Tag Archive: Saddam Hussein


Arab strongman: With Gadhafi death, an era passes

FILE - This undated photo shows Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. A U.S. official says Libya's new government has told the United States that Gadhafi, 69, is dead. The official said Libya's Transitional National Council informed U.S. officials in Libya of the development Thursday, Oct. 20, 2011. His death on Thursday, confirmed by Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril, came as Libyan fighters defeated Gadhafi's last holdouts in his hometown of Sirte, the last major site of resistance in the country. (AP Photo/File)http://news.yahoo.com/arab-strongman-gadhafi-death-era-passes-151535237.html

CAIRO (AP) — He often looked like a comical buffoon, standing before audiences, bedecked in colorful robes, spouting words that most of the world considered nonsense.

Yet the death of Moammar Gadhafi was a milestone in modern Arab history, in some ways more significant than the overthrow of lesser autocrats in Tunisia and Egypt.

Gadhafi was the last of the old-style Arab strongmen — the charismatic, nationalist revolutionaries who rose to power in the 1950s and 1960s, promising to liberate the masses from the shackles of European colonialism and the stultifying rule of the Arab elite that the foreigners left behind after World War II.

He was swept aside by a new brand of revolutionary — the leaderless crowds organized by social media, fed up with the oppressive past, keenly aware that the rest of the world has left them behind and convinced that they can build a better society even if at the moment, they aren’t sure how.

Gadhafi was the last of a generation of Arab leaders such as Gamal Abdel-Nasser of Egypt, Hafez Assad of Syria and Saddam Hussein of Iraq who emerged from poverty, rising to the pinnacle of power either through the ranks of the military or the disciplined, conspiratorial world of underground political organizations.

None of the latter crop of Arab autocrats, including Assad’s son Bashar, Yemen’s Ali Abdullah Saleh and even Egypt’s colorless, ousted president Hosni Mubarak, could rival them in their heyday in terms of charisma, flair, stature and power.

Their model was Nasser, the towering champion of Arab unity who ousted Western-backed King Farouk in 1952 and inspired Arab peoples with fiery speeches broadcast by Egyptian radio from Iraq to Mauritania.

But Nasser’s dreams of Arab unity and social revival crumbled in defeat in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, when Israel seized East Jerusalem, the West Bank, the Golan Heights from Syria and the Gaza Strip and Sinai Peninsula from Egypt. Nasser died three years later, and the fellow strongmen left behind led their countries instead into a political swamp of corruption, cronyism and dictatorship now challenged by the Arab Spring.

The hallmark of the Arab strongman was unquestioned power, the use of state media to promote a larger than life image and a ruthless security network that stifled even a whiff of dissent. That worked in an age before the Internet and global satellite television which opened the eyes of the strongman’s followers to a world without secret police and economic systems run by the leader’s family and cronies.

The Arab political transformation is far from complete. Autocratic rulers are facing challenges from their own people in Yemen and Syria. Bahrain’s Shiite majority is pressing the Sunni monarchy for reform. Rulers in Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states are maneuvering to contain the Arab Spring.

Iraq is struggling to build a democracy eight years after American-led arms brought down Saddam’s rule.

With Gadhafi’s passing, however, a milestone has been passed. The future belongs to a different style of ruler, whoever it may be.

It may be difficult to imagine that the Gadhafi of his final years — with his flamboyant robes, dark and curly wigs and sagging, surgically altered face — was a trim, handsome, vigorous 27-year-old when he came to power as a strong and vigorous leader. Over the years he had become a caricature figure associated with grandiose dreams such as a “United States of Africa” or seizing all of Israel and sending Jews “back to Europe.”

Even when he was younger, eccentricity was the mark of Gadhafi’s public persona.

A generation ago, President Ronald Reagan described him as the “mad dog of the Middle East,” and his fellow Arab leaders such as Egyptian President Anwar Sadat considered him a dangerous megalomaniac.

Journalists covered his speeches and international visits primarily for amusement.

Images of Gadhafi’s final moments — toupee gone, terrified, confused, powerless in the grip of men who may be about to kill him — make the ousted tyrant appear more pitiable than powerful.

All that was far from his image when he and his comrades toppled a Western-backed monarchy in 1969 in a bloodless coup, promising to transform his poor, backwater country into a modern state.

