Category Archives: Middle East

Murky Waters: Implications of a Syrian No-Fly Zone

Syrian Flag

by Dylan Maguire, Research Intern
Edited by Dr. Denise Natali, Minerva Chair

As the events in Syria continue to unfold and new accounts of atrocities committed by Bashar al-Assad’s regime against the Syrian people are reported, calls for the international community to take decisive action will grow stronger.

At a recent panel held at the Rethink Institute in Washington, DC, an affiliate of the Turkic American Alliance, senior staff from the Syrian Center for Political and Strategic Studies as well as the Syrian Expatriates Organization called for the imposition of a no-fly zone to create and maintain a humanitarian corridor inside Syria proper. All of us who are following the events transpiring in Syria want to encourage policy options that will stop the killing and lead to a transfer of power from the dictatorial regime to one that reflects the true aspirations of the Syrian people. However, before the legitimate use of military power can be employed in a responsible manner it is important that all of the possible consequences of such a policy are explored. Recent history provides us with two interesting case studies, Iraq and Libya. When examining these cases it is important to remember that the stated goal in Libya was Qaddafi’s departure while in Iraq it was population protection and humanitarian relief.

After Operation Desert Storm and the surrender of the Iraqi Army, the Kurds in the North and the Shia’s in the South revolted against Saddam’s regime. The international coalition decided to impose a no-fly zone over portions of the north and south of Iraq to prevent Saddam from using his air force to put down these rebellions. In addition to preventing Iraqi over-flight in the north, coalition ground forces also began distributing humanitarian aid among the Kurds. While Saddam was unable to use fixed-wing aircraft to suppress those in revolt, he made effective use of helicopters, artillery, and ground troops. The coalition air assets could have expanded their target options to include these ground forces, but they did not. In fact, there were almost no Iraqi planes for coalition pilots to engage as Saddam largely respected the no-fly zone knowing that his ground forces were more than capable against the lightly armed resistance. There are three lessons to be learned from this episode. First, no-fly zones are only effective against other aircraft, when ground force is used as the means of oppression, then what is called for is a no-drive zone, or in effect a conventional air campaign. Second, lightly armed resistance movements will not be able to mount decisive counter-regime operations unless they are supported by conventional air power. Third, dictators like Saddam and Assad are well aware of the capabilities of all parties involved and will play their cards as effectively as possible. They will do so by limiting their exposure to overwhelming air-power while using their conventional ground forces to demolish the local opposition.

A good example of a no-fly zone expanding into a no-drive zone is the recent NATO air campaign in Libya. The limited operation to prevent Qaddafi from using his air force against the resistance quickly turned into a conventional air campaign as Qaddafi made use of his armor and artillery to pound revolutionary cities into submission. When allied airplanes began to attack these formations Qaddafi ordered his forces to shed their uniforms and heavier equipment. They changed their dress to appear like the opposition forces in order to confuse NATO pilots. This in turn led to the need for on-the-ground coordination between Libyan revolutionary forces and NATO command and control to prevent friendly fire casualties. What had begun as a limited no-fly zone quickly morphed into NATO acting as the air force for the Libyan revolutionary forces. Again there are three main lessons that can be taken away from this case. First, in these types of operations mission creep is not a possibility but a certainty. Second, dictators like Qaddafi and Assad will not hesitate to change their ground strategies to realize the full potential of their own forces, even if that means breaking all of the recognized laws of war, such as wearing uniforms and driving marked vehicles. Finally, by wedding allied airpower to local opposition forces, western nations will be taking ownership of the conflict and all that entails. When non-combatants are unintentionally killed by allied air strikes it could potentially help to further entrench the dictator’s base, or possibly turn locals against allied forces.

In addition to the lessons that can be learned from these two cases there are other questions that must be answered before the US military engages in any operations in Syria. In the Iraq case, only certain areas of the country were protected by the no-fly zone. In Syria how will the no-fly zone and the humanitarian corridor be defined? Will the no-fly zone only protect a few of the varied ethnic communities in Syria? If coalition forces choose only to protect certain communities, this would have an effect on the domestic balance of power once Assad was ousted. How long will the no-fly zone be established for and who will pay for its upkeep and enforcement? If the Assad regime falls, will the US become responsible for the creation of a new government in Syria? By taking on these responsibilities the US would be committing itself to a new round of nation building in the Middle East.

The killing taking place in Syria at the hands of the Assad regime is unconscionable and must be recognized as such by the full international community. Yet, beginning an air campaign to limit Assad’s military capabilities could turn into a full-fledged conventional battle between allied power and the hardcore elements of the regime. Leaving aside issues concerning UN Security Council resolutions and Russian intransigence, the US must realize that in committing to a no-fly zone policy it will be in effect declaring war on Assad’s regime. If that is truly the desired policy, then a real war plan making use of the full capability of the US military must be employed. However, it appears that this is precisely what the Obama administration is seeking to avoid. Thus, it must refrain from taking actions, such as imposing a no-fly zone, which will inevitably lead it to the same place.


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Syrian Conflict: Lebanon at Risk

Flag of Lebanon

By Tess deBlanc-Knowles, Research Intern
Edited by Colonel Joel Rayburn, Military Research Fellow

Whether or not the Assad government survives the deepening current crisis, the explosion of violence and instability in Syria will have a serious impact on its neighbors and fundamentally alter regional dynamics.  As the world considers the potential regional fallout, international attention has tended to focus either on Iran or on the exacerbation of sectarian divisions in Iraq.  But civil war in Syria will also likely drag Lebanon into the fray and put devastating pressure on its fragile political framework.

