Foreign Policy

Day ten: Tobruk, Libya

In and out of Libya in a day – that’s how I spent the last 24 hours.

The whirlwind trip began at Egypt’s Salum border crossing. We left our Egyptian car and driver in the port town, and set off for the crossing in a Libyan car. Only one kilometer separates the Egyptian and Libyan border posts. But getting from one end to the other took us an hour and a half. It seemed odd that we were making so much effort to enter the same country that those around us had risked their lives to exit. 

But after much checking of our passports and questioning of our intent, we said goodbye to our first Libyan car and driver (whose sole purpose, we were told, was to expedite our movement through the crossing), and with our second Libyan car and driver we were off to Tobruk.


Morocco: Making meaningful reform a reality

Coalition jets continue to fly, and anti-aircraft fire still lights up the sky over Libya. But if the international action succeeds in driving Muammar Qaddafi from power, what comes next? 

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has an opportunity to gain greater insight on the road ahead for genuine reform in North Africa and the Middle East. She meets Wednesday with Taieb Fassi Fihri, Foreign Minister of Morocco, a country that has been on the reformist path for more than a decade. Morocco is also one of five Arab nations to join the 22-nation coalition supporting international action to protect civilians in Libya. 

Mr. Fassi Fihri arrives in Washington as the West and Arab League have finally answered the call against Gaddafi’s recent murderous binge. At the same time, the crescendo of regional turmoil has, as the Moroccan Foreign Minister said this week,  put an end to the erroneous idea that there is, or ever was, an ‘Arab exception’ to people’s desire to live free from fear of government oppression and ideological tyranny. So, what will he be saying to Secretary Clinton and other US officials about the rapidly unfolding events in the region? 


Unrest in Middle East prompted by desire for jobs

The Hill's Comment Editor Emmanuel Touhey asked HRH Prince Miteb bin Abdullah some questions via e-mail about the situation in the Middle East. Prince Miteb bin Abdullah is the eldest son of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and Commander of the Saudi National Guard and member of the Cabinet. He was born in Riyadh in 1953 and was educated at the Royal Military Academy of Sandhurst, England.  

The Hill: To what do you attribute the wave of recent unrest in the Middle East?
Prince Miteb bin Abdullah: First, there are general reasons why we are seeing the people in North Africa and the Middle East protest. The most important is a desire for good paying jobs. With a job comes dignity and in our part of the world and in our faith the issue of dignity is very important. Beyond the desire for jobs is a general anger over economic mismanagement.  For example, countries with natural resources find themselves with very low per capita GNP. And I would add a genuine desire for reform in the political arena.

Second, each country in North Africa and the Middle East is unique. For example, what has brought the people of Libya to the streets and their demands for Colonel Gaddafi to leave is different from what the people of Egypt wanted. With its enormous natural resources and relatively small population, Libyans should have a very high standard of living and its economy should be ranked among the top in the world. But instead we see that 42 years of mismanagement of Libya’s resources by Colonel Gaddafi has left nothing but poverty for a majority of Libyans. So, it is natural and understandable that the people would ask for fundamental change.

The Hill: Does Saudi Arabia support implementing a no-fly zone over Libya?
Prince Miteb bin Abdullah: Absolutely. As you are aware, the Arab League has endorsed this idea. The people of Libya deserve to live in peace and prosperity. Unfortunately, Colonel Gaddafi has mismanaged the country’s resources to such a degree that it has left much of Libya in poverty.


Increasing our competitiveness

The Keynote address delivered at the American Chamber of Commerce in São Paulo, Brazil today.

Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for the kind words.

Thank you to AmCham – especially Gabriel Rico and Eduardo Wanick – for the indispensable role you’ve played both in setting up this event and for all the good work you’ve done to expand trade between Brazil and the United States. 


Day Eight: Marsa Matrouh, Egypt

Today we spent the day driving west across Egypt to reach the Libyan border. And as I watched the desert go by from the comfort of my air conditioned car, I wondered about the journey that those coming to the same border from the Libyan side would be making. And I worried about what might await them once they arrived.


The end for President Salih in Yemen

The regime of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Salih is decidedly on the brink. With the resignations of over forty parliamentarians, nearly ten ambassadors (including to the U.N., U.K. and Saudi Arabia), and a handful of senior government and tribal figures, the once-nascent protest movement calling for Salih to step down is now reaching its revolutionary potential. Friday’s brutal massacre of over fifty unarmed people – in many cases, by snipers – guaranteed that.


I’m optimistic about Afghanistan

My skepticism about America’s ability to deny sanctuary to al-Qaeda by denying them sanctuary in Afghanistan has been well documented during hearings by the House Armed Services Committee since the United States helped the Afghans topple the tyrannical Taliban government in 2001. That is because when we are successful in Afghanistan, that will not have denied sanctuary to al Qaeda because they will simply go over into Pakistan. 

If not there, they'll go to Yemen and Somalia. Even so, there are two compelling reasons why I am certain it would be dangerously wrong to precipitously withdraw American military forces from Afghanistan as Congressman Dennis Kucinich and others advocate.


Day 5: Cairo, Egypt

Most of today was spent up in the air – literally. First, a flight from Djerba back to Tunis, then another from Tunis to Cairo. Tunisia and Egypt in one day. Two countries. Two remarkable revolutions.

I first came to Cairo last August. Being back here now, I find it incredible to think how this country has changed since then. And as our car crawls through the traffic from the airport to our hotel, I am reminded of a taxi ride that I took during that August visit.


Seeing the mission through

The testimony General David Petraeus gave to Congress this week can be summarized as follows: we have just gotten all of the needed assets and capabilities in place, we are making significant progress, that the progress is fragile and reversible, and that we must not let up in our efforts because success there is essential to American national security.

 The General also answered many questions, including whether U.S. combat as well as non-combat forces will leave Afghanistan during withdrawals scheduled to begin in July 2011; about corruption in the country, and about the measurable signs of progress. He responded to my inquiry about the wisdom of setting a specific date to begin troop withdrawals, a decision I worry is arbitrary and based on political calculations rather than national security ones. 


U.S. leadership on human rights essential to strengthen democracy abroad

Two decades ago, under President Bush, the State Department advocated for the Senate to start ratifying one major human rights treaty per year. That goal seems distant in the context of current political partisanship, but it imagined an ambitious overhaul of human rights rhetoric to better lead the democratic world by example after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

In the midst of what many are calling the Arab world’s 1989, the United States has a chance to revisit that effort, and reaffirm President Carter’s declaration: “Human rights is the soul of our foreign policy, because human rights is the soul of our sense of nationhood.”