Monthly Archives: March 2011

Asia File: Black smoke pours from Japan’s quake-stricken nuke plant, Tokyo tap water unsafe for infants, radiation contaminates regional food supply

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Asia File: Japan quake death toll exceeds 18,000; workers evacuated (again) as (more) smoke rises from crippled nuke plant

Africa File: US Air Force, NATO warplanes bombard Qaddafi loyalists, strongman’s compound in Tripoli, Western states deny civilian casualties

On Saturday, with a United Nations mandate in its hand and NATO allies at its side, the US Air Force launched Tomahawk cruise missiles against elements of the Libyan military, including strongman Muammar al-Qaddafi’s compound in Tripoli. Libyan soldiers, inspecting damage at the Bab al-Azizia barracks, are pictured above on March 21, 2011.

The principle intent behind Operation Odyssey Dawn is to neutralize Colonel Qaddafi’s air power and prevent the suppression of the country’s rebel forces. Madman Qaddafi apparently didn’t learn his lesson from Operation El Dorado Canyon in 1986.

Russia and Red China abstained from the UN Security Council vote that authorized the action against Libyan regime forces. The world’s communists, in fact, have rallied to Colonel Qaddafi’s defense. Russia’s KGB-communist dictator, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, lashed out at the UNSC resolution, calling military intervention in Libya a “crusade,” while the Greek Communist Party staged large anti-European Union rallies in Athens and Crete.

Meanwhile, in Yemen the revolutionary wave that has crashed through much of the Arab world since January is preparing to sweep President Ali Abdullah Saleh from power. Appalled by the killing of 52 anti-government protesters by snipers this past Friday, three generals and two ambassadors have defected to the opposition. Saleh has been in power for 32 years, first as president of the Yemen Arab Republic, then the Republic of Yemen. Politically, Yemen is a highly unstable country, facing both tribal unrest and a Marxist separatist movement in the once-independent south.

Asia File: EU energy chief: Japan’s Fukushima nuke plant "out of control"; radioactive fallout arrives in S. California, no health threat (yet)

– Nuclear chain reaction feared at Japan’s Fukushima power plant; European Union energy chief Oettinger: Fukushima “out of control” (source 1, source 2, source 3)

– Prevailing westerlies carry radioactive fallout from crippled nuclear plant to Southern California, no health threat (yet) (source)

– Passengers and luggage from Tokyo trigger radiation detectors at Dallas-Fort Worth and Chicago O’Hare airports; low levels of radiation in aircraft’s cabin filtration system (source)

Asia File: Japan quake death toll tops 7,000; PM Kan: radiation leakage at Fukushima nuke plant "very grave"

>Africa File: UN imposes no-fly zone over Libya, NATO deploys forces for immediate air strikes; Qaddafi declares ceasefire with rebels, closes airspace

>– Britain, France, Spain, and USA Readying Military Assets for Air Campaign against Qaddafi Regime, Canada to Contribute Token Force of Jet Fighters

– Key NATO State Germany Abstains from UNSC Vote, Malta to Maintain “Neutrality” in NATO-Libya Conflict

Pictured above: NATO AWACS and US military aircraft at Trapani Birgi air base in Sicily on March 18, 2011. Italy’s government held emergency talks today after the UN Security Council approved air strikes for the purpose of implementing a no-fly zone over Libya.

War is looming in North Africa. On Friday, the regime of Libyan strongman Colonel Muammar al-Qaddafi declared an immediate ceasefire with rebels based in Benghazi. In recent days, however, the rebels have been steadily losing ground to Qaddafi loyalists. This follows a resolution by the United Nations one day earlier to impose a no-fly zone over the country and to authorize the use of military force to stop Qaddafi’s “outrageous” attacks on civilian targets. The decision to implement a no-fly zone came after a 10-0 vote by UN Security Council members, with Germany, Russia, India, Brazil, and Red China abstaining. Moscow is a long-time ally of Qaddafi.

With breath-taking impertinence, Libya’s Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa explained the ceasefire was being enacted in order to “protect civilians,” even though Qaddafi’s mercenary army and air force have not hesitated to bomb and gun down unarmed protesters. According to Koussa, the ceasefire will “take the country back to safety,” though he was critical of the UN’s decision to approve military action, calling it a violation of Libya’s sovereignty. “There are signs this indeed might take place,” Koussa said, referring to the use of military power.

On Friday, in response to the UNSC resolution, arch-terrorist Qaddafi announced the closure of Libya’s airspace. Tripoli’s airport was altogether shut down to traffic. Europe’s air traffic control agency, Eurocontrol, stated: “The latest information from Malta indicates that Tripoli [air control center] does not accept traffic.”

Journalist Ben O’Hara-Byrne told CTV’s Canada AM program that rebel forces hoped the UN resolution would help “level the playing field”: “Over the past seven days, given his dominance of the skies and his far superior fire power, Gadhafi’s forces have really brought the fight to the rebels. We’ve seen the rebels melt away from the positions they had gained only 10 or 15 days ago. The rebels hope now that the international community is involved, momentum will now shift that advantage back to them.”

The formal proclamations from Tripoli indicate that Qaddafi fears NATO air strikes–much as his regime suffered in 1986 following a Libyan-orchestrated terror attack in West Berlin–so he is diverting his military assets away from the uprising toward regime defense.

