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Posts Tagged ‘President of France’

Former Head of IMF Dominique Strauss-Kahn accuses Vladimir Putin of Being Part of a Plot to Have him Fired from his Post

Posted by Admin on May 24, 2011

Global Research, May 23, 2011

The former chief of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, has reportedly accused the Russian prime minister, Vladimir Putin, of being part of a plot to have him fired from his post.

­The British Daily Mail newspaper has claimed that before his arrest on sexual abuse charges, Strauss-Kahn voiced concerns that he could fall victim to a conspiracy.

In an interview with a French TV channel, Strauss-Kahn’s colleague, Claude Bartolone, said the ex-IMF chief told him that Russia and France were trying to stop him running for the French presidency.

“He had to watch out and be careful. They could have tapped the phone. He said the Russians, and notably Putin had allied themselves with France to try to have him fired from the IMF, to stop him running for the presidency. He said that by not leaving the IMF ‘cleanly’ he would no longer be able to announce his candidacy,” Bartolone told BFMTV on April 29.

Vladimir Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, has called the accusations entirely baseless.

“I’ve been secretary to Prime Minister Putin for the last three years and I’ve never heard such weird, such crazy, allegations that simply don’t have any sense in the background,” he stressed.

Peskov added that Bartolone’s confession had failed to become big news in France and now after one British had paper picked it up, he doesn’t believe that the story will have any continuation because “it’s something that has nothing to do even with a sense of humor.”

Dominique Strauss-Kahn is currently awaiting trial in New York.

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Does America have a Culture?

Posted by Admin on May 24, 2011

Global Research, May 24, 2011

The culture of the United States is said to be a youth culture, which is defined in terms of entertainment: sex, rock music or its current equivalent, violent video games, sports, and TV reality shows. This culture has transformed the country and appears on the verge of transforming the rest of the world. There are even indications that secularized Arab and Iranian youth can’t wait to be liberated and to partake of this culture of porn-rock.

America’s former culture–accountable government, rule of law and presumption of innocence, respect for others and for principles, and manners–has gone by the wayside. Many Americans, especially younger ones, are not aware of what they have lost, because they don’t know what they had.

This was brought home to me yet again by some reader responses to my recent columns in which I pointed out that Strauss-Kahn, the IMF director (now former) accused of sexually assaulting a hotel maid, was denied the presumption of innocence. I pointed out that the legal principle of innocent until proven guilty was violated by the police and media, and that Strauss-Kahn was convicted in the media not only prior to trial but also prior to his indictment.

From readers’ responses I learned that there are people who do not know that a suspect is innocent until proven guilty by evidence in a public trial. As one wrote, “if he wasn’t guilty, he wouldn’t be charged.” Some thought that by “presumption of innocence” I was saying that Strauss-Kahn was innocent. I was accused of being a woman-hater and received feminist lectures. Some American women are more familiar with feminist mantras than they are with the legal principles that are the foundation of our society.

Many males also confused my defense of the presumption of innocence with a defense of Strauss-Kahn, or if they knew about “innocent until proven guilty,” didn’t care. Right-wingers wanted Strauss-Kahn out of the picture because he was the socialist party candidate likely to defeat the American puppet, Sarkozy, in the French presidential election. With Sarkozy, Washington finally has a French president who has abandoned all interest in an independent or semi-independent French foreign policy. Didn’t I realize that if we lost Sarkozy, the French might revert to not going along with our invasions, as they refused to do when we had to get Saddam Hussein? With Sarkozy, the French are doing our bidding in Libya. Why in the world did I think Strauss-Kahn and some silly doctrine like the presumption of innocence were more important than French support for our wars?

Many left-wingers were just as indifferent to a legal principle that protects the innocent. They wanted Strauss-Kahn’s blood, because he is a rich member of the establishment and as IMF director had made the poor in Greece, Ireland, and Spain pay for the mistakes of the rich. What did I mean, “presumption of innocence”? How could any member of the ruling establishment be innocent? One left-winger even wrote that I had “reverted to type,” and that my babbling about presumption of innocence proved that I was still a Reaganite defending the rich from the consequences of their crimes.

It evidently did not cause the feminist, the right-wing or the left-wing to wonder that if such a powerful member of the establishment, as they regard Strauss-Kahn to be, can be denied the presumption of innocence, what would be their fate?

Independent thought is not a concept with which very many Americans are familiar or comfortable. Most want to have their emotions stroked, to be told what they want to hear. They already know what they think. A writer’s job is to validate it, and if the writer doesn’t, he is, depending on the ideology of the reader, a misogynist, a pinko-liberal commie, or an operative for the fascist establishment. All will agree that he is a no good SOB.

As I wrote a while back, respect for truth has fallen and taken everything down with it.

Paul Craig Roberts is a frequent contributor to Global Research.  Global Research Articles by Paul Craig Roberts

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Regime Change at the IMF: The Frame-Up of Dominique Strauss-Kahn?

Posted by Admin on May 24, 2011

by Prof. Michel Chossudovsky

Global Research, May 19, 2011

[Forward this article on Facebook or twitter, click above. This article is available in several foreign languages,Chinese ]

The arrest of IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn has all the appearances of a frame-up ordered by powerful members of the financial establishment, in liaison with France’s Nicolas Sarkozy, whose presidency has served the interests of the US at the expense of those of France and the European Union. While there is for the moment no proof of a plot, the unusual circumstances of his arrest and imprisonment require careful examination.

Immediately following Strauss Kahn’s arrest, pressures were exerted by Washington to speed up his replacement as Managing Director of the IMF preferably by a non-European, an American or a handpicked candidate from an “emerging market economy” or a developing country.

Since the founding of the Bretton Woods institutions in 1945, the World Bank has been headed by an American whereas the IMF has been under the helm of a (Western) European.

