Geopolitics

Military Intervention In Libya: Here Are The Options

From simply jamming radar systems to a direct strike on Muammar Gaddafi’s bunker, UN-backed military intervention to protect civilians could take many forms.

French air force bomber (Mashley Morgan)
French air force bomber (Mashley Morgan)
Isabelle Lasserre

PARIS - France, Britain, the United States and its Arab allies will have to choose between several scenarios for their military operations in Libya, following the UN Security Council's vote in favor of a no-fly zone and air strikes against Gaddafi's forces.

(On Friday, the Libyan government announced an immediate ceasefire and a halt to all military operations against rebels following the UN resolution. The move was widely seen as an attempt by Gaddafi's regime to buy time as Western military leaders prepared to act.)

The no-fly zone element of the resolution -- suggested by diplomats -- seemed designed to avoid a Russian or Chinese veto, masking in language acceptable to everyone the reality of military intervention.

When a no-fly zone was imposed in Bosnia in the early 1990s to stop the Serbs from shelling civilians, it did not prevent the Srebrenica massacre. A no-fly zone implemented over Iraq for 12 years did nothing to influence Saddam Hussein. By the time the no-fly zone is put in place over Libya, Gaddafi's troops could have regained control of the last rebel-controlled areas.

Instead, because Thursday evening's UN Security Council's draft resolution promises to protect civilians "by all means', the Allies could decide almost immediately to launch targeted strikes against strategic objectives in Libya, such as its air defense, command centers and airports, in a bid to ground its air force.

Rommel's route

At the same time, electronic warfare could be employed to neutralize Libyan radar systems. Under that scenario, France could participate with planes stationed at the Solenzara airbase on the Mediterranean island of Corsica. It could also send its AWACS radar planes. Such military action would send a strong signal. Some hope it could have a strong psychological impact on Gaddafi's entourage, prompting it to abandon the colonel.

If the goal of the intervention is to bring down the regime, as some diplomats have suggested, the allies could also decide to attack Gaddafi's tanks and infantry, striking in the desert, along the road once travelled by the British Eighth Army and the German General Erwin Rommel. This would be "a particularly intense act, both politically and militarily," warns one high-ranking French military source, who has doubts that it would suffice in unseating the regime.

Faced with the threat of air strikes, Gaddafi will not fail to disperse his forces on the ground, as Saddam Hussein did in March 2003. It will then be difficult to avoid collateral damage on civilian populations. Another military source underlines that air power alone can never win a war. "To destroy an army, you need to go the whole way," he says. The draft resolution, however, excludes the use of ground troops.

Although weakened, Gaddafi can still count on the loyalty of 10,000 to 12,000 soldiers and additional African mercenaries, as well as surface-to-air missiles and significant numbers of tanks and artillery also still under his control.

The last option would be to directly attack the regime's center of gravity, Gaddafi himself, by striking his bunker, or other shelters where he is known to take refuge. In 1986, U.S. air strikes launched by President Ronald Reagan against Gaddafi's residence narrowly missed him.

Since then, military satellite technology and strike systems have become much more sophisticated, which should make such an operation easier. But w should remember that in March 2003, the very first air strike on Baghdad was aimed at eliminating Saddam Hussein. It missed its target.

Read the original version in French

Photo Credit - (Mashley Morgan)

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Geopolitics

How Thailand's Lèse-Majesté Law Is Used To Stifle All Protest

Once meant to protect the royal family, the century-old law has become a tool for the military-led government in Bangkok to stamp out all dissent. A new report outlines the abuses.

Pro-Democracy protest at The Criminal Court in Bangkok, Thailand

Laura Valentina Cortés Sierra

"We need to reform the institution of the monarchy in Thailand. It is the root of the problem." Those words, from Thai student activist Juthatip Sirikan, are a clear expression of the growing youth-led movement that is challenging the legitimacy of the government and demanding deep political changes in the Southeast Asian nation. Yet those very same words could also send Sirikan to jail.