Speaking in an interview with RTL radio, French government spokesman Francois Baroin said Paris plans to participate in what he described as “swift efforts” against Libya. Prime Minister David Cameron said Britain has started preparations to deploy aircraft, and “in the coming hours” the Royal Air Force will move assets to air bases where they will be positioned for any “necessary action.”

In Madrid, Defense Minister Carme Chacon said Spain will offer NATO the use of two military bases and also provide air and naval forces for use in operations involving Libya. The two bases to be offered in southern Spain are the Rota air naval station, where a contingent of US troops is presently stationed, and the air base at Moron de la Frontera. Spain’s offer to commit air and naval assets is subject to parliamentary approval.

US Air Force Chief of Staff General Norton Schwartz told a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Thursday that establishing a zone would take “upwards of a week.” However, the Pentagon does not view a no-fly zone alone as sufficient to stop Qaddafi’s heavy artillery. Much to the relief of the Obama White House, which is anxious not to upset its Muslim allies overseas, the Arab League supports the imposition of a no-fly zone.

On Thursday, Qaddafi’s son Saadi adopted a moderate tone, telling CNN that government troops will “change their tactics” and take up positions around Benghazi on Saturday or Sunday for the purpose of assisting refugees from the city. The younger Qaddafi, one of seven sons, promised there will be “no large-scale assault.” Instead, police and anti-terrorism units will enter the rebel stronghold to disarm the opposition. In a radio address aired on Libyan state TV, the Libyan dictator criticized residents of Benghazi, branding them “traitors” for seeking help from “outsiders.”

According to sources in Canada’s Ministry of National Defense, reports the Toronto Star, Ottawa will also contribute six CF-18 fighter-bombers to help NATO air forces take out Qaddafi’s air defenses, including radar and missile batteries. The Canadian government has been using Malta as a base to evacuate its citizens from Libya. The Toronto Star also reports that Maltese Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi wants to remain “neutral” in any potential military clash between NATO and Libya.

>Asia File: IAEA: Three reactors at Japanese nuclear plant in partial melt-down, military uses bucket drops, water cannon to douse site

>Asia File: New blaze at quake-crippled Japanese nuclear power plant, radiation levels increase again, technicians evacuated

>Asia File: Nuclear catastrophe in Japan: Third explosion at Fukushima reactor, radiation "spews" from facility, small amounts detected in Tokyo

>In a nationally televised statement, Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan admitted radiation has spread from the four stricken reactors of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant on Honshu’s northeastern coast, which was devastated by an 8.9 earthquake and 10-meter tsunami on Friday. A third explosion shook the site on Tuesday. Japanese officials have told the International Atomic Energy Agency that as a result of a reactor fire in a storage pond, “radioactivity is being released directly into the atmosphere.”

Although the fire was apparently extinguished, a Japanese official stated that the pool where used nuclear fuel is cooled might be boiling, raising fears that the seawater could evaporate altogether, leading to a total meltdown. Many residents from nearby Fukushima City are fleeing south, toward Tokyo, which lost power on Friday, leaving millions of Japanese in the dark and cold as the country pulls out of winter. Nearly 3,000 bodies have been recovered, but 20,000 people are missing in the region swamped by the tsunami.

Officials south of Fukushima have reported up to 100 times the normal levels of radiation, while Tokyo, a city of 13 million inhabitants, reports “slightly elevated” levels. “Please do not go outside. Please stay indoors. Please close windows and make your homes airtight,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told residents in the danger zone. “These are figures that potentially affect health. There is no mistake about that,” he said.

Trading on the Nikkei dropped 11% today amid fears that a nuclear catastrophe could delay Japan’s post-quake economic recovery. “What the world is watching right now is whether Tepco’s Fukushima nuclear power plant is going to turn into Chernobyl,” commented Norihiro Fujito, senior investment strategist at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities. At this time, too, many countries with civilian nuclear power programs are reviewing or suspending their use of this form of energy.

>WW4 File: Russian Bear bomber flies within 12 miles of Scotland; RAF source: Libya deployment would create vulnerabilities for Britain

>As the United Kingdom weighs the possibility of supporting a NATO-imposed, UN-sanctioned no-fly zone over Libya, with the intent of thwarting Colonel Muammar al-Qaddafi’s air strikes against rebel forces, Russian bombers are once again testing the Royal Air Force’s reaction time to airspace intrusions.

On March 13, The Sunday Times reported that one night last week “A Russian bomber has infiltrated deeper into Britain’s air defences than at any time since the cold war and come within sight of the Scottish coast at St Andrews.” Two Tornado F3 fighter aircraft from RAF Leuchars, five miles north of the university town, were scrambled to intercept the lumbering Tupolev Tu-95, which was only 12 miles out to sea. However, the Russian pilot ignored international protocols for such encounters and pulled back only when his nuclear cruise missile platform was within seconds of entering British airspace.

The RAF crews could clearly see the lights of St. Andrews as they flew alongside the Bear bomber, which was believed to have been accompanied by at least one other further out to sea. “It was all a bit tense,” said a senior RAF source, which warned that Russia was testing the impact of Prime Minister David Cameron’s defence cuts on the RAF’s ability to guard British airspace.

The Tornado fighters that intercepted the Bear are slated to be scrapped at the end of March and replaced by Typhoons, but the future of RAF Leuchars is uncertain. The Ministry of Defence is considering scrapping the northern “quick reaction alert” base altogether and focusing Britain’s air defences on RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire. The slashing of Nimrod spy planes from RAF Kinloss in Moray led last October to Britain losing track of a Russian submarine passing by northern Scotland.