In the face of Syrian unrest, the Lebanese government of Prime Minister Mikati has attempted to pursue a policy of determined neutrality in an effort to “disassociate” itself from the Syrian conflict.[1]  The government has attempted to insulate Lebanon from Syria’s instability by steering clear of both Arab League and international initiatives, declining to participate in sanctions against its neighbor or to play a role in the Arab League observer mission.  Most recently, the government declined the invitation to attend the “Friends of Syria” conference in Tunisia, citing “compliance with the country’s disassociation policy.”[2]

Beyond official statements, however, actors within Lebanon have begun jockeying to capitalize on Syria’s political disruption and the perceived waning of the Assad government’s power. Hezbollah’s March 8 coalition, for example, has clearly affirmed its support of the Assad government.  In recent speeches, Hezbollah’s Secretary General Hassan Nasrullah downplayed the scale of the Syrian unrest, blaming the media for false reports and exaggerated casualty counts.  Nasrullah additionally cautioned that a new regime in Syria would increase the influence of both the United States and Israel.[3]

By contrast, leaders of the opposition March 14 coalition have declared support for “the will of Syrian the people” and the establishment of democracy in Syria.[4]  Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri has called for “solidarity with the Syrian people” and for international recognition of the opposition Syrian National Council.[5]  In a recent interview, Fares Soueid, the Secretary General of March 14, affirmed the coalition’s support of the SNC and boldly asserted, “the Syrian regime will most certainly fall down.”[6]

This polarization over Syria has touched even those who ostensibly occupy the neutral center of Lebanon’s political spectrum.  Druze leader Walid Jumblatt has participated publicly in anti-Assad rallies and has predicted that “the Syrian people’s revolution will win,”[7]  and has gone so far as to call for arming the Syrian opposition.[8]   President Michel Suleiman, similarly, appeared to side with the Syrian opposition when he declared in late February that “we, as friends of the Syrian people, hope that democracy will be established in Syria because if it is well, then Lebanon will be well.”[9]

Meanwhile, Lebanon’s domestic politics have ground to a halt.  Public fracturing of cabinet politicians along pro and anti-Syrian lines continues to raise tensions within government, stymieing compromise and hampering basic functioning.  Disagreements between pro-Assad Christian leader Michel Aoun and the anti-Assad opposition led to a four week suspension of cabinet sessions by Prime Minister Mikati last month.  While Mikati declared the crisis resolved following the resignation of a cabinet member from Aoun’s political bloc, the stalemate illustrated the now-continuous tensions between the coalitions, which have flared again over budgetary issues.[10]

Beyond politics, the spillover of Syria’s turmoil has led to unrest in the Lebanese street.  Large anti-Assad rallies have been held in the cities of Saida and Wali Khalid, and the Russian embassy in Beirut was the scene of impassioned rival demonstrations following Russia’s veto of the UN Security Council Resolution proposing a gradual turnover of power by Assad.[11]  Most recently, tensions exploded in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli – always a sectarian flashpoint – where clashes between pro-Assad Alawites and anti-Assad Sunnis left 3 dead and 23 wounded.[12]  Pro and anti-Assad rallies escalated into violent clashes, including the launching of rocket-propelled grenades from both sides.[13]  Reports of armed militias roaming the streets, explosions of machine gun fire, and targeted attacks on Lebanese Army personnel have flooded the Lebanese press.  Weekly anti-Assad protests organized by the Salafi Hizb Ut-Tahrir have followed the violence in the city, with protestors calling for jihad against the Assad government.[14]

The government responded to these incidents by dispatching the army to reestablish security.  The Lebanese Armed Forces have additionally been deployed, since the first week in February, along the northern border with Syria.  This deployment came at the request of the Syrian regime in response to growing Free Syrian Army activity in the area and the vocal condemnation by the Syrian ambassador to Lebanon of the smuggling of weapons across the border into Syria from its “brotherly state.”[15]  Such a deployment, ostensibly to maintain “security,” undermines Mikati’s neutrality policy and brings Lebanon a step closer to outright involvement in the conflict.  While Mikati has emphasized the deployment as an effort to protect the country’s borders, Hezbollah has indicated the importance of the army’s border presence as an impediment to the actions of Syrian sympathizers and to intercept the flow of weapons to the Syrian opposition.   Large numbers of refugees fleeing the violence, estimated by the UNHCR to number over 6000,[16] further add to the complex situation in the north.

Publicly, Hezbollah’s leaders have proclaimed their neutrality, asserting their commitment to maintaining Lebanon’s distance from the Syrian troubles.  For example, Deputy Hezbollah Secretary General Naim Qassem declared that Hezbollah “will not allow Lebanon to be used as a platform to attack others or a conduit for settling political scores in order to execute Israeli and American projects.”[17]  By framing the statement in such a manner, Qassem attempted to position the organization with the disassociation stance of the government, albeit with a firm anti-western intervention message.  Meanwhile, in response to Prime Minister Mikati’s earlier suspension of the cabinet, Hezbollah leader Nasrallah publicly confirmed the organization’s support of the government, insisting that now “is not the appropriate time for overthrowing cabinets in Lebanon.”[18]  Nasrallah has voiced the opinion that Lebanon would be the first country affected by Syrian unrest, and has thus asserted Hezbollah’s commitment to the current Lebanese government and its attempts to provide stability and political security.

