— The Erimtan Angle —

Archive for January, 2012

BBC Scoop: The Libya Agenda

The BBC’s Mark Urban reveals just how much planning and scheming went into the toppling and the execution of Gaddafi: “British efforts to help topple Colonel Gaddafi were not limited to air strikes. On the ground – and on the quiet – special forces soldiers were blending in with rebel fighters. This is the previously untold account of the crucial part they played. The British campaign to overthrow Muammar Gaddafi’s regime had its public face – with aircraft dropping bombs, or Royal Navy ships appearing in Libyan waters, but it also had a secret aspect. My investigations into that covert effort reveal a story of practically minded people trying to get on with the job, while all the time facing political and legal constraints imposed from London”.   In other words, this BBC report all but confirms what I wrote some time back: ‘But, how did the situation in Libya transform into an all-out armed rebellion so quickly? On this point, the Israeli independent internet website DEBKAfile, founded by a team of journalists in June 2000, which aims to provide an intelligence and security news service, reported on 25 February 2011 that “[h]undreds of US, British and French military advisers have arrived in Cyrenaica, Libya’s eastern breakaway province, Debkafile’s military sources report exclusively. This is the first time America and Europe have intervened militarily in any of the popular upheavals rolling through the Middle East since Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution in early January. The advisers, including intelligence officers, were dropped from warships and missile boats at the coastal towns of Benghazi and Tobruk Thursday Feb. 24, for a threefold mission: 1. To help the revolutionary committees controlling eastern Libyan establish government frameworks for supplying two million inhabitants with basic services and commodities; 2. To organize them into paramilitary units, teach them how to use the weapons they captured from Libyan army facilities, help them restore law and order on the streets and train them to fight Muammar Gadhafi’s combat units coming to retake Cyrenaica. 3. To prepare infrastructure for the intake of additional foreign troops. Egyptian units are among those under consideration”. Since then, there has also been the embarrassing capture of an SAS team in Libya – an eight-strong group, who were escorting a junior British diplomat – which indicates that there is clearly more than meets the eye in the state of Libya. And there were also reports that Russian satellite surveillance did not show any kind shelling or bombardment in Libya, prior to the UN-imposed No-Fly Zone that is. The Russian state-sponsored news broadcaster RT at the time worded the revelation in this way: “the Russian military, monitoring the unrest via satellite from the very beginning, says nothing of the sort [of violence and bombing as reported] was going on the ground”. Then, it also transpired that U.S. “President Obama [had] . . . signed a secret order – a so-called “presidential finding”— authorising covert U.S. government support for rebel forces seeking to oust Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi”. And now, the rebels have finally overrun Tripoli with the help of NATO bombs. The much-hated figure of Muammar Gadhafi, however, is nowhere to be found. Again, similar to the case of Public Enemy #1 Usamah bin Laden following the conquest of Afghanistan, rumours have now emerged that the elusive colonel is hiding in an underground network of fortified tunnels, even rumoured to hold a tank battalion’.   These words were written prior to the capture and brutal execution of the Libyan leader on 20 October 2011.

In my piece, I continue that the ‘reason behind NATO’s military intervention seems plain to see: Libya’s supplies of sweet oil destined for European and other markets. An eminent scholar and Mid-East specialist like Professor Juan Cole can publicly pronounce that to think that “[t]his was a war for Libya’s oil . . . is daft. Libya was already integrated into the international oil markets, and had done billions of deals with BP, ENI, etc., etc. None of those companies would have wanted to endanger their contracts by getting rid of the ruler who had signed them”. Still, Libya’s underground wealth is there to see for anybody who cares to look. According to the Global Trade Atlas, published by International Energy Agency (IEA), in calendar year 2010, 28% of Libya’s oil exports went to Italy, 15% to France, and 10% to Spain and Germany each. The U.S. only received 3% of Libya’s exports. Following the successful conquest of Tripoli, the Transitional National Council (TNC), now renamed NTC, was quick to point out that existing contracts would be honoured. It should not come as a surprise that Italy is able to carry off the lion share of Libya’s oil exports – Libya briefly was an Italian colony after all (1911-47)’.