Promising a new era for his people, Gadhafi closed a U.S. air base, forced international oil companies to hand over most of their profits from Libyan oil to the Libyan state and shook the world with his unabashed support for terrorist or insurgent movements in Northern Ireland, Palestine, Latin America, Africa and Asia.

Oil gave him a reach beyond his sparsely populated desert land and enabled him to pursue his revolutionary dreams.

In the 1980s, the lobbies of Tripoli’s few hotels were populated by representatives of what the West considered the most dangerous groups on Earth — stiff North Koreans wearing lapel buttons of their leader Kim Il-Sung, Palestinian extremists huddled over cups of sweet tea, European anarchists and revolutionaries — all come to town to seek the oil-fueled largesse of the “Brother Leader.”

While insisting that Libya was the freest nation on Earth, Gadhafi ruthlessly suppressed dissent, dispatched agents to assassinate his opponents abroad and drove thousands of Libyans into exile.

It all came crashing down in the final battle in his hometown of Sirte. A man who came to power as an Arab revolutionary and self-styled leader of the oppressed and downtrodden died a brutal and inglorious death at the hands of the people he purported to lead.

___

Eds: Robert H. Reid is Middle East regional editor for The Associated Press and has reported from the Middle East since 1978.

Iraq expects reprisals for bin Laden killing

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20110502/wl_nm/us_binladen_iraq

By Waleed Ibrahim and Suadad al-Salhy Waleed Ibrahim And Suadad Al-salhy 45 mins ago

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Iraq’s army and police went on high alert on Monday for possible revenge attacks in one of al Qaeda’s major battlegrounds after U.S. forces killed Osama bin Laden in a raid on his Pakistan hideout.

Oil infrastructure, power stations and bridges could be targets of militant attacks, security sources said, to prove bin Laden’s death has not disrupted operations in Iraq, still an important arena for the Islamist group eight years after the 2003 invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

Former President George W. Bush referred to Iraq as part of the U.S. “war on terror” although no link was found between Saddam’s regime and the September 11 attacks. It became a battlefield for al Qaeda after the invasion.

Iraqi and U.S. forces have scored big victories against al Qaeda’s Iraq affiliate but the Sunni Islamist insurgency remains lethal and carries out dozens of attacks each month.

“We have issued orders to intensify security measures in the street,” said Major-General Hassan al-Baidhani of the Baghdad operations command. “We 100 percent expect attacks.”

The Iraqi government welcomed the news of bin Laden’s death.

“The Iraqi government is feeling greatly relieved over the killing of Osama bin Laden, who was the planner and director behind the killing of many Iraqis and destroying the country,” government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said.

“VIOLENT REACTION” POSSIBLE

The U.S. military still has about 47,000 troops in Iraq.

“We recognize that the death of bin Laden may result in a violent reaction from al Qaeda in Iraq and other extremist organisations that loosely affiliate with the al Qaeda network,” U.S. military spokesman Colonel Barry Johnson said. He would not comment on any changes in operations as a result of the death.

Iraqi security sources said they had received intelligence that al Qaeda would carry out reprisal attacks and that markets, religious shrines and infrastructure could be hit.

“We are expecting that they will attack vital targets like oil institutions, electricity stations and bridges in Baghdad, Basra and the middle Euphrates areas,” a senior anti-terrorism officer said. Oilfields, pipelines and terminals are critical to Iraq’s plans to become a major world producer and to rebuild after decades of dictatorship, war and economic sanctions.

U.S. military officials say counter-terrorism operations have severely degraded al Qaeda’s Iraq affiliate and damaged its communications with al Qaeda figures abroad. Leaders Abu Ayyub al-Masri and Abu Omar al-Baghdadi were killed in April 2010.

But military commanders still point to al Qaeda for many of the scores of attacks each month, including a bloody siege in late March in Saddam’s hometown, Tikrit, where 58 people were killed, and an attack on a Baghdad cathedral last October.

John Drake, a risk consultant with U.K.-based security firm AKE, said bin Laden’s death would not reduce attacks in Iraq.

“While it still receives foreign funding and foreign recruits, a lot of the planning and execution of attacks is by Iraqi nationals operating independently, but still drawing inspiration from the global al Qaeda movement,” he said.

