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U.N. Faults NATO and Libyan Authorities in Report
By NEIL MacFARQUHAR
Published: March 2, 2012
BEIRUT, Lebanon — NATO has not sufficiently investigated the air raids it conducted on Libya that killed at least 60 civilians and wounded 55 more during the conflict there, according to a new United Nations report released Friday.
Nor has Libya’s interim government done enough to halt the disturbing violence perpetrated by revolutionary militias seeking to exact revenge on loyalists, real or perceived, to the government of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, the report concluded.
NATO air raids that killed civilians in Libya have been criticized by rights groups, and the alliance’s refusal to acknowledge or investigate some of the deaths has been the subject of earlier news reports, including an extensive account in The New York Times last December. The new report represents the first time that NATO’s actions in Libya have been criticized under the auspices of the United Nations, where the bombing campaign in the name of protecting civilians from Colonel Qaddafi’s forces was authorized by the Security Council.
But the armed anti-Qaddafi militia forces in Libya also “committed serious violations,” including war crimes and breaches of international rights law that continue today, the 220-page report said.
Through this past January, militia members continued with the mass arrests of former soldiers, police officers, suspected mercenaries and others perceived to be Qaddafi loyalists, the report said. Certain revenge attacks have continued unabated, particularly the campaign by the militiamen of Misurata to wipe a neighboring town, Tawergha, off the map; the fighters accuse its residents of collaborating with a government siege.
Such attacks have been documented before, but the report stressed that despite previous criticism, the militiamen were continuing to hunt down the residents of the neighboring town no matter where they had fled across Libya. As recently as Feb. 6, militiamen from Misurata attacked a camp in Tripoli where residents of Tawergha had fled, killing an elderly man, a woman and three children, the report said
The newest parts of the report were the questions raised about NATO attacks that killed and wounded civilians.
The commission of inquiry concluded in its report that NATO had sought to avoid civilian casualties in “a highly precise campaign” involving thousands of attack sorties.
But it also noted that in a few cases it had “confirmed civilian casualties and found targets that showed no evidence” of any military function. The commission investigated 20 NATO airstrikes, and it found that in five of them, a total of 60 civilians died and 55 were wounded. The most serious airstrike, on the town of Majer on Aug. 8, killed 34 civilians and wounded 38.
The commission remains “deeply concerned” that no independent investigations or prosecutions appear to have been instigated into killings by such militias, the report said.
In Strikes on Libya by NATO, an Unspoken Civilian Toll
By C. J. CHIVERS and ERIC SCHMITT
Published: December 17, 2011
Two weeks after being provided a 27-page memorandum from The Times containing extensive details of nine separate attacks in which evidence indicated that allied planes had killed or wounded unintended victims, NATO modified its stance.
“From what you have gathered on the ground, it appears that innocent civilians may have been killed or injured, despite all the care and precision,” said Oana Lungescu, a spokeswoman for NATO headquarters in Brussels. “We deeply regret any loss of life.”
In Libya, NATO’s inattention to its unintended victims has also left many wounded civilians with little aid in the aftermath of the country’s still-chaotic change in leadership.
NATO warplanes flew thousands of sorties that dropped 7,700 bombs or missiles; because The Times did not examine sites in several cities and towns where the air campaign was active, the casualty estimate could be low.
The alliance’s fixed-wing aircraft dropped only laser- or satellite-guided weapons, said Col. Gregory Julian, a NATO spokesman; no so-called dumb bombs were used
The alliance’s apparent presumption that residences thought to harbor pro-Qaddafi forces were not occupied by civilians repeatedly proved mistaken, the evidence suggests, posing a reminder to advocates of air power that no war is cost- or error-free.
The investigation also found significant damage to civilian infrastructure from certain attacks for which a rationale was not evident or risks to civilians were clear. These included strikes on warehouses that current anti-Qaddafi guards said contained only food, or near businesses or homes that were destroyed, including an attack on a munitions bunker beside a neighborhood that caused a large secondary explosion, scattering warheads and toxic rocket fuel.
NATO has also not yet provided data to Libyans on the locations or types of unexploded ordnance from its strikes. At least two large weapons were present at sites visited by The Times. “This information is urgently needed,” said Dr. Ali Yahwya, chief surgeon at the Zlitan hospital.
That mistake — a pair of strikes — killed 12 anti-Qaddafi fighters and nearly killed a civilian ambulance crew aiding wounded men. It underscored NATO’s sometimes tenuous grasp of battle lines and raised questions about the forthrightness and accuracy of the alliance’s public-relations campaign.