Strauss-Kahn is a member of elite groups who meet behind closed doors. He belongs to the Bildeberger. Categorized as one of the world’s most influential persons, he is an academic and politician rather than a banker. In contrast to his predecessors at the IMF, he has no direct affiliation to a banking or financial institution.

But at the same time he is the fall guy. His “gaffe” was to confront the Washington-Wall Street Consensus and push for reforms within the IMF, which challenged America’s overriding role within the organization.

The demise of Strauss-Kahn potentially serves to strengthen the hegemony of the US and its control over the IMF at the expense of what former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld called “Old Europe”.

Blocking Strauss-Kahn, the Presidential Candidate

In recent years, a major shift has occurred in Europe’s political landscape. Pro-American governments have been elected in both France and Germany. Social Democracy has been weakened.

Franco-American relations have been redefined, with Washington playing a significant role in grooming a new generation of European politicians.

The presidency of Nicolas Sarkozy has, in many regards, become a de facto US “client regime”, broadly supportive of US corporate interests in the EU and closely aligned with US foreign policy.

There are two overlapping and interrelated issues in the DSK frame-up hypothesis.

The first pertains to regime change at the IMF, the second to Strauss-Kahn as a candidate in France’s forthcoming presidential elections.

Both these processes are tied into the clash between competing US and European economic interests including control over the euro-currency system.

Strauss-Khan as a favorite of the Socialist Party, would have won the presidential elections leading to the demise of “Our Man in Paris” Nicolas Sarkozy. As documented by Thierry Meyssan, the CIA played a central undercover role in destabilizing the Gaullist party and supporting the election of Nicolas Sarkozy (See Operation Sarkozy: How the CIA placed one of its agents at the presidency of the French Republic, Reseau Voltaire, September 4, 2008)

A Strauss-Kahn presidency and a “Socialist” government would have been a serious setback for Washington, contributing to a major shift in Franco-American relations.

It would have contributed to weakening Washington’s role on the European political chessboard, leading to a shift in the balance of power between America and “Old Europe” (namely the Franco-German alliance).

It would have had repercussions on the internal structure of the Atlantic Alliance and the hegemonic role of the US within NATO.

The Eurozone monetary system as well as Wall Street’s resolve to exert a decisive influence on the European monetary architecture are also at stake.

The Frame-Up?

Fifty-seven percent of France’s population, according to a May 17 poll, believe that Strauss-Kahn was framed, victim of a set-up. He was detained on alleged sexual assault and rape charges based on scanty evidence. He was detained based on a complaint filed by the Sofitel hotel where he was staying, on behalf of the alleged victim, an unnamed hotel chamber-maid:

The 32-year-old maid told authorities that she entered his suite early Saturday afternoon and he attacked her, New York Police Department spokesman Paul J. Browne. She said she had been told to clean the spacious $3,000-a-night suite, which she thought was empty.

According to an account the woman provided to police, Strauss-Kahn emerged from the bathroom naked, chased her down a hallway and pulled her into a bedroom, where he began to sexually assault her. She said she fought him off, then he dragged her into the bathroom, where he forced her to perform oral sex on him and tried to remove her underwear. The woman was able to break free again and escaped the room and told hotel staff what had happened, authorities said. They called police.

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/business/7565485.html#ixzz1MfFWFlnY

Wednesday CFR.org Roundup: U.S. pressures Strauss-Kahn to resign

Challenging the Washington Consensus

What is at stake in the immediate wake of Strauss Kahn’s demise is “regime change” at the IMF.

The Obama administration has demanded his replacement by a more compliant individual. U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, former CEO of the New York Federal Reserve Bank is pushing for the replacement of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, “suggesting he can no longer perform his duties” as IMF Managing director.

“Geithner called for greater formal recognition by the IMF board that John Lipsky, the fund’s second-in-command, will continue serving as temporary managing director for an interim period. Although Strauss-Kahn has yet to resign, sources say the IMF is in touch with his legal counsel to discuss his future at the organization.”

What lies behind the frame-up scenario? What powerful interests are involved? Geithner had a close personal relationship with Strauss-Kahn.

On the floor of the US Senate (May 18), Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois, called for the resignation of DSK while calling upon the IMF’s deputy managing director John Lipsky to “assume full responsibility of the IMF” as interim managing director. The process of “permanent replacement should “commence at once,” he said. John Lipsky is a well connected Wall Street banker, a former Vice Chairman at JPMorgan Investment Bank.

While the IMF is in theory an intergovernmental organization, it has historically been controlled by Wall Street and the US Treasury. The IMF’s “bitter economic medicine”, the so-called Structural Adjustment Program (SAP), imposed on countless developing countries, essentially serves the interests of creditor banks and multinational corporations.

The IMF is not the main architect of these devastating economic reforms which have served to impoverish millions of people, while creating a “favorable environment” for foreign investors in Third World  low wage economies.

The creditor banks call the shots. The IMF is a bureaucratic entity. Its role is to implement and enforce those economic policies on behalf of dominant economic interests.

Strauss Kahn’s proposed reforms while providing a “human face” to the IMF did not constitute a shift in direction. They were formulated within the realm of neoliberalism. They modified but they did not undermine the central role of IMF “economic medicine”. The socially devastating impacts of IMF “shock treatment” under Strauss-Kahn’s leadership have largely prevailed.

Dominique Strauss Kahn arrived at the helm of the IMF in November 2007, less than a year prior to September-October 2008 financial meltdown on Wall Street. The structural adjustment program (SAP) was not modified. Under DSK, IMF “shock treatment” which historically had been limited to developing countries was  imposed on Greece, Ireland and Portugal.

Under the helm of DSK as Managing Director, the IMF demanded that developing countries remove food and fuel subsidies at a time of rising commodity prices on the New York and Chicago Mercantile exchanges.

