Four Weeks After ‘Day of Revolt’ Started, UN Votes for a No-Fly Zone Over Libya, Five Abstentions

The Libyan protests began on 17 February on its Day of Revolt. It escalated into a widespread uprising unfolding on television screens around the world, and by March, the country was at the brink of a civil war. reported that Muammar Gadhafi’s second-oldest son, Saif al-Islam Moammar Gadhafi, said Wednesday that “Within 48 hours everything will be finished. Our forces are almost in Benghazi,” Libya’s second-largest city and the provisional capital of the rebel’s interim Libyan government.”

On March 17, four weeks after the protests started, and kinda half-way through Saif Gaddafi’s 48-hour threat, the 15-member UN Security Council finally voted on a no-fly zone over Libya.

Leslie H. Gelb in The Daily Beast asks why is a U.N. approved no-fly zone over Libya necessary when Gaddafi’s neighbors have ample airpower and the responsibility to do the job themselves?

The 22-nation Arab League has called for a no-fly zone over Libya. So have Britain and France. They say Libya will become a humanitarian calamity if Col. Muammar Gaddafi isn’t stopped now. They say his victory will mean the strategic collapse of all that could be good in the Mideast. But these strategic moralists fail to note one insidious and self-damning fact: They would have no trouble doing the job all by themselves. They possess hundreds upon hundreds of frontline jet fighters and the necessary air bases—in sum, full air superiority over Libya. And now, with the 10-0 vote in the U.N. Security Council, they have full authority to launch that no-fly zone, plus the blessing to take “all necessary action” to protect Libyan rebels.

But if they believed things were so terrible in Libya weeks ago, they could have imposed a no-fly zone then. They have more than enough authority to act now.

Alarabiya reported late last year that the combined defense budget of the GCC states and Jordan is on the increase, with an expected $68 billion rise in defense spending in 2011.

“This is expected to grow to about $80 billion by 2015. It is expected that the overall defense spending in the Middle East will cross $100 billion by 2015… led by Saudi Arabia,” John Siddharth, Industry Analyst, Aerospace and Defense Practice, South Asia and Middle East, Frost and Sullivan told Gulf News.

Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states  include Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. All GCC member states as well as Jordan are also members of the 22-nation Arab League, which called for a NFZ on March 12.  Latest news seem to indicate that only the UAE and Qatar have so far indicated a willingness to take part in the NFZ operation.  

Below is the UNSC announcement:

Security Council Approves ‘No-Fly Zone’ over Libya, Authorizing ‘All Necessary

Measures’ to Protect Civilians, by Vote of 10 in Favour with 5 Abstentions

Demanding an immediate ceasefire in Libya, including an end to the current attacks against civilians, which it said might constitute “crimes against humanity”, the Security Council this evening imposed a ban on all flights in the country’s airspace — a no-fly zone — and tightened sanctions on the Qadhafi regime and its supporters.

Adopting resolution 1973 (2011) by a vote of 10 in favour to none against, with 5 abstentions (Brazil, China, Germany, India, Russian Federation), the Council authorized Member States, acting nationally or through regional organizations or arrangements, to take all necessary measures to protect civilians under threat of attack in the country, including Benghazi, while excluding a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory — requesting them to immediately inform the Secretary-General of such measures.

Recognizing the important role of the League of Arab States in the maintenance of international peace and security in the region, and bearing in mind the United Nations Charter’s Chapter VIII, the Council asked the League’s member States to cooperate with other Member States in implementing the no-fly zone.

The Council stressed the need to intensify efforts to find a solution to the crisis that responded to the legitimate demands of the Libyan people, noting actions being taken on the diplomatic front in that regard.  It further demanded that Libyan authorities comply with their obligations under international law and take all measures to protect civilians and meet their basic needs and to ensure the rapid and unimpeded passage of humanitarian assistance.

In that connection, the Council specified that the flight ban would not apply to flights that had as their sole purpose humanitarian aid, the evacuation of foreign nationals, enforcing the ban or other purposes “deemed necessary for the benefit of the Libyan people”.

It further decided that all States should deny permission to any Libyan commercial aircraft to land in or take off from their territory unless a particular flight had been approved in advance by the committee that was established to monitor sanctions imposed by resolution 1970 (2011).

In tightening the asset freeze and arms embargo established by that resolution, the Council this evening further detailed conditions for inspections of transport suspected to be violating the embargo, requesting States enforcing the embargo to coordinate closely with each other and the Secretary-General on the measures they were taking towards implementation.

It requested the Secretary-Secretary to create an eight-member panel of experts to assist the Security Council committee in monitoring the sanctions.