The second strike pointed to a tactic that survivors at several sites recounted: warplanes restriking targets minutes after a first attack, a practice that imperiled, and sometimes killed, civilians rushing to the wounded.
Pressed about the dangers posed to noncombatants by such attacks, NATO said it would reconsider the tactic’s rationale in its internal campaign review. “That’s a valid point to take into consideration in future operations,” Colonel Julian said.
That statement is a shift in the alliance’s stance. NATO’s response to allegations of mistaken attacks had long been carefully worded denials and insistence that its operations were devised and supervised with exceptional care. Faced with credible allegations that it killed civilians, the alliance said it had neither the capacity for nor intention of investigating and often repeated that disputed strikes were sound.
Organizations researching civilian deaths in Libya said that the alliance’s resistance to making itself accountable and acknowledging mistakes amounted to poor public policy. “It’s crystal clear that civilians died in NATO strikes,” said Fred Abrahams, a researcher for Human Rights Watch. “But this whole campaign is shrouded by an atmosphere of impunity” and by NATO’s and the Libyan authorities’ mutually congratulatory statements
“You would think, and I did think, that all of the lessons learned from Afghanistan would have been transferred to Libya,” said Sarah Holewinski, the executive director of Civic, which helped NATO devise its practices for Afghanistan. “But many of them didn’t.”
Many early strikes were planned missions. But about two-thirds of all strikes, and most of the attacks late in the war, were another sort: dynamic strikes.
Dynamic strikes were against targets of opportunity. Crews on aerial patrols would spot or be told of a potential target, like suspected military vehicles. Then, if cleared by controllers in Awacs aircraft, they would attack.
The attack continued as civilians, including ambulance crews, tried to converge on the craters and flames to aid the wounded. Three shepherds were among them.
As the shepherds approached over the sand, a bomb slammed in again, said one of them, Abdul Rahman Ali Suleiman Sudani. The blast knocked them over, he said. His two cousins were hit.
Colonel Julian declined to discuss this episode but said that each time NATO aircraft returned to strike again was a distinct event and a distinct decision, and that it was not a general practice for NATO to “double tap” its targets.
This practice was reported several times by survivors at separate attacks and cited to explain why some civilians opted not to help at strike sites or bolted in fear soon after they did.
Pressure Not War
A Pragmatic and Principled Policy Towards Syria
F e b r u a r y 2 0 1 2
By Marc Lynch
The United States must respond urgently to address the growing bloodbath in Syria,where the Asad regime has killed more than 6,000 of its own citizens and risks unleashing a sectarian war that would kill thousands and destabilize a critical region. However, the United States should not intervene with military force, which is unlikely to improve conditions in Syria and instead threatens to make them worse.
Though advocates of military intervention claim it is the moral choice, it is not. Military intervention will allow Americans to feel they are doing something. But unleashing even more violence without a realistic prospect of changing the regime’s behavior or improvingsecurity is neither just nor wise.
There is no obvious way to prevent Syria from descending into a violent civil war, nor any great
hope that the Asad regime will collapse quickly on its own. The regime has lost control over significant parts of the country, but those areas are not yet controlled by the opposition.
The Syrian military remains largely loyal, well-armed and willing to kill an opposition the regime portrays as a foreign, sectarian or Islamist conspiracy. While sanctions and an economic collapse fueled by the security situation have hurt the business community badly, it does not yet embrace the opposition. Many Syrians continue to back the Asad regime, whether out of genuine support, distaste for the opposition or fears for their future.
U.S. and other Western officials assert frequently that the collapse of the Asad regime is only a matter of time. Indeed, President Obama stated on February 6 that Asad’s fall “is not going to be a matter of if, it’s going to be a matter of when.”4 But Asad’s fall could take a long time. In the interim, many Syrians will die, and the conflict could evolve into an extended regional proxy war that victimizes the Syrian people.
Within Syria, a civil war could entrench sectarian identities, shatter communities and stoke a desire for revenge that makes reconciliation after Asad impossible. A civil war would also destabilize Syria’s neighbors, including Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey, and the political instability and movement of people and arms could create new security risks for both Israel and Iran. It might also create opportunities for jihadist groups to establish a foothold in Syria, a danger that U.S. intelligence fears is already beginning to materialize.
