FPI Overnight Brief: March 23, 2011

Yemen

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh on Tuesday threatened government opponents with civil war and appealed to them to begin a national dialogue in conflicting statements that did not stop calls for his immediate resignation. – Washington Post

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh clung to power by a thread Tuesday, after the country’s most powerful military commander defected to the opposition and scores of government officials, diplomats and other senior army figures resigned their posts. – Washington Post

If Saleh is overthrown, civil wars could erupt in both the north and south, the Saudis would be rattled and possibly intervene militarily, Iran would almost surely exploit the chaos and the U.S. would be dealt a major setback in containing Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, an entrenched terrorist affiliate. – Los Angeles Times

Yemen opposition groups called on protesters to march on President Ali Abdullah Saleh's Sanaa palace on Friday to demand he step down, hoping to end a crisis that his allies abroad fear will benefit Islamic militants. - Reuters

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh would be allowed to live a secure and dignified life in Yemen if he steps down peacefully after three decades in power, an opposition leader said on Tuesday. - Reuters

Egypt

The Egyptian Interior Ministry, long a symbol of heavy-handed repression, was set ablaze Tuesday during a protest by police officers demanding more pay and better working conditions from the military-run government. – Washington Post

An Egyptian committee set up to investigate violence during demonstrations that toppled Hosni Mubarak has laid charges against the former president and interior minister for intentional murder of protesters, a state newspaper said. - Reuters

Egypt's ruling military council will announce a constitutional decree within the next two days that will chart the path toward elections and civilian rule, a security source said on Tuesday. - Reuters
 

Syria

Protesters marched in the southern Syrian city of Dara on Tuesday, pressing their demands for political freedoms for a fifth day despite a security crackdown. – Los Angeles Times

Syrian forces killed at least six people on Wednesday in an attack on a mosque in the southern city of Deraa, site of unprecedented protests challenging President Bashar al-Assad's Baathist rule, residents said. - Reuters

In Damascus, as in the provinces, a barrier of fear which had blocked dissent is breaking down. Uprisings across the Arab world have not stopped at the door of one of its most hardline administrations. For the first time, placards other than those glorifying Syria's ruling elite and the "historic achievements" of the Baath Party are being raised in the towns of the strategic Hauran plain south of Damascus. A single word is etched on them -- "Freedom." - Reuters

Syrian authorities on Tuesday arrested a leading campaigner for southern protesters demanding freedom and an end to corruption, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. - Reuters

Editorial: The U.S. national interest in this season of Arab uprisings is to have anti-American regimes fall while helping pro-American regimes to reform in a more liberal (in the 19th-century meaning of that word) direction. Rather than waste effort wooing Assad, the U.S. should support his domestic opponents at every opportunity. A weaker Syria might cause less trouble in Lebanon through its proxy, Hezbollah, and be less able to spread weapons and terror throughout the Mideast. Even bloody-minded authoritarians are less sturdy than they look to Westerners who mistake fear and order for consent – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

Saudi Arabia

Saudi authorities arrested 100 Shi'ite protesters during demonstrations in the east of the country last week, a Saudi human rights group said on Wednesday. Hundreds attended protests in and around the region's main Shi'ite center, Qatif, calling for the release of prisoners and withdrawal of Saudi forces from Bahrain. - Reuters

Middle East

After suppressing an uprising that threatened to topple its monarchy, Bahrain appeared to be returning to its time-tested formula for stifling dissent from its Shiite majority and rallying support from international partners. The strategy, which in part relies on raising the specter that Iran is manipulating events to expand its reach in the region, could backfire, analysts and opposition politicians say. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

Iran

China called for dialogue to resolve the international standoff over Iran's nuclear program, reiterating its long-held position that Tehran is entitled to the peaceful use of nuclear energy, state news agency Xinhua reported on Wednesday. - Reuters
 

Israel

Five weeks after Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad dissolved his Cabinet, saying he needed to better prepare for upcoming elections and eventual statehood, he has yet to form a new government. – Babylon and Beyond

Palestinian rockets struck two cities deep in Israel on Wednesday, wounding a resident and prompting a deputy to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to call for a new offensive against the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. - Reuters

Israel's parliament passed a measure on Tuesday enabling the denial of state funding to institutions that question the country's existence as a Jewish state, in a move criticized as targeting an Arab minority. - Reuters

