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Morocco Crisis Update

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altAn eighth session of UN-led informal negotiations between Morocco and the Polisario Front on the Western Sahara ended in failure Thursday, July 21st, 2011 in a New York City suburb. “Each party continued to reject the proposal of the other as the sole basis for future negotiations,” said Christopher Ross, the UN envoy to the region. The next informal meeting will take place after the UN General Assembly in September 2011.

The UN Security Council adopted a resolution in late April for a one-year UN mission mandate in Western Sahara (Minurso) that will last until April 2012 and calls on Morocco and the Polisario to increase their negotiations. Rabat is proposing significant autonomy for Western Sahara with a local government and a sovereign parliament. The Polisario Front, supported by Algeria, rejects the Moroccan plan and claims the people of Western Sahara have a right to self-determination through a referendum.

In actuality, the MINURSO counts with 227 total uniformed personnel, including 27 troops, 4 police officers, and 196 military observers. As well, their authorized personnel include 98 international civilian personnel, 162 local civilian staff, and 18 United Nations Volunteers. Among the countries that contribute military personnel are: Argentina, Austria, Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Croatia, Djibouti, Egypt, El Salvador, France, Ghana, Greece, Honduras, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Jordan, Malaysia, Mongolia, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Paraguay, Republic of Korea, Sri Lanka, Uruguay, and Yemen, among others. The Police officers come from Egypt, El Salvador, and Jordan.


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By Jatnna Garcia, CDRI Intern

Actualizacion de la Crisis en Marruecos

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altUn octavo período de sesiones encabezado por la ONU de las negociaciones informales entre Marruecos y el Frente Polisario sobre el Sáhara Occidental terminó en fracaso el Jueves, 21 de julio del 2011 en un suburbio de la ciudad de Nueva York. "Cada parte siguió rechazando la propuesta de la otra como la única base para futuras negociaciones", dijo Christopher Ross, el enviado de la ONU a la región. La próxima reunión informal tendrá lugar después de la Asamblea General de la ONU en septiembre del 2011.

El Consejo de Seguridad adoptó una resolución a finales de abril para un mandato de la misión de un año de la ONU en el Sáhara Occidental (MINURSO), que se prolongará hasta abril del 2012 y pide a Marruecos y el Frente aumentar sus negociaciones. Rabat propone una autonomía significativa para el Sáhara Occidental, con un gobierno local y un parlamento soberano. El Frente Polisario, apoyado por Argelia, rechaza el plan de Marruecos y reclama que el pueblo del Sáhara Occidental tiene derecho a la autodeterminación mediante un referéndum.

En la actualidad, la MINURSO tiene un personal uniformado de 227 personas, incluyendo 27 tropas, 4 oficiales de la policía, y 196 observadores militares. También, su personal autorizado cuenta con 98 civiles internacionales, 162 civiles locales, y 18 voluntarios de las Naciones Unidas. Entre los países contribuidores del personal militar se encuentran: Argentina, Austria, Bangladesh, Brasil, China, Egipto, El Salvador, Francia, Ghana, Grecia, Guinea, Honduras, Irlanda, Italia, Malasia, Mongolia, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistán, Paraguay, Polonia, Federación Rusa, Sri Lanka, Uruguay, y Yemen, entre otros. Los oficiales de la policía vienen de Egipto, El Salvador, y Jordania.


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Por Jatnna Garcia, pasante del CDRI

Crisis in Syria Escalating

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July 30


altNow in their fifth month of protest, Syrian citizens remain determined to topple President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. The government has passed several reforms demanded by the Syrian people but has still failed to appease protestors who continue to voice their dissatisfaction throughout the nation. Over the past few days, however, pro-Assad security forces have crack-downed on dissidents from Damascus and other areas such as Barzeh and Hasrata. On Wednesday morning, Syrian soldiers killed an estimated 20 people and arrested 300 more in Damascus alone. The government’s newfound commitment towards quelling resistance comes on the wake of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and appears to be a desperate attempt to discourage further protests.


Despite the recent repression, Syrian protesters are optimistic that the end of al-Assad’s rule is near. Protest leaders were encouraged by the West’s recently announced recognition of the Libyan rebel government in Istanbul and met this week in the Turkish metropolis as well. Also this week, Israeli President Shimon Peres called on al-Assad to step down which confirmed to Syrian protestors that they indeed have supporters in the region. Protest leaders have expressed frustration, however, with the West’s unwillingness to intervene directly on behalf of protestors in Syria. The Obama administration and several other NATO countries have denounced al-Assad but due to the ongoing operation in Libya, it remains unlikely that the West will get involved militarily. Since March, over 1,500 people have been killed in Syria, making it the second bloodiest Arab Spring uprising next to Libya.







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Middle East: The Crisis in Libya

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Origins of the Crisis alt

In 1969, Muammar Gadhafi and a group of army officers staged a coup d’état against King Idris I. The new regime promptly abolished the monarchy and declared Libya a republic. Gadhafi soon emerged as the leader of the new republic, which has come to be known as the Jamahiriya, or “the state of the masses.” Under the Jamahiriya, the creation of political parties is forbidden, as the expression of any political ideology that deviates from the current regime’s is deemed treasonous. As a result, Gadhafi has been able to stay in power for over 40 years and has established himself as one of the longest serving leaders in history. However, Gadhafi’s rule has been directly challenged by a popular uprising that began earlier this year.

