Monthly Archives: February 2011

“Never again” is the phrase that is always uttered after an international atrocity. It is what is said every time there is an event to commemorate the Holocaust. It was what was said after the Rwandan genocide of 1994 and after the Srebrenica massacre of 1995. And yet the Libyan regime is killing its people in the streets, without much prospect of effective international intervention to stop the bloodshed. Libya is not so much a case of “never again” as “oh no, not again”.

Gideon Rachman

Whenever all pundits agree that something is “impossible”, you need to worry. In the last few days, it has been generally accepted that it is impossible for Colonel Gaddafi to cling on to power. And yet the reports coming from the journalists who have finally been allowed into Tripoli are equivocal. The BBC’s Jeremy Bowen reported last night:  “Colonel Gaddafi’s men look to be in firm control of Tripoli. Checkpoints are operating at major crossroads and on arterial roads into the city. Some are run by the army, at others armed men in civilian clothes are stopping cars…Everywhere I went in Tripoli was calm except for the airport where there was chaos.” 

In this week’s podcast: The escalating civil uprising in Libya, the threat of rising oil prices and the implications for the global economy. 

Gideon Rachman

Amazingly enough, Libya remains a member of the UN Human Rights Council. But tomorrow, the council will hold a special session to consider the situation in Libya. On its website, it notes that this is the first time that the UN has decided to investigate a sitting member. There is no acknowledgement that is a disgrace that Libya is a member of the council in the first place. However, this is not some weird accident. It is the settled will of the international community. The Libyans were voted onto the council in May – getting 155 votes of the 192 UN members. Gaddafi is obviously a popular chap. 

Gideon Rachman

Amidst all the drama and the horror of events in Libya, one strange angle to emerge is the role of Colonel Gaddafi’s son – Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, or rather Dr Saif al-Islam since he is the proud holder of a doctorate from the LSE. The younger Gaddafi’s thesis was on the undemocratic nature of global governance (I have heard his father wax lyrical on the same theme from the podium of the UN). David Held, professor of politics at the LSE, recalls Gaddafi junior as manifesting a “deep commitment to liberal democratic reform of his country.” It has to be said that deep commitment didn’t seem to be much in evidence on Sunday when Saif Gaddafi made a rambling speech on television, threatening to fight “to the last bullet” to retain control of Libya. 

Another week, another revolution. Muammer Gaddafi of Libya may soon become the third Arab president to be swept from power in little more than a month.

Until a few years ago, his toppling would have been greeted with delight in western capitals. But in recent years, the Libyan leader has been recast as a reformed sinner, an ally in the “war on terror” and a valued business partner. His current travails should be a cause of justified embarrassment – not least in London – since Britain has led the way in the attempted rehabilitation of Col Gaddafi.

Colonel Gaddafi’s regime in Libya is under pressure after security forces clashed with protestors. James Blitz, diplomatic editor, tells Daniel Garrahan that this revolt will be met by extreme violence from the Gaddafi leadership and there are now big questions to be asked of the oil majors investing in the country. 

Gideon Rachman

Saudi Arabia seems to be one of the few Arab states not to have been caught up, so far, in the wave of popular unrest across the Middle East. But it is still profoundly threatened by what is going on. The unrest in Bahrain – just 15km from Saudi Arabia – poses very serious questions for the Saudi royal family. Bahrain’s royal family are Sunnis, threatened by an uprising by a majority Shia population. The Saudi royal family are also ruling over a large (minority) Shia population, concentrated in the oil-rich eastern provinces. Most of the experts I have read or spoken to reckon that the Saudis simply will not let the Bahraini royal family fall. This piece from the New York Times openly raises the prospect of Saudi military intevention.

What could the Americans say or do about that? It would all be uncomfortably reminiscent of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1991 – you remember, the one that “would not stand”. 

In this week’s podcast: the crisis in the Arab world; the latest efforts to resolve Europe’s debt; the row over America’s budget. 

Gideon Rachman

If you thought the revolution in Egypt posed some tricky dilemmas for American foreign policy, how about the upheavals in Bahrain? Bahrain is a tiny place. But is also the base for the US Fifth Fleet – the basis of American power in the Persian Gulf. Hitherto, the Americans have hidden behind the convenient idea that Bahrain is moving towards democracy. In the recent past, Hillary Clinton has pronounced herself “impressed” by Bahrain’s “committment to the democratic path”. But now the government is killing demonstrators in the street.