Introducing the resolution, the Foreign Minister of France, Alain Juppé, said “the situation on the ground is more alarming than ever, marked by the violent re-conquest of cities that have been released”.  The Security Council could not stand by and “let the warmongers flout international legality”.  The world was experiencing “a wave of great revolutions that would change the course of history”, but the will of the Libyan people had been “trampled under the feet of the Qadhafi regime”.  Earlier Council measures had been ignored and violence against Libyan civilians had redoubled.

He said that the urgent need to protect the civilian population had led to the elaboration of the current resolution, which authorized the Arab League and those Member States wishing to do so to take all measures to protect areas that were being threatened by the Qadhafi regime.  “We have very little time left — perhaps only a matter of hours,” he said, adding that each hour and day that passed “increased the weight” on the international community’s shoulders.

Speaking after the vote, representatives who had supported the text agreed that the strong action was made necessary because the Qadhafi regime had not heeded the first actions of the Council and was on the verge of even greater violence against civilians as it closed in on areas previously dominated by opposition in the east of the country.  They stressed that the objective was solely to protect civilians from further harm.

Lebanon’s speaker stressed that the text would not result in the occupation of “one inch” of Libyan territory by foreign forces.  The representative of the United Kingdom pledged that partners in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the Arab League were now ready to act to support the text.

The representative of the United States said that today, the Council had responded to the Libyan peoples’ cry for help.  The Council’s purpose was clear: to protect Libyan civilians.  The Security Council had authorized the use of force, including enforcement of a no-fly zone, to protect civilians and civilian areas targeted by Colonel Muammar Al-Qadhafi, his allied forces and mercenaries.

The representatives of China and the Russian Federation, explaining their abstentions, prioritized peaceful means of resolving the conflict and said that many questions had not been answered in regard to provisions of the resolution, including, as the Russian representative put it, how and by whom the measures would be enforced and what the limits of the engagement would be.  He said the resolution included a sorely needed ceasefire, which he had called for earlier.  China had not blocked the action with a negative vote in consideration of the wishes of the Arab League and the African Union, its representative said.

The delegations of India, Germany and Brazil, having also abstained, equally stressed the need for peaceful resolution of the conflict and warned against unintended consequences of armed intervention.

Statements were also made made by the representatives of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Colombia, Portugal, Nigeria and South Africa.

The meeting was opened at 6:25 p.m. and closed at 7:20 p.m.

The whys of the five abstentions}

MARIA LUIZA RIBERIO VIOTTI (Brazil) said her delegation was deeply concerned about the situation in Libya and regretted that the “strong message” sent by resolution 1970 (2011) had note yet been heeded.  The Brazilian Government had earlier condemned the violence being carried out by Libyan authorities and had called on them to uphold and protect the right of free expression of the protesters and to seek a solution to the crisis through meaningful dialogue.  Her delegation’s vote today should in no way be interpreted as condoning the behaviour of the Libyan authorities or as disregard for the need to protect civilians and respect for their rights.

She said that while Brazil stood in solidarity with all movements in the region expressing their legitimate demands for better governance, and had taken into account the Arab League’s call for strong measures to stop the violence through a no-fly zone, it believed that the resolution contemplated measures that went beyond that call.  “We are not convinced that the use of force as provided for in operative paragraph 4 of the present resolution will lead to the realization of our common objective — the immediate end of violence and the protection of civilians,” she said, adding that Brazil was also concerned that the measures approved today might have the unintended effect of exacerbating the current tensions on the ground and “causing more harm than good to the very same civilians we are committed to protecting”.  No military action alone would succeed in ending the conflict.  Protecting civilians, ensuring lasting settlement and addressing the legitimate demands of Libyan citizens demanded a political process.

Security Council President LI BAODONG (China), speaking in his national capacity, said that the continuing deterioration of the situation in Libya was of great concern to China.  However, the United Nations Charter must be respected and the current crisis must be ended through peaceful means.  China was always against the use of force when those means were not exhausted.  His delegation had asked specific questions that failed to be answered and, therefore, it had serious difficulty with the resolution.  It had not blocked the passage of the resolution, however, because it attached great importance to the requests of the Arab League and the African Union.  At the same time, he supported the efforts of the Secretary-General’s Envoy to resolve the situation by peaceful means.

PETER WITTIG (Germany) said the Security Council’s intention was to stop the violence in Libya and send a message to Colonel Qadhafi and his associates “that their time is over [and] they must relinquish power immediately”.  While the Council acted on Libya, North Africa was undergoing major political changes, meriting the international community’s full support.  The aim should be to promote political transition in Libya, stop the violence and begin a true political process.  “The people of Libya who have so clearly expressed their aspirations for democracy should be supported,” he said, adding that the Interim National Council was an important interlocutor in that regard.