“The Russians are sticking two fingers up at us and showing up how thinly stretched we are,” the RAF source said. “If we have to send aircraft to patrol a no-fly zone over Libya, we will be unable to protect our own back door. Then the MoD will have to bite the bullet and keep the Tornado F3s in service.”

Jim Murphy, the shadow defence secretary, warned that the latest Russian bomber probe highlighted the deficiencies caused by the Conservative government’s cuts: “This will be extremely worrying for people and they will want clarity about Britain’s ability to defend itself. Serious people are asking serious questions about the capability gap left by the government’s defence review. Morale in our armed forces is low as is this government’s credibility on defence.”

In 2010, RAF fighter aircraft were scrambled 15 times to intercept Russian strategic bombers entering the UK Air Defence Identification Zone, which extends 150 miles into the North Sea. These incidents were common during the Cold War, but reappeared in late 2006. Since then, RAF aircraft have scrambled about 65 times to escort Bear and Tu-160 Blackjack bombers away from the British Isles (one such incident pictured above).

Is it possible that madman Qaddafi–a long-time ally of Moscow, which this week attempted to distance itself from the Libyan regime by banning the North African leader from entering Russia–is luring NATO into another political-military quagmire in the Muslim world? On Tuesday, witnesses stated that Qaddafi loyalists had captured Zwara, the last rebel-held city west of Tripoli. This victory solidifies Qaddafi’s hold on the western stretch of coastline from the capital to the Tunisian border, even as the Libyan leader’s mercenary army marches against rebels in their eastern strongholds

>Africa File: Qaddafi loyalists regain ground in western Libya, target Misurata; Arab League joins call for no-fly zone, seeks UN approval

>Over the weekend, Muammar Qaddafi’s forces, using armor and mercenary-flown warplanes, pushed insurgents out of the oil port of Brega, the fourth rebel-held town to fall as NATO debates measures that would halt the Libyan strongman’s eastward advance. Momentum in the four-week conflict has shifted toward Qaddafi, who has recaptured the oil port of Ras Lanuf, the nearby town of Bin Jawad, and the western city of Zawiyah.

In a signal that regime forces are preparing to push further east, a military camp in Ajdabiya, about 50 miles east of Brega, was targeted by an air strike today, though no one was killed. Misurata, the only city in western Libya still held by the rebels, is “almost surrounded from all directions and we’re expecting an attack at any moment,” fretted Reda Almountasser, a rebel supporter in that city told Bloomberg by phone on Monday.

To thwart Qaddafi’s attempts to reassert control over the entire country, France, the United Kingdom, and the Arab League have backed a no-fly zone over Libya, but now United Nations approval is sought. On March 14, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Paris (pictured above with US security officials) to discuss options on ending the Libyan conflict with the USA’s G8 allies.

In an effort to distance itself from its long-time client and ally, the Kremlin has banned Qaddafi and his family from seeking refuge in Russia or conducting financial transactions there. Although Russia opposes NATO military intervention in the North African country, Moscow has softened its stance on the imposition of a no-fly zone.

>Asia File: Massive 8.9 quake, 6.6 aftershock hit Japan, up to 1,600 killed, tsunami wipes out cities, towns; nuclear plant disaster

>– Tokyo Electric Power’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant Damaged, Up to 160 People Exposed to Radiation (source)

Pictured above: Homes burn and ships are tossed about like toys in tsunami-ravaged Kessenuma, Japan.

The Ring of Fire is very active these days. Today’s earthquake off the east coast of Japan’s main island Honshu is the country’s largest-ever recorded shaker, responsible for killing up to 1,600 people and generating a 10-meter tsunami that inundated towns and cities. BBC News reports: “A massive earthquake has hit the north-east of Japan, triggering a tsunami that has caused extensive damage. Japanese television showed cars, ships and even buildings being swept away by a vast wall of water after the 8.9-magnitude earthquake. The quake has sparked fires in several areas including Tokyo. At least 32 people were killed, officials said.”

The previous source notes: “Coastal areas in the Philippines, Hawaii and other Pacific islands were evacuated ahead of the tsunami’s expected arrival.” According to the MSM, “Tsunami waves swamped Hawaii beaches and brushed the U.S. western coast Friday but didn’t immediately cause major damage after devastating Japan and sparking evacuations throughout the Pacific.”

The massive quake also damaged a nuclear power plant, releasing radiation into the surrounding area: “Radiation has leaked from a damaged Japanese nuclear reactor north of Tokyo after an explosion blew the roof off the facility in the wake of a massive earthquake, the government says. The developments raised fears of a meltdown at the plant as officials scrambled to contain what could be the worst nuclear disaster since the Chernobyl explosion in 1986 that shocked the world.”

A second, 6.6-magnitude quake struck northwest Japan on Saturday. Since last September, two large earthquakes have also struck New Zealand’s South Island. The second, which occurred on February 22, devastated Christchurch.

>Africa File: France recognizes Libya’s rebel government, pro-Qaddafi troops concentrate firepower on Zawiyah and Ras Lanuf, NATO begins surveillance

>– French President and British Prime Minister Urge NATO Air Strikes against Libyan Military Targets

– First Libyan Official to Demand Qaddafi’s Resignation Denounces Polisario Front for Joining Strongman’s Mercenary Army

On Thursday, France became the first country anywhere to recognize the Libyan National Council, the rebel organization fighting to oust long-time dictator Colonel Muammar Qaddafi, as the legitimate representative of Libya. “France recognises the National Council as the legitimate representative of the Libyan people. There will be an exchange of ambassadors between Paris and Benghazi,” declared an official at the Elysee Palace, referring to the eastern Libyan city that has become the rebel stronghold.