Afghanistan

Mazar-i-Sharif is one of seven areas that will be the first to be transferred to full Afghan control, President Hamid Karzai said Tuesday in a speech in Kabul. Mr. Karzai said that by mid-July Afghans would begin taking over from the NATO-led coalition in all of Panjshir and Bamian Provinces and in several cities: here in Mazar-i-Sharif; Herat in the west; Lashkar Gah, capital of Helmand Province in the south; and Mehtarlam, capital of Laghman Province in the east. – New York Times

But after Taliban militants and their sympathizers began to attack the supply convoys, NATO planners began to cast about for more reliable alternatives. These days they are increasingly focusing their efforts on a web of routes reaching from ports on the Baltic and Black seas to the Central Asian republics that border Afghanistan. Together these routes are known as the Northern Distribution Network (or “NDN” for short). – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

Lakhdar Brahimi and Thomas Pickering write: The stalemate can be resolved only with a negotiated political settlement involving President Hamid Karzai’s government and its allies, the Taliban and its supporters in Pakistan, and other regional and international parties. The United States has been holding back from direct negotiations, hoping the ground war will shift decisively in its favor. But we believe the best moment to start the process toward reconciliation is now, while force levels are near their peak. – New York Times

Paul Miller writes: Nation building in Afghanistan is the only pragmatic policy option that will secure the full range of our interests in South Asia and yield an actual end-point to the war, which is why Petraeus is right to be alarmed about the funding levels for our civilians. – Shadow Government

Pakistan

Political tensions over the case of a CIA contractor that have dogged U.S.-Pakistani relations for weeks appeared to ease Tuesday as President Asif Ali Zardari gave a speech suggesting he was ready to move on and opposition lawmakers toned down a planned protest. – Washington Post

Japan

Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Tuesday that external power had been reconnected to all six reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear-power complex, as Japanese authorities made modest gains in containing the crisis at the stricken plant that has become a focus of international concern. – Wall Street Journal

The Japanese government on Wednesday estimated the direct damage from a deadly earthquake and tsunami that struck the country's northeast this month at 16-25 trillion yen ($185-308 billion), making it the world's costliest natural disaster. - Reuters

China

China has missed the deadline to comply with a World Trade Organization ruling to loosen state controls on foreign media, the U.S. trade representative said, delaying wider U.S. access to its fast growing market for films, music, books and other entertainment. – Los Angeles Times

Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan's President Roza Otunbaeva is confident the country's ruling coalition will survive, despite growing speculation that it is on the verge of collapse. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

Russia

Moscow city authorities today officially approved a planned rally by a group of human rights and opposition activists in support of freedom of assembly, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

Ukraine

The former president of Ukraine whose political skulduggery helped precipitate that country’s democratic Orange Revolution seven years ago was officially named on Tuesday as a suspect in the killing of a prominent investigative journalist. – New York Times

Belarus

Belarus's central bank on Tuesday halted the sale of foreign currency to the country's banks, the latest sign of increasing financial pressure on authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenko. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

Libya

Four days of allied strikes have battered Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi’s air force and largely destroyed his long-range air defense systems, a top U.S. commander said Tuesday. But there was little evidence that the attacks had stopped regime forces from killing civilians or shifted the balance of power in favor of the rebels. – Washington Post

President Obama worked on Tuesday to bridge differences among allies about how to manage the military campaign in Libya, as airstrikes continued to rock Tripoli. Forces loyal to Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, however, showed no sign of ending their sieges of rebel-held cities. – New York Times

The multinational coalition attacking Libya with airstrikes Tuesday night hit the nation's capital, Tripoli, and its surroundings for the fourth time in the last several days. – Los Angeles Times

For now, though, the fighting here has reached an uneasy stalemate, with Kadafi's forces retaining just enough firepower to beat back sporadic rebel attacks. The ragtag rebel units seemed content to wait — until the government troops ran out of supplies or allied airstrikes destroyed their weapons advantage. – Los Angeles Times

As allied strikes continued Tuesday against Col. Moammar Gadhafi's government, the wavering commitment to the campaign by several Western-leaning Arab states has further muddied international resolve. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

Four days into foreign strikes against Col. Moammar Gadhafi's military, some residents of Libya's largest city expressed fear and a weary exasperation, with some venturing to say their leader must go. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

With control of the broadcast media and the streets of Tripoli, the capital, Kadafi loyalists have for weeks intimidated their opponents, allowing only a message of almost giddy support for the leader to fill the public space. Even news of Japan's earthquake and tsunami was ignored. But since the start of the Western-led bombing campaign against Libya's armed forces, the edifice of control has begun to crack – Los Angeles Times

[T]he different designations by the U.S., Britain and France, respectively, are also emblematic of the fact that, after days of joint airstrikes, the coalition trying to keep Libyan dictator Moammar Kadafi in check still can't agree on who should take united command of a military campaign with no clear end in sight. – Los Angeles Times

An American pilot and a weapons officer were safely rescued in Libya on Tuesday after their warplane crashed near Benghazi, but the United States Marine Corps dropped two 500-pound bombs during the recovery and faced questions about whether Marines had fired on villagers. – New York Times

China escalated its opposition to American-led airstrikes on Libya on Tuesday, joining Russia and India in calls for an immediate cease-fire and suggesting that coalition forces were imperiling civilians by exceeding the United Nations-mandated no-fly zone. – New York Times

President Barack Obama acknowledged Tuesday that the joint military operation under way in Libya to protect civilians could continue as long Col. Muammar Qadhafi remains in control in Tripoli, but the president also insisted that the U.S. contribution to keep the Libyan dictator’s regime in check would be limited. - Politico

Senior U.S. defense officials said Tuesday the number of coalition strikes in Libya will fall as more of the regime’s air defenses are destroyed. U.S. officials also said the number of U.S. combat flights would continue to decline as more nations’ aircraft — including those of critical Arab allies — join the fight. – The Hill
 
The White House strongly denied Tuesday that regime change is part of its mission in Libya, despite a statement earlier in the day that characterized the goal there as “installing a democratic system.” – The Hill

U.S. and coalition forces intend to accelerate attacks on ground forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi in the “coming hours and days,” the top U.S. on-scene commander said Tuesday, amid growing congressional doubt about the strategy and goals of an American-led international mission. – Associated Press

Josh Rogin reports: President Barack Obama spoke on Monday evening with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the two agreed that NATO should have a command and control role in the Libya war, according to a White House read out of the phone call. But today in Brussels, the French government said it doesn't agree. – The Cable

Josh Rogin reports: Following two days of intensive discussions in Brussels, NATO has agreed to support -- but not command -- operations in Libya. Meanwhile, France has proposed a high-level international "political steering committee" to actually run the war. But does the Obama administration support that idea? – The Cable

Fouad Ajami writes: For the Libyans, there is a thin line between catastrophe and deliverance. They have given it all, and now their liberty depends on whether the democracies believe that it is worth their while to give the cause of freedom a boost—to provide evidence that justice in the affairs of nations, though it has tarried, is not yet dead. – Wall Street Journal

Kori Schake writes: The U.S. military and political objectives are so far out of alignment that military efforts will need to be expanded or political goals ratcheted down to get to a pragmatic plan for Libya. – NYT Room for Debate
 

Sub-Saharan Africa

The U.N. peacekeeping mission to Ivory Coast said Laurent Gbagbo's forces were readying an attack helicopter and multiple rocket launchers on Tuesday and condemned the growing use of heavy weapons against civilians. - Reuters

The Ugandan government has engaged in torture, illegal detention and extrajudicial killings of its citizens, according to a report released on Wednesday. – New York Times

United States of America

When President Obama proposed his 2012 budget, congressional Republicans were quick to criticize the spending increases included, even as they were busy hunting for cuts in 2011. But when the president ordered the U.S. military to intervene in Libya’s civil war, a decision that could end up costing billions, the congressional leadership from both parties had little to say about the expense, preferring to let Obama make the decisions. – National Journal

President Obama has long trumpeted a desire to see lawmakers from both sides come together in bipartisan fashion, and now they have: to criticize his taking military action in Libya without formally consulting Congress. – The Hill

Americans are divided in their views of how President Barack Obama is handling the crisis in Libya, two polls conducted since a coalition of international forces began attacking the country late last week suggest. - Politico

The 2012 Republican field is finally trying to make President Barack Obama pay a political price for America's intervention in Libya. - Politico

One of the most liberal members of the House plans to introduce an amendment to the next federal budget bill barring funding for military involvement in Libya. – The Hill

Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) said on Tuesday that the civil war in Libya was like the onset of the Holocaust and the Rwandan genocide in that it demanded action from the forces of good. – The Hill

The third-ranking Republican in the House criticized President Obama’s handling of Libya on Tuesday, saying the president has not been clear on the goals of the U.S. military mission and that he waited too long to intervene. – The Hill

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) called on President Obama to specify the cost of U.S. involvement in a multinational effort to enforce a United Nations no-fly resolution in Libya. – The Hill
 

South America

Making his first visit to Central America, President Obama brought promises of crime-fighting money and a vow to push the U.S. Congress to pass an immigration bill to aid El Salvador, a once war-torn country that has emerged as a stable democracy and a friendly ally. – Washington Times

Venezuela

Capitalism may be to blame for the lack of life on the planet Mars, Venezuela's socialist President Hugo Chavez said on Tuesday. - Reuters

Defense

Four branches of the military have begun sending training material to 2.2 million active and reserve troops as a prelude to opening the ranks to gays, with instructions on, for example, what to do if an officer sees two male Marines kissing in a shopping mall. – Washington Times

The Obama administration’s military campaign in Libya is unlikely to significantly change the debates over cutting federal spending and the Pentagon’s budget, according to an array of defense analysts. – The Hill

Customers for Lockheed-Martin’s stealthy F-35 Joint Strike Fighter—among them Canada, Israel, Britain and Australia—are shifting their mood from anxiety to paranoia over increasingly unpredictable costs. – Aviation Week

One aircraft conspicuous by its absence over the skies of Libya is the U.S. Air Force's vaunted F-22 Raptor air dominance fighter. The Lockheed Martin-built jet was likely benched due to its inability to communicate with other coalition aircraft and its limited ability to hit ground targets, analysts said. – Defense News

A string of procurement choices by the Pentagon­—including an American KC-X platform, a stunted buy of Italian airlifters and a defunct Italian Marine One airframe­—exemplify how difficult it can be for foreign designs to earn the right to fly in U.S. livery. – Aviation Week

Missile Defense

Though early work on the first two land-based “Aegis Ashore” missile defense sites was sole-sourced to Lockheed Martin, U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) Director Army Lt. Gen. Patrick O’Reilly says that the prime contractor on a third site will be selected through a competition. – Aviation Week

The War

The United States is spending millions of dollars to help hospitals reduce the potential for terrorists to acquire sufficient amounts of medical isotopes to build a radiological "dirty bomb," Newsday reported on Monday – National Journal

Obama Administration

Obama administration officials declined to answer questions Tuesday about whether they would need to ask Congress for more money to fund the military efforts in Libya, according to a congressional aide who attended a briefing at the Capitol. – Wall Street Journal

White House officials told Democratic and Republican congressional aides Tuesday that the U.S. is not at war with Libya and, without laying out a timeline, that the president hopes to hand over control of coalition military operations in the next few days. - Politico

The Obama administration scrambled to define the U.S. mission in Libya on Tuesday amid congressional criticism that it has not clearly explained its endgame for the war-torn country. – The Hill

Kori Schake writes: This is what comes from a lack of leadership by the United States. The medium powers squabble, and we do most of the work. Building a coalition requires a much more solid understanding of objectives, roles and responsibilities than President Obama launched this war having. The time of American leverage to work out these details was before we undertook the work France wanted to take credit for us doing and the Arab League was willing to support. Unfortunately, at that time the Obama administration remained opposed to the military operations they are now engaged in. – Shadow Government

Ideas

Dan Blumenthal writes: What the new declinists miss is that while the United States is not as far ahead of India and China in material strength as it used to be, the vision of world order it shares with its NATO allies provides it with a moral strength and legitimacy impossible to measure. The new declinists point to the ways in which the “Rest” can make life marginally more difficult for the West. But while the “Rest” may carp from the sidelines and gum up the works on international trade and financial agreements, when it comes to upholding international order, Delhi and Beijing will take a pass. We may be tiring of it, but the Unipolar Era is alive and well – The American

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The Foreign Policy Initiative seeks to promote an active U.S. foreign policy committed to robust support for democratic allies, human rights, a strong American military equipped to meet the challenges of the 21st century, and strengthening America’s global economic competitiveness.
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