Reports from the ground, however, paint a different picture.  A number of sources have implicated Hezbollah in pro-Syrian activities in the border areas, including the tracking down of opposition leaders,[19] the training of snipers, and the involvement of Iranian intelligence officers.[20]  More recently. The Free Syrian Army condemned the alleged involvement of Hezbollah armed brigades, along with Iranian Revolutionary Guards, in supporting the Syrian regime.[21]

In its public rhetoric, Hezbollah has endeavored to transfer blame for Lebanese instability to the actions of March 14, while simultaneously shifting the focus to the threat of Israel and Hezbollah’s critical role as a bulwark against it.  Hezbollah has positioned itself as pro-Assad, but also pro-disassociation, launching rhetorical attacks at its March 14 rivals, accusing them of arming the Syrian opposition and of attempting to use the Syrian uprising as an avenue for political gain.[22]  Senior Hezbollah official, Nabil Qaouk, warned March 14 against such steps, asserting that “the resistance today is at its strongest and is prepared to bring down a great catastrophe upon Israel.”[23]  Following the anti-Assad speeches of March 14 leaders Saad Hariri and Amin Gemayal, Nasrallah asserted the opposition alliance was “plunging Lebanon into war.”[24]

In fairness, the fact that Hezbollah itself is guilty of what it accuses March 14 of doing does not mean that March 14 is entirely innocent.  There is ample evidence that some March 14 elements do, at a minimum, have the intent of helping to arm the Syrian opposition, as Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea recently implied in his call to all countries to act decisively to stop the murder of Syrian civilians.[25]  And a recent explosion at an arms warehouse in Tripoli may have involved a Future Movement cache intended for arming the Syrian opposition.[26]

Thus the stage is set for Syria’s violence to spill over into Lebanon.  Lebanese politics have become deeply polarized, rival Lebanese factions are likely providing material support to the opposing Syrian sides, and the tension is already causing armed clashes within Lebanese borders.  Of course, the collapse of the Assad government would bring with it the danger of a security vacuum in any case.  Such a dynamic would have the strong likelihood of pushing Syria over the precipice into full-blown civil war, an occurrence that would send shockwaves through the delicate sectarian and security stability of the region as a whole.  Civil war in Syria would almost certainly complete the unraveling of Lebanon’s shaky confessional political system and plunge it back into civil war, and thus,  as the crisis in Syria worsens, the issue of the Assad government’s survival will eventually imperil the survival of the Lebanese government as well.  For Lebanon, to not follow a policy of disassociation would indeed be, as Prime Minister Mikati has declared, “suicidal.”[27]  But the influx of Syrian refugees, the escalation of political struggles, the polarization of the political parties, and the eruption of popular violence seem to indicate that this is a policy that has already failed.


[1] “Mikati , in Paris, Says France Understands Lebanon’s Syria Sensitivities.”  Daily Star 10 Feb 2012

[2] “Lebanon to Miss ‘Friends of Syria Conference.”  Daily Star 21 Feb 2012

[3] Nasrallah, Hassan.   Sayyid Al-Shuhada Complex, Beirut, Lebanon.  7 Feb. 2012.

[4] “We are with the Syrian People as a whole and support the democratic option, and this is included in the proposal of the Syrian leadership”  An Nahar  30 Jan 2012.

[5]  “Lebanese Press Round-Up: February 15, 2012” NOW Lebanon 15 Feb 2012

[6]  Interview with Fares Soueid.  Al Arabiyya Television,  Dubai 16 Feb 2012

[7] “Jumblatt Joins Anti-Syrian Regime Protest in Beirut” NOW Lebanon 22 Feb 2012

[8] “Jumblatt Calls for ‘Arming Syrian Opposition’” NOW Lebanon 25 Feb 2012

[9] “Suleiman: Some Flaws Need to Be Addressed to Fortify Taef Accord”  Naharnet  24 Feb 2012.

[10] “Mikati, Suleiman Emerge Winners in Deal to End Cabinet Crisis”  Daily Star 24 Feb 2012

[11] “Rival Demonstrators Face Off at Russian Embassy”  Daily Star 6 Feb 2012

[12] “Syrian Violence Spills Over Into Lebanon.”  Al Jazeera  12 Feb. 2012

[13] “Syrian Violence Spills Over Into Lebanon.”  Al Jazeera  12 Feb. 2012.

[14] “The Syrian Uprising in the Eyes of  Lebanese Islamists”  Al Akhbar  29 Feb 2012 .

[15] “Mikati, Syria’s Envoy Discuss Arm’s Smuggling.”  Daily Star 18 Jan 2012.

[16] Noor Malas and Charles Levinson, “Syrian Conflict Spills to Neighbors.”  Wall Street Journal 18 Feb 2012.

[17] “Lebanon Won’t Be Used To Hit Arab States: Hezbollah.”  Daliy Star  13 Feb. 2012.

[18]  “Nasrallah: Time Not ‘Appropriate for Overthrowing Cabinets.’”  NOW Lebanon  7 Feb. 2012.

[19] Mortada, Radwan. “Wadi Khalid: The Free Syrian Army Base in Lebanon”  Al Akhbar  8 Feb 2012.

[20] Amar Al-Wawi.  Interview by Hedi Aouidj.  Owni.  20 Feb 2012.  Web.

[21] “Snc Military Commander: Iranian, Hezbollah Brigades Fighting With Assad Forces”  NOW Lebanon 1 March 2012

[22] “Hezbollah Warns March 14 not to wager on Political Change.”  Daily Star 21 Feb 2012

[23] “Hezbollah Warns March 14 not to wager on Political Change.”  Daily Star 21 Feb 2012

[24] “Future Block Says Nasrallah’s Speech Was ‘Negative.’”  NOW Lebanon 21 Feb 2012.

[25] “Geagea: A Democratic Syria Ends ‘Exportation of Terrorism”  NOW Lebanon 14 Feb 2012.

[26] “Tripoli Clashes and the Neo-Salafis”  Al Akhbar  20 Feb 2012.

[27] Rizk, Sibylle.  “Lebanon is Certainly Not an Organized Platform for Arms Exports to Syria.”  Le Figaro 10 Feb 2012

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The Failure of Diaspora Elites and Implications for the Syrian Crisis

Syrians carrying flag and protesting on top of car

By Michael Lynch, Research Intern, Center for Strategic Research
Edited by Dr. Denise Natali, CSR

Many would argue that the Arab Spring failed. This assumption of a squandered movement is largely based on differing perceptions of what the Arab Spring sought to bring about. If one were expecting liberal secular democracies emerging in the Middle-East, then disappointment is certain.

