| Updates from North Africa, and the Middle East |
Resistance News - 30.03.2011 02:07
This weeks update from From resistance news about the uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East.
Resistance News is Amsterdam's weekly news show on Radio Patapoe FM 88.3.
Every Sunday at 18:00 we broadcast with updates from North Africa, the Middle East and other struggles from around the world. When possible we make interviews with people and groups fighting state and capital.
The media has been full of stories about the developing civil war in Libya, the reporting of which has overshadowed that of all other uprisings still taking place in the region.
The United Nations Security Council last week passed a resolution to impose a no-fly zone over Libya and take any military action necessary to stop the killing of rebels by the Gadaffi regime. French air-raids against Gaddafi's troops began on 19th March and have continued since then with air- and missile-attacks against Libyan army and navy targets. US warships and submarines have fired more than a 100 lethal Tomahawk cruise missiles on Tripoli, killing around 50 people.
It has been speculated that the hurry to impose the UN resolution was in order to ensure the cities of Brega and Ras Lanuf, key oil townships, did not fall back in the hands of Gadaffi. Several websites giving analyses of the situation note that Gaddafi will only survive in the long-term if he regains control of most of Libya’s petroleum industry, consisting of oil and gas fields, coastal processing plants, refineries and export terminals. Most of this infrastructure is located in the east and southeast of the country, which is unsurprisingly where UN-backed rebels are now in charge.
Libya is extremely important geo-strategically and economically, as it is situated on the southern border of Europe and it supplies large volumes of oil to many European and Asian countries. Secret diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks provide insight into the reality behind the so-called ‘noble’ intervention of the United Nations. A cable sent from the US embassy in Tripoli to the US State Department in August 2008 said 'Libya’s economy is almost entirely dependent on oil and gas. Libya has the largest proven oil reserves and the third largest proven natural gas reserves on the African continent. Libya currently produces about 1.7 million barrels per day of oil; only Angola and Nigeria produce more in Africa…'
Royal Dutch Shell was one of the first western oil companies to re-enter Libya following the ending of United Nations sanctions seven years ago. A deal was signed by Shell in March 2004 establishing a "long-term strategic partnership" between the oil company and the local state-owned energy group. In January 2005 Libya's first offer of exploration licences in 40 years mainly benefited US oil companies, prompting complaints from European firms. Later, in October that year, Asian and European oil firms won most of the contracts at Libya's second open licence auction. Japanese, Italian and British companies were particularly successful, but only one US firm, Exxon Mobil, gained a contract.
In more recent years China’s National Petroleum Corporation has been expanding their foothold in Libyan oil, whilst just four months ago, in November 2010, Germany’s oil company, R.W. DIAE, signed an agreement with Libya’s National Oil Corporation involving exploration and production sharing. Conversely, US-based Chevron and Occidental Petroleum decided less than 6 months ago not to renew their contracts in the country, and Gadaffi had recently threatened to scrap all contracts with western firms and give them instead to China's CNPC and India's Reliance Petroleum. In light of this, it is interesting that Russia, China, India, Brazil and Germany abstained from voting on the UN resolution tabled by France. Russia and China have condemned western attacks on Libya, and neither Germany nor Italy have broken relations with the regime.
In analysis and debate around the Libyan civil war, French and Italian sales of military equipment to Gaddafi’s armed forces and wide western participation in the Libyan arms fair that took place just four months ago are cited alongside the complete lack of western support for Arab protesters in Bahrain or Yemen, as clear evidence of the economic interest driving the west's approach. Whilst western-backed rebel forces are fighting Gadaffi's regime in Libya, the Bahraini monarchy's violent repression of dissent is receiving direct military support from Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Qatar, all of whose armed forces are supported by the same western countries that are targeting Libya's regime for repressive action against protesters.
Excerpt from a Statement by a Libyan anarchist – posted on Anarkismo a few hours before the UN resolution was passed
In a few hours, the UN Security Council will decide to start air strikes against Libya. France has said that it is ready to start the bombardment from tonight. We condemn this international resolution. And we totally reject any foreign intervention in Libya, whatever shape it may take. France, that sold Qaddafi weapons worth billions, weapons that he is using today to blow up Libyans, the same France that didn't stop such deals until 3 weeks ago.
We condemn this intervention that will transform Libya into a real hell, even more than now. That intervention will also steal the revolution from the Libyans, a revolution that has cost them thousands of dead women and men so far. An intervention that will also divide the Libyan resistance.
And even if these operations do succeed and Qaddafi falls, it will mean that we were liberated by Americans and French, and I can assure you that they will keep reminding us of that every minute. How we can stand this later? How we can explain all these casualities to the coming generations, all those dead bodies that will be everywhere? To be liberated from Qaddafi just to become slaves to those who armed him and empowered him during all those years of authoritarian violence and repression.
After the first mistake - the militarization of the popular revolution - here we are committing our second mistake - the establishment of a new leadership of figures arising out of the remnants of the current Libyan regime. And our third mistake is coming inevitably, which will be to ask for help from our enemies. I only hope we will not reach the fourth one: that is, occupation and the arrival of the marines.
What can be said while waiting for the bombs? Because bombs will not differentiate between those who are pro-Qaddafi and who are against him. Colonialist bombs have only one objective: to defend the interests of arms traders. They sold Qaddafi arms worth billions and then we ask them to destroy them now... Then we will buy new arms through the new government - it is an old, well-known story. But there are people who cannot learn except through committing old mistakes, made long before.