If the peaceful Syrian uprising transforms into an insurgency backed and armed by outside powers against a ruthless but still viable regime, Syria could replicate Lebanon of the 1980s, on steroids.
too many proposals for military action in Syria rely on unrealistically optimistic assumptions about the efficacy of an intervention, the response of the Syrian regime and its international allies, the ability to manage the course of the insurgency, and the support that it would gain from Syrians and from the rest of the region.10 Perhaps the regime would crumble, Iranians would cower and Syrians and other Arabs would cheer the moment foreign bombs fell. But it would be foolish to base an intervention on such hopes.
Air strikes against Syrian security forces or regime targets could take two different forms. First, the
United States and its partners could conduct punitive and symbolic airstrikes, primarily to express
moral outrage or international resolve. Such a display might force the regime to the bargaining
table, boost the morale of the opposition and demoralize regime supporters. Some believe that
the Asad regime is highly brittle and would quickly crumble in the face of a show of military might,
but those are extremely optimistic assumptions.
Bombing simply to punish, boost morale or demonstrate resolve would be a risky gamble with fleeting benefits and would likely evolve into a longer-term commitment. There is little reason to believe that the regime would quickly crumble, or that more opposition would rally in the face of such strikes. Such “shock and awe” offensives, aside from risking significant civilian casualties, might well rally Syrians around the regime rather than turn them towards the opposition. Civilian casualties would inevitably result from a bombing campaign against ill-defined targets in urban areas with extremely limited human intelligence
Providing arms to the FSA might hasten Asad’s fall, but at the cost of a far bloodier conflict, greater divisions among the opposition groups and a more difficult transition if Asad falls from power. First, the regime would respond by quickly escalating its attacks, and would likely discard whatever restraint it has thus far shown in order to avoid outside intervention. It is unlikely that arms will give rebels enough power to defeat the regime on the battlefield and overthrow it, given the immense imbalance in favor of regime forces.
The Dubai Initiative
Lessons from the Iran-Iraq War
Annie Tracy Samuel
This policy brief seeks to contribute to and inform the debate concerning a possible attack by the United States and/or Israel on Iranian nuclear and military facilities. The presumed aim of such an attack would be to weaken the Islamic Republic, particularly by hindering its ability to build a nuclear weapon. However, the history of the
Iraqi invasion of Iran in September 1980 calls into question the contention that an attack will weaken the regime in Tehran.
This policy brief examines Iran’s reactions to the Iraqi invasion in order to shed light on Iran’s possible reactions to a U.S. or Israeli attack. It will assess how the Iranian people responded to the invasion and its effects on Iranian politics and the position of the new regime. It will also explore the nature of the policies adopted
by the Islamic Republic in waging the Iran-Iraq War that carried on for eight years after the Iraqi invasion.
In invading Iran, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein assumed that the divided Iranians and their dilapidated armed forces would be unable to put up much of a fight. He was wrong. Iranians responded to the invasion by uniting against him and under their current leadership, even though many opposed the direction the revolution had taken. Iran’s leaders quickly resurrected the armed forces by halting military trials and purges and enforcing
The Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), which was established following the revolution to serve primarily as an internal security force, transformed into a second military and rushed to confront the invading forces.2 Thousands of volunteers were incorporated into both the IRGC and the regular military.3 They were driven to defend the country, the revolution, and the Islamic Republic by a potent combination of nationalism, revolutionary mission, and religious zeal that was stoked by the foreign threat.
An attack on Iran by the United States or Israel will likely add to the ranks of the regime’s supporters. Just as a divided population came together to confront the Iraqi invasion, Iranians of all stripes will unite in opposition to an attack. The upshot will be a stronger, more cohesive, and more militant Islamic Republic.
In the words of Mohammad Khatami, Iran’s reformist former president and a harsh critic of some of Iran’s current leaders and policies, “If there should one day be any military interference in Iran, then all factions, regardless of reformists or non-reformists, would [unite] and confront the attack.”
An attack on Iran will not only bring Iranians together under the current regime; it will also unite them in support for a decision to acquire nuclear weapons. At this time the evidence suggests that Iranian leaders are developing and acquiring the technology that would enable them to produce nuclear weapons. However, the evidence also suggests that they have not made the decision to proceed with a concerted attempt to establish a
nuclear weapons program.
An attack on Iran will damage, but not destroy, Iran’s nuclear program. Even if it targeted Iranian nuclear facilities and was limited in scope, an attack will most likely be interpreted by Iranians as a declaration of war, an attempt at regime change, and a determination to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear technology or enrichment capability of any nature. It will also convince them that accelerating that drive and ultimately possessing nuclear weapons is the only way to safeguard their regime and their country from future attack.