The reality is that the Arab Spring was never about democracy. It was about overthrowing the government that the general populous perceived as ailing them. Any confusion lies in the rhetoric of the leaders that emerged during the revolution and suggested that they were the champions of the movement. What seems to repeat itself is that in a power vacuum diaspora elites, who have been residing in the west until the uprisings, emerge from the political rubble and return home touting ambitions of western style democracy and governance. As the dust settles, the reality of the situation on the ground is much different than as advertised.

This emergence of diaspora leaders and their subsequent failures occur for several nearly universal reasons. The new leaders were educated in the west, speak very good English, and dress as proper western elites. The familiarity is comforting. These elites tell the US and its officials exactly what they want to hear. These propositions are the fantasies of a pro-west, democratic, and most importantly economically liberalized new state.

The problem; however, is that  that these leaders may have the backing of western institutions but, they have little or no legitimacy on the ground. They did not fight alongside the revolutionaries, they did not endure the hardships under the former leader, and when they grew tired of their situation, they abandoned their homeland only to return at a rather opportunistic time.

The crisis of elite legitimacy was the case not just during the Arab Spring but also in the reconstruction of Iraq and most post-conflict state building operations. (see;Afghanistan). Maliki and Allawai fled Iraq only to return after the invasion and other prominent figures have tended to go to schools in Western Europe. They are the antithesis to Muqtada al-Sadr, a Islamist and arguably militant leader who is from Baghdad, fought against western forces, and oversees several massive social programs in the slums of Iraq, which are now known as Sadr city.

This scenario has repeated itself in the aftermath of Arab Spring where exiled, traditionally western educated men, have returned to oversee the new government. Specific examples include:

  • Moncef Marzouki- Interim Tunisian President, fled to France in 2002. Studied medicine in Paris
  • Moncef Marzouki- Egyptian Opposition Leader possible presidential candidate, returned from Vienna where he was director of IAEA, Doctorate in International Law New York University
  • Abdurrahim al-Keib- Libyan Prime Minister, former engineering professor at University of Washington
  • Burhan Ghalioun- President of Syrian National Counsel, professor University of Paris Sorbonne

These diaspora leaders will not become the power brokers in the country for several reasons.  First, they are not able to distance themselves far enough from the former regime. While many had been long time activists, it appears longevity of polite resistance (op-eds in the New York Times) does not garner respect from the general populous in the Souks.  Rather, what the movements that did manage to gain the most momentum appear to the embodiment of the opposite ideology of the former regime.  In Tunisia and Egypt, formerly outlawed Islamist parties replaced secular, pro-western, modern, and highly militarized governments. In Libya, Ghadaffi’s rival tribal region Cyrenaica ousted him and the rest of his emplaced Tripolitania elites.

In each case, the opposition movement rallied around a direct opposing identity. Looking to throw off the shackles of the past and begin a new more prosperous era, they distanced themselves from the former system. This has happened in the Middle-East before, yet in the opposite direction. When Mustafa Kemal and the Young Turks ousted the Ottoman Empire, they wanted to establish a new governance that was as anti-Ottoman. Kemal replaced the Arabic script, moved the capitol from Istanbul and its Islamic architecture, and installed an entrenched secular ideology that still exists (however eroding) today.

The most prominent voice of the Syrian opposition movement is the Syrian National Counsel. The group was formed in Turkey, is composed of western elites, and was first conferred international legitimacy in Tunisia. The recognition of the SNC at the Friends of Syria Conference is problematic in itself. One would assume that the revolutionary factions would be too busy fighting in the streets of Damascus or under siege in Homs to take an international flight to attend a conference in at the La Palace hotel in Tunis.

The militant opposition, the Free Syrian Army, is also disadvantaged. First, it has no connection to the SNC, despite the SNC’s claims. The FSA is more of a network of lightly armed revolutionaries rather than an army as its name suggests. It has neither organizational hierarchy nor method of command and control. Unlike the armed opposition in Libya, the FSA lacks control over a geographic space and lacks a strategic stronghold like a Benghazi. Therefore when the question emerges about arming the opposition, it appears there is no consolidated military opposition to arm.

As the UN, United States, and other Western governments examine their options in Syria, there is a significant push to aid the Syrian opposition. The amount of fault lines the outcome of this conflict has is enormous.  It is a situation that will not just affect the Syrian people but the entire region.  It is worth noting that these perceived simple solutions such as “No-Kill Zones” or “Buffer Zones” or every ones favorite “Technical and Humanitarian Support” are never simple.  These simple plans never seem to include a “what happens next” (see; Afghanistan) or contingency guidelines.

It should be worth noting that the staple of low level conflict, a truck mounted machine gun known as a “technical”, got its name from aid workers in Africa arming militants using “technical assistance” grants.  Until there is a more unified and identifiable opposition as well as solidified power sharing agreements on what comes after Assad, the US needs to be cautious.

While the situation in Syria is grim, we need be weary that any misstep by the international community could escalate the situation to levels of violence far beyond what they are now. Any action in Syria risks crossing the Rubicon of Damascus.


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Ideology vs Pragmatism: Saddam’s Advice for Cuba

Car in front of sign

By Michael C. Herrera, Research Intern, CRRC

Many Americans view Saddam Hussein as an ideological dictator.  Emerging evidence from captured Iraqi records stored digitally at the Conflict Records Research Center (CRRC), however, confirms the conclusion that Saddam was first and foremost a pragmatist.  Research by notable scholars, like Amatzia Baram, highlights Saddam’s willingness to adapt his behavior and his regime to gain an advantage.  For example, in 1993, when Iraq felt the full effects of the international embargo, Saddam announced the opening of his Faith Campaign, which would transform Iraq’s secular state to a more Islamic state in concert with the growing religiosity among Iraqis.  This ability to adapt in order to preserve power was continually employed by Saddam throughout his 24-year reign as President of Iraq.  One can further observe his pragmatism in a CRRC transcript of a 2001 meeting between Saddam and Ricardo Largone, President of the National Cuban Association, where they discuss Cuba’s recent economic turmoil (CRRC Record Number SH-PDWN-D-000-507).

