Arab League Loses Nerve, Flip-Flops, Wants to Have Cake and Eat It, Too

Emblem of the League of Arab StatesImage via WikipediaOn March 12, the Arab League foreign ministers agreed in an emergency meeting to urge the UN Security Council to impose a no-fly zone over Libya to protect citizens.

In its statement, the Arab League asked the “United Nations to shoulder its responsibility … to impose a no-fly zone over the movement of Libyan military planes and to create safe zones in the places vulnerable to airstrikes.”

On March 17 the UN Security Council adopted resolution 1973 in a 10-0 vote with 5 abstentions to allow a no-fly zone over Libya and authorized “all necessary measures,” excluding ground troops, to protect civilians under threat of attack in the country.

On March 19, 12:45 ET, the first shot was fired, as a French jet targeted and destroyed a Libyan vehicle, the defense ministry told Reuters.

At 16:30 ET, both the U.S. and UK fired Tomahawk missiles on Libya. Over 110 Tomahawk missiles have been fired on Libya so far, according to a Pentagon spokesman.This WaPo report says that when the Arab League approved the imposition of a no-fly zone, only Syria and Algeria opposed the league’s decision, according to Egyptian officials.

Gaddafi has now threatened to wage a long war, and today, March 20, the Arab League is
reported to have criticized the air strikes on Libya.  

On Sunday, the Arab League criticized the air strikes carried out against Libyan forces by the U.S. and its allies, the AFP reports. “What has happened in Libya differs from the goal of imposing a no-fly zone and what we want is the protection of civilians and not bombing other civilians,” Arab League secretary general Amr Mussa told reporters.

Shadi Hamid, director of research at the Brookings Institute in Doha, Qatar, told AOL News today, “Maybe he (Mussa) doesn’t understand what a no-fly zone is because what he said today and what he said last week are puzzling and contradictory statements.”

“There’s no bombardment of civilians. For a no-fly zone to be operable, you have to take out air defenses. In that respect, air strikes are necessary. I think he is playing politics. The U.S. went out of its way to get Arab approval for the no-fly zone and then to get this criticism seems unwarranted.”

So let me get this straight —

The Arab League was for a NFZ before it was against it. Gotcha!

The group of 22 Arab countries wanted the UN (with mostly western countries and an extremely thin sprinkle of Arab countries with planes) to conduct a no fly zone over Libya. Kind of hard to understand its train of collective thoughts.  They want the coalition planes to just fly over Libya.  Nothing more, nothing less. Fly over it, since that would obviously discouraged Gaddafi from flying his own planes and bombing pro-democracy protesters. Right. Just fly. But goodness, do not fire at any assets on the ground because folks could get hurt.

Of course, that would make coalition planes like flying ducks over Libya, wouldn’t it?

But then again, it’s not their planes, nor their pilots flying over Libyan territory. Grow a pair, please.  

Fawaz Gerges, the Lebanese-born director of the Middle East Center at the London School of Economics, was quite blunt:

“The Arab League wants Gadhafi out but they don’t want to risk saying it publicly,” Gerges said. “They loathe him but they want Western powers to get rid of him without them having to take a risk and say so themselves. They want to have their cake and eat it too.”

I am quite suspicious of folks who want their cake and eat it, too.

Rami Khouri, editor of Lebanon’s Daily Star and a prominent voice in the Arab world, told reporters Sunday that Moussa’s statement was either “confusing or hypocritical.”

I’m not going to argue with that. But at least the African Union is not at all confused.

Contrary to the Arab League, the African Union has made no pretense on which side it was on.  Yes, the African Union (whose objectives include the acceleration of political and socio-economic integration of the continent;promotion and defense of African common positions on issues of interest to the continent and its peoples; peace and security in Africa; and promote democratic institutions, good governance and human rights) which uselessly stood by and watched while the Libyans were slaughtered by its own leader, came out on Sunday and called for an “immediate stop” to all attacks after the United States, France and Britain launched military action against Muammar Qaddafi’s forces. Hey, did AU call for an “immediate stop” to all attacks by Gaddafi forces on pro-democracy protesters? What? They’re still thinking about that? Well, that’s quite brave of them.   

The AU, of course, is the same groupies who elected Muammar Gaddafi as its chairman from 2009-2010 (he really wanted his position retitled to king of kings and when he did not get his wish, he stormed out of the AU meeting. And here I thought only kids throw tantrums). And in its great wisdom, AU has also elected Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea as its chairman in January this year. That’s the strong man over there who has been in power since forever.

So, I, myself and my shadow are quite confused about all this, I mean — aren’t you?

If the African Union cares so much about peace and security on the continent and blah, blah, blah, why is it sitting on the fence on Libya while people are dying?   