The hikes in food and fuel prices, which preceded the September-October 2008 Wall Street crash, were in large part the result of market manipulation. Grain prices were boosted artificially by large scale speculative operations. Instead of taming the speculators and containing the rise in food and fuel prices, the IMF’s role was to ensure that the governments of indebted developing countries would not in any way interfere in the “free market”, by preventing these prices from going up.

These hikes in food prices, which are the result of outright manipulation (rather than scarcity) have served to impoverish people Worldwide. The surge in food prices constitutes a new phase of the process of global impoverishment.

DSK was complicit in this process of market manipulation. The removal of food and fuel subsidies in Tunisia and Egypt had been demanded by the IMF. Food and fuel prices skyrocketed, people were impoverished, paving the way towards the January 2011 social protest movement:

Fiscal prudence remains an overarching priority for the [Tunisian] authorities, who also see the need for maintaining a supportive fiscal policy in 2010 in the current international environment. Efforts in the last decade to bring down the public debt ratio significantly should not be jeopardized by a too lax fiscal policy. The authorities are committed to firmly control current expenditure, including subsidies,… (IMF Tunisia: 2010 Article IV Consultation – Staff Report; Public Information Notice on the Executive Board Discussion; and Statement by the Executive Director for Tunisia)

“[The IMF] encouraged the [Egyptian] authorities to press further with food and fuel subsidy reforms, and welcomed their intention to improve the efficiency and targeting of food subsidy programs. [meaning the selective elimination of food subsidies].

“Consideration should be given to introducing automatic adjustment mechanisms for domestic fuel prices to minimize distortions [meaning dramatic increases in fuel prices without State interference], while strengthening cash-based social programs to protect vulnerable groups. (IMF Executive Board Concludes 2008 Article IV Consultation with the Arab Republic of Egypt Public Information Notice, PIN  No. 09/04, January 15, 2009)

Under the helm of DSK, the IMF also imposed sweeping austerity measures on Egypt in 2008, while supporting Hosni Mubarak’s “efforts to broaden the privatization program”.(Ibid)

The Frank G. Wisner Nicolas Sarkozy Connection 

Strauss-Kahn was refused bail by Judge Melissa Jackson, an appointee and protégé of Michael Bloomberg, who in addition to his role as Mayor is a powerful figure on Wall Street.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. charged (using scanty evidence) Strauss-Kahn “with seven crimes, including attempted rape, sexual abuse, forcible touching and unlawful imprisonment”.

Who is Cyrus Vance Jr.?

He is the son of the late Cyrus Vance who served as Secretary of State in the Carter administration.

But there is more than meets the eye. Nicolas Sarkozy’s step father Frank G. Wisner II, a prominent CIA official who married his step mother Christine de Ganay in 1977 served as Deputy Executive Secretary of State under the helm of Cyrus Vance Senior, father of District Attorney Cyrus Vance Junior.

Is it relevant?

The Vance and Wisner families had close personal ties. In turn Nicolas Sarkozy had close family ties with his step father Frank Wisner (and his half brothers and sisters in the US and one member of the Wisner family was involved in Sarkozy’s election campaign).

It is also worth noting that Frank G. Wisner II was the son of one of America’s most notorious spies, the late Frank Gardiner Wisner (1909- 1965), the mastermind behind the CIA sponsored coup which toppled the government of Mohammed Mossadegh in Iran in 1953. Wisner Jr. is also trustee of the Rockefeller Brothers Trust.

While these various personal ties do not prove that Strauss-Kahn was the object of a set-up, the matter of Sarkozy’s ties to the CIA via his step father, not to mention the ties of Frank G. Wisner II to the Cyrus Vance family are certainly worth investigating. Frank G, Wisner also played a key role as Obama’s special intelligence envoy to Egypt at the height of the January 2011 protest movement.

Did the CIA play a role?

Was Strauss-Kahn framed by people in his immediate political entourage including President Obama and Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner?

District Attorney Cyrus Vance Junior, son of the late Cyrus Vance, Secretary of State in the Carter administration

Sarkozy’s Step Father Frank G Wisner II, Deputy Executive Secretary of State (1976-79)
under Cyrus Vance Senior during the Carter administration

In this courtroom drawing, Dominique Strauss-Khan, centre, stands next to his lawyer Benjamin Brafman, in front of Criminal Court Judge Melissa Jackson during his arraignment at the Manhattan Criminal Court for the alleged attack on a maid at his penthouse suite of a hotel in New York. Photo: AP

In this courtroom drawing, Dominique Strauss-Khan, next to his lawyer 

Benjamin Brafman, in front of Criminal Court Judge Melissa Jackson during his arraignment at the Manhattan Criminal Court (AP)

File:Strauss-Kahn, Geithner (IMF 2009).jpg

DSK and Timothy Geithner

DSK and Timothy Geithner


Fair Trial?

Innocent before proven guilty? The US media has already cast its verdict. Will the court procedures be manipulated?

One would expect that Strauss-Kahn be granted a fair trial, namely the same treatment as that granted to thousands of arrests on alleged sexual aggression charges in New York City.

How many similar or comparable alleged sexual aggressions occur on a monthly basis in New York City?  What is the underlying pattern? How many of these are reported to the police?  How many are the object of police follow-up once a complaint has been filed?

What is the percent of complaints submitted to police which are the object of police arrest? How many of these arrests lead to a judicial procedure? What are the delays in court procedures?

How many of these arrests lead to release without a judicial procedure?

How many of the cases submitted to a judicial procedure are dismissed by the presiding judge?

How many of the cases which are not dismissed are refused bail outright by the presiding judge? What is the basis for refusing bail?

How many are granted bail?  What is the average amount of bail?

