Last week's attack on the French Embassy in Tripoli was the first significant terrorist attack against foreign interests in the Libyan capital since the fall of Muammar al-Qaddafi. More crucially, it marks an escalation in the covert war being waged to determine the future orientation, institutions, constitution, and very soul of the new Libya. At the same time the conflict between the government and militias has escalated, with the latter besieging the ministries of defense, interior, and foreign affairs, demanding the resignation of the ministers and the immediate application of the political isolation law, which is in the process of being debated and voted on. Collectively, these events show a decrease in the legitimate political institutions' capacity to guide the transition process successfully and an increase in the attempts of armed elements to alter the rules of the political game in their favor.
For the international community the attack against the French Embassy and the radicalization of the conflict between militias and government institutions must serve as a wake-up call, and remind them that the gains of the NATO-led intervention are at risk of being undone. The countries that helped overthrow Qaddafi should redouble their efforts to support the creation of professional armed forces and police, vocational training, and constitution writing. If greater support is withheld, the French Embassy attack may prove to be the start of a trend, in which case Libyan -- and by extension North African -- instability would become a permanent status quo. The crisis in Mali and the growing instability in Algeria -- and most recently Tunisia -- offer clear evidence in support of this conjecture.
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As pressure increases on western governments to bring an end to the bloodshed in Syria, "non-lethal" assistance has become the promise of the hour. The term is ubiquitous, cropping up in White House press briefings and the European Union's arms embargo on Syria.
Yet despite the pervasive nature of the term, it does not yet have a widely accepted legal definition. Broadly speaking, it is used to describe equipment and intelligence that cannot be directly used to kill. This can encompass anything from helmets and body armor to more facilitative assistance such as encrypted radios and satellite imagery. In practice, the lines between non-lethal equipment and its lethal counterparts are more blurred. In fact, both are required for a soldier to maximize the use of his weapon. As Pieter Wezeman, a senior researcher at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, points out, "a guy with a helmet and a radio is more likely to use his gun effectively because his protection increases his survivability and his radio [improves] his targeting through better communication."
With the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend ten days away, international attention is once again focusing on the critical situation in the troubled island kingdom in the Persian Gulf. Daily clashes continue between protesters and the security services, and the beleaguered Al-Khalifa regime faces a growing international backlash over its treatment of jailed human rights defender Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, who is reportedly nearing death after hunger-striking for more than 60 days in protest at the continuing detention of activists in Bahrain. Al-Khawaja's declining health and the imminent Formula One Grand Prix ensure that the spotlight will once again be trained on Bahrain, if only for a few days this April.
TEL AVIV — On any other day, Rothschild Boulevard is known for its hip restaurants, beautifully renovated Bauhaus buildings, and the headquarters of Israel's largest banks. Today, walking down the tent-filled boulevard, one could mistakenly feel as if he or she has landed in the heart of a Middle Eastern Woodstock festival. Couples smoke waterpipes as jazz musicians compete with folk bands for their attention, jugglers play next to political art installations, and people walk by ad-hoc kitchens that offer free food to all. Yet passers by are called to join discussion groups addressing the erosion of the Israeli welfare state, and inside the larger tents talks are given about cartels and corporate accountability. In this Israeli Hyde Park, a new discourse has been ignited. Rather than focusing on security and peace, the conversation centers on social justice, with Israelis articulating their aspiration for a state that cares and provides for all its citizens.
"We want the future they promised us, a future in which we could own a home, give our children adequate education and have a functioning health system," says Efrat Melter, a 34-year-old law student who runs a Facebook gender equality group. "We don't want to talk about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict anymore. When doing that we are only throwing sand in our eyes, while the government and the rich are stealing our money and the country's infrastructure." All of a sudden, middle-class Israelis are refusing to play according to their prescribed roles. At least for now, for the duration of this protest, the core issues around which they mobilize are not only the right/left and anti/pro-occupation fault lines that have divided Israeli society for the past decades. Instead, they are now fiercely rallying for economic justice. The enemies are no longer the Palestinians but are instead the "tycoons," Israel's wealthy elite, which is blamed for corrupting politicians into allowing them to form unofficial cartels that keep salaries low and the cost of living high.
The Middle East has not received much attention in the British electoral campaign. Yet whoever forms the next government will have to establish a stance on the putative Middle East peace process, on Iran, on relations with the Arab Gulf states, including security cooperation and arms sales, and on developments in Iraq, even if British troops are no longer on the ground there.
Judging by the statements of the three main party leaders in their televised debate on foreign policy, all are supportive of British troops in Afghanistan, but none want to see them remain there indefinitely. Labour Party leader Gordon Brown has nonetheless argued that the British deployment is integral to a broader strategy to counter the forces of extremism that could still inspire or instigate attacks on British soil.
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