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A.K.A. The Arab Spring
The information in this page mostly comes from questions answered in the (huge) Middle East topic thread in the TV Tropes Forums. This Useful Notes page is meant to provide answers to some of the most asked questions, and to record this event.
If Gaddafi was doing all this massacring, why did it take so long to intervene?
The reason it took so long was that there was plenty of planning to do, both military and diplomatic. There was also resistance from Russia and China. The US, the UK, France, and every other nation participating in those talks had said that they would not take action without regional backing for the operation, which the Arab League provided (but the African Union did not).
If anything had been done without the UN's permission, it would have been (seen as) just another illegal invasion by the West. It would have allowed Gaddafi to claim that that the West is coming to take their oil and all that, and without the UN resolution, millions of people could potentially believe that to be the case.
The process of intervention itself started up quickly, however. Meetings between the leaders of the UK, France and the US took place immediately after the first reports of violence against protesters in Libya broke.
The no-fly zone resolution began as a draft made by the UK and France (later joined by Lebanon and the US), which initially was being written "just in case". As it turned out, the case was just.
Initial talks at the UN were reserved and yielded no result because of announcements made by Russia and China that they would block the resolution at the Security Council. When the level of violence escalated and the resolution was finally voted on, 5 out of the 15 members - including Russia and China (the only members with the veto to not vote "yes") - abstained. The resolution passed 10-0-5 (10 votes for, 0 against, 5 abstaining: China, Russia, Germany, Brazil, India).
The West is carrying out a no-fly zone in Libya. Why isn't it doing the same for Yemen, Ivory Coast, Bahrain, Iran, and everywhere else there's protests and rebellions? Is it because Libya has oil?
Every country has entirely different things going on in terms of the specificness of the threat to the people, the size of it, the length of time it will take for the threat to be carried out, what action can meet the threat, the level to which the action may disrupt the usual political allegiances and equilibrium level of government, the potential for peaceful resolution down the line and the real or imagined precedence it sets.
In the case of Libya, many things made it suitable for the intervention to happen.
- Libya's Transitional National Council submitted several formal requests to the UN for an intervention.
- There eventually was a UN resolution.
- In Libya, the mission is to protect civilians, not to try to influence the outcome of the war. As things are, only one side is systematically attacking civilians, so only that side gets targeted. Thus, we are helping the other side, but it's "not intentional" - though it most certainly is what we want to be doing. If the rebels start killing civilians, they'll get bombed, too.
- In most countries where opposition is oppressed, the opposition has not decided on an official representative, and thus it is difficult or impossible for them to interact formally with the UN. This makes issuing resolutions a whole lot harder.
- In some countries, the government and its military are too strong to attack without it becoming a huge war. While it would be in many ways just to intervene, the body count would likely be higher than what will result from letting the regime rot. To cause it to rot, sanctions are put in place. Because UN operations have to be carried out by someone, that someone (usually the West) is gonna have to figure whether or not they would be capable of carrying out the operation with the resources they have at hand. Libya has so far been easily affordable; Afghanistan, less so; North Korea would be completely impossible without South Korea, China and Japan bearing the majority of the responsibility.
As for whether Libya's rebels are being helped because the West is after Libya's oil, that has been a claim made by Gaddafi. Others might counter it by saying the quickest way for the west to get Libya's oil would actually be to support Gaddafi, let him reimpose full control over Libya and continue to deal with him as they always have done. The simple fact is that oil is a precious natural resource and it undoubtedly factored into the equation somehow; its exact importance should be left to the Rule of Cautious Editing Judgment.
Is this operation like Iraq War 2?
The reasoning behind this operation is:
1. Gaddafi has committed crimes against humanity, and there's plenty of proof. (Crimes such as arresting, torturing and killing people without trial, firing missiles at hospitals, barraging residential districts of cities for days on end, etc.)
2. There is a democratic revolution going on, and most of the people of Libya support it. It started off as peaceful protests, but became organised and armed in response to systematic violence against protesters.