How many are imprisoned without bail based on scanty and incomplete evidence?

How many of those who are refused bail are sent to an infamous maximum security prison on Rikers Island on the orders of  Michael Bloomberg.

Diplomatic Immunity

Press reports state that full diplomatic immunity does not apply to officials of the United Nations and the Bretton Woods institutions, namely that the US did not ratify the protocol.

“U.N. convention on privileges and immunities for international agencies that most countries have ratified. It gives the heads of U.N. agencies broad immunity in the countries where they are based. But the U.S. government never became a party to that treaty. Employees of international agencies are covered by a U.S. statute that gives only limited immunity.”

The relevant question is how has this limited immunity provision been applied in practice?  Namely how many people with limited immunity (UN officials, officials of the Bretton Woods institutions) have been arrested and sent to a high security prison?

Has Strauss Kahn been given the same treatment as those arrested under the provisions of “limited immunity”?

Does the Strauss Kahn arrest fit the pattern? Or is Strauss Kahn being treated in a way which does not correspond to the normal (average) pattern of police and judicial procedures applied in the numerous cases of persons arrested on alleged sexual assault charges?

Without a frame-up instrumented by very powerful people acting in the background, the head of the IMF would have been treated in an entirely different way. The mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg and Timothy Geithner would have come to his rescue.  The matter would have been hushed up with a view to protecting the reputation of a powerful public figure. But that did not happen.


Rikers Island Prison where DSK was imprisoned.

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IMF’s Dominique Strauss-Kahn faces sex charge

Posted by Admin on May 15, 2011

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20110515/wl_nm/us_strausskahn_arrest

NEW YORK/PARIS (Reuters) – IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn was arrested and charged on Sunday with sexually assaulting a New York hotel maid, in a scandal that appeared to wreck his hopes of running for president of France.

The charges threatened to create a leadership vacuum at the IMF, overseer of the global economic system, and threw wide open the French presidential election next April, for which opinion polls had made Strauss-Kahn the front-runner.

One of his lawyers, Benjamin Brafman, told Reuters that his client “will plead not guilty.”

The 62-year-old Socialist, a key player in the response to the 2007-9 global financial meltdown and in Europe’s debt crisis, was taken off an Air France plane about to leave for Paris from John F Kennedy International Airport on Saturday.

The news caused shock and disbelief in France, where a government spokesman called for caution and respect for the presumption of innocence. [nPISFGE7NF]

“The news we received from New York last night struck like a thunderbolt,” said Socialist leader Martine Aubry, appealing for party unity.

Francois Bayrou, a centrist opponent of Strauss-Kahn, said: “All this is completely astounding, immensely troubling and distressing. If the facts prove true … it’s something degrading for all women. It’s terrible for the image of France.”

Far-right leader Marine Le Pen said her rival’s presidential hopes had been crushed. Strauss-Kahn and Le Pen have led recent opinion polls ahead of conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy, even though the chief of the International Monetary Fund had yet to declare his candidacy.

The Fund said in a statement on its website that it “remains fully functioning and operational,” and had no comment on the case.

MAID’S ACCOUNT

New York police spokesman Paul Browne said Strauss-Kahn was arrested at 2:15 a.m. EDT on Sunday on charges of a criminal sexual act, attempted rape and unlawful imprisonment.

“We must wait until things settle and see if it’s true or a provocation, one of Strauss-Kahn’s French-based lawyers, Leon Lef Forster, said. “We must be especially careful not to get into a media circus and we must wait until things are clear.”

A 32-year-old maid filed a sexual assault complaint after fleeing the $3,000-a-night hotel suite at the Sofitel in Times Square where the alleged incident occurred around 1 p.m. EDT on Saturday, Browne said.

Strauss-Kahn appeared to have fled the hotel after the incident, the police spokesman said.

Browne told Reuters: “She told detectives he came out of the bathroom naked, ran down a hallway to the foyer where she was, pulled her into a bedroom and began to sexually assault her, according to her account.

“She pulled away from him and he dragged her down a hallway into the bathroom where he engaged in a criminal sexual act, according to her account to detectives. He tried to lock her into the hotel room.”

Strauss-Kahn does not have diplomatic immunity, Browne said. He is expected to be brought before a state court on Sunday.

According to New York state law, a criminal sexual act carries a potential sentence of 15-20 years, the same as attempted rape. Unlawful imprisonment carries a potential sentence of three to five years.

The allegation is a major embarrassment to the IMF, which has authorized billions of dollars of lending to troubled countries and played a major role in the euro zone debt crisis.

It follows a statement on Thursday that the IMF’s No. 2, John Lipsky, plans to step down in August when his term ends.

A crisis of leadership at the Fund would especially worry European countries, given Strauss-Kahn’s pivotal role in brokering bailouts for Iceland, Hungary, Greece, Ireland and Portugal.

FRANCE IN SHOCK

Popularly known by his initials DSK, the IMF managing director had been expected to declare by late June if he would run for president of France. The latest opinion polls ranked him as a clear winner over conservative incumbent Sarkozy.

“The case and the charges … mark the end of his campaign and pre-campaign for the presidency and will most likely prompt the IMF to ask him to leave his post,” National Front leader Le Pen told i-Tele television.

Conservative Trade Minister Pierre Lellouche said: “I think we have to grant DSK the presumption of innocence. If all this were true it would be damning.”

Even Strauss-Kahn’s political allies were pessimistic.

“The most likely outcome is that this case will stick and even if he pleads not guilty, which he may be, he won’t be able to be candidate for the Socialist primary for the presidency and he won’t be able to stay at the IMF,” said prominent Socialist Jacques Attali.

If Strauss-Kahn were out of the race, leading candidates for the Socialist presidential ticket include party leader Aubry, left-wing veteran Francois Hollande and Segolene Royal, the candidate beaten by Sarkozy in 2007.