A French diplomatic source said: “It’s a political signal of encouragement and we hope that the European Union will follow suit.” One European Union (EU) diplomat has in fact admitted that the 27-member federation was exploring the possibility of opening a representative office in east Libya, a stance that definitely expresses the EU’s confidence in Qaddafi’s eventual departure.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy probably has a personal interest in bidding adieu to Qaddafi. In 2008 the Libyan strongman, Africa’s self-anointed “King of Kings,” refused to join Sarkozy’s new Union for the Mediterranean (UPM). The UPM includes the European Union and those African and Asian countries with shores on the Mediterranean Sea, including Israel. On the basis of Qaddafi’s strong objections, Tripoli elected not to join the regional economic bloc, preferring instead to exert influence via the African Union.

Incidentally, in past posts on Bible prophecy, we have noted that the UPM, even more so than simply the EU, bears all of the hallmarks of the revived Roman Empire. Twenty centuries ago, Judea was a province of Imperial Rome. Now, 60 years after the Jews were officially and miraculously restored to their ancient homeland, the political entity that once embraced the entire Mediterranean region is also on the world stage. This is a heads up for anyone who takes Bible prophecy seriously.

The civil war in Libya, now recognized as such by the International Red Cross, continued to rage on Thursday as pro-Qaddafi forces renewed “ferocious attacks” on rebel positions around strategic refinery town Ras Lanuf. Explosions rocked a hospital and a mosque. Sirens howled and anti-aircraft gunners blazed away at clear skies, while two ambulances speeding from the hospital crashed into each other.

The previous day, rebel army units west of Ras Lanuf countered government shelling with missile fusillades and rocket-propelled grenades. Backed by heavy weaponry, the insurgents managed to advance on foot for a few miles to the west, until the fighters were deterred by regime mortars and heavy machine guns. The rebels lost five men to gunfire and were forced to retreat in trucks.

There were also new reports of regime air strikes much further east, at a checkpoint in the town of Brega, about one hundreds miles west of Benghazi. If confirmed, the attack would suggest that loyalist forces are ranging further towards Benghazi, possibly attacking rebel supply lines.

“It’s tough these days,” said Mohammed al-Houni, a 25-year-old fighter at the front, referring to Qaddafi loyalists. “There is no comparison between our weapons and theirs. They’re trained, they’re organized. They got their training in Russia and I don’t know where. We’re not an army, we’re the people and even if we had weapons, we wouldn’t even know how to use them.”

In the western part of the country, elite government troops continued to pound the besieged rebel-held city of Zawiyah, only 30 miles from Tripoli. While the Qaddafi regime claims to have subdued opposition in Zawiyah, there has been no independent confirmation since reporters are barred from entering the town.

So, while the conflict in Libya degenerates into full-scale civil war, disrupting oil exports and jacking up pump prices worldwide, NATO officials in Brussels debate the benefits of imposing a no-flight zone over Libyan airspace. British defence secretary Liam Fox hinted that a no-fly zone could be enforced without first neutralizing the North African country’s air defences. Showing a modicum of resolve, the North Atlantic Alliance has at least decided to establish 24-hour surveillance of the country’s airspace. On March 10, NATO officialdom announced that three Boeing E-3 Sentry aircraft are airborne off the Libyan coast, keeping track of all Libyan air force flights.

In a joint letter issued on the eve of an emergency EU summit, to be held on Friday, Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron (pictured above) warned that Qaddafi might be guilty of crimes against humanity, offering NATO the necessary legal cover under the Geneva conventions for a no-fly zone or targeted air strikes. “The strikes would be solely of a defensive nature if Mr Gaddafi makes use of chemical weapons or air strikes against non-violent protesters,” Sarkozy urged, adding: “I have many reservations about military intervention in Libya because Arab revolutions belong to Arabs.”

Meanwhile, Dr. Ali Errishi, the first Libyan official to demand Qaddafi’s resignation, has condemned the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Río de Oro (Polisario Front) for its “hypocrisy” in claiming to fight for “freedom and progressive ideals,” but at the same time joining Qaddafi’s mercenary army to crush opposition forces. Errishi pleaded:

I appeal to Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to be a good neighbour and stop these people from crossing Algeria into Libya to join Qadhafi’s mercenary army. The hypocrisy of members of the Polisario who speak of their ideals and progressive values, yet participate in such a viscous enterprise is disheartening.

Libya’s Minister of State for Immigration and Expatriates since 2006, Errishi resigned from a regime he no longer considers legitimate. He is well known among Libyans as a human rights activist.

The Polisario Front is seeking independence for Western Sahara from Morocco and has rejected Rabat’s internationally backed compromise solution for regional autonomy within Morocco. Western Sahara was a Spanish colony until 1975, when General Francisco Franco’s fascist regime ended with his death. Moroccan troops promptly invaded and occupied the sparsely populated region.

