Stewart M. Patrick

The Internationalist

Patrick assesses the future of world order, state sovereignty, and multilateral cooperation.

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Middle East Turmoil Will Greet Opening of UN General Assembly

by Stewart M. Patrick
September 14, 2012

A protester reacts as the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi is seen in flames. Armed gunmen attacked the compound on Tuesday evening, clashing with Libyan security forces before the latter withdrew as they came under heavy fire. Four American embassy personnel were killed. (Esam Al-Fetori/Courtesy Reuters).


This week, foreign policy took center stage in the presidential campaign, and it appears that it may stay in the conversation for Candidate Romney and President Obama next week as well. Listen to The World Next Week podcast, where Bob McMahon and I discuss the attack in Libya that killed four U.S. embassy personnel, the opening session of the sixty-seventh UN General Assembly, and the improvements of the Human Rights Council:

  • The attack in Libya and the tragic death of Ambassador Christopher Stevens is but one symptom of the herculean challenge of consolidating security in the aftermath of the Libyan revolution last year. Militias have refused to disarm; the country remains awash in weapons and some observers even suggest that Libya continues to be on the verge of civil war. These unchecked arms flows are fueling violence throughout the Sahel region, Mali, and perhaps even the Sinai peninsula. Romney has criticized the United States for being behind the curve on reacting to tumult in the Middle East and North Africa, and for leading from behind, notes Bob McMahon—a condemnation which is sure to be debated in the coming week.
  • The UN General Assembly opens next week, and Palestine will again be in the headlines. Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority (PA), has announced that he will pursue non-member observer state status at the UN General Assembly. The United States has vigorously pressured them not to—and to instead pursue bilateral talks with Israel to resolve the territorial dispute. Alternatively, the PA could repeat its effort to join specialized UN agencies. U.S. legislation requires the United States to cut off funding for any organization that Palestine joins as an equal member state. A successful bid might therefore put the United States in a position of having to cut off its nose to spite its face if Palestine joins, for example, the International Atomic Energy Agency or World Intellectual Property Organization.
  • The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) has enjoyed a partial renaissance over the last two years. It had been vilified for being a “den of abusers,” but the Obama administration touts its increasing balance and utility as a success of its engagement with the body. Meanwhile, Romney has signaled that he would withdraw from the HRC.

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Listen to the podcast to learn more about the agenda for the UN General Assembly, the implications of the Libya attack, and the promising, if uneven, maturing of the Human Rights Council.

Post a Comment 2 Comments

  • Posted by Matt

    It was part of the overall strategy regardless of the uprisings that with the 5 year Afghan plan, increased drone strikes and Pakistan operations in the SWAT/FATA that the terrorists would move to north Africa. You would never have got Pakistan to go into North Waziristan. That was not the objective.

    So an invasion and air strikes would be required, but the objective of using the Pakistani’s was to remove those combatants that would aid enemy forces in NW. So it was culling and forcing the enemy into a contained quadrant which was NW.

    Due to the instability by the TTP and the surge in terror acts in Pakistan from 2008 through to 2010. Pakistan was forced to act, they only act in their own interests.

    It was a question of who would buckle first the DOD thought that Pakistan would have to go into to NW, but Pindi knows that Pakistan had been pushed to the brink and is a nuclear armed country.

    So further operations had to be stopped or we would push Pakistan over the edge and the risk of broken arrows. So they knew we would cave in before them which ruled out NW. It was a stand off, a game of chicken who would blink first.

    Also with the increased CT operations in Yemen and Eric being sent down to Somalia. That the next hot spot would be North Africa, that was the AO in which the war on terror would end. So there was always going to be a proliferation of terrorist into North Africa, with an invasion of NW and a successful 5 year mission in Afghanistan.

    In relation to the Arab Spring these people will get arms, either it is controlled supply or they will find other sources. We did plead with the WH, DOJ and State but could not get Viktor released. We could not convince the Thai’s to release him, and the pressure applied on them failed. Protests etc, the Ronin.

    So in Libya they broke open the arms caches, the arms caches that held the MANPADS in the East Libya were EOD’s by sabotage. The key arms caches were in the West in Tripoli.

    Younis had the understanding that once the LFA reached Libya they would adopt a holding pattern and not enter Libya. Younis was murdered. So the arms caches would not be breached and any intelligence documents in relation to extraordinary rendition and torture implicating certain western agencies would not be made public.

    Qaddafi was accountable to no one so he had no need for burn bags, who is going to question his actions. Also while a lot of prisoners in Tripoli were political there were a certain number of terrorist being held, the doors to the prison were flung open.

    No Viktor, then no Younis now you have arms everywhere, it was all preventable.

    A strategy holding pattern an encirclement of Tripoli, would have allowed for the time to do all those things, the Russians were working on a ceasefire deal and the removal of Qaddafi. So everything could have been done in an orderly manner.

    Also early on if the west had intervened when the rebels had the momentum and initiative the war would have been over very quickly. Less destruction, less weapons, less militants.

    So instead of the ruminates of combatants from other AO’s in the war on terror in the last AO of the war on terror in North Africa. We have a much larger force structure of militants and far more arms in that AO.

    People rely on that we know what the enemy are going to do before they even do, to a certain extent our action shape the environment to cause that outcome. People look at the various AO’s around the world and things that are occur as singular events, but they were part of a much broader coordinated strategy interconnect. So the Pakistan’s etc whipping people in North Africa (Mali which was not part of the plan) may think they are there of their own freewill and thinking. But they are not, it is because we have sent them there.

    You have Eric sent down to Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya CIA and JSOC operations. You have the actions in Yemen. You have the operation in Afghanistan and one scheduled in NW, you have Pakistan shaping the environment for that NW operation.

    You have the final AO chosen North Africa. So ideally the war on terror would have been mopped up in North Africa via drones and special forces in a much shorter period of time. Than would be the case now. That is someone else problem, what to do about all of that.

  • Posted by Matt

    Look back to 2005/2006 and look at the current and last few years, it is command and control, you put something in has to go via the chain of command, and if it even reaches the Presidents desk, things are filtered. All that takes time.

    After the debacle in Iraq 2005, the chain of command was bypassed straight to the VP and to the President, a back channel. That is why things didn’t work before, then did work and not now.

    A lot of it is a command and control and the various filters in the chain of command you have to go through to get things approved.

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