PLANE HELD AT JFK

In New York, police spokesman Browne said: “The NYPD realized he had fled, he had left his cell phone behind. We learned he was on an Air France plane. They held the plane and he was taken off and is now being held in police custody for questioning.”

The woman, who has not been named, was treated in hospital for minor injuries, Browne said.

Strauss-Kahn was on his way to Europe for a meeting on Sunday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel to discuss the European debt crisis, and then was to attend a euro zone finance ministers meeting in Brussels on Monday.

Strauss-Kahn took over the IMF in November 2007 for a five-year term scheduled to end next year. Before that, he was a French finance minister, member of the French National Assembly and a professor of economics.

He has faced controversy before. In 2008, he apologized for “an error of judgment” after an affair with a female IMF economist who was his subordinate. An inquiry cleared him of harassment and abuse of power, but he was warned by the fund’s board of member countries against further improper conduct.

Strauss-Kahn apologized to the woman, Piroska Nagy, and his wife, French television personality Anne Sinclair, as well as to IMF employees for the trouble he had caused.

Since taking over the Fund, he has won praise for putting it at the center of efforts to tackle the global financial meltdown. He introduced sweeping changes to ensure that countries swamped by the crisis had access to emergency loans.

He has overseen changes that have given emerging market countries, such as China, India and Brazil, greater voting power in the IMF, and weighed into thornier issues by urging China to let its currency rise in a dispute with the United States.

(Additional reporting by Lesley Wroughton, Noeleen Walder, Catherine Bremer and John Irish; Writing by Mark Trevelyan; Editing by Peter Millership)

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Special report: The West’s unwanted war in Libya

Posted by Admin on April 1, 2011

Flag-map of Kingdom of Libya

Flag Map of Kingdom of Libya

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20110401/wl_nm/us_libya_decisions4

By Paul Taylor – Fri Apr 1, 4:27 am ET

PARIS (Reuters) – It is a war that Barack Obama didn’t want, David Cameron didn’t need, Angela Merkel couldn’t cope with and Silvio Berlusconi dreaded.

Only Nicolas Sarkozy saw the popular revolt that began in Libya on February 15 as an opportunity for political and diplomatic redemption. Whether the French president‘s energetic leadership of an international coalition to protect the Libyan people from Muammar Gaddafi will be enough to revive his sagging domestic fortunes in next year’s election is highly uncertain.

But by pushing for military strikes that he hopes might repair France’s reputation in the Arab world, Sarkozy helped shape what type of war it would be. The road to Western military intervention was paved with mutual suspicion, fears of another quagmire in a Muslim country and doubts about the largely unknown ragtag Libyan opposition with which the West has thrown in its lot.

That will make it harder to hold together an uneasy coalition of Americans, Europeans and Arabs, the longer Gaddafi holds out. Almost two weeks into the air campaign, Western policymakers fret about the risk of a stray bomb hitting a hospital or an orphanage, or of the conflict sliding into a prolonged stalemate.

There is no doubt the outcome in Tripoli will have a bearing on the fate of the popular movement for change across the Arab world. But because this war was born in Paris it will also have consequences for Europe.

“It’s high time that Europeans stopped exporting their own responsibilities to Washington,” says Nick Witney, a senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations. “If the West fails in Libya, it will be primarily a European failure.”

A FRENCH FIASCO

When the first Arab pro-democracy uprisings shook the thrones of aging autocrats in Tunisia and Egypt in January, France had got itself on the wrong side of history.

Foreign Minister Michele Alliot-Marie had enjoyed a winter holiday in Tunisia, a former French colony, oblivious to the rising revolt. She and her family had taken free flights on the private jet of a businessman close to President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, and then publicly offered the government French assistance with riot control just a few days before Ben Ali was ousted by popular protests.

Worse was to come. It turned out that French Prime Minister Francois Fillon had spent his Christmas vacation up the Nile as the guest of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, the next autocrat in the Arab democracy movement’s firing line, while Sarkozy and his wife Carla had soaked up the winter sunshine in Morocco, another former French territory ruled by a barely more liberal divine-right monarch.

Television stations were re-running embarrassing footage of the president giving Gaddafi a red-carpet welcome in Paris in 2007, when Libya’s “brother leader” planted his tent in the grounds of the Hotel de Marigny state guest house across the road from the Elysee presidential palace.

On February 27, a few days after Libyan rebels hoisted the pre-Gaddafi tricolor flag defiantly in Benghazi, Sarkozy fired his foreign minister. In a speech announcing the appointment of Alain Juppe as her successor, Sarkozy cited the need to adapt France’s foreign and security policy to the new situation created by the Arab uprisings. “This is an historic change,” he said. “We must not be afraid of it. We must have one sole aim: to accompany, support and help the people who have chosen freedom.”

MAN IN THE WHITE SHIRT

Yet the international air campaign against Gaddafi’s forces might never have happened without the self-appointed activism of French public intellectual Bernard-Henri Levy, a left-leaning philosopher and talk-show groupie, who lobbied Sarkozy to take up the cause of Libya’s pro-democracy rebels.

Libya was the latest of a string of international causes that the libertarian icon with his unbuttoned white designer shirts and flowing mane of greying hair has championed over the last two decades after Bosnian Muslims, Algerian secularists, Afghan rebels and Georgia’s side in the conflict with Russia. Levy went to meet the Libyan rebels and telephoned Sarkozy from Benghazi in early March.

“I’d like to bring you the Libyan Massouds,” Levy says he told the president, comparing the anti-Gaddafi opposition with former Afghan warlord Ahmad Shah Massoud, who fought against the Islamist Taliban before being assassinated. “As Gaddafi only clings on through violence, I think he’ll collapse,” the philosopher told Reuters in an interview.

On March 10, Levy accompanied two envoys of the Libyan Transitional Council to Sarkozy’s office. To their surprise and to the consternation of France’s allies, the president recognized the council as the “legitimate representative of the Libyan people” and told them he favored not only establishing a no-fly zone to protect them but also carrying out “limited targeted strikes” against Gaddafi’s forces. In doing so without consultation on the eve of a European Union summit called to discuss Libya, Sarkozy upstaged Washington, which was still debating what to do, embarrassed London, which wanted broad support for a no-fly zone, and infuriated Berlin, France’s closest European partner. He also stunned his own foreign minister, who learned about the decision to recognize the opposition from a news agency dispatch, aides said, while in Brussels trying to coax the EU into backing a no-fly zone.

“Quite a lot of members of the European Council were irritated to discover that France had recognized the Libyan opposition council and the Elysee was talking of targeted strikes,” a senior European diplomat said. Across the Channel, British Prime Minister David Cameron, aware of the deep unpopularity of the Iraq war, had turned his back on Tony Blair’s doctrine of liberal interventionism when he took office in 2010. But after facing criticism over the slow evacuation of British nationals from Libya and a trade-promotion trip to the Gulf in the midst of the Arab uprisings, he overruled cabinet skeptics, military doubters and critics among his own Conservative lawmakers to join Sarkozy in campaigning for military action. However, Cameron sought to reassure parliament that he was not entering an Iraq-style open-ended military commitment.

“This is different to Iraq. This is not going into a country, knocking over its government and then owning and being responsible for everything that happens subsequently,” he said. In Britain, as in France, the government won bipartisan support for intervention.

GERMANY MISSING IN ACTION

In Germany, on the other hand, the Libyan uprising was an unwelcome distraction from domestic politics. It played directly into the campaign for regional elections in Baden-Wuerttemberg, a south-western state which Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats had governed since 1953.

Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, leader of the Free Democrats, the liberal junior partners in Merkel’s coalition, tried to surf on pacifist public opinion by opposing military action. Polls showed two-thirds of voters opposed German involvement in Libya, a country where Nazi Germany’s Afrika Korps had suffered desert defeats in World War Two. Present-day Germany’s armed forces were already overstretched in Afghanistan, where some 5,000 soldiers are engaged in an unpopular long-term mission. Westerwelle made it impossible for Merkel to support a no-fly zone, even without participating. He publicly criticized the Franco-British proposal for a U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing the use of force to prevent Gaddafi using his air force against Libyan civilians. Merkel said she was skeptical. The Germans prevented a March 11 EU summit from making any call for a no-fly zone, much to the frustration of the French and British.

Relations between France’s Juppe and Westerwelle deteriorated further the following week when Germany prevented foreign ministers from the Group of Eight industrialized powers from calling for a no-fly zone in Libya. Westerwelle told reporters: “Military intervention is not the solution. From our point of view, it is very difficult and dangerous. We do not want to get sucked into a war in North Africa. We would not like to step on a slippery slope where we all are at the end in a war.”

That argument angered allies. As the meeting broke up, a senior European diplomat tells Reuters, Juppe turned to Westerwelle and said: “Now that you have achieved everything you wanted, Gaddafi can go ahead and massacre his people.”

When the issue came to the U.N. Security Council on March 17, 10 days before the Baden-Wuerttemberg election, Germany abstained, along with Russia, China, India and Brazil, and said it would take no part in military operations.

Ironically, that stance seems to have been politically counterproductive. The center-right coalition lost the regional election anyway, and both leaders were severely criticized by German media for having isolated Germany from its western partners, including the United States. The main political beneficiaries were the ecologist Greens, seen as both anti-nuclear and anti-war.

U.S. TAKES ITS TIME

In Washington, meanwhile, President Barack Obama was, as usual, taking his time to make up his mind. Military action in Libya was the last thing the U.S. president needed, just when he was trying to extricate American troops from two unpopular wars in Muslim countries launched by his predecessor, George W. Bush.

Obama had sought to rebuild damaged relations with the Muslim world, seen as a key driver of radicalization and terrorism against the United States. The president trod a fine line in embracing pro-democracy and reform movements in the Arab world and Iran while trying to avoid undermining vital U.S. interests in the absolute monarchies of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and other Gulf states. Compared to those challenges, Libya was a sideshow.

The United States had no big economic or political interests in the North African oil and gas producing state and instinctively saw it as part of Europe’s backyard. Obama had also sought to encourage allies, notably in Europe, to take more responsibility for their own security issues. Spelling out the administration’s deep reluctance to get dragged into another potential Arab quagmire, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in a farewell speech to officer cadets at the West Point military academy on March 4: “In my opinion, any future Defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should ‘have his head examined’, as General (Douglas) MacArthur so delicately put it.”

Prominent U.S. foreign policy lawmakers, including Democratic Senator John Kerry and Republican Senator John McCain pressed the Obama administration in early March to impose a “no- fly” zone over Libya and explore other military options, such as bombing runways. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had said after talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Geneva on February 28 that a “no-fly” zone was “an option which we are actively considering”.

But the White House pushed back against pressure from lawmakers. “It would be premature to send a bunch of weapons to a post office box in eastern Libya,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said on March 7. “We need to not get ahead of ourselves in terms of the options we’re pursuing.”

While Carney said a no-fly zone was a serious option, other U.S. civilian and military officials cautioned that it would be difficult to enforce.

On March 10, U.S. National Intelligence Director James Clapper forecast in Congress that Gaddafi’s better-equipped forces would prevail in the long term, saying Gaddafi appeared to be “hunkering down for the duration”. If there was to be intervention, it had become clear, it would have to come quickly.

ARAB SPINE

U.S. officials say the key event that helped Clinton and the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, persuade Obama of the need for intervention was a March 12 decision by the Arab League to ask the U.N. Security Council to declare a no-fly zone to protect the Libyan population. The Arab League’s unprecedented resolve — the organization has long been plagued by chronic divisions and a lack of spine — reflected the degree to which Gaddafi had alienated his peers, especially Saudi Arabia. When the quixotic colonel bothered to attend Arab summits, it was usually to insult the Saudi king and other veteran rulers.

The Arab League decision gave a regional seal of approval that Western nations regarded as vital for military action.

Moreover, two Arab states – Qatar and the United Arab Emirates – soon said they would participate in enforcing a no-fly zone, and a third, Lebanon, co-sponsored a United Nations resolution to authorize the use of force. Arab diplomats said Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa, a former Egyptian foreign minister with presidential ambitions, played the key role in squeezing an agreement out of the closed-door meeting.

Syria, Sudan, Algeria and Yemen were all against any move to invite foreign intervention in an Arab state. But diplomats said that by couching the resolution as an appeal to the U.N. Security Council, Moussa maneuvered his way around Article VI of the Arab League’s statutes requiring that such decisions be taken unanimously. It was he who announced the outcome, saying Gaddafi’s government had lost legitimacy because of its “crimes against the Libyan people”.

The African Union, in which Gaddafi played an active but idiosyncratic role, condemned the Libyan leader’s crackdown but rejected foreign military intervention and created a panel of leaders to try to resolve the conflict through dialogue.

However, all three African states on the Security Council – South Africa, Nigeria and Gabon – voted for the resolution. France acted as if it had AU support anyway. Sarkozy invited the organization’s secretary-general, Jean Ping, to the Elysee palace for a showcase summit of coalition countries on the day military action began, and he attended, providing African political cover for the operation.

OBAMA DECIDES

Having failed to win either EU or G8 backing for a no-fly zone, and with the United States internally divided and holding back, France and Britain were in trouble in their quest for a U.N. resolution despite the Arab League support. Gaddafi’s forces had regrouped and recaptured a swathe of the western and central coastal plain, including some key oil terminals, and were advancing fast on Benghazi, a city of 700,000 and the rebels’ stronghold. If international intervention did not come within days, it would be too late. Gaddafi’s troops would be in the population centers, making surgical air strikes impossible without inflicting civilian casualties.

In the nick of time, Obama came off the fence on March 15 at a two-part meeting of his National Security Council. Hillary Clinton participated by telephone from Paris, Susan Rice by secure video link from New York. Both were deeply aware of the events of the 1990s, when Bill Clinton’s administration, in which Rice was an adviser on Africa, had failed to prevent genocide in Rwanda, and only intervened in Bosnia after the worst massacre in Europe since World War Two.

They reviewed what was at stake now. There were credible reports that Gaddafi forces were preparing to massacre the rebels. What signal would it send to Arab democrats if the West let him get away with that, and if Mubarak and Ben Ali, whose armies refused to turn their guns on the people, were overthrown while Gaddafi, who had used his airforce, tanks and artillery against civilian protesters, survived in office?

The president overruled doubters among his military and national security advisers and decided the United States would support an ambitious U.N. resolution going beyond just a no-fly zone, on the strict condition that Washington would quickly hand over leadership of the military action to its allies. “Within days, not weeks,” one participant quoted him as saying.

A senior administration official, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said the key concern was to avoid any impression that the United States was once again unilaterally bombing an Arab country. Asked what had swung Washington toward agreeing to join military action in Libya, he said: “It’s more that events were evolving and so positions had to address the change of events.”

“The key elements were the Arab League statement, the Lebanese support, co-sponsorship of the actual resolution as the Arab representative on the Security Council, a series of conversations with Arab leaders over the course of that week, leading up to the resolution. All of that convinced us that the Arab countries were fully supportive of the broad resolution that would provide the authorization necessary to protect civilians and to provide humanitarian relief, and then the (March 19) gathering in Paris, confirmed that there was support for the means necessary to carry out the resolution, namely the use of military force,” the official said.

When Rice told her French and British counterparts at the United Nations that Washington now favored a far more aggressive Security Council resolution, including air and sea strikes, they first feared a trap. Was Obama deliberately trying to provoke a Russian veto, a French official mused privately.

“I had a phone call from Susan Rice, Tuesday 8 p.m., and a phone call from Susan Rice at 11 p.m., and everything had changed in three hours,” a senior Western envoy told Reuters. “On Wednesday morning, at the (Security) Council, in a sort of totally awed silence, Susan Rice said: ‘We want to be allowed to strike Libyan forces on the ground.’ There was a sort of a bit surprised silence.”

THE VOTE

Right up to the day of the vote, when Juppe took a plane to New York to swing vital votes behind the resolution, Moscow’s attitude was uncertain. So too were the three African votes. British and French diplomats tried desperately to contact the Nigerian, South African and Gabonese ambassadors but kept being told they were in a meeting.

“There was drama right up to the last minute,” another U.N. diplomat said. That day, March 17, Clinton had just come out of a television studio in Tunis, epicenter of the first Arab democratic revolution, when she spoke to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on a secure cellphone. Lavrov, who had strongly opposed a no-fly zone when they met in Geneva on February 28 and remained skeptical when they talked again in Paris on March 14, told her Moscow would not block the resolution. The senior U.S. official denied that Washington had offered Russia trade and diplomatic benefits in return for acquiescence, as suggested by a senior non-American diplomat. However, Obama telephoned President Dimitry Medvedev the following week and reaffirmed his support for Russia’s bid to join the World Trade Organization, which U.S. ally Georgia is blocking.

China too abstained, allowing the resolution to pass with 10 votes in favor, five abstentions and none against. It authorized the use of “all necessary measures” – code for military action — to protect the civilian population but expressly ruled out a foreign occupation force in any part of Libya. The United States construes it to allow arms sales to the rebels. Most others do not.

Reuters reported exclusively on March 29 that Obama had signed a secret order authorizing covert U.S. government support for rebel forces. The White House and the Central Intelligence Agency declined comment. Clinton said no decision had been taken on whether to arm the rebels.

ARAB JITTERS, COLD TURKEY

No sooner had the first cruise missiles been fired than the Arab League’s Moussa complained that the Western powers had gone beyond the U.N. resolution and caused civilian casualties. His outburst appeared mainly aimed at assuaging Arab public opinion, particularly in Egypt, and he muted his criticism after telephone calls from Paris, London and Washington.

Turkey, the leading Muslim power in NATO with big economic interests in Libya, bitterly criticized the military action in an Islamic country. The Turks were exasperated to see France, the most vociferous adversary of its EU membership bid, leading the coalition. Sarkozy, who alternated on a brief maiden visit to Ankara on February 25 between trying to sell Turkish leaders French nuclear power plants and telling them bluntly to drop their EU ambitions, further angered Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan by failing to invite Turkey to the Paris conference on Libya.

Italy, the former colonial power which had Europe’s biggest trade and investment ties with Libya, had publicly opposed military action until the last minute, but opened its air bases to coalition forces as soon as the U.N. resolution passed. However, Rome quickly demanded that NATO, in which it had a seat at the decision-making table, should take over command of the whole operation. Foreign Minister Franco Frattini threatened to take back control of the vital Italian bases unless the mission was placed under NATO.

But Turkey and France were fighting diplomatic dogfights at NATO headquarters. Ankara wanted to use its NATO veto put the handcuffs on the coalition to stop offensive operations. France wanted to keep political leadership away from the U.S.-led military alliance to avoid a hostile reaction in the Arab world.

The United States signaled its determination to hand over operational command within days, not weeks, as Obama had promised, and wanted tried-and-trusted NATO at the wheel.

It took a week of wrangling before agreement was reached for NATO to take charge of the entire military campaign. In return, France won agreement to create a “contact group” including Arab and African partners, to coordinate political efforts on Libya’s future. Turkey was assuaged by being invited to a London international conference that launched that process.

That enabled the United States to lower its profile and Obama to declare that Washington would not act alone as the world’s policeman “wherever repression occurs”. While the president promised to scale back U.S. involvement to a “supporting role”, the military statistics tell a different tale. As of March 29, the United States had fired all but 7 of the 214 cruise missiles used in the conflict and flown 1,103 sorties compared to 669 for all other allies combined. It also dropped 455 of the first 600 bombs, according to the Pentagon.

For all the showcasing of Arab involvement, only six military aircraft from Qatar had arrived in theater by March 30. They joined French air patrols but did not fly combat missions, a military source said. Sarkozy announced that the United Arab Emirates would send 12 F16 fighters , but NATO and UAE officials refused to say when they would arrive. Britain’s Cameron spoke of unspecified logistical contributions from Kuwait and Jordan. The main Arab contribution is clearly political cover rather than military assets.

CASUALTY LIST

While the duration and the outcome of the war remain uncertain, some political casualties are already visible.

Unless the conflict ends in disaster, Germany and its chancellor and foreign minister – particularly the latter – are set to emerge as losers. “I can tell you there are people in London and Paris who are asking themselves whether this Germany is the kind of country we would like to have as a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council. That’s a legitimate question which wasn’t posed before,” a senior European diplomat told Reuters. German officials brush aside such talk, saying Berlin would have the backing of its western partners and needs support from developing and emerging countries more in tune with its abstention on the Libya resolution.

Merkel has moved quickly to try to limit the damage. She attended the Paris conference and went along with an EU summit statement on March 25 welcoming the U.N. resolution on which her own government had abstained a week earlier. She also offered NATO extra help in aerial surveillance in Afghanistan to free up Western resources for the Libya campaign.

A second conspicuous casualty has been the European Union’s attempt to build a common foreign, security and Defense policy, and the official meant to personify that ambition, High Representative Catherine Ashton. Many in Paris, London, Brussels and Washington have drawn the conclusion that European Defense is an illusion, given Germany’s visceral reticence about military action. Future serious operations are more likely to be left to NATO, or to coalitions of the willing around Britain and France. By general agreement, Ashton has so far had a bad war. Despite having been among the first European officials to embrace the Arab uprisings and urge the EU to engage with democracy movements in North Africa, she angered both the British and French by airing her doubts about a no-fly zone and the Germans by subsequently welcoming the U.N. resolution. Unable to please everyone, she managed to please no one.

As for Sarkozy, whether he emerges as a hero or a reckless adventurer may depend on events beyond his control in the sands of Libya. Justin Vaisse, a Frenchman who heads the Center for the Study of the United States and Europe at the Brookings Institution think-tank in Washington, detected an undertone of “Francophobia and Sarkophobia” among U.S. policy elites as the war began. “Either the war will go well, and he will look like a far-sighted, decisive leader, or it will go badly and reinforce the image of a showboating cowboy driving the world into war,” Vaisse said. The jury is still out.

(Additional reporting by Emmanuel Jarry in Paris, Arshad Mohammed, David Alexander and Mark Hosenball in Washington, David Brunnstrom in Brussels, Lou Charbonneau and Patrick Worsnip at the United Nations, Peter Apps in London, Andreas Rinke and Sabine Siebold in Berlin, Yasmine Saleh in Cairo, Simon Cameron-Moore in Istanbul and Maria Golovnina in Tripoli; writing by Paul Taylor; editing by Simon Robinson and Sara Ledwith)

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