News reports allege that Qaddafi has recruited up to 25,000 mercenaries, including Tuareg separatist fighters from his own country, as well as hired guns from Mali, Algeria, and Burkina Faso. Errishi confirmed that well-armed members of the Polisario Front, which is based in refugee camps near Tindouf in southwest Algeria, are among the strongman’s paid killers. Robert Holley, executive director of the Moroccan American Center for Policy also denounced Qaddafi’s mercenary army:

It is outrageous that members of the Polisario are likely part of the mercenaries Qadhafi has organized to suppress and kill his own people. The international community should heed Dr. Errishi’s call for blockading transit for these hired guns through Algeria and elsewhere. As Dr. Errishi notes, the hypocrisy is disheartening—and a challenge to regional stability.

Although Errishi appealed to Bouteflika to halt the transit of Western Sahara separatists, the Algerian leader has his own problems at home. In Algiers, the 50-year-old National Liberation Front regime faces widespread, Tunisia-inspired dissent from a marginalized political opposition and a disgruntled, under-paid police force.

>Africa File: Libyan rebels allege Syrian pilots flying in Qaddafi’s mercenary air force, Serbs deny personnel involvement

>Libyan rebels claim to have shot down two warplanes over the oil town of Ras Lanuf and that the pilots’ identity cards and accents indicate Syrian citizenship. The National Front for the Salvation of Libya claims that the Syrian authorities are complicit in the participation of their pilots.

Pictured above: A pre-Qaddafi flag flies outside the Libyan consulate in The Hague, Netherlands, on March 9, 2011

According to Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, which interviewed the rebels, the embattled regime of Colonel Muammar al-Qaddafi is employing mercenary pilots from Syria, Algeria, Ukraine, Serbia, and Romania to fly air force warplanes because Libyan pilots are no longer considered reliable. Indeed, some Libyan pilots have defected altogether. We have already posted on the presence of Eastern Europeans of high rank in the Libyan air force.

Qaddafi’s mercenary air force staged new raids against rebel positions on Tuesday, even as rebels announced that they recently rejected attempts by Qaddafi intermediaries to talk with the interim government, headed up by Libya’s former justice minister Mustafa Abdel-Jalil. A rebel spokesman huffed to Voice of America: “We’re not going to negotiate with him. He knows where the airport is in Tripoli and all he needs to do is leave and stop the bloodshed.” Incidentally, Abdel-Jalil alleges that Qaddafi personally ordered the bombing of PanAm Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988.

Libya’s close ties with “post”-communist Serbia, in particular, were revealed during Qaddafi’s exclusive interview with Serbia’s Pink TV on February 27, only hours after the United Nations imposed economic sanctions against the Qaddafi clan. “We have very good relations with Libya, including a large trade exchange, especially in the military sector, primarily weapons and equipment. We export a lot to Libya. We have signed many trade agreements with Libya,” Zoran Dragisic, a security analyst from Belgrade, told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Belgrade denies reports that Serbian pilots are flying Libyan warplanes.

Meanwhile, in an interview with Turkish TV, the Libyan strongman has threatened reprisals if NATO imposes a no-fly zone over his country: “If they take such a decision, it will be useful for Libya, because the Libyan people will see the truth, that what they want is to take control of Libya and to steal their oil. Then the Libyan people will take up arms against them.”

>Africa File: Pro-Qadaffi forces launch "heavy" counter-strikes against rebels, British embarrassed by botched SAS mission in Benghazi

>Pictured here: On Monday, anti-Qaddafi rebels run for cover after a Libyan air force fighter jet drops a bomb near a checkpoint on the outskirts of the oil town Ras Lanuf.

“With tanks, helicopters and fighter planes,” reports The New York Times on Sunday, ” troops loyal to Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi attacked rebel troops in the coastal town of Bin Jawwad on Sunday and pushed them east, stalling, for the moment, hopes by the antigovernment fighters of a steady march toward Tripoli.”

Meanwhile, on Friday Libyan rebels captured six SAS soldiers and an MI6 officer who were escorting British diplmats into the Benghazi area to establish contact with the country’s opposition. Stupidly, the British government neglected to inform the Libyan rebels of the mission, who refused to talk with the diplomats. The Australian media points out: “The team is said to have entered without prior arrangement in the dead of night, carrying guns, explosives, and passports of multiple nationalities.” Foreign Secretary William Hague, London confirms, approved the mission.

In Latin America, Qaddafi’s allies in the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA) converged in Caracas, where they offered to mediate between the Libyan regime and the rebels. On Friday, Venezuela’s communist dictator Hugo Chavez read a statement in which ALBA condemned NATO’s alleged plans to intervene in the Libyan conflict and seize the country’s oil reserves. Chavez warned that if there is a larger conflict in North Africa, “those flames could reach Europe.” According to Chavez, Qaddafi has endorsed ALBA’s role as mediator.

The ALBA bloc of socialist states includes Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Bolivia, Dominica, Antigua and Barbuda, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Observer states include Grenada, Haiti, Paraguay, Uruguay and, intriguingly, Syria. “Post”-communist Russia has also expressed an interest in joining ALBA.

From the historical viewpoint, Grenada’s observer status in ALBA is sadly ironic. In 1983, US-led forces from the Eastern Caribbean invaded Grenada to oust a pro-Soviet communist regime. Grenada’s current prime minister, however, has once again aligned the island country with Havana, even renaming Grenada’s Cuban-built international airport after deceased Marxist dictator Maurice Bishop.