War-weary Iraqis appeared to welcome the news.

“In my life, I have never seen a criminal like this person (bin Laden), who took the religion of Islam to serve his own purpose,” said Ibrahim Ali Hamdi, 68, a farmer who lost a son to al Qaeda in 2006.

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Egypt army reconsiders cases of jailed protesters

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110414/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_egypt

By MAGGIE MICHAEL, Associated Press Maggie Michael, Associated Press 1 hr 1 min ago

CAIRO – Egypt’s military rulers said Thursday they were reviewing cases of young protesters jailed in the aftermath of the popular uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak and that they also sacked several provincial governors appointed by the former president.

The moves meant to defuse tensions between the military, which took control of Egypt after Mubarak’s ouster, and the protesters determined to keep up the pressure and demand for sweeping reforms.

The Armed Forces’ Supreme Council — the body of top generals that took over after Mubarak’s ouster on Feb. 11 — said in a statement posted on its Facebook page that “cases of the young people” recently put on trial “will be reconsidered.”

Activists complain the military has been acting in ways reminiscent of Mubarak’s regime, detaining scores of people and putting protesters in military prisons, where some were reportedly tortured, or on swift trial before military courts.

This week, a military tribunal slapped a three-year prison term on a blogger for charges of insulting the army and spreading false information, further antagonizing the protest movement.

Many Egyptians say the generals are heavy-handedly dictating the course of Egypt’s transition and that they are not doing enough to ensure that remnants of Mubarak’s regime don’t retain power and thwart hopes for real democracy.

The tensions came to a peak on Saturday, when troops stormed Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the 18-day uprising, killing at least one protester and arresting dozens in a pre-dawn operation.

The military has not provided a number for those detained.

But the Protesters’ Defense Front, an umbrella of civil rights groups helping the detainees, says their estimate is that since Feb. 11, about 10,000 people have either been detained, put on trial or imprisoned after sentencing before military tribunals.

Nadim Mansour, an activist of the organization says the estimate was derived from reports from families and lawyers who attend trials before military courts. He said the military system now allows for appeals in cases before military tribunals, which was not the case before.

Meanwhile, Egypt’s state TV said Thursday that the military rulers also sacked 10 provincial governors appointed by Mubarak, and replaced them with new faces — another key demand of the youth movement at the helm of the uprising.

Thursday’s developments came a day after Mubarak and his two sons were detained for investigation of corruption, abuse of power and killings of protesters. Legal experts say that if convicted for inciting and ordering the killings, Mubarak could face the death sentence.

Mubarak remains in a hospital in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, where he is kept in detention.

There were reports suggesting he could be transferred to a Cairo hospital, as well as rumors his health condition was deteriorating after experiencing heart problems during Tuesday’s interrogations.

However, Egypt’s state TV said on Thursday that Mubarak’s health condition is “stable,” and that he will remain in Sharm el-Sheik.

The detention of the 82-year-old Mubarak — dubbed Egypt’s pharaoh for ruling unchallenged for 29 years — set a new landmark in the already unprecedented wave of upheavals shaking the Middle East.

It was the first time an authoritarian leader in the Arab world has been brought to justice by his own people, given that Iraq’s Saddam Hussein was toppled and later captured by American troops, who handed him over for trial and execution by Iraq’s new Shiite rulers.

Mubarak’s sons, Gamal, once seen as his successor, and Alaa, a wealthy businessman, were jailed in Cairo’s Tora prison, where a string of former top regime figures — including Mubarak’s prime minister, ruling party chief and chief of staff — are already languishing, facing similar corruption investigations.

Gates: Some US troops may stay if Iraq wants

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_gates_iraq

By ROBERT BURNS, AP National Security Writer Robert Burns, Ap National Security Writer Thu Apr 7, 6:33 am ET

BAGHDAD – The Obama administration would keep U.S. troops in Iraq beyond the agreed final withdrawal date of Dec. 31, 2011, if the Iraqi government wanted them, but the Iraqis need to decide “pretty quickly” in order for the Pentagon to accommodate the extension, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday during what he said probably is his final visit to this war-torn country.

Whether to negotiate an extended U.S. military presence is up to the Iraqis, he said, adding that he thought an extension might make sense.

