With the regime’s resistance increasingly shattered by air strikes, Libyan rebels are on the offensive.
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … DOES LIBYA POINT THE WAY TO A NEW INTERNATIONAL CONVENTION?
** OBAMA TODAY – SUNDAY. President Barack Obama is in Washington.
Obama has received his daily intelligence and economic briefing and met with senior advisors in the Oval Office.
He has no scheduled public events.
Obama is preparing a major address Monday evening on America’s leading role in the international military intervention in Libya.
Today he dispatched Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Bob Gates to the Sunday chat shows, where they discussed the imminent threat that the Gaddafi regime had posed to civilians in Benghazi little more than a week ago after weeks of killing protesters and emphasized the multilateral nature of the intervention.
In Brussels, NATO military leaders reached agreement on plans to add the more expansive “all means necessary” to protect civilians portion of the United Nations resolution to the no-fly zone and naval blockade that NATO has already agreed to take on. But NATO ambassadors are still discussing the matter.
Meanwhile, alliance air strikes by French, British, and American forces have paved the way for Libyan rebels to regain the offensive against Gaddafi’s much better armed troops.
The recapture of Ajdabiya has been followed in close succession by the recapture of the strategic oil ports of Brega and Ras Lanuf. This removes much of the country’s oil export capacity from Gaddafi’s hands.
Now Libyan rebels are driving on Sirte, further down the coast toward Tripoli. Sirte is Gaddafi’s hometown.
But alliance air power has not yet broken Gaddafi’s siege of Misurata, the western Libyan city taken early on by protesters. Gates talked today, as he has in recent days, of the prospect of changing out some of the current air assets, replacing fast attack jets with “low and slow” propeller-driven aircraft which can linger over an area and deliver sustained firepower. These craft, of course, are also more prone to being shot down by shoulder-fired rockets.
To date, there have been no casualties sustained by alliance forces.
Clinton will now travel to London for a critically important meeting on Tuesday with European, North American, Arab, and African foreign ministers and other senior officials. The purpose of the meeting is to establish an international “contact group” to oversee the intervention in Libya.
This has fascinating new implications for geopolitics, and I’ll be writing about them.
Elsewhere in the Arab revolt, several more protesters were killed in Syria after demonstrations spread across the country on Friday. But the nation’s longtime president is signaling that he will lift a decades-long state of emergency and will address the nation tonight.
In Japan, government officials are acknowledging that a nuclear reactor core breech has almost certainly taken place. As usual, information is spotty and at times contradictory, but radiation levels have risen both within the stricken nuclear plant and around it, both on land and sea.
Late Saturday the government reported that radiation inside the facility had reached 10 million times normal. Now the government says that is false, that the worker who took that reading didn’t take a second to verify it. No kidding. But the government can’t say what the radiation level is.
It does acknowledge that it has hundred of millions of gallons of radioactive water on its hand inside the plant.
Japan’s nuclear power crisis has just had a big political impact in Germany, where Chancellor Angela Merkel — who had reversed a previous government’s plan to phase out nuclear power — had already executed a dramatic switch back by temporarily closing seven aging nuclear plants.
Today Merkel’s Christian Democrats lost the election in the state of Baden-Württemberg, one of its longtime strongholds. Conservatives had held power in the state since 1953.
Merkel’s coalition of Christian Democrats and Free Democrats was beaten by a coalition of Social Democrats and Greens.
In fact, there is a good chance that a Green will become the governor of Baden-Württemberg. This is no hippie enclave on the Pacific Coast. It’s an industrial powerhouse, home to Daimler and Porsche, a state of some 11 million people with its capital in Stuttgart.
** FROM THE JERRY FILES – SUNDAY. Governor Jerry Brown is in Northern California.
He has no scheduled public events as of this morning.
Brown continues working on the state’s chronic budget crisis and his nascent administration.
In his weekend video/radio address, President Barack Obama delivers a report on the new Libyan War.
** OBAMA TODAY – SATURDAY. President Barack Obama is in Washington.
Obama has received the daily intelligence and economic briefings and met with senior advisors in the Oval Office.
He has no scheduled public events.
Obama will deliver a major address on US involvement in the international military intervention in Libya on Monday. The address is scheduled for 4:30 PM Pacific from the National Defense University in at Fort McNair in Washington.
His speech will be netcast live here on New West Notes.
Needless to say, he’s prepping this weekend for the speech.
After returning from Latin America, Obama has spoken extensively with congressional leaders about his moves on Libya, and congressional leaders are increasingly supporting him after some early coverage was dominated by complaints by Dennis Kucinich and the like. (A nice man whom I’ve known for a long time, but …)
But very serious questions remain about how this plays out, and what implications it holds for the future.
After appearing on the Sunday chat shows with Defense Secretary Bob Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton goes to London for meetings on Tuesday with European, North American, Arab, and African leaders on the formation of an international “contact group” to oversee the intervention in Libya.