>Africa File: Russia rejects military strike against long-time ally Qaddafi; Belarus shipped up to 40 tons of arms to Libya on eve of first protests

>– Qaddafi’s Ukrainian “Nurse” (KGB Controller?) Flies Home on Military Transport, Ukrainian Security Service (SBU/KGB) Confiscates Kolotnitskaya’s Passport after In-Flight Rant (source)

– US Navy Warships Heading for Libyan Coast as Rebels Mull Benefits of Foreign Intervention

– Western Sahara Guerrillas Steal across Algerian-Libyan Border to Military Camps near Tripoli, Lead Ground Operations for Strongman’s Mercenary Army

– Qaddafi’s Children Urge Dictator to Accept Offer of Political Asylum from Nicaragua’s President Ortega

– Al Qaeda Affiliates Express Solidarity with Popular Uprising, Islamic Militants Raid Army Depot with Complicity of Commanding Officer

In the wake of a popular uprising that is less than three weeks old, the Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, founded by Colonel Muammar al-Qaddafi in 1969, is in its death throes. Rebel forces consisting of anti-government troops and militias pretty much control the entire North African country, with the exception of the capital Tripoli, Qaddafi’s hometown Surt, and a few other population centers.

Undaunted, Qaddafi loyalists have staged counterattacks since last weekend. On Wednesday, they overran the lightly defended town of Brega, an oil-exporting terminal on the coast around 500 miles east of Tripoli. However, rebels managed to repel the pro-Qaddafi forces (pictured above). Local sources described an aerial attack against the town of Ajdabiyah, around 50 miles from Brega, where rebels have seized control of a large ammunition dump. Ajdabiyah lies on the western approaches to Benghazi, the site of a rival government headed by Libya’s former justice minister.

Libya’s anti-Qaddafi rebels are divided over the issue of summoning foreign military intervention. “We are probably going to call for foreign help, probably air strikes at strategic locations that will put the nail in his [Qaddafi’s] coffin,” Mustafa Gheriani, a spokesman for the hastily organized February 17th Coalition, told Reuters. “They [loyalists] tried to take Brega this morning, but they failed. It is back in the hands of the revolutionaries. He [Qaddafi] is trying to create all kinds of psychological warfare to keep these cities on edge.”

In Tripoli, cornered mad dog Qaddafi, some or all of his seven sons, including heir apparent Saif al-Islam, are holed up in a huge military complex with thousands of mercenaries from Ukraine and Serbia, as well as Zimbabwe, Mali, Chad, and Sudan. The Bab al-Azizia barracks contain tunnels for easy escape and, according to Ramdan Jarbou, a writer who advises the rebel council, “It is designed to resist an atomic attack.”

Qaddafi’s white mercenaries from Eastern Europe have been tasked with keeping the Libyan air force airborne, while the black hired guns from sub-Saharan Africa roam the streets of Tripoli, looking for victims. Tellingly, the governments of Ukraine, Belarus, and Serbia were quick to deny the involvement of any retired or active-duty soldiers in the Libyan civil war.

Reportedly leading the pro-regime ground operations are guerrilla fighters of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Río de Oro (Polisario Front). In past years, Qaddafi cultivated a useful alliance with Polisario Front leader Mohamed Abdelaziz, who is also chummy with Cuba’s communist leaders. A Moroccan news site relates that the “Good Colonel” has dispatched emissaries to Western Sahara with a request for “additional fighters” in exchange for money and weapons to prosecute the Polisario Front’s war against Morocco:

Some sources in Algeria speak of hundreds of fighters from the Western Sahara. Separatist Polisario group have already crossed the border between Algeria and Libya towards military camps near Tripoli, Libya. The goal is to use Gaddafi’s Serbs and Ukrainians to fly helicopters and military aircraft, while the Polisario fighters lead the ground fighting.

Moreover, and according to the official Libyan news agency JANA, the Western Sahara Polisario leader, Mohamed Abdelaziz, has been one of the few people who managed to talk to Qaddafi. During the call, the “guide of the revolution” [Qaddafi] had promised to Mohamed Abdelaziz considerable sums of money and weapons to resume the war against Morocco. In his speech Tuesday, Gaddafi had indeed made it clear that nations that would help him are all from the Sahara. A clear allusion to the Polisario.

For his part, Muammar’s son Khamis leads the Libyan army’s 32nd Brigade, a relatively well equipped special forces outfit consisting of 10,000 men who have pledged their loyalty to the Qaddafi clan.

Since his coup against the Libyan monarch, Qaddafi has enjoyed Moscow’s ideological and technological support, both before and after the “fall” of communism. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin visited Libya in early 2008, while Qaddafi returned the favor by stopping by at the Kremlin later that year. An arms deal was high on the agenda in both instances.

Despite the current violence in Libya, the Russian Foreign Ministry has rejected international calls for sanctions against Qaddafi’s tottering regime. “While [they] might work in some situations, you can hardly say that they are an effective method of international action,” ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich told Interfax. During bilateral talks in Brussels, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov released a joint statement with European Union Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton, which stated:

We condemn and consider unacceptable the use of military force to break up peaceful demonstrations. Supporting the peoples of Arab countries in their aspirations for a more just and prosperous life, the European Union and Russia stand ready to provide economic and other assistance to interested countries at their request.