Hans Blix, the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, recently put forward this view. “I don’t think you can convince anyone to give up an atomic programme through the threat of violence,” he stated. “Rather, it will cause them to move even faster on it, in order to defend themselves.
In this way, the nuclear program symbolizes how Iran views its position in the world,with a mix of strength and vulnerability. The nuclear program has come to represent a source of national pride, a badge of Iran’s modern power status, and an emblem of its imperial past. At the same time, it is seen as an essential tool to reduce Iran’s vulnerability by creating a bulwark against threats of attack or invasion.
It is therefore an admission of Iran’s relative weakness. An attack on Iran would reinforce this sense of vulnerability and would be seen as a reenactment of previous efforts to curb Iran’s independent power. It
would accordingly solidify the place of nuclear weapons in assuring that power.
While the regime may increase its strength in the wake of an attack by winning new supporters, it may also be able to capitalize on an attack to eliminate its internal enemies. That is precisely what happened following the 1980 Iraqi invasion. Ayatollah Khomeini and his allies used the war to strengthen their control over the state along the war-making state-making nexus, following the pattern of revolutionary elites in other
in a 2005 op-ed in The New York Times, Iranian human rights activists Shirin Ebadi and Hadi Ghaemi put forward “The Human Rights Case Against Attacking Iran.” They argued that, “for human rights defenders in Iran, the possibility of a foreign military attack on their country represents an utter disaster for their cause.” The authors
also drew a parallel with the Islamic Republic’s behavior following the 1980 Iraqi invasion.
The “threat of foreign military intervention will provide a powerful excuse for authoritarian elements to uproot [independent human rights organizations] and put an end to their growth,” they argued.
During the Iran-Iraq War, Iran’s leaders characterized the process of waging war as essential to and the most important part of the process of advancing the Islamic Republic internally. Prosecuting the war
was less contentious and in many ways easier to deal with than the critical issues relating
to Iran’s internal politics and development.
Military action against Iran, and even the continuing threat of attack, is likely to give the Islamic Republic a new lease on life. Its devoted supporters will be strengthened and mobilized, and it will enjoy the additional support of those who will join in condemning and retaliating for an attack. Threats of a possible strike, and certainly a strike itself, substantiate and animate the security narrative Iranian leaders have been propagating for years: that the West is determined to raze the Islamic Republic. They have mastered the art of using the threat of attack, signs of Western hostility towards Iran, and even invasion to consolidate their power. Further, the more likely an attack appears, the more determined Iranians will be to acquire a nuclear weapons capability. The policy of attacking and threatening Iran has served as the lifeblood sustaining the Islamic Republic. We have yet to see how the regime might sustain itself without it.
NATO Confirms 8 Afghan Civilians Killed in Recent Air Strike
Posted Wednesday, February 15th, 2012 at 9:15 am
NATO-led forces in Afghanistan have offered condolences for eight young Afghan men killed in an airstrike last week in the eastern part of the country.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai condemned the airstrike and ordered U.S. and NATO forces to take more actions to prevent civilian casualties.
Local officials say the dead were between the ages of 6 and 14, along with a mentally ill young man around 18 to 20 years old. A coalition military official said examinations of photographs of the bodies found that most of the victims were around 15 years old, while one victim was older.
The issue of civilian casualties caused by coalition operations has long been a source of tension between President Karzai and NATO.
A United Nations report released earlier this month said more than 3,000 civilians were killed in 2011 — the worst death toll in the decade-long Afghan war.
Officials with the U.N. mission in Afghanistan said insurgents were responsible for 77 percent of the Afghan civilian deaths last year, totaling 2,300 people, while 410 deaths were caused by foreign and local forces, a four percent drop from 2010.
NATO investigates report of Afghan civilian deaths
February 10, 2012|From Nick Paton Walsh, CNN
NATO is investigating a report by Afghan authorities that an airstrike by coalition forces killed eight children in Kapisa province this week, it said Friday.
In a statement Thursday, Afghan President Hamid Karzai strongly condemned what he said was an aerial bombing by foreign forces.
The provincial governor reported that eight children were killed in the airstrike Wednesday on a village in Nejra, according to Karzai.
A spokesman for the international coalition confirmed "a situation" Wednesday in Najrab district, in Kapisa province