“We are willing to have a presence beyond (2011), but we’ve got a lot of commitments,” he said, not only in Afghanistan and Libya but also in Japan, where he said 19 U.S. Navy ships and about 18,000 U.S. military personnel are assisting in earthquake, tsunami and nuclear reactor relief efforts.

“So if folks here are going to want us to have a presence, we’re going to need to get on with it pretty quickly in terms of our planning,” he added. “I think there is interest in having a continuing presence. The politics are such that we’ll just have to wait and see because the initiative ultimately has to come from the Iraqis.”

Army Gen. Lloyd Austin, the top American commander in Iraq, said the country is lacking important security capabilities. Those include the defense of its air space and the wherewithal to supply and maintain its own forces, he said.

Asked in an interview whether all Iraqi government officials are aware of these gaps, he replied, “Some more than others.”

He said the government’s inability thus far to appoint a defense minister and an interior minister has hampered its ability to make informed decisions about whether to ask the Americans to stay longer.

Speaking to a group of reporters traveling with Gates, Austin gave the strong impression that he thinks Iraq needs a U.S. military presence beyond December, but he said he had not yet been asked to provide a recommendation to Washington.

He said Iraq faced the possibility of a “more violent environment” next year, given the absence of U.S. military force and the failure to resolve key political problems, like the Kurd-Arab tensions in Kirkuk and elsewhere in the north.

The U.S. now has about 47,000 troops in Iraq, and they will begin leaving in large numbers in late summer or early fall. The U.S. led an invasion in March 2003 that toppled the government of President Saddam Hussein a month later, but an insurgency soon set in and the U.S. got mired in a conflict that has lasted far longer — and cost far more American and Iraqi lives — than Washington had anticipated.

Gates also said civil unrest in the Persian Gulf kingdom of Bahrain, with majority Shiite Muslims pushing for an end to rule by the minority Sunnis, has created tensions in Iraq, whose Shiite prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, is concerned about Bahrain’s crackdown on Shiites.

Gates said he expected to discuss this subject with al-Maliki in private meetings later Thursday.

Meghan O’Sullivan, a top Iraq adviser to President George W. Bush from 2005-07, said in an email exchange that al-Maliki faces enormous domestic political pressures on several fronts, including a small but vocal number of Iraqis demanding better government, and a security situation that is improved but still tense.

Together, these pressures make it unlikely that al-Maliki feels he can publicly invite the U.S. military to stay beyond this year.

“Understandably, the Obama administration was hoping for this sort of invitation, and likely feels struck, given that it is not forthcoming,” O’Sullivan said. “They can’t be seen wanting to keep more troops in Iraq than the Iraqis do.” O’Sullivan is now a professor of international affairs at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School.

Under blue skies and a bright sun at a U.S. base just outside the Iraqi capital, Gates told a group of soldiers that he worries that a potential shutdown of the U.S. federal government will delay issuance of their paychecks. He assured them that they eventually would get full pay, but there could be a delay if Democrats and Republicans in Washington are unable to reach a budget deal this week.

“When I start to think of the inconvenience that it’s going to cause these kids (soldiers) and a lot of their families, even a half paycheck delayed can be a problem for them,” Gates told reporters after fielding several questions from the assembled soldiers. The first question posed to him was by a soldier asking about the ramifications for military members and their families of the budget crisis back home.

Gates assured them, “You will be paid,” then added that it might take a while, depending on the length of the political impasse in Washington.

In a brief exchange with reporters during a photo session with Gates earlier Thursday, the U.S. ambassador to Baghdad, James Jeffrey, said U.S. ground forces are “the glue” that is holding the country together. He said this leaves a mixed picture of the situation in Iraq because making arrangements to keep U.S. troops here beyond December is going to be difficult.

In his troop talk, Gates raised the matter of his impending retirement, recalling for soldiers of the 2nd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, that his first visit to Iraq was in September 2006, three months before he replaced Donald H. Rumsfeld as defense secretary. He recalled that on a visit to Baghdad in December 2006 he conducted a press conference while a gun battle was echoing in the distance.

In all, he estimated he has made 14 visits to Iraq.

“`This will probably be my last one,” he said.

Gates previously has said he intends to retire this year, but he has not been more specific about the timing. It is widely anticipated that he is planning to quit this summer.

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