From the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s until 2001, Cuba’s economy struggled. Tourism remained its primary source of income, while sugar cane production steadily decreased due to a shortage of replacement parts, fertilizers, pesticides, and petroleum, as well as an unmotivated workforce. Largone voiced these concerns during his meeting with Saddam, who urges Cuba to consider adopting a new, more capitalist, approach.

Saddam begins by first identifying the problem with Cuba’s agricultural collective system.  He states that when a farmer owns his own plot of land he has a higher incentive to care for his crop.  The farmer will ensure a good harvest if it feeds his chickens and cows, which, in turn, feed his family.  Consequently, the sense of ownership creates a cooperative amongst his family where everyone, even a child of six years old, will work on the farm.  Saddam continues:

However, with a collective this does not happen, if a family member finds work that gives him a little extra, he takes it, as for the wife, she does not work in the fields because she has no share in the cooperative. And the farmer feeds his cow sugar cane secretly because the cow is his and the sugar cane belongs to a hundred other people, and the property is public, it is all there, but the quantity of sugar cane is not specifically known.”

Saddam attributes the lack of sugar production to the theory that, because workers do not own the land, they are more likely to steal from it and less likely to work hard to increase production. He goes on to describe how, over time, the Cuban population has grown out of their initial acceptance of the socialist command economy:

At the beginning, when the Cuban revolution occurred and succeeded in 1959, the Cuban people were poor, with their dignity and nationalism stepped on. At that time if you told him he had one share out of ten, he accepted it because he had nothing else. So, he worked hard and was buoyed by the spirit of the new revolution so he was careful, enthusiastic and responsible with the country’s wealth as if it were his own, but after his stomach was full, and he was clothed, well, he started to look for a new kind of life… Now, he sees the government employee, busy with  the news of all the other employees, this one stole and this one abuses public funds and this one skipped work for a few hours because he is a party member. And he sees the occupation in movies and how the American family lives, and he sees the cars or hears about them, but he must live in his country. And if imperialism is as bad as he is told, he does not see those negatives… These generations seek a better situation and secretly, within their hearts, compare their condition and the condition of other systems that took a different road.

According to Saddam, the new era of information had led Cubans to seek a better socioeconomic situation. At this point we begin to see Saddam’s pragmatism emerge. After identifying Cuba’s problem, Saddam proposes that Cuba consider adapting to its new situation to increase production. He states, “Therefore, if you lease out the land for a high price, that is appropriate for the income, then you will see that the production will double or more.” He is proposing that Cuba move to a more capitalist system.  Much like China has done over the past few years, Saddam stresses that Cuba should rethink the communist model and slowly make an attempt to move toward owning and farming private property.

It seems as though Cuba has begun to show the same pragmatism that kept Saddam in power. In the past couple of years, Cuba has begun to allow its citizens to own small businesses, it has given farmers new profit-incentives, and even allowed for ownership of private property. Although there are still many restriction imposed by the state, Cuba has begun to take Saddam’s pragmatic approach and learned to adapt to save its ailing economy. Analysts seeking to understand the durability of dictatorial rule in Cuba, Saddam’s Iraq, and elsewhere would do well to pay attention to dictators’ pragmatic behavior, not merely their ideological expressions.

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Ideology vs Pragmatism: Saddam’s Advice for Cuba

Saddam speaking

By Michael C. Herrera and David Palkki
Conflict Records Research Center

Many Americans view Saddam Hussein as an ideological dictator. Emerging evidence from captured Iraqi records stored digitally at the Conflict Records Research Center (CRRC), however, confirms the conclusion that Saddam was first and foremost a pragmatist. Research by notable scholars, like Amatzia Baram, highlights Saddam’s willingness to adapt his behavior and his regime to gain advantage. For example, in 1993, when Iraq felt the full effects of the international embargo, Saddam announced the opening of his Faith Campaign, which would transform Iraq’s secular state to a more Islamic state in concert with the growing religiosity among Iraqis.[i] This ability to adapt in order to preserve power was continually employed by Saddam throughout his 24-year reign as President of Iraq. One can further observe his pragmatism in a CRRC transcript of a 2001 meeting between Saddam and Ricardo Largone, President of the National Cuban Association, where they discuss Cuba’s recent economic turmoil.

From the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s until 2001, Cuba’s economy struggled. Tourism remained its primary source of income, while sugar cane production steadily decreased due to a shortage of replacement parts, fertilizers, pesticides, and petroleum, as well as an unmotivated workforce. Largone voiced these concerns during his meeting with Saddam, who urges Cuba to consider adopting a new, more capitalist, approach.

Saddam begins by first identifying the problem with Cuba’s agricultural collective system. He states that when a farmer owns his own plot of land he has a higher incentive to care for his crop. The farmer will ensure a good harvest if it feeds his chickens and cows, which, in turn, feed his family. Consequently, the sense of ownership creates a cooperative amongst his family where everyone, even a child of six years old, will work on the farm.  Saddam continues:

However, with a collective this does not happen, if a family member finds work that gives him a little extra, he takes it, as for the wife, she does not work in the fields because she has no share in the cooperative. And the farmer feeds his cow sugar cane secretly because the cow is his and the sugar cane belongs to a hundred other people, and the property is public, it is all there, but the quantity of sugar cane is not specifically known.[ii]

Saddam attributes the lack of sugar production to the theory that, because workers do not own the land, they are more likely to steal from it and less likely to work hard to increase production. He goes on to describe how, over time, the Cuban population has grown out of their initial acceptance of the socialist command economy:

At the beginning, when the Cuban revolution occurred and succeeded in 1959, the Cuban people were poor, with their dignity and nationalism stepped on. At that time if you told him he had one share out of ten, he accepted it because he had nothing else. So, he worked hard and was buoyed by the spirit of the new revolution so he was careful, enthusiastic and responsible with the country’s wealth as if it were his own, but after his stomach was full, and he was clothed, well, he started to look for a new kind of life… Now, he sees the government employee, busy with  the news of all the other employees, this one stole and this one abuses public funds and this one skipped work for a few hours because he is a party member. And he sees the occupation in movies and how the American family lives, and he sees the cars or hears about them, but he must live in his country. And if imperialism is as bad as he is told, he does not see those negatives… These generations seek a better situation and secretly, within their hearts, compare their condition and the condition of other systems that took a different road.[iii]

According to Saddam, the new era of information had led Cubans to seek a better socioeconomic situation. At this point we begin to see Saddam’s pragmatism emerge. After identifying Cuba’s problem, Saddam proposes that Cuba consider adapting to its new situation to increase production. He states, “Therefore, if you lease out the land for a high price, that is appropriate for the income, then you will see that the production will double or more.”[iv] He is proposing that Cuba move to a more capitalist system.  Much like China has done over the past few years, Saddam stresses that Cuba should rethink the communist model and slowly make an attempt to move toward owning and farming private property.

It seems as though Cuba has begun to show the same pragmatism that kept Saddam in power. In the past couple of years, Cuba has begun to allow its citizens to own small businesses, it has given farmers new profit-incentives, and even allowed for ownership of private property. Although there are still many restriction imposed by the state, Cuba has begun to take Saddam’s pragmatic approach and learned to adapt to save its ailing economy. Analysts seeking to understand the durability of dictatorial rule in Cuba, Saddam’s Iraq, and elsewhere would do well to pay attention to dictators’ pragmatic behavior, not merely their ideological expressions.


[i] Baram, Amatzia. “From Militant Secularism to Islamism: The Iraqi Ba’th Regime 1968-2003”. http://www.wilsoncenter.org/program/histroy-and-public-policy-program

[ii] All quotes from Saddam Hussein are taken from the collection at the Conflict Records Research Center, Number: SH-PDWN-D-000-507

[iii] CRRC: SH-PDWN-D-000-507

[iv] CRRC: SH-PDWN-D-000-507

Michael C. Herrera is currently finishing his bachelor’s degree at Johns Hopkins University.  He is in the Army National Guard and is a research intern at the Conflict Records Research Center.

David Palkki is the Deputy Director of the Conflict Records Research Center and hasa recently co-authored a book titled”The Saddam Tapes: The Inner Workings of a Tyrant’s Regime, 1978-2001.”

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The Evolving Relevance of NATO’s Article 5, Ten Years After 9/11

Logo for the Center for Transatlantic Security Studies

By Mark Ducasse and Stefano Santamato
Center for Transatlantic Security Studies

Ten years after 9/11, nine months before the NATO Summit in Chicago, and four weeks after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in Tripoli, discussions over resources and capabilities are overshadowing the transformational nature of NATO’s new Strategic Concept and the operational successes of the Alliance. Lately, too much focus is being placed on a mercantile approach to NATO by which the value of the Alliance is seemingly measured, almost exclusively, in terms of input versus output. This approach, sound in accounting terms, does not bode well for statesmanship or international alliances. It is time to change the course and the discourse.

Even in these challenging times of financial pressures and operational fatigue, the debate over NATO’s role, relevance and resources needs to be, first and foremost, a political one. The history of NATO is one of solidarity, not of an internal balance of capabilities. Burden sharing has always been a feature of NATO’s compact, yet it has never defined the Alliance. The “transatlantic bargain” – if there ever was one – was political not financial. The universal message that Article 5 has sent to the world for more than sixty years is that “…an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all…”

It is mainly because of this message of unqualified solidarity that NATO continues to be the world’s most successful political-military alliance. During the Cold War, the essence of Article 5 laid in the double bluff of the United States’ nuclear umbrella – of its readiness to sacrifice “Chicago for Hamburg” – and of the misunderstanding that an “armed attack” would be countered by an equally, if not superior, purely armed response. In reality, as scholars and close observers know all too well, the three musketeer clause represented by Article 5 is more nuanced, and the Allied nations would stand all for one and one for all only to take such actions each of them would “deem necessary” to restore peace and security in the North Atlantic area. The use of armed force, while specifically mentioned by Article 5, only represents a possible option the Allies are ready to resort to.

However, this reinforces the view that no matter what the Allies’ response to a possible attack on one or more of them would have been, Article 5 would be the right answer, as it had been after the 9/11 attacks on the United States. The speed with which the Allies then agreed, unanimously, to invoke Article 5 stands as a monument to the transatlantic relationship. Against this definitive show of solidarity the discussion over the nature of the attack – armed or not – and on the level of individual or collective response, becomes less relevant.

With its new Strategic Concept, agreed at its Lisbon summit in 2010, NATO has redefined its mandate, vis-à-vis collective defense, crisis management, and cooperative security. The Alliance also reaffirmed its core values of individual liberty, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. Between the two, the core of the Alliance’s strength is still represented by the recognition of the centrality of the Allies’ unchanging bond of solidarity. However, as demonstrated by the Allies’ reaction to the 9/11 attacks, this bond has both evolved in nature and acquired new relevance in the post-Cold War world.

NATO’s primary challenge remains one of political unity rather than one of burden sharing. Alliance members face a plethora of unconventional, asymmetrical, and transnational threats to their security. These threats include, among others, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, cyber attacks, disruptions to energy supplies, and mass migration. The perceived threat posed by these examples varies among the Allies, together with their understanding of the role NATO should play in dealing with them.

