The Middle East Channel

Mideast brief: Fighting between Gaddafi and opposition forces becomes one front battle

Fighting between Gaddafi and opposition forces becomes one front battle Reports indicating that government forces have captured Zwara, a previously rebel-held city West of Tripoli, now focus the remaining conflict in the country’s Eastern front. A contentious battle has been raging in Brega, that seems to have been largely won by forces loyal to Gaddafi ...

Fighting between Gaddafi and opposition forces becomes one front battle
Reports indicating that government forces have captured Zwara, a previously rebel-held city West of Tripoli, now focus the remaining conflict in the country’s Eastern front. A contentious battle has been raging in Brega, that seems to have been largely won by forces loyal to Gaddafi for the moment. Meanwhile, opposition forces have concentrated their numbers largely around the town of Ajdarbia 90 miles West of Benghazi, the rebel capital. As a result, Gaddafi’s forces have begun heavily shelling Ajarbia.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Clinton met yesterday with Libyan opposition leader Mahmoud Jibiril to discuss possible options going forward. Also, Security Council representatives continue to have disagreements on the implementation of a no-fly zone in Libya. Said Al-Jazeera’s correspondent Scott Heidler: “Maybe in couple of days we will see some kind of draft resolution but there are still a lot of hurdles to overcome.” This comes after a meeting of Foreign Ministers at the G8 in Paris where things remained similarly stuck. Said French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe in a sign of obvious disagreement: “If we had used military force last week to neutralise a number of airfields and a few dozen of his planes, perhaps the opposition would not have suffered the setbacks it has.”

  • The King of Bahrain announced a 3 month state of emergency after weeks of protests and the introduction of foreign troops (mostly Saudi) into the country yesterday. The order “authorised the commander of Bahrain’s defence forces to take all necessary measures to protect the safety of the country and its citizens.” Meanwhile, reports have emerged that a Saudi solider has now been shot by a Bahraini protester. 
  • Iran called the presence of foreign troops in Bahrain “unacceptable”. Meanwhile, the U.N. has released a new report highlighting the seriousness of Iran’s own internal crackdown. From the report: “The secretary-general has been deeply troubled by reports of increased executions, amputations, arbitrary arrest and detention, unfair trials and possible torture and ill-treatment of human rights activists, lawyers, journalists and opposition activists.”
  • Mass demonstrations took place yesterday in the Gaza Strip for Palestinian unity, furthering a social media campaign launched last month by youth activists in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Further mass rallies have been called for in all Palestinian cities today. Meanwhile, Palestinian activist Abdullah Abu Rahmeh was released by Israel from jail yesterday. 
  • Irael says it intercepted a ship off the Mediterranean coast carrying weapons bound for Egypt 
  • Yemen deported 4 foreign journalists from Sana’a–including two U.S. citizens
Daily Snapshot
Hundreds of Yemeni anti-government protesters call for the ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh during a demonstration in the northern restive city of Saada on March 14, 2011 (AFP/Getty Images).

Arguments & Analysis

‘How stable is Saudi Arabia?‘ (Jones et al., New York Times ‘Room for Debate’)

Toby Jones: 

In response to calls for a “Day of Rage” last Friday, the regime dispatched thousands of police and threatened imprisonment to discourage protests. The show of force followed an announcement from the king that the government would spend more than $35 billion dollars on the social and economic needs of its citizens. With the exception of protests in the predominantly Shiite Eastern Province, the combination of the threat of violence and the promise to redistribute some of the country’s vast oil wealth has worked, at least for now. But Saudi Arabia’s subjects yearn for substantive political reform. Calls for the creation of a constitutional monarchy, an end to corruption, and more political rights have been expressed for many years. Average Saudis, although they respect King Abdullah’s piety and his leadership, consider the political system that he stewards to be sclerotic and corrupt, focused solely on serving the interests of the ruling elite.

How We Train Our Cops to Fear Islam‘ (Meg Stalcup and Joshua Craze, Washington Monthly)

“The very idea of integrating local police into the nation’s counterterror intelligence efforts is a subject of debate among security experts,” write Stalcup and Craze. Yet with the US federal government “direct[ing] billions of dollars (no one knows exactly how much) in terrorism-related training grants to state and local governments… these funds cascade down into myriad training programs… Despite their different backgrounds, the counterterrorism trainers we interviewed have a remarkably similar worldview. It is one of total, civilizational war-a conflict against Islam that involves everyone, without distinction between combatant and noncombatant, law enforcement and military.”

‘Toward a new settlement enterprise’ (Merav Michaeli, Haaretz)

“In a typical Pavlovian reaction, the ministerial committee on settlements has decided to build 500 housing units in response to the murder at Itamar. We are so accustomed to this conduct that we may not even realize how destructive it is, sticking Israel deeper and deeper into territories not its own, wasting public money and impeding any possible future solution… Instead of throwing away hundreds of millions on 500 destructive housing units, the same money could be used to construct cultural, educational and health facilities in Mitzpeh Ramon, Carmiel, Dimona and Tiberias for the benefit of the inhabitants there and those who will join them.”

Jonathan Guyer is senior editor of the Cairo Review of Global Affairs. He blogs about Arabic comics and caricature at Oum Cartoon. On Twitter: @mideastXmidwest. @mideastXmidwest
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