But the BBC’s Urban really goes down to the nitty-gritty of the affair: the “first significant involvement of British forces inside Libya was a rescue mission mounted just a couple of weeks after the rising against Gaddafi broke out. On 3 March, Royal Air Force C130 aircraft were sent to a desert airstrip at Zilla in the south of the country to rescue expatriate oil workers. Many had been threatened by gunmen and bandits. This airlift of 150 foreigners, including about 20 Britons, to Valletta airport in Malta went smoothly, despite one of the aircraft being hit by ground fire soon after taking off. Accompanying the flights were about two dozen men from C Squadron of the Special Boat Service (SBS), who helped secure the landing zone. It was a short-term and discreet intervention that saved the workers from risk of abduction or murder, and caused little debate in Whitehall. Events, though, were moving chaotically and violently onwards, with the Libyan armed forces breaking up and Benghazi emerging as the centre of opposition. The government sought to open contacts with the National Transitional Council both overtly and covertly”.   This successful intervention was followed by the March 2011 debacle I alluded to higher, but things did not end there, as “key figures in the Downing Street discussions were convinced that air strikes alone would not achieve the result they wanted. At sessions of the National Security Council, Gen Richards and Mr Fox made the case for planning to provide training and equipment for the revolutionary forces of the NTC”.   Urban continues that at a “meeting near the end of March [2011], we have been told, authorisation was given to take certain steps to develop the NTC’s embryonic ground forces. This involved the immediate dispatch of a small advisory team, and the longer-term development of a “train and equip” project. Ministers were advised, say those familiar with the discussion, that this second part of the plan would take at least three months to implement. When half a dozen British officers arrived at a seaside hotel in Benghazi at the beginning of April, they were unarmed and their role was strictly limited. They had been told to help the NTC set up a nascent defence ministry, located in a commandeered factory on the outskirts of the city. The first and most basic task of the advisory team was to get the various bands of Libyan fighters roaring around in armed pick-up trucks under some sort of central co-ordination. As reporters had discovered, most of these men had little idea of what they were doing, and soon panicked if they thought Col Gaddafi’s forces were attacking or outflanking them. There were a number of legal issues preventing them giving more help. Some Whitehall lawyers argued that any type of presence on the ground was problematic. Legal doubts were raised about arming the NTC or targeting Col Gaddafi. Once the air operation was put on a proper Nato footing, these issues became even more vexed, insiders say, with the alliance saying it would not accept men on the ground “directing air strikes” in a way that some newspapers, even in late spring, were speculating was already happening. The British government’s desire to achieve the overthrow of Gaddafi while accommodating the legal sensitivities registered by various Whitehall departments led to some frustration among those who were meant to make the policy work”.

Urban elaborates that although “plenty of people in Whitehall still remembered the March debacle, it was agreed to allow a limited number of British advisers to take a direct part in training and mentoring NTC units in Libya. Sources say the number of men sent from D Squadron of 22 SAS Regiment was capped at 24. They were performing their mission by late August [2011]. While France and Qatar were ready to provide weapons directly, the UK was not. However, this made little practical difference since the SAS was operating closely with Qatar special forces who had reportedly delivered items such as Milan anti-tank missiles . . . During the months that this project had taken to come to fruition, the slow grinding down of Gaddafi’s forces by air attack had continued. Soon after the foreign trainers arrived, NTC units swept into Tripoli. Some people close to the Libyan revolution say that the Qatari chief of defence staff claimed credit for coming up with the strategy of pushing simultaneously towards the Libyan capital from different directions. Certainly, the foreign special forces on the ground played a role in co-ordinating the different columns. The SAS had meanwhile strayed beyond its training facility, with single men or pairs accompanying the NTC commanders that they had been training back to their units. They dressed as Libyans and blended in with the units they mentored, says someone familiar with the operation. There had been concerns that they would be spotted by the press, but this did not happen. “We have become a lot better at blending in,” says someone familiar with the D Squadron operation. “Our people were able to stay close to the NTC commanders without being compromised.” Instead, as the revolutionaries fought their way into Gaddafi’s home town of Sirte, they were assisted by a handful of British and other special forces. Members of the Jordanian and United Arab Emirates armies had fallen in behind the Qataris too. When, on 20 October, Gaddafi was finally captured and then killed by NTC men, it followed Nato air strikes on a convoy of vehicles carrying leading members of the former regime as they tried to escape from Sirte early in the morning. Had British soldiers on the ground had a hand in this? Nobody will say yet. In keeping with its long standing policies on special forces and MI6 operations, Whitehall has refrained from public statements about the nature of assistance on the ground. The Ministry of Defence reiterated that policy when asked to comment on this story. Speaking at a public event late last year, though, Gen Richards commented that the NTC forces “were the land element, an ‘army’ was still vital”. He also noted that “integrating the Qataris, Emiratis and Jordanians into the operatiLon was key”. He did not, however, allude to the presence of more than 20 British operators on the ground. ast October the Chief of the Qatar Defence Staff revealed that “hundreds” of his troops has been on the ground in Libya. British sources agree Qatar played a leading role – and accept it put more soldiers in than the UK – but question whether the number was this large. Around the more secret parts of Whitehall, the suggestion is that the number committed on the ground by all nations probably did not exceed a couple of hundred. As for Britain’s decision finally to deploy an SAS squadron, “they made a fantastic difference”, argues one insider. It is part of the essence of troops of this kind that they often operate in secrecy, providing their political masters with policy options that they might not wish to own up to publicly”.