Fighter jets from Qatar have begun flying missions over Libya and more fighter jets are on their way from the United Arab Emirates.
NATO is still working out how to take over all of the mission from the US. It has already taken responsibility for the no-fly zone and the naval blockade. But the “all necessary means” portion of the UN resolution, intended to directly or indirectly protect civilians, gives alliance forces a hunting license to use against Gaddafi regime forces besieging or potentially besieging populated areas.
Canada’s Lieutenant General Charles Bouchard will be the NATO commander for the unified mission. But there is a catch, because, as you may know, NATO itself always has a US officer as its supreme military commander. That is U.S. Navy Admiral James Stavridis, who has been negotiating with Turkey, the stumbling block on the more expansive part of the mission, on how to go about this.
And General Bouchard will work out of the NATO command center in Naples, Italy, where he will be supervised by U.S. Navy Admiral Samuel Locklear, a long-ago associate of mine, who is the commander of NATO’s Allied Joint Force Command, as well as commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe and U.S. Naval Forces Africa.
Locklear is also the operational commander of what’s been happening so far. He has been directing Operation Odyssey Dawn from USS Mount Whitney in the Mediterranean. The Mount Whitney, named after the California peak that is the tallest mountain in the Lower 48 States — which many of us have climbed, as it’s really more of a very stiff hike to its 14,500 foot peak — is a highly sophisticated command and control ship that serves as the regular flagship of the Navy’s 6th Fleet.
While Locklear is the operation commander of the Libyan War effort, the overall commander is U.S. Army General Carter Ham. He is the commander of America’s Africa Command, the newest unified theater command in the Armed Forces. And Libya is technically in Africa. But Africa Command is more of an operational concept than a reality, with only 3600 personnel and a headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany.
Locklear’s Naples headquarters and command ship in the Med is far closer to the action, and he has most of the U.S. forces in play under his direct command, so he is the mission commander. Until the Canadian general takes over. But he will report to, yes, Locklear, who out-ranks him (four stars to three), supersedes him in the NATO command structure, and is in charge of the base that Bouchard will be working from.
I hope that’s clear enough.
Meanwhile, after intense air strikes Friday night and early Saturday morning against Gaddafi regime armor and artillery around Ajdabiya, Libyan rebels have recaptured the city. They then pressed forward to the strategic oil port of Brega and, according to several reports, have already recaptured it.
British, French, and American air strikes destroyed Gaddafi regime tanks and artillery and enabled Libyan rebels to recapture the key city of Ajdabiyah after a battle consuming all of Friday night into the dawn hours of Saturday.
While this plays out, massive protests have erupted in Syria, where that country’s anti-American leadership reacted by shooting up the crowds, killing a few dozen demonstrators.
Protests have cropped up again in Jordan, where two demonstrators were reportedly killed.
And they continue in Yemen, where an exit strategy is reportedly underway for that country’s longtime pro-American leader. But it hasn’t happened yet.
Then there is Japan. What to say about Japan? What an incredible, multi-layered set of disasters in one of the most advanced nations in the world.
The embattled Japanese government, elected as reformers only to see one prime minister forced to resign and another, current PM Naoto Kan, with an approval rating under 20% BEFORE the earthquake, is now blaming the power company for the endless problems and confusing messages in the ongoing nuclear power crisis.
Most believe that a reactor core breech has occurred, which accounts for high levels of radioactivity in the ocean near the plant.
U.S. officials have insisted that Japan start using fresh water rather than sea water — which is very corrosive — to try to cool the reactors. The Navy is sending barges carrying a half-million gallons of fresh water to the Fukushima area.
Many nations are now banning the importation of a variety of Japanese foods.
Radiation levels have spiked in the sea near Japan’s stricken Fukushima nuclear power plant.
On another somber note, former Congresswoman and Ambassador Geraldine Ferraro died today of cancer. Ferraro was a three-term congresswoman from New York when former Vice President Walter Mondale picked her as his running mate in 1984. The Mondale-Ferraro ticket, running against President Ronald Reagan on a platform of raising taxes, lost in a landslide.
Ferraro went on to lose two races for the U.S. Senate before President Bill Clinton appointed her as the U.S. Ambassador to the UN Human Rights Commission. She later appeared as a cable news commentator and co-host of CNN’s Crossfire, then in 2008, as a Hillary Clinton backer, insisted that Barack Obama would not be a serious presidential candidate if he were not black.
Ferraro was never my favorite politician, but she was a very articulate and spirited person and an important trailblazer and I was pleased to vote for her nomination for the vice presidency at the Democratic national convention in San Francisco.
Obama is also monitoring a host of other geopolitical crises, almost all of them related to the Arab revolt or AfPak and Iraq.
** CALIFORNIA’S PARTY OF NO TAKES CENTER STAGE, OR DOES IT? Between its strange state convention last weekend and the ongoing state budget impasse, California’s party of no has seemingly taken center stage in the not so Golden State. But is that really so? And is it a good thing for Republicans if it is?