3. The Transitional National Council, which enjoys the support of the movement it leads (i.e. the revolution), submitted several requests to the UN for a no-fly zone to stop Gaddafi from bombing civilians.
4. The Arab League also submitted this request to the UN.
5. The UN decided on a resolution to use all means necessary, short of an invasion, to stop violence against civilians. Again, if the rebels were to attack civilians, they would presumably be bombed, too.
In Iraq, it was:
1. There were very powerful lobbying groups within the US campaigning to invade Iraq to rid the world of Saddam and to "protect American interests".
2. Saddam had committed crimes against humanity, and the US could (and, in retrospect, probably should) have destroyed his regime in 1991.
3. The UN had made resolutions which could resume effect if circumstances in Iraq merited them. One of these conditions was Iraq resuming active attempts to acquire WMDs; it had done so previously, only for all of the weapons to be caught by UN inspectors and destroyed.
4. The US acquired documents claiming that Iraq was trying to do just that (the so-called Yellowcake Forgeries). These were almost immediately proven false, but George W. Bush used them as justification to go to war nonetheless.
As you see, the situations are different.
Why does the US have to take the lead? Can't other countries do it? What about Arab League nations?
Well, as it happens, it did and it didn't. Although many Arab League nations have sufficient numbers of planes to carry out a no-fly zone, none of them have all the other required assets. A no-fly zone is a fabulously complicated beast. It requires an incredible amount of surveillance, coordination and information gathering, and very few countries can handle it. So the US, which had the needed assets in place already, took point in the early days of the intervention, although the bulk of the forces were actually British and French. However, once everything was set up--which took less than two weeks--the US handed over control to a NATO operation with a Canadian commander, with only a few US support and intelligence assets remaining in the operation.
Anyone else get the feeling we're starting to move out of our initial objective? Weren't we just supposed to be operating a no-fly zone?
The initial goal of the intervention was to impose a no-fly zone to ensure that Gaddafi will not be able to wage aerial war against civilians again. To make this possible, it is necessary to attack anti-air installations, including radar facilities and communications equipment.
The UN resolution mandates the coalition to use "all necessary measures" to defend civilians, and whatever targets are considered to constitute an immediate threat to civilians can be proactively struck. For example, ammo depots are indirect threats, but if they're connected to AA installations, they become part of the target.
Up to this writing, every action by the coalition reported has been 100% in line with the stated goals of UN Resolution 1973.
Why don't we just get it over with and assassinate Gaddafi?
The no-fly zone was passed to lend humanitarian aid to the people of Libya who are under attack. If you want it in Trope speak, the UN is the Sword to the rebels' Sorcerer. While (most of) the civilians of Libya are allied to the rebels, the UN's goal is solely to protect said civilians, freeing up the rebels to concentrate on other things (like their rebellion). Landing troops in the country, sending assassins or dropping bombs onto Gaddafi (on purpose) is outside the mandates of the UN resolution--or, in a word, "illegal"--and would result in all manner of problems for the coalition. Whether or not the UN wants the rebels to succeed (spoiler: they kinda do), they are not there to win the war for them.
On October 20, 2011, Gaddafi was mutilated and killed. This marks the first leader killed in the Arab Spring.
What about the mercenaries?
Many of the mercenaries hired by the government have links with rebel groups helped by Gaddafi over his four-decade rule. Some fighters captured by the rebels claimed they had only come to Libya to protest and were forced into taking up arms by the government. Many others, however, may well just be in it for the cash.
Hosni Mubarak was the second leader ousted in the revolutionary wave. He is currently to be held trial for his crimes against the people. Until the elections, the Egyptian Military has formed a temporary government.
The Regime change has once again sparked conflicts between the Egyptian Muslim and Coptic Christian communities, that usually flame up at any conflict (including the Swine Flu scare, during which Muslims blamed Christians' pigs for outbreaks). Leaders of both communities do appeal for peace, and blame the military for causing more trouble than they solve.
Recently, Parliamentary elections have occurred in Egypt with the Muslim Brotherhood and the Ultraconservative Islamic Nour party leading as of now. These events have raised the question of how the secular/liberal youth will be represented in the new government, and fears that the revolution might degenerate into a Full-Circle Revolution. There are also concerns that the Egyptian military may retain power indefinitely.