Thailand's Criminal Code 'Lèse-Majesté' Article 112 imposes jail terms for defaming, insulting, or threatening the monarchy, with sentences of three to 15 years. This law has been present in Thai politics since 1908, though applied sparingly, only when direct verbal or written attacks against members of the royal family.


But after the May 2014 military coup d'état, Thailand experienced the first wave of lèse-majesté arrests, prosecutions, and detentions of at least 127 individuals arrested in a much wider interpretation of the law.

The recent report 'Second Wave: The Return of Lèse-Majesté in Thailand', documents how the Thai government has "used and abused Article 112 of the Criminal Code to target pro-democracy activists and protesters in relation to their online political expression and participation in peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations."

Criticism of any 'royal project'

The investigation shows 124 individuals, including at least eight minors, have been charged with lèse-majesté between November 2020 and August 2021. Nineteen of them served jail time. The new wave of charges is cited as a response to the rising pro-democracy protests across Thailand over the past year.

Juthatip Sirikan explains that the law is now being applied in such a broad way that people are not allowed to question government budgets and expenditure if they have any relationship with the royal family, which stifles criticism of the most basic government decision-making since there are an estimated 5,000 ongoing "royal" projects. "Article 112 of lèse-majesté could be the key (factor) in Thailand's political problems" the young activist argues.

In 2020 the Move Forward opposition party questioned royal spending paid by government departments, including nearly 3 billion baht (89,874,174 USD) from the Defense Ministry and Thai police for royal security, and 7 billion baht budgeted for royal development projects, as well as 38 planes and helicopters for the monarchy. Previously, on June 16, 2018, it was revealed that Thailand's Crown Property Bureau transferred its entire portfolio to the new King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

photo of graffiti of 112 crossed out on sidewalk

Protestors In Bangkok Call For Political Prisoner Release

Peerapon Boonyakiat/SOPA Images via ZUMA Wire

Freedom of speech at stake

"Article 112 shuts down all freedom of speech in this country", says Sirikan. "Even the political parties fear to touch the subject, so it blocks most things. This country cannot move anywhere if we still have this law."

The student activist herself was charged with lèse-majesté in September 2020, after simply citing a list of public documents that refer to royal family expenditure. Sirikan comes from a family that has faced the consequences of decades of political repression. Her grandfather, Tiang Sirikhan was a journalist and politician who openly protested against Thailand's involvement in World War II. He was accused of being a Communist and abducted in 1952. According to Sirikhan's family, he was killed by the state.

The new report was conducted by The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Thai Lawyer for Human Rights (TLHR), and Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw). It accuses Thai authorities of an increasingly broad interpretation of Article 112, to the point of "absurdity," including charges against people for criticizing the government's COVID-19 vaccine management, wearing crop tops, insulting the previous monarch, or quoting a United Nations statement about Article 112.

Juthatip Sirikan speaks in front of democracy monument.

Shift to social media

While in the past the Article was only used against people who spoke about the royals, it's now being used as an alibi for more general political repression — which has also spurred more open campaigning to abolish it. Sirikan recounts recent cases of police charging people for spreading paint near the picture of the king during a protest, or even just for having a picture of the king as phone wallpaper.

The more than a century-old law is now largely playing out online, where much of today's protest takes place in Thailand. Sirikan says people are willing to go further on social media to expose information such as how the king intervenes in politics and the monarchy's accumulation of wealth, information the mainstream media rarely reports on them.

Not surprisingly, however, social media is heavily monitored and the military is involved in Intelligence operations and cyber attacks against human rights defenders and critics of any kind. In October 2020, Twitter took down 926 accounts, linked to the army and the government, which promoted themselves and attacked political opposition, and this June, Google removed two Maps with pictures, names, and addresses, of more than 400 people who were accused of insulting the Thai monarchy. "They are trying to control the internet as well," Sirikan says. "They are trying to censor every content that they find a threat".

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