The Kremlin has also rejected calls for military strikes and the establishment of a “no-fly” zone over Libya. Lavrov commented dismissively: “Planning any military intervention would be superfluous. Russia will veto any such plans at the United Nations.” Along the same theme, Russia’s NATO ambassador Dmitry Rogozin rumbled: “It would be a serious mistake if someone in Washington is seeking a blitzkrieg in Libya. A ban on the national air force or civil aviation to fly over their own territory is still a serious interference into the domestic affairs of another country.” Saif al-Islam warned against military action. “If they attack us, we are ready,” he told Sky News.

Since the uprising started on February 16, the former Soviet republic of Belarus’ support for Qaddafi has been more tangible than the expressions of solidarity emanating from Russia. On the previous day, reports the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), a Libyan-owned Ilyushin Il-76 aircraft left an air base near the Belarusian city of Baranovichi and landed at the Libyan desert airport of Sebha. “The Ilyushin came from a dedicated military base that only handles stockpiled weaponry and military equipment,” revealed SIPRI’s arms trafficking expert Hugh Griffiths on Radio Sweden. SIPRI is an independent organization that tracks arms trafficking on behalf of the European Union.

The arms monitor also contends that one of Qaddafi’s private aircraft, a Falcon 900 executive jet, flew from Libya to Belarus last week, at least twice, possibly ferrying gold and diamonds. In particular, Griffiths elaborated on Sebha’s importance to the Libyan regime’s military operations:

Sebha is deep in the desert and was created by Gaddafi as his main military logistics base for his invasions of Chad in the 1980s. The tribe that controls the area around Sebha is still loyal to Gaddafi, he spent some of his formative years there, going to school.

Sebha could still be used as a jumping-off point for the movement of people or high-value commodities – such as diamonds, gold – out of Libya, either by executive jet, such as the aircraft which made the flights to Belarus late last week, or heavier items by cargo aircraft.

The Libyan regime has a “substantial number” of Soviet-built Ilyushin Il-76s. The air base at Baranovichi holds a major supply of arms and light weapons left over from the Cold War. Khamis al-Qaddafi attended a large military exercise in Belarus two years ago.

Griffiths also suggests that personal links between Qaddafi and four-term Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko could be helpful for the Libyan leader and his clan in the event that rebels successfully seize Tripoli. “[Lukashenko] hasn’t distanced himself from Gaddafi and he would certainly welcome members of his entourage,” he was quoted by Radio Sweden as saying. “Belarusian authorities could also manage to convert [Qaddafi’s alleged] large quantities of gold and diamonds into cash.” Although we previously quoted a Libyan oppositionist as predicting that Qaddafi intended to escape to Zimbabwe, Lukashenko would no doubt welcome the Lunatic of Libya with open arms.

As with reports of Belarusian and other Eastern European soldiers in the employ of Qaddafi, Belarus authorities derided the SIPRI report. Information about the flights between Libya and Belarus were drawn from “a wide range of sources” within the United Nations, EU and NATO, Griffiths told Swedish radio news.

On Tuesday the United Nations General Assembly unanimously suspended Libya’s farcical membership in the UN Human Rights Council. The resolution was adopted by consensus in the 192-nation General Assembly on the basis of a recommendation from the 47-member Geneva-based council, the principal UN rights forum. That body accused Libyan authorities last Friday of “gross and systematic violations of human rights.”

In spite of its pro-Muslim stance, the Obama White House is at least toying with a military response to the Qaddafi regime’s brutal crackdown on the rebellion. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the House of Representatives’ foreign affairs committee that Libya’s future is “murky.” Clinton opined: “In the years ahead, Libya could become a peaceful democracy or it could face protracted civil war. The stakes are high. The entire region is changing, and a strong and strategic American response will be essential.”

Defense Secretary Robert Gates cautioned: “We have to think about the use of the U.S. military in another country in the Middle East.” Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen mused: “It would be an extraordinarily complex operation to set up.”

If US President Barack Hussein Obama gives a green light to oust Qaddafi, then the White House may play the “weapons of mass destruction” card to justify US-NATO air strikes. An Israeli news source quotes The Wall Street Journal as saying that “Washington fears Gaddafi may use mustard gas and other chemical-weapons agents against anti-government protestors. The newspaper quoted US officials as saying Tripoli also maintains control of aging Scud B missiles, as well as 1,000 metric tons of uranium yellowcake and vast amounts of conventional weapons.” According to an unconfirmed report in the Iranian state media, the Qaddafi regime has already used poison gas against rebels in the city of Misurata.

On March 2, Reuters, citing Egyptian authorities, reported that two US Navy amphibious assault ships, Kearsarge and Ponce, entered the Suez Canal from the Red Sea, sailing north on their way to the Mediterranean Sea. On Monday, destroyer USS Barry passed through the canal and is now sailing in the southwest Mediterranean. Pentagon officials will not confirm whether the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise, which is still in the Red Sea, will be deployed to Libya.

Meanwhile, according to the Jerusalem Post, Qaddafi’s children have urged their father to abdicate and head for Nicaragua, where President Daniel Ortega, with the White House’s blessing, has reportedly offered political asylum to his old Cold War comrade. Ortega has been very vocal about his support for Qaddafi and disapproval for the Libyan rebels, earning him a rap on the wrist from Costa Rican counterpart Laura Chinchilla, with whom he is duelling over a disputed river border.

Incidentally, President Hugo Chavez, Qaddafi’s ally in Venezuela, has made no public statements concerning the Libyan uprising. This conspicuous silence is strange in view of Comrade Hugo’s reputation as a “big mouth.” However, PetroleumWorld reports that Chavez may have let the cat out of the bag in a post at his official Twitter account: “Gaddafi is facing a civil war. Long live Libya. Long live the independence of Libya.”

