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Qaddafi's Growing Isolation

Author: Jonathan Masters, Deputy Editor
February 28, 2011

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Following UN sanctions announced over the weekend, Western countries continue to mobilize against Libyan dictator Muammar al-Qaddafi. France announced the dispatch of two planes loaded with aid destined for Benghazi (BBC). The European Union is also set to announce sanctions, including equipment bans, travel restrictions, and asset freezes. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is expected to begin crisis negotiations in Geneva, where the UN Human Rights Council (al-Jazeera) is gathering. Qaddafi forces are centered in and around Tripoli (Guardian), while rebels control vast swaths of the country's east. Despite their advances, opposition forces have been unable to crack the regime's hold on the capital. In remarks to the press, Qaddafi officials blamed Islamic radicals (NYT) for conspiring to overthrow the regime and supporting chaos.

The chief economist for the International Energy Agency suggested Libya's crisis and the resulting hike in oil prices (WSJ) could threaten the European economic recovery. Oil has been trading at its highest prices in over two years.

Protests continued in Morocco, Yemen, Iraq, and elsewhere in the Middle East. "For the first time in perhaps a millennium, the Arab people are taking charge of their own affairs," Fareed Zakaria writes in the Washington Post.

In Oman, hundreds of anti-government protestors took to the streets for a third consecutive day, clashing with police in the industrial town of Sohar (al-Jazeera). At least one person was killed and twenty injured. Meanwhile, Tunisian interim Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi stepped down following renewed unrest (al-Jazeera) that has left at least five dead since Friday. Ghannouchi had previously said he would remain in office until elections could be organized this summer.

And in Israel, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Syrian President Bashar Assad is ready to consider a peace deal, and would find a willing partner in Israel (Haaretz). Barak also played down Israeli fears (Reuters) that political change in Egypt might ultimately lead to Islamist control there.

Analysis:

Though the turmoil in the Arab world has "excited" most Palestinians, expert Rashid Khalidi says U.S.-led negotiations for a two-state solution has foundered and the U.S. block of a UN resolution on settlements could mean the negotiation process is "seeing its last days."

In Foreign Affairs, Robert H. Pelletreau argues this is a threshold moment for the entire Middle East. It is still unclear how far revolution will spread and what will come of it, but Obama's deft handling of the crisis has strengthened his foreign policy record.

While Qaddafi's regime is still surviving the Libyan unrest, CFR's Robert Danin says that if Qaddafi goes, the country lacks the elements needed for a smooth and peaceful transition of power.

This CFR issue guide provides a range of background and analysis on the protests in the Middle East and North Africa.

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