In a pensive mood, Urban ends his account with the words, “given that the UK’s earlier relationship with Col Gaddafi and his intelligence services caused great embarrassment, it could be that attention will one day focus more closely on British assistance to the NTC, particularly if the Libyan revolution comes unstuck”.   And here is a video by the YouTuber StopNATOcrimes highlighting Gaddafi’s positive achievements, which have now been undone by the victorious NATO alliance and its NTC allies, before going on a tangent about Rothschild-owned banks and what have you.

(1)  Mark Urban, “Inside story of the UK’s secret mission to beat GaddafiBBC News Magazine (19 January 2012).
(2) C. Erimtan, “Libya: The End of Gadhafi and the Economic Aftermath” IRCNL.
(3) C. Erimtan, “Libya: The End of Gadhafi and the Economic Aftermath”.
(4) Mark Urban, “Inside story of the UK’s secret mission to beat Gaddafi”.
(5) Mark Urban, “Inside story of the UK’s secret mission to beat Gaddafi”.
(6) Mark Urban, “Inside story of the UK’s secret mission to beat Gaddafi”.
(7)Mark Uban, “Inside story of the UK’s secret mission to beat Gaddafi”.
(8) Mark Urban, “Inside story of the UK’s secret mission to beat Gaddafi”.

St. Louis Hosts 1st Big Parade on Iraq War’s End

Thousands of people lined the streets and cheered wildly as veterans marched through downtown St. Louis on Saturday. It was the first big welcome-home parade in the U.S. for Iraq War veterans. (28 Jan. 2012).

Hamas, Syria, Turkey, and Qattar: Money Talks!!!

Turkey has been harboring the Syrian opposition for quite some time now. The Turkish Prime Minister has also oftentimes chastised Assad and his regime. Syria itself has long been the base for another resistance movement, but that is coming to an end as well: ‘Khaled Meshal, the leader of the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, has effectively abandoned his longtime base in Syria, where a popular uprising has left thousands dead, and has no plans to return, Hamas sources in Gaza said Friday [, 27 January 2012]’.   Back in Palestine, or rather the Gaza enclave, a Hamas spokesman has said that “The situation there does not allow the leadership to be present. There are no more Hamas leaders in Damascus”.   So, where will Meshal go to???  Some say Turkey, others maintain Qattar . . . Moreover, as reported by the New York Times’ Fares Akram, “Hamas announced this month that Mr. Meshal wished to step down as the chief of the movement’s political bureau, which he has led since 1996, but the exact nature and meaning of his resignation remain unclear. Some said the announcement was a sign of an internal power struggle, others as a maneuver aimed at displaying his popularity. Still others said that Mr. Meshal had his eyes on a bigger position beyond Hamas”.

An anonymous diplomat in the region has come out saying that “Iran used to give $250 million to $300 million to Hamas but there have been interruptions in the payments in past year. Our understanding is that there has been no payment since August 2011”.   As Iran is the Assad regime’s main backer, it would appear that Meshal is now in the process of acquiring new funding. Qattar is Syria’s main critic in the Arab world, while Turkey’s opposition to Damascus has been quite vocal of late . . . The same unnamed and mysterious source also divulged that the Hamas headquarters in Gaza have  “received promises from Turkey to provide the movement and [its] administration with $300 million a year to help Gaza”.   Still, the Hamas Gaza Strip leader Ismail Haniyeh is scheduled to visit Iran in the coming days.

(1) Fares Akram, “Hamas Leader Abandons Longtime Base in Damascus” The New York Times (27 January 2012).
(2) Fares Akram, “Hamas Leader Abandons Longtime Base in Damascus”.
(3) Fares Akram, “Hamas Leader Abandons Longtime Base in Damascus”.
(4) “Hamas leader Meshaal quietly quits Syria as violence continues” Reuters (27 January 2012).
(5) “Hamas leader Meshaal quietly quits Syria as violence continues”.

The Arab Awakening: One Year On

One year on from the beginning of the Arab revolutions which began in Tunisia and continued to Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, and Syria, people continue to struggle. But analysts argue that these revolutions have been manipulated by the west especially in countries like Syria. The Arab league is also showing what many call double standards in the situation of Syria with countries like Saudi Arabia and Qatar who have oppressed the free will of their people for so long and with supporting an armed revolt in Syria which has led to the death of many military personnel and civilians. With hope and skepticism intermingled, this edition of Middle East Today takes a closer look at the prospects of the people’s revolutions in the Arab world (28 Jan 2012).

And, as such, I think that this would be a good opportunity to repeat what I said last year in Hürriyet Daily News: ‘Following the breakup of the Soviet Empire, the proliferation of color revolutions throughout former Communist countries also appeared spontaneous and driven by the popular will. In hindsight, however, it has come to light that their organization and planning was funded by the West. Rather than spontaneous and popular, nowadays these “revolutions” have often been called “orchestrated.” The people of Ukraine, Georgia, and Kyrgyzstan were manipulated by U.S. intelligence agencies and NGOs like Freedom House and the Albert Einstein Institution to overthrow their pro-Russian leadership. So, what about the recent events in Egypt? Is the Middle East now being remade in the shadow of Zbigniew Brzezinski’s “arc of crisis”? In this context, Gene Sharp and the Albert Einstein Institution appear crucial. Sharp, also known as the “Machiavelli of nonviolence” or the “Clausewitz of nonviolent warfare,” has written a great many books on “Civilian-Based Defense” and democracy that can serve as blueprints for popular uprisings against authoritarian regimes. On the institution’s website many books, such as “From Dictatorship to Democracy,” are available for free download in many languages, including Arabic. The protestors in Tahrir Square time and again stressed the peaceful nature of their actions, only to be violently disrupted by pro-Mubarak or “pro-stability” activists on horseback and mounted on camels one day, leading to significant casualties and fatalities. But, quite apart from NGOs and their encouragements of non-violent protest in favor of regime-change more amenable to NATO and U.S. interests, WikiLeaks has revealed something altogether much more sinister. The broadcaster RT reports that the “U.S. government had been planning to topple the Egyptian president for the past three years – that’s according to diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks. The files show Washington had been secretly backing leading figures behind the uprising.” A cable dated Dec. 30, 2008, indicates that a leader of the April 6 Youth Movement – a Facebook-driven opposition group – informed U.S. officials that opposition groups had come up with a plan to topple Hosni Mubarak before scheduled elections in September 2011. The cables also indicate that the U.S. authorities helped an April 6 leader to attend an “Alliance of Youth Movements” summit at Columbia University in New York on Dec. 3-5, 2008. In November 2008, the U.S. government promoted this event as an occasion bringing together “Facebook, Google, YouTube, MTV, Howcast, Columbia Law School and the U.S. Department of State . . . to Find Best Ways to Use Digital Media to Promote Freedom and Justice, Counter Violence, Extremism and Oppression.” The participating youth leaders were expected to “produce a field manual for youth empowerment,” adding that this document “will stand in stark contrast to the al-Qaeda manual on the basics of terrorism, found by Coalition Forces in Iraq.” Matthew Waxman, a Columbia associate professor of law, said: “We at Columbia are excited about helping, designing, and studying innovative public-private partnerships that leverage new technologies to tackle some of the world’s greatest challenges. This summit is a great opportunity to do this.” In this way, using fashionable buzzwords and jargon, Dr. Waxman tacitly provided academic credibility to this summit so clearly aimed at furthering America’s cause across the world. The summit was also attended by such luminaries as Whoopi Goldberg, actress and host of ABC’s “The View,” Dustin Moskovitz, co-founder of Facebook and James K. Glassman, undersecretary for public diplomacy and public affairs, U.S. Department of State’.

(1) C. Erimtan, “Behind the scenes of Egypt’s revolution” Hürriyet Daily News (27 February 2011).

Talk to Al Jazeera – Arianna Huffington: Beyond left and right

The co-founder of The Huffington Post on why the old concept of the political left and right marginalises issues.