And if the Arab League cares so much about the people of Libya, why has it not organized ground troops to keep Gaddafi from killing any more civilians in its very own front yard? Why hide behind the UN skirt? And remind me again, which member is flying its own planes for the NFZ?   

Trick questions of the day. And no good answer. No good answer at all.

US Mission Mexico: Ambassador Carlos Pascual Resigns

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

This past Thursday, Mark Toner, the Acting Deputy Department Spokesman said that “we have full confidence in our Ambassador.” He was referring to our ambassador to Mexico, Carlos Pascual. About 48 hours later, the Secretary of State has announced her acceptance of his resignation.

Not sure there was another outcome to this very public rift, albeit a one sided one by the looks of it. But that side happened to be the president of a country who has declared publicly that he does not trust President Obama’s personal representative. 

Ambassador Pascual has been asked to stay in Mexico to help organize an orderly transition. I’m not sure if that means, he will stay in the country until a new nominee is vetted, announced, and confirmed by Congress, which could take months, or if that means, until they identify and send in a chargé d’affaires, possibly a retired ambassador recalled to fill in at post until Ambassador Pascual successor gets there.

HRC’s statement:

It is with great regret that I announce that Ambassador Pascual has asked President Obama and me to accept his resignation as our ambassador to Mexico

For the past year and a half, Ambassador Pascual has been an architect and advocate for the U.S.-Mexico relationship, effectively advancing the policies of the United States on behalf of the President and this Administration. He has collaborated tirelessly with his Mexican counterparts to lay the foundation for a cross-border renewable energy market, to open negotiations on the management of oil and gas reserves that span U.S. and Mexican territory, and to build a new border strategy to advance trade while staunching illicit flows. Carlos has also engaged U.S. and Mexican business to build markets that have helped make Mexico the number two destination of U.S. exports.

Ambassador Pascual worked with the Mexican government to integrate human rights into our respective policies and engagement; he also partnered to enhance the human and cultural connections that underpin the friendship between the people of Mexico and the United States. Carlos partnered with his counterparts to reach beyond the Merida Initiative’s initial focus on disrupting cartels to building institutions for the rule of law in Mexico and engaging Mexican civil society in advancing their security. These ties, grown and strengthened throughout his tenure, will serve both our nations for decades.

Within the U.S. Government, Carlos embraced a “whole of government” approach to addressing one of our most important bilateral relationships, winning the respect and cooperation of our foreign service, military and law enforcement agencies. The President and I are particularly grateful to Carlos for his efforts to sustain the morale and security of American personnel after tragic shootings in Mexico that killed four people from our extended family in the past year.

Carlos has relayed his decision to return to Washington based upon his personal desire to ensure the strong relationship between our two countries and to avert issues raised by President Calderon that could distract from the important business of advancing our bilateral interests. It is with great reluctance that President Obama and I have acceded to Carlos’s request. Prior to returning to assuming his new responsibilities at the State Department, the President and I have asked Carlos to stay in Mexico to help us organize an orderly transition.

Brief bio of Ambassador Pascual from

Ambassador Pascual has had a 23 year career in the United States Department of State, National Security Council (NSC) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). He served as coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization at the U.S. Department of State, where he led and organized U.S. government planning to help stabilize and reconstruct societies in transition from conflict or civil strife.

Ambassador Pascual was Coordinator for U.S. Assistance to Europe and Eurasia (2003), where he oversaw regional and country assistance strategies to promote market-oriented and democratic states. From October 2000 until August 2003, Ambassador Pascual served as U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine. From July 1998 to January 2000, Ambassador Pascual served as Special Assistant to the President and NSC Senior Director for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia, and from 1995 to 1998 as Director for the same region. From 1983 to 1985, Ambassador Pascual worked for USAID in Sudan, South Africa and Mozambique, and as Deputy Assistant Administrator for Europe and Eurasia.

Prior to moving back to the State Department, Ambassador Pascual was Vice President and Director of the Foreign Policy Studies Program at the Brookings Institution.  

Whoever is Ambassador Pascual’s successor, he/she may still irk the palace if he/she travels to Juarez more times than the president of the host country. Because hey, that looks bad on the guy.  Another irksome matter for the president of Mexico?  Ambassador Pascual was reportedly romantically linked to the daughter of a legislative chief belonging to an opposition party.  Well, I’m not sure what kind of romantic advice you can give a future US ambassador to Mexico on that matter. Don’t date? Get married prior to deploying to Mexico?  Make sure your romantic interest is from the same party as the president? What? And even if State sends somebody who is retired and older, the retiree is just that, old — not dead.  The heart finds a way. Write that down.