MANJEEV SINGH PURI ( India), explaining his abstention, expressed great concern over the welfare of the population of Libya and supported the appointment of the Secretary-General’s Envoy.  The report of that Envoy and that of others had not yet been received.  As a consequence, today’s resolution was based on very little clear information, including a lack of certainty regarding who was going to enforce the measures.  There must be certainty that negative outcomes were not likely before such wide-ranging measures were adopted.  Political efforts must be the priority in resolving the situation.

VITALY CHURKIN (Russian Federation) said he had abstained, although his country’s position opposing violence against civilians in Libya was clear.  Work on the resolution was not in keeping with Security Council practice, with many questions having remained unanswered, including how it would be enforced and by whom, and what the limits of engagement would be.  His country had not prevented the adoption of the resolution, but he was convinced that an immediate ceasefire was the best way to stop the loss of life.  His country, in fact, had pressed earlier for a resolution calling for such a ceasefire, which could have saved many additional lives.  Cautioning against unpredicted consequences, he stressed that there was a need to avoid further destabilization in the region.

Quickie: WikiLeaks Fallout at US Mission Mexico, Ambo Irks Prez

An Evening With U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Carl...Image by archivesnews via Flickr

Mexican President Felipe Calderon is waging a harsh campaign against the U.S. ambassador here, repeatedly demanding over the past month that he be replaced in a tiff that has strained ties between the two countries.

Calderon is barely on speaking terms with U.S. Ambassador Carlos Pascual, whom he has said publicly he doesn’t trust. Analysts say Calderon’s anger stems from both Pascual’s views critical of Mexico contained in secret U.S. diplomatic cables released by the WikiLeaks website and the divorced ambassador’s selection of a girlfriend — the daughter of a key opposition legislator.

Pascual has won praise in Washington as the architect of a broad U.S. strategy to help Mexico fight soaring drug-related violence, and analysts say the White House expects Calderon’s pique to blow over.

But the level of rancor is extraordinary. “We’re talking about levels of personal conflict that I don’t remember ever having seen,” former Mexican Foreign Minister Jorge Castaneda told the Dia Siete magazine Sunday.
As U.S. ambassador to Mexico, Pascual is no run-of-the-mill diplomat. He oversees more than 2,100 employees from more than 40 U.S. government agencies, and helped design a U.S. strategy moving from disruption of drug cartels to include reforming the police and judiciary, and even fostering programs to lessen violence in Ciudad Juarez, a border city that suffered more than 3,100 homicides last year.

News reports say Calderon is irked that since Pascual’s arrival in Mexico in 2009, he travels to Juarez more often than the president. Pascual’s most recent trip was on Monday.

Another factor said to nettle Calderon is Pascual’s personal life.

The ambassador is romantically linked to Gabriela Rojas Jimenez, the daughter of a legislative chief belonging to the Institutional Revolutionary Party, which is in opposition to Calderon’s National Action Party.

Continue reading WikiLeaks beef: Mexico’s Calderon wants U.S. ambassador out

At the Daily Press Brief yesterday, a reporter asked Mark Toner, the Acting Deputy Department Spokesman  to comment on “the worsening rift, the public rift between the president of Mexico and the U.S. Ambassador?” Below is the response:

MR. TONER: Nothing beyond – I mean, I know this was addressed from the podium a couple weeks ago when the Mexican president was here, President Calderon. We believe our Ambassador and our mission to Mexico have done and are doing stellar work. The U.S.-Mexico bilateral relationship is probably the – one of the most important in our foreign relations. They are a close neighbor. And we share a lot of issues, among which are concerns about security within Mexico and how that affects us, and also our shared responsibility to Mexico to address that. But our Embassy in Mexico is, we believe, doing a great job advancing that bilateral relationship.

QUESTION: But because of this personal rift, does there come a point when a change has to be contemplated?
MR. TONER: Not at this moment. As I said, we have full confidence in our Ambassador.

Insider Quote: "empowering the edge of the network"

Alec Ross (innovator)Image via Wikipedia

“We’re not checking off what people tweet.”

“We’re empowering the edge of the network.”

“A lot of the time, the intelligence in networks lives in the edge of the network.” […] “People who are in a foreign post may very well have better real-time optics into facts on the ground than people in an office in DC.”

Senior Adviser on Innovation to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton (since April 2009)

Hey! That’s great to know!

Um … did you see that recent review of social media use in embassies?  That’s the one where the State Department’s Office of the Inspector General recommended that the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs (also known as “R”) encourage embassies to develop post-specific guidelines about clearance requirements for social media site postings and responses to users’ comments and questions.

If its not on yet, the 140-character diplomacy clearance requirement is coming soon to a desk near you. Expect a lag time between tweet drafting and posting ‘cuz tweets must be punchy, witty and also informative. Of course, there will be Skillcraft editing for security reasons, style and may I just add, atmospherics? And just pray that your editor/clearance officer at post actually knows that tweets have nothing to do with those birds.