The new Strategic Concept has very ably mastered the ensuing centrifugal forces by identifying NATO’s three essential tasks to allow all of its members to recognize that, in the Alliance’s mandate, the best way to address their vital security interests is through either collective defense, crisis management, or promoting international security through cooperation.

Equally skillful has been the way the drafters of the new Strategic Concept have ensured the continuity of the solidarity bond by reframing the essence of Article 5 in its Preface and by redefining the scope of collective defense. By introducing the concept of threat to the “fundamental security” of an individual Ally or of the Alliance as a whole, NATO members have underscored their commitment to the spirit of Article 5 and recognized that a threat to the fundamental security of an individual Ally “rests in the eye of the beholder” and need not necessarily entail exclusively an “armed attack.”

As Operation Unified Protector in Libya demonstrated, NATO remains the only viable and effective political-military organization. Through this operations, the Allies’ capability shortfalls have become visible to a considerable degree because people have started writing more often about them, not because they did not exist before; whilst concurrently, the operational flexibility of and success of the Alliance have quietly increased. Article 5 however, remains the cornerstone that holds NATO together and ensures that democracy, security, flexibility, and mutual understanding continue to spread even if the original threat this alliance was envisioned to counter has long since receded.

During the Cold War, the prevailing threat perception, like a light shining through a lens, was clear and focused in one direction: the Soviet Union. In today’s threat environment, the light is shining through a prism, displaying multiple threats with differing levels of complexity, emanating from and ending at various points, all requiring tailored reactions. What is and is not an Article 5 threat may be more confusing than ever, and deciding that point will require significant consultation and discussion, in order to create consensus among the Alliance’s members.

NATO has evolved from an organization embodying largely military goals conceived in relation to a single threat, and become an alliance regarded as a community of countries sharing common values with the promotion of good governance at its core. The Alliance is moving away from the “collective defense” doctrine of deterring potential aggression with military force alone, to one of “collective security,” involving active conflict prevention via increased cooperation, flexibility and solidarity among members and non-members alike. Article 5 has transformed itself into a conduit through which a new understanding of solidarity can flourish. In these uncertain times, the continuation of a proven alliance that acts as a forum for dialogue and as a tool for crisis management will remain of key importance to the security requirements of its members well into the twenty-first century.

Mr. Mark Ducasse is the Principal Research Analyst for the Center for Transatlantic Security Studies (CTSS) at National Defense University’s Institute for National Strategic Studies (NDU-INSS);  Mr. Stefano Santamato is a Senior Visiting Research Fellow also at CTSS. Mr. Ducasse may be contacted at (202) 685-0820 or mark.ducasse.ctr@ndu.edu. Mr. Santamato may be contacted on (202) 433-9661 or s.santamato.ctr@ndu.edu.      

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NATO and The Arab Spring

By Isabelle Francois, Center for Transatlantic Security Studies

CTSS Logo POINTS:

*  The Libyan “Operation Unified Protector” (OUP) was wrongly presented as the sign of an Alliance in trouble.  It may become the symbol of American success in convincing its Allies that Europeans had to take a greater share of the burden and assume greater responsibility for security in Europe and its periphery.

* NATO should prepare for a strategy review on Libya in the context of the 2012 Chicago Summit.  This would be an opportunity to highlight Allied capabilities to conduct a limited model of intervention – short term UN-mandated “bridging missions” from an open crisis to political settlement, aimed at a 6 month stabilization period prior to reconstruction efforts.

* Associating old and new partners to a NATO strategy review of OUP in Chicago would showcase the non-Allied contributions, both militarily and in terms of the political support provided by countries in the region, without which the operation would not have had the required political legitimacy in the first place. 

The public debate that surrounded the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)–led operation in Libya gave an impression of an Alliance in trouble. There is, however, a good story to tell. The United States, as the host of the May 2012 NATO Summit in Chicago, may wish to present the case for a new type of operation and call for a strategy review on Libya in order to develop a balanced approach to Allies’ possible contributions to stability in North Africa and the Gulf region.

Helicopters taking off for trasport missions.

NATO Inherited Libya

In the spring of 2011, dramatic events unfolded in the southern rim of the Mediterranean. Countries from Egypt to Libya were swept by significant popular uprising and political change. The events led to regional upheaval and ultimately armed conflict, resulting in a NATO-led operation in Libya. Following serious unrest, which began in Benghazi on February 17, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) adopted Resolution 1970, which instituted an arms embargo, froze the personal assets of Libya’s leaders, and imposed a travel ban on senior figures. NATO stepped up its surveillance operations in the Central Mediterranean. NATO Defense Ministers met on March 10 and supported the decision of the Supreme Allied Commander Europe to have Alliance ships move to the same area in order to boost the monitoring efforts.

On March 17, the UN adopted Resolution 1973, authorizing member states and regional organizations to inter alia take “all necessary measures” to protect civilians in Libya. NATO members immediately followed the UN call by launching a NATO-led operation to enforce the arms embargo against Libya on March 23. In addition, on March 24, NATO decided to enforce the UN-mandated no-fly zone over Libya given the UNSC resolution call for a ban on all flights except those for humanitarian and aid purposes to avoid air attacks from Libyan authorities perpetrated on civilians inside the country. Finally, on March 27, following intense internal debates, NATO agreed to accept the whole military operation in Libya under UNSCR 1973, taking over from a coalition led by the United States, France, and the United Kingdom, which had intervened militarily in the early days of the Libyan crisis with the first airstrikes on March 19, 2011. (1)

The purpose of the NATO-led Operation Unified Protector has been to protect civilians and civilian-populated areas. NATO took action as part of a broad international effort, and immediately indicated its desire to work with its partners in the region. The NATO-led operation had the necessary legal basis through UNSCR 1973 to intervene militarily. Moreover, the support from the Arab League provided the necessary political legitimacy to intervene.