Twitter Response (Turkish): On Cyprus

U.S. Department of State Spokesperson Nuland provides a response to a question asked on the Department’s Turkish Twitter feed, @ABDTurk, on Cyprus. This briefing took place on January 27, 2012, in Washington, D.C.

Iran’s Take: Obama’s State of the Union Speech, 2012

“Let there be no doubt. America is determined to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon and I will take no options on the table to achieve that goal.” These are the statements of the US president Barak Obama at the State of the Union address as if Iran was on the path of acquiring a nuclear weapon. This is while Iran has repeatedly said it is not seeking nuclear weapons and that is what this edition of News Analysis will discuss.

Ralph Nader & Dennis Trainor Respond to Obama’s State of the Union Speech

Eloquent as Ralph Nader’s words were, here is Dennis Trainor, Jr., pointing out that Obama’s foreign policy statements during his State of the Union speech last night were nothing but imperial pronouncements.

RT does WikiLeaks

Due to technical problems I have not been able to devote a lot of time to my blog of late. But the up-and-coming regional superpower that is Turkey clearly has bigger problems than ensuring the electricity supply of a building or two in a neighbourhood that is about to be demolished, oops, I meant refurbished, to become a new consumer’s wet dream and a mecca of culture and leisure. In other words, I am planning to devote some serious attention to this situation in due time . . .

In the meantime, another news item caught my attention just now. Namely, the ever-contrary broadcaster RT appears willing to sponsor Mister WikiLeaks: ‘[c]yberspace’s most famous activist, Julian Assange, is launching his own talkshow, to be broadcast exclusively on RT. The program, written and hosted by the founder of whistle-blowing site Wikileaks, will focus on his favorite topic: controversy ­The show, arguably the most anticipated news series of 2012, will feature ten “iconoclasts, visionaries and power insiders” – people Assange can clearly identify with, being a rather controversial figure himself. The 40-year-old Australian media and internet entrepreneur will get to talk about the issues of the day with those he believes will shape “the world tomorrow.” In his own words, the world-famous Wikileaks founder is “a pioneer of a more just world and a victim of political repression” which is why he promises to deliver a new type of television. Many are already wondering whether it will be as explosive as the biggest mass disclosure of secret documents in US history, also orchestrated by Assange and his team. The show will be filmed at the very location that Julian Assange has been under house arrest for the last year and a half, with the first episode to be shot just a week before Assange’s Supreme Court hearing in the UK. He has been on conditional bail for 414 days, with no charges officially filed, as he fights extradition to Sweden. “Assange to record TV series for RT while under house arrest – I am sure it will be an amazing show!” RT’s editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan posted on her Twitter on Wednesday [, 25 January]. “I’ve never waited for a show on RT with such excitement”. Details of the episodes and the guests featured are secret for now’.

Rolling Stone’s Michael Hastings has had the rare opportunity to sit down with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, while he’s under house arrest in London and awaiting his final appeal attempt with the British Supreme Court set for February 1, 2012. Hastings shares what his three days were like with Assange (19 Jan 2012).

Egypt Election Results

(21 Jan 2012) 

In The Guardian, Jasmine Coleman writes that the “final results in Egypt’s first parliamentary elections since the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak have confirmed an overwhelming victory for Islamist parties. The Muslim Brotherhood, which was banned under Mubarak’s regime, won the biggest share of parliamentary seats (38%), according to the High Elections Committee. Its Freedom and Justice party (FJP) has named Saad al-Katatni, a leading Brotherhood official who sat in the old parliament as an independent, as speaker of the assembly. The hardline Islamist Al-Nour party came second with 29% of the seats. The liberal New Wafd and Egyptian Bloc coalition came third and fourth respectively. The result means that Islamists will wield major influence over a new constitution, which is set to be drafted by a the country’s first freely elected parliament. The Revolution Continues coalition, dominated by youth groups at the forefront of the protests that toppled Mubarak, attracted less than a million votes and took just seven seats. Egyptians voted in three phases over six weeks to elect the 498 members of the People’s Assembly. Ten further members are appointed by the ruling military council”.

A whopping 67% thus went to Islamist representative . . . What the reality on the ground will now consist of in post-revolutionary Egypt could be anyone’s guess. Mubarak had also been an expert at utilizing Islam and a Muslim rhetoric to appease the population . . . As a result, Egypt will probably not undergo drastic changes overnight, but in the long run, future elections and their outcomes will prove crucial in determining the role of Islam in day-to-day life in Egypt.