marj, Derna and Tobruk.

U.S. citizens are urged to exercise extreme caution, avoid areas where demonstrations are likely to occur such as government offices and public squares, and to immediately leave an area if a demonstration begins. U.S. citizens are strongly encouraged to maintain a high level of vigilance, be aware of local events, and take the appropriate steps to bolster their personal security.   U.S. citizens should keep a low profile, exercise caution when traveling around the country, and avoid crowds and areas where demonstrations may occur.

The Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy is located in the Ben Ashour neighborhood on Jeraba Street behind the former Libyan-Swiss Clinic.  Our phone numbers are +218 (0)21-337-3250 during business hours or 091-220-5207 (after-hours number for emergencies involving U.S. citizens only).

Read more here.

According to a two year old OIG inspection report of US Embassy Tripoli, post is staffed by 33 direct-hire Americans and 129 LE staff, including the 80 direct-hire local guard force. Embassy Tripoli’s program budget for FY 2008, including diplomatic security, public diplomacy (PD), and representational budgets was approximately $6.1 million.

The consular section provides support for over 500 registered Americans resident in Libya. The actual number of Americans in the country may be hard to pin down because according to the IG, “people do not want to be identified as American or be in contact with the Embassy.”

The 2008 IG report indicates that “maintaining and enhancing Libya’s cooperation in the Global War on Terror is one of the Embassy’s principal priorities. This is an area where U.S. and Libyan interests coincide, because, in the Libyan view, our cooperative efforts enhance regime stability.”

Consular relations was described as “poor,” and points to the limits and delays on Libyan visas for American citizens. Underscoring the difficulties of US diplomats operating under Moammar Gadhafi‘s regime, the inspection team also describes a reporting environment characterized by “official harassment, stringent travel restrictions, and the capricious nature of Libyan Governmental and quasi-government contacts.”  On human rights, the ability to investigate is limited as “the Government of Libya is not interested in engaging on these issues.”  The embassy’s political officers’ attempts to gather information for these reports were met with negative reactions from the Government of Libya and translates to more stringent travel restrictions seen by the embassy as “retaliation.”

To recap the troubled history of our US Mission in Tripoli:

The Legation in Tripoli was established Dec 24, 1952, with Andrew G. Lynch as Chargé d’Affaires ad interim. Our first U.S. Ambassador was Foreign Service officer, Henry S. Willard who presented his credentials on Mar 6, 1952 and left post on  Jun 24, 1954. In September 25 of that year, the Legation in Libya was raised to Embassy status.  Fast-forward to 1972 where the United States withdrew its Ambassador to Libya. All remaining U.S. Government personnel were also withdrawn and the Embassy was closed after a mob attacked and set fire to the Embassy on December 2, 1979.  The embassy was burned during protests over allegations that the United States was involved in the Grand Mosque Seizure in Mecca.

Direct diplomatic presence resumed on February 8, 2004 after a 24-year hiatus, with the arrival of U.S. personnel to the U.S. Interests Section in Tripoli. The mission was upgraded to a U.S. Liaison Office on June 24, 2004. On May 31, 2006 the United States and Libya exchanged diplomatic notes confirming the upgrade of the U.S. Liaison Office to a U.S. Embassy. This exchange of notes followed Secretary of State Rice’s announcement and report to the U.S. Congress, on May 15th, of her intent to upgrade diplomatic
representation with Libya.

Career diplomat Gene Cretz was nominated by President Bush in 2007 to be Ambassador to Libya and was finally confirmed on November 20, 2008. For the first time in 36 years, the United States sent am ambassador to Libya. Although there had been multiple news that Ambassador Cretz may be recalled over the WikiLeak cables, he continues to be listed as the chief of mission at US Embassy Libya, and the WH has not announced any nominee as successor.  

In 2009, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton met with Libyan National Security Advisor Dr. Mutassim Qadhafi at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, DC.  He is also known as Mutassim Billah, and is the King of King’s 4th son.

Photo from

In May 2010, the Assistant U.S. Trade Representative Wilson and Libya’s General People’s Committee for Economy, Industry, and Trade Under Secretary Sarkez signed a bilateral Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA). On December last year, the two governments meet for the first TIFA talks.

According to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, total two-way trade in 2009 between Libya and the United States was valued at $2.6 billion. Libya is the United States’ 69th-largest goods trade partner. Top U.S. exports to Libya include vehicles, machinery, agricultural products, medical instruments, and iron and steel products. Oil was Libya’s principal export to the United States in 2009.

That’s not a high-volume trade. Not sure how much influence the United States has over an aging dictator who has marched for 41 years at his own tune.   

Related post:

Our Man in Tripoli, 36 Years Later | Diplopundit | Nov 24, 2008

Wiki-Weapons of Mass Distraction Fallout: the Firing Squad is Lining Up Here and There …|December 6, 2010


#Bahrain’s National Dialogue Starts with the Bloody Kind

Viewer discretion is advised.

This is horrifying to watch, a government that turned against the peaceful assembly of its people. Yesterday, Bahrain’s government was reported as saying it used proportional force against the demonstrators. I hate to imagine what its disproportional force looks like.

Today, the BDF was ordered to leave the Pearl Roundabout and the crowd has surged back.  Here is an update via NYT:

The government had ceded the square before, on Wednesday, only to return with a deadly assault on Thursday. On Friday, the army opened fire on a group of about 1,000 peaceful demonstrators trying to walk into the square.

The varying responses appeared to reflect an inner turmoil within the government to grapple with a response to the uprising. The confrontation on Friday, with the Bahrain Defense Forces firing on Bahraini citizens in plain light, seemed to be the shock that forced a change in the government’s approach.

On Saturday, it was Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa, the son of the king and deputy commander of the military, who ordered troops to leave the square.

NYT’s Nick Kristof who is in Bahrain writes:

We don’t know what exactly President Obama said to the king in his call last night, but we do know that the White House was talking about suspending military licensing to Bahrain. This may have been a case where American pressure helped avert a tragedy and aligned us with people power in a way that in the long run will be good for Bahrain and America alike.

Americans will worry about what comes next, if people power does prevail, partly because Gulf rulers have been whispering warnings about Iranian-influence and Islamists taking over. Look, democracy is messy. But there’s no hint of anti-Americanism out there, and people treated American journalists as heroes because we reflect values of a free press that they aspire to achieve for their country. And at the end of the day, we need to stand with democracy rather than autocracy if we want to be on the right side of history.

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