While protests and unrest are usual in the Middle East and North Africa, many count the self-immmolation of a Tunisian fruit vendor, Mohamed Bouazizi as the starting point of the Arab Spring. Tunisia was also the first country to overthrow their leader.
The first free elections were held on the 23rd. of October 2011. The moderate islamic party Nahda, or Renaissance Party won the most seats, 90 out of 217. Nahda leadership has promised to respect the large secular community in urban Tunis, opposes strict Sharia and the Saudi-Arabian model, instead presenting Indonesia and Turkey as better social models. Nahda also promised to uphold women's and homosexual's rights, though to what extent the promises will be kept is still questionable.
Initially, the Yemeni protests were against unemployment, economic conditions(Yemen is the poorest country in the Middle East), and corruption, as well as against the government's proposal to modify Yemen's constitution. Eventually, it grew into an uprising demanding the ousting of Ali Abduallah Saleh. It Got Worse when military started to deflect to the protesters, and the fact that there were possible links between the protesters and Al-Quada, which has embarked on a terror campaign throughout the protests, pushing Yemen on the brink of civil war. Starting in late April, Saleh agreed to a Gulf Co-operation Council-brokered deal only to back away hours before the scheduled signing three times. However, on November 23, Saleh signed another Gulf-backed deal allowing him to resign, and he did so in January 2012, and was succeeded by Abd Rabbuh Mansur al-Hadi as president.
Some trace the start of Arab Spring to protests in Moroccan-occupied West Sahara. The protests started in Rabat, Fez and Tangier in solidarity with the Egyptian revolution. Subsequently, a day of protest in favour of Moroccan constitutional reform and social justice was planned for 20 February and advertised on social networking sites. These protests ultimatly lead to a referendum in June to be held on changes to the constitution, which became law on 13 September. Some protesters felt that the reforms did not go far enough and continued protesting.
The King of Saudi-Arabia granted women the right to vote in the next elections, as a part of his long line of reforms in the past few years, but speculated to be a move to stem further unrest.
Fun fact: For some time, many people in the west followed one certain blog, "Gay girl in Damascus", by a half-American girl named Amina Arraf who was well, gay. Later people learned that "she" had been Middle East peace activist Tom MacMaster all the time. Yeah, the GIRL phenomenon now arrived in the Mainstream Media. Definitely explains the various Fan Service bits.
The governemnt response to the uprising has been one of the most violent, with massacres of nearly entire villages. A Syrian political cartoonist, critical of the regime was beaten, and his hands broken by "unknown assailants". This sparked fury of political cartoonists worldwide.
Iraq has so far remained stable throughout the unrest in the region, but at the time of writting (a couple of days after US troops officially left the country) there are fears of secretatian violence between Iraq's shia majority and sunni minority. The vice president is aledged to be behind a recent terrorist attack and is currently nowhere to be found.
Israel and Palestine
Palestine once again has petitioned for independence, though it's expected to fail at the security council due to the US opposition, which will result in a veto. As always.
Israel, meanwhile has had its own share of protests over bad economy, but those protests are more linked with the European Union's anti-austerity protests and the later Occupy Wall Street protests.
A number of Tuaregs (A traditionally nomadic North African ethnic group who mainly live in and around the Sahara) who had previously fought in the Libyan Civil War on the Gaddafi loyalist side started a rebellion to try and create their own Tuareg state. The malian government did little about this originally and eventually the military took over the government in a coup d'etat because they believed the government were not allowing them to fight the rebels. This act sparked an international outcry and it backfired as the Tuareg rebels used this as an opportunity to take a number of towns (including Timbuktu) and then once they had control of a so called Tuareg homeland they declared independence as the state of Azawad.
- An as-of-yet unpublished prequel to the youtube series The Road Gypsy stars an inexperienced Francis Easton and Cecil Banning as they travel to Egypt just before the uprising, then find themselves trying to get out before they are killed.