Surely the spectacle of the Republicans’ state convention in Sacramento did nothing more than further cement the party’s reputation as an increasingly narrow club of ideologues. And during the week, most Republican legislators mirrored just that, though some continue to negotiate with Governor Jerry Brown. But it remains to be seen how serious they are, and if their ultimate goal is to shoot the moon and try to look good.
After nearly three months of talks, Brown has been asking Republicans for a “term sheet” of what it will take to close the deal. Finally, late on Friday, Republicans released it. What it is, is a Christmas wish list, filled with items unrelated to the budget crisis, including moving the state’s primary election. Of course, that list was put out by Republican leaders in the Legislature, not most of the legislators who’ve been negotiating with Brown. …
** FROM THE JERRY FILES – SATURDAY. Governor Jerry Brown is in Sacramento today.
As of this morning, he has no scheduled public events.
Negotiations on the chronic California budget crisis have both intensified and soured.
Republican legislators, challenged by Brown to present final negotiating points — what he calls a “term sheet” — have instead come up with a frankly preposterous list of 53 items, many of them having nothing to do with solutions to the chronic budget crisis.
Brown does not want to discuss in the media precisely what he thinks of this, for obvious reasons.
What do I think?
It may be a sign of bad faith.
It may be a signal/sop to the conservative base.
It may be irrelevant.
** OBAMA’S DIFFIDENT WAY OF WAR. Barack Obama has suddenly sidled his way into a third war in the Muslim world, his first on his own. How has he gone about it? Why Libya and not somewhere else? And how does it end?
How has Obama gone about it? In a remarkably diffident manner. Never before has an American president embarked on a war with such reserve. And I can’t recall one who went to war while on tour in an entirely different part of the world. …
The Arab revolt is in the post-romance phase, and had been heading into the bummer phase. That is to say, after the early phase in which we believe that revolutions are effected simply by virtue of people rising up through the magic of social media. … From my March 21st feature.
** IS LIBYA A TURNING POINT ON HUMANITARIAN INTERVENTIONISM? Longtime Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi’s bloodcurdling speech yesterday promising an imminent massacre of his opponents in rebel-held Benghazi may prove to be one of the classic political backfires. After he made it, the UN Security Council narrowly approved an unprecedented multilateral military intervention in Libya, what may turn out to be a landmark decision. … From my March 18th essay.
** ONE WORD: OBAMA’S NIGHTMARE SCENARIO, AND WHY IT HASN’T HAPPENED (YET). … From my March 15th essay.
** WILL JERRY BROWN PULL IT OFF? … From my March 7th essay.
** A WELCOME BLAST FROM THE NEW DOCTOR WHO. … From my February 28th essay..
** IF OBAMA LOSES, IT WON’T BE BECAUSE “IT’S THE ECONOMY, STUPID.” From my February 24th feature.
** FROM GOVERNATOR TO MOONBEAM. … From my January 3rd, 2011 feature.
** OBAMA: RIDING WITH HISTORY. (NOTE: As Barack Obama was inaugurated as the 44th president of the United States, this column was the featured column on the top of the front page of the Huffington Post.) … From my January 19th, 2009 Huffington Post column.
Former Congresswoman and Ambassador Geraldine Ferraro, the first woman nominated for vice president on a major party ticket, died today of cancer.
** 24/7 LIVE TV NEWS FEED FROM RUSSIA TODAY. Russia has re-emerged as one of the world’s great powers. Click here for a live TV news feed on your computer, bringing you English-language, jargon-free, fast-paced coverage of global and Russian news from the Russia Today channel. You probably already know about CNN International, BBC World, and Al Jazeera. Russia Today, which also features culture, entertainment, and sports, is based in Moscow and is owned and operated by the TV Novosti division of Russia’s state news agency, RIA Novosti. While it’s quite foolish to expect to see, say, criticism of Vladimir Putin on Russia Today, the channel is very interesting nonetheless. With U.S. cable news chattering away as it does, this sort of respite can be informative. The NWN live link to RT does not constitute an endorsement of the channel’s views. It’s presented as an otherwise unavailable new media window.
** 24/7 LIVE TV NEWS FEED FROM AL JAZEERA. With the US entangled in two wars in the region, it’s valuable to keep up with news and perspectives from the leading Middle Eastern-based TV news network. Based in the Gulf Arab state of Qatar, Al Jazeera is very influential and more than a bit controversial. Click here for a live TV news feed on your computer. The NWN live link to AJ does not constitute an endorsement of the channel’s views. It’s presented as an otherwise unavailable new media window.
** TRACK GLOBAL AND NATIONAL ENERGY PRICES IN NEAR REAL TIME VIA BLOOMBERG ENERGY MARKET WATCH. Having crashed over $147 for yet another record on July 11th, 2008, crude oil closed on Friday at $105.40 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Energy markets are closed on the weekend.
This is up about $71 from the low of $34 per barrel prior to enactment of the Obama economic recovery program, reflecting a low point in global economic activity.
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