Like Communist Cuba, the red regime in Caracas alleges that the USA plans to invade oil-rich Libya under the guise of intervention. Venezuela’s UN ambassador Jorge Valero stated: “We urge peace-loving nations in all regions of the world to put a stop to the invasion plans against Libya, which have been unashamedly announced by the Department of State of the United States and the Pentagon.”

Throughout the rebellion, Qaddafi–who hides his own hashish addiction behind trademark sunglasses–has accused Al Qaeda of fomenting the unrest that imperils his regime with drug-crazed teenagers as pawns. Although Islamists have yet to hijack the ongoing democratic revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya, they are definitely making their presence felt in the last country, where the regime’s response to public protests has been the most violent.

In a statement released on February 24 by the North African affiliate of Al Qaeda, the group known as Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) declared its solidarity with the Libyan rebels: “We declare our support for the legitimate demands of the Libyan revolution. We assert to our people in Libya that we are with you and will not let you down, God willing. We will give everything we have to support you, with God’s grace.” The statement was posted on the al Qaeda-affiliated al-Fajr website.

Frances Townsend, formerly homeland security adviser to US President George W. Bush, worries that AQIM could establish a presence in the eastern provinces of Libya: “I do worry because AQIM has training, recruiting and operational capability, and they could lend that capability to what remains of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group.” Formed by Libyan fighters who joined Osama bin Laden in the 1980s to oust the Soviets from Afghanistan, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) was until recently the jihadist opposition to Qaddafi.

“Gadhafi crushed them,” relates Townsend. “My concern has always been that AQIM could conceivably lend support to the remnants of the LIFG as an attempt to take advantage of the chaos. It’s a legitimate concern, but as far as I know, it’s for now a theoretical concern.” Many of the LIFG leaders were sent to prison and then reintegrated into society through de-radicalization programs.

Another Muslim grouping called the Libyan Islamic Movement for Change has issued a statement calling on Arab states and the international community to intervene and aid the Libyan protestors:

This regime has lost control of most Libyan cities with the exception of the main part of the capital Tripoli…which has forced this gang to carry out airstrikes – using foreign pilots – against locations where protestors are gathering. This is in order to guarantee freedom of movement to military brigades and foreign mercenaries that have been brought in from abroad to carry out a campaign of genocide against the Libyan people, away from the eyes of the outside world.

Gaddafi is committed to destroying Libya and its people, and he wants to ensure that if his end is inevitable, he will not fall alone, but take all of Libya with him.

The Libyan Islamic Movement for Change urged the Libyan Air Force to bomb Qaddafi’s headquarters at the Bab al-Azizia barracks in Tripoli, “thereby spare Libyan people the bloodbath being arranged by the Libyan leaders, enabling the people of Libya to regain their independence and freedom.”

On February 20, a third Islamist group, called the Islamic Emirate of Barqa (IEB), actually carried out a military operation in Derna, storming a government arms depot and a nearby port. In the coordinated assault, IEB militants killed four soldiers, took hostages, and seized 250 weapons and 70 army vehicles. Significantly, the depot’s commanding officer facilitated the theft by willingly turning over a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, three anti-aircraft artillery units, and 70 Kalashnikov assault rifles. The same group was responsible for the hanging of two policemen in Al-Baida on February 19.

Over the past five years, Libya has freed around 850 prisoners from different Islamist groups, 360 of them since March 2010. Among those released were jihadists with ties to Al Qaeda’s Iraqi and North African sections, including senior members of the LIFG, such as its chief Abdelhakim Belhaj. In March 2006 Libya released 84 jailed members of the country’s banned Muslim Brotherhood, held since the late 1990s.

>Africa File: Pro-Qaddafi forces continue assault against oil town, Pentagon repositions forces, Italy suspends friendship treaty with Libya

>Overnight pro-regime forces in Libya once again attempted to re-take the rebel-held oil town of Zawiyah. CNN reports today that: “Forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi tried to retake a town near the capital that is in opposition control but were repelled . . . Pro-Gadhafi troops with tanks and anti-aircraft guns attacked Zawiyah from both east and west as night fell Monday, but did not capture the town, a short drive from the capital Tripoli . . .” The same source adds: “Zawiyah is calm Tuesday, but Gadhafi’s troops remain outside it . . .”

Meanwhile, Washington is repositioning military assets in the region for a possible stike against the Libyan armed forces. DefenseNews.com reports:

The U.S. military is moving naval and air forces into position around Libya, the Pentagon said Feb. 28, as Western countries weigh possible intervention against Moammar Gadhafi’s regime. “We have planners working various contingency plans, and I think it’s safe to say as part of that we’re repositioning forces to provide for that flexibility once decisions are made,” Pentagon spokesman Col. Dave Lapan told reporters.

The aircraft carrier USS Enterprise is presently sailing in the Red Sea, while US and NATO bases in Italy could serve as potential staging areas for any action against Libya. For instance, the US Navy’s Sixth Fleet is stationed near Naples. The USA last bombed Libya in 1986, in reprisal for a terrorist attack in West Berlin.

To that end, Rome has suspended adherence to a non-aggression treaty that Italy signed with Libya three years ago, opening the way for US/NATO intervention in Libya’s civil war, which has crippled oil exports.