In this context, NATO was able to consult with and get some concrete support from countries in the region. Allies were able to make best use of partnership frameworks, notably the Mediterranean Dialogue with Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Mauritania, Morocco, and Tunisia, as well as the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative with Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates. Allies reached out to all their partners, including in the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council to share information, ensure transparency, and give an opportunity to willing contributing nations to provide assets to the operation. Three partners have contributed militarily to the operation to date, notably with aircraft from the United Arab Emirates and Qatar from the Gulf region, as well as Sweden among the Partnership for Peace partners. In addition, some staff support was provided by Jordan, while Malta assisted the Alliance in its operations both at sea and in the air. Others have landed their political support, enhancing the legitimacy of the operation. The partnership with Gulf countries developed significantly within a few months, and should be built upon to institutionalize the level of cooperation reached between NATO and some Gulf countries.

Boy Holding Political Newspaper

Post-operation Libya

NATO’s engagement in Libya, despite its sound legal and political basis, has faced significant challenges in terms of internal cohesion, as well as external pressure on the Alliance in light of the summer stalemate. The mandate for operation was renewed by NATO Defense Ministers on June 8 for another 3 months until the end of September (2).  Despite various bilateral efforts and attempts between the forces of Muammar Qadhafi and the rebels from the Transitional National Council (TNC), a negotiated settlement was impossible. Taking over Tripoli in mid-August, the TNC will have to prepare for transition in Libya in order to ensure inclusive political representation in future government institutions and the electoral process, as well as to guarantee territorial integrity. This will no doubt take months and NATO will remain engaged abiding by its commitments until the TNC decides on—and international community supports—the requirements after the operation ends.

Since the situation in Libya will remain volatile, NATO should prepare for a strategy review on Libya in the context of the 2012 Chicago Summit. The Alliance may no longer be in the lead when it comes to the Libyan transition by May 2012, but it will still have lessons to learn and to share. Moreover, NATO will have a role to play in support of stability and reconstruction in Libya and the region. It would also be useful to continue to engage with the regional partners and develop closer cooperation, notably in the framework of the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative.

Libyan Demonstrations

Lessons Learned

Following the widely reported speech by outgoing U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates in June 2011, many interpreted the remarks as evidence of a decaying Alliance in the face of a new challenge in Libya (3).  (Others, however, heard the speech as a wake-up call.) Operation Unified Protector was used as a prime example of NATO’s inability—after “11 weeks into an operation against a poorly armed regime in a sparsely populated country”—to keep up with requirements of modern warfare. Criticisms were also leveled because only a small number of Allies (eight) contributed to the strike operation. Key European members, such as Germany, fundamentally disagreed with the mission and rendered the European Union (EU) unable to contribute much more than humanitarian aid and sanctions against the Qadhafi regime. Despite what can be interpreted at the end of August 2011 as a qualified success for the Alliance in Libya, NATO continues to suffer from a public image deficit in many quarters, and nations may have to consider how much transformation is likely to be sufficient for the Alliance to be able to “re-brand” its image.

The Libyan operation has faced the usual challenge of maintaining consensus within the Alliance as time went by without a political settlement in place. From the early days of consultation within NATO, differences of approach and diverging political interests on the part of various Allies (notably France, Germany, and Turkey) did not escape media attention. In June, consensus was challenged following the meeting of NATO Defense Ministers: On June 22, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini called for a suspension of the campaign in the face of civilian casualties in the wake of NATO air strikes necessary for humanitarian aid to reach people—a reversal of position confirmed a couple of days later by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. At an EU summit on June 24, Berlusconi pushed for a final solution to the Libyan crisis. That said, for as long as public opinion was supportive of Allies’ military engagement against Qadhafi forces, consensus within NATO was likely to be maintained.

It should be clear, however, that in the absence of a major threat to the Alliance, various interests on the part of member states will make “difficult consensus” the norm rather than the exception. Moreover, in most cases, as we have seen in the Balkans and now in Libya, NATO-led operations can count on only a limited number of contributing troops, which assume combat or strike roles, from member states to any given operation. As NATO transitioned to “out of area” operations, there is no requirement for all Allies to contribute to a NATO-led operation, and it should not come as a surprise when a number of them opt out. Such decisions, provided that they do not affect consensus and do not get in the way of the mission, are not undermining the Alliance; they may actually provide added flexibility for NATO to act and may prove to be the process by which most operations will be approved in future. This should not be misinterpreted as a sign of weakness on the part of the Alliance. NATO’s strength lies in its ability to manage the consensual basis for its military action irrespective of obvious differences often made public for internal purposes.

NATO’s dependence on the international community to move from a military operation to broader stabilization and reconstruction efforts is yet another key challenge and its comprehensive approach to crisis management. Operation Unified Protector has shown progress in terms of NATO partnerships with other international and regional organizations, and has reached out quickly and decisively to various partners in the region. However, Alliance strategic success has depended on the ability of the international community to deliver a political settlement, relying notably on the Libyan Contact Group set up in London in April 2011. Moreover, NATO will likely face a difficult transition from military operation to civilian efforts at reconstruction, once the UN and the international community have taken the lead on the basis of a still elusive final outcome in Libya.

A Good Story to Tell

For all the challenges facing a transforming Alliance, Operation Unified Protector is not a bad story to tell. It could actually be the tell tale sign of a winning transatlantic partnership for Allies’ publics—if the United States chooses to make the operation a deliverable at the Chicago Summit.

One of the key themes of the summit will be “smart defense”—that is, identifying capability areas where Allies need to keep investing and working multinationally to mitigate the decline in defense spending and to address some of the concerns raised by Secretary Gates last June. The Libya operation is not irrelevant to that debate as it outlined where NATO should focus in addition to frontline capabilities (4).  Although the operation has exposed military weaknesