Monthly Archives: October 2011

NTC Asks NATO to Continue Operations

Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, chairman of the National Transitional Council, is inviting NATO to stay a while – at least until the end of the year:

“Qaddafi still has supporters in neighboring countries and we fear those loyalists could be launching attacks against us and infiltrating our border. We need technical support and training for our troops on the ground. We also need communications equipment and we need aerial intelligence to monitor our borders.”

I said this was critical in an update earlier and it’s good to see the NTC publicly agree and request this support. Whether or not you supported intervention in Libya a continued presence isn’t really negotiable at this point. We (especially Europe) can not afford for Libya to fail.

Expect the NTC to request an extension in December or at least continue to tolerate a covert presence. This will take a while.

Recommended on Twitter: @NTC_of_Libya. The National Transitional Council in Libya.

Chinese Government Struggles with Social Media

In one of the first Covert Contact updates I stated that the Chinese had all but lost the internal censorship battle due to the massive explosion of blogging and other social media activity. The Guardian now reports that the Communist party central committee has issued a communique urging tighter controls and stepped up prosecutions for users who get too bold. However, the piece goes on to cite unnamed “analysts” who believe that the government has to stop short of shutting down the sites themselves:

“Analysts believe that officials will not shut down social media sites because they are simply too popular, and closing them would create a backlash. Chinese authorities have sought to use social media proactively, launching their own accounts.”

Of course, the Chinese have a massive internal security operation at the technical and human levels that will create the illusion of control as long as the populace plays along. But what happens when discontent bubbles to the surface and millions simultaneously move to vent their frustration? Well, we already know what that is like and that is precisely why the Chinese government is terrified.

Recommended on Twitter: @panphil. Philip Pan is author of the book, Out of Mao’s Shadow: The Struggle for the Soul of a New China. Formerly Washington Post bureau chief in Beijing and Moscow.

Syria: The End is Certain But Probably Not Near

Civil War? Full on armed insurrection? You know you’re getting close to those possibilities when deaths occur day after day and members of your army are not only defecting but also announcing their decision on YouTube. That very modern twist illustrates both a commitment to the cause and a certain degree of confidence in their undertaking. It’s about momentum. So, not surprisingly, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said today that he doesn’t see a way out for Assad and company:

“This will end with the fall of the regime, it is nearly unavoidable, but unfortunately it could take time because the situation is complex, because there is a risk of civil war between Syrian factions, because surrounding Arab countries do not want us to intervene.”

So the end is almost certainly…on the horizon. Like Juppe I don’t see how the downfall of Assad can be anything but lengthy and bloody. His people’s suffering certainly won’t wear on his conscience. Perhaps the savagery of the Gaddafi capture and execution will, but I don’t really have high hopes for that either.

Recommended on Twitter: @AlexanderPageSY. Run by Syrian activist Rami Jarrah who is now based in Cairo.