The uprising began in January when Libyans in various cities such as Benghazi, Bani Walid, and Darnah protested out of frustration towards long delays in the building of government housing for poor families. Many Libyans also complained of a lack of basic services and widespread political corruption that has plagued the nation for years. In February, protests intensified after the arrest of human rights activist Fethi Tarbel. Protestors originally demanded that Tarbel be released, a request that was actually granted by the Libyan government just a few days later. Nevertheless, protests soon converted into anti-government demonstrations as Libyans drew inspiration from successful popular regional movements in Tunisia and Egypt, demanding a regime change and insisting on Gadhafi’s departure.

After police and security forces attempted to violently suppress these protests throughout the nation, opposition leaders called for a “Day of Rage” on February 17 and asked all Libyans opposed to Gadhafi to join in protest. Protests on this day were also met with violence as Gadhafi’s security forces and mercenaries opened fire on crowds in Benghazi, Darnah, Al Bayda, and Az Zintan. The violence used against protestors sparked outrage amongst Libyan citizens and led to the formation of rebel groups, effectively turning the conflict into a full-fledged civil war.

Internal Actors

The Libyan National Council: The National Council is the opposition’s newly established government. Officially formed on March 5, the council has vowed to liberate Libya from Muammar Gadhafi. The opposition militia is composed of teachers, students, merchants, and other volunteers, as well as soldiers from the Libyan Army who have defected.

The Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya: The Gadhafi led government is clinging on to power, deploying loyalist armed forces in hopes of bringing an end to the rebellion.

External Actors

The UN: Unsurprisingly, the United Nations has condemned the violence in Libya and has demanded an immediate ceasefire. The UN Security Council has stressed that its primary objective is to protect Libyan civilians and have thus approved airstrikes against Libyan military targets. The UN Security Council also voted to impose a no-fly zone in March, meaning that all flights over the country’s airspace have been banned. In addition, the UN has authorized the freezing of Ghaddafi’s and other Libyan authorities’ assets. An arms embargo has also been mandated by the UN and is currently being enforced by NATO.

NATO: Since joining the conflict, NATO has pledged to enforce the UN mandate to protect Libyan civilians. Despite contest from Turkey and Germany, NATO officially took command of military operations in Libya on March 31. Member nations of NATO such as the United States, Great Britain, and France have launched airstrikes on pro-Gadhafi forces and air defenses, thereby effectively enforcing a no-fly zone. NATO has recently announced that it has sufficient resources to carry out its mission in Libya, which seems to suggest that the coalition will not cease operations until Gadhafi is ousted.

The Arab League: The Arab League endorsed the UN authorized no-fly zone, but later condemned the bombing campaign against pro-Gadhafi forces. The Arab League has also recently spoken out against France’s decision to airdrop arms to rebel fighters. However, the Arab League could play an important mediating role should the two sides seek a ceasefire agreement.


Current Situationalt
Following the capture of a few key cities, the rebels have remained locked in a stalemate with pro-Gadhafi forces for quite some time now. However, the opposition remains optimistic and determined to win the war. In fact, Libyan rebel diplomat Ibrahim Dabbashi asserted earlier this week that he believes Gadhafi will be gone by the middle of this month. The rebels seem to be encouraged by recent airdrops from the West, including a shipment of supplies and arms from France. This airdrop has caused controversy, however, as it violates the UN mandated arms embargo. While airdrops such as these undoubtedly aid the opposition’s efforts, many fear that supplying the rebels with arms could promote terrorism and regional conflict following the civil war.

Despite international intervention and numerous defections, Gadhafi remains defiant, vowing to fight to the death. The embattled leader is running out of options and may indeed have no other choice but to stay and fight, as it appears unlikely that any other nation will grant him political asylum at this point. The UN and NATO want Gadhafi out of the picture and a quick resolution to the conflict so as to avoid further casualties and stop the flow of refugees exiting Libya (over 70,000 refugees have already left the country).


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Searching for a Plan for Libya

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altWhile NATO continued its bombing campaign in Libya, the United States and 30 other nations met on Friday, July 15 in Istanbul where they outlined plans for a post-Ghadafi transitional Libyan government. The conference focused its discussion on the establishment of a national congress and an interim government following an end to the conflict. Most importantly, the attendees agreed to officially recognize the Libyan rebel government, the Libyan National Council, as the sole legitimate governing authority of the nation. Fortunately for the rebels, this means that the Obama administration can, and likely will transfer $33 billion in frozen Libyan assets to the anti-Ghadafi opposition. In addition, Germany just recently lent 100 million Euros (or U.S$144 million) to the rebels. This funding will undoubtedly serve as a major boost for an inexperienced army in desperate need of more weapons. With an increase in arms and continued aid from its NATO allies, the opposition believes that it can take the Libyan capital of Tripoli “within days,” according to a rebel spokesman.

Meanwhile, United States officials met with representatives from the Ghadafi regime to discuss a potential ceasefire agreement with the United States reportedly insisting that Ghadafi step down from power. France has also demanded that Ghadafi give up power but conceded that Ghadafi could stay in Libya as part of a ceasefire agreement so long as he steps away from political life. The United Kingdom and the United States also agreed that this is a possible scenario but have made it clear that this decision lies in the hands of the Libyan people. It seems at this point, however, that the vast majority of rebels, if not Libyan citizens, want Ghadafi put on trial for crimes against his own people and for sponsoring international terrorism.

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