I call today, and now, on all Libyans, to reject this military intervention by the US, France and Britain, and the Arab regimes that they support. At the same time, I call on all the peoples to support us, the Egyptians, Tunisians, French, even Chinese, all the peoples of the world, we welcome their support and sympathy. But as for governments, whatever government, we will not ask anything from them, but to leave us alone, to let us finish the problem of Qaddafi by ourselves.
An Egyptian draft law imposing prison sentences for strike action has been approved by Egypt's new military-backed government, who said that workers strikes were damaging the economy. The law will be valid for as long as Egypt's state of emergency is in force. The government has said the law is not meant to outlaw peaceful demonstrations, but is meant to stop any "counter-revolution" from hijacking Egypt's revolution and to put an end to the disruption of the country's economy. Egypt's Justice Minister said that "Some of those who suffered from the collapse of the previous regime are now benefiting from spreading chaos." The draft law will give security forces sweeping powers of arrest and carries penalties of up to three years in prison.
Also this week, more than 2,500 people gathered in three separate demonstrations across Cairo on Friday 25th March to demand more political reform. 1000 protesters gathered in Tahrir square calling for Mubarak and other former government figures be put on trial, and calling for the release of political prisoners. In a separate protest 1,000 Coptic Christians demanded the release of protesters they said were detained during a previous demonstration. In a third parallel protest, 500 people gathered in front of Egypt's state television and radio building, demanding that employees hired under Mubarak quit for incorrect and misleading coverage of anti-Mubarak protests.
Various groups have stepped up protests in recent weeks, encouraged by successes in Egypt and Tunisia. Tens of thousands gathered in cities across the kingdom of Morocco on Sunday 20th March in one of the largest anti-government protests in decades. Moroccan police clashed with teachers demonstrating for better benefits in the capital Rabat on Thursday, seriously injuring several people. King Mohammed VI promised "comprehensive constitutional reform" in response to nationwide protests in February but unrest has continued.
In the capital Amman, one person was killed and more than 100 wounded when pro-government demonstrators attacked a weekly pro-reform vigil in the Jordanian capital. The clashes were broken up by riot police. This was the first violence of its kind in Jordan in more than two months of protests during which the king has sacked his cabinet and pledged reforms.
Police flooded the streets of the Saudi capital Riyadh on Friday March 11th to deter a planned day of demonstrations. However, more than 200 protesters rallied in the city of Hofuf, close to the eastern Ghawar oil field and major refinery installations. The protests are reported as being organised by minority Shi'ites complaining of discrimination at the hands of the country's dominant Sunni majority, although there is some skepticism of the framing of demonstrations in several Arab countries as sectarian, with suspicions that this is part of a divide-and-rule media strategy.
Protesters pressed for political and labour demands on Tuesday March 15th across the Gulf state of Oman, during which several hundred workers at the state oil firm, Petroleum Development Oman (PDO), organised protests at the company's headquarters and at two oil and gas fields, reportedly demanding higher wages.
On Wednesday around 150 people defied a government ban on protests, taking to the streets of the capital Damascus demanding the release of political prisoners. 35 people were arrested. Two days later, thousands of people attended the "day of rage" rallies that took place in the four main cities of Damascus, Homs, Banyas, and Deraa where at least ten demonstrators were killed. Thousands of people attended their funerals the following day and in response to the killings protesters set fire to government buildings, burning down offices of the Baath party in the southern town of Tafas and coastal town of Latakia.
In response to the increasing unrest, Syrian leaders have promised to introduce reforms and to consider lifting the country's state of emergency that has been in place since 1963. The government also said that it would put on trial those suspected of killing protesters in Deraa. The president later ordered the release of everyone arrested during the recent demonstrations.
52 people were killed and 270 injured by rooftop snipers on Friday 18th March when protesters were fired at in the capital Sanaa. President Saleh responded to the demonstrations by declaring a state of emergency for 30 days that restricts freedom of movement and the right to gather and gives police greater powers of arrest. Several ministers and ambassadors resigned after the shootings and Saleh then announced that he was sacking the entire cabinet. After six weeks of protests, President Saleh finally said that he is willing to step down this year, but protesters are continuing to demand that he leave immediately.
Protests broke out in Bahrain's capital Manama for a "Day of Rage" on Friday despite a ban on demonstrations under martial law imposed last week. The protests were quickly crushed by security forces. Riot police fired tear gas at demonstrators in the suburb of Duraz, and in the village of al-Dair, police again used tear gas to disperse around 100 protesters who had marched toward a main road beside a runway at Bahrain International Airport.
A multi-national armed force made up of over 1000 soldiers from Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Qatar has been sent to Bahrain at the request of the Bahraini King. The Peninsula Shield Force is providing military support for the Bahraini monarchy, who recently declared that ‘the behaviour of the protesters would be punished’ and implemented a three-month state of emergency. This is in addition to a 1975 security law that already allows the government to detain anyone who it considers to be a threat for up to three years.
Bahrain is a strategically important US and Saudi Arabian ally. The tiny island in the Persian Gulf is connected by a single road to Saudi Arabia, and is home to the U.S. Fifth Fleet that is positioned there to guard shipping lanes that carry around 40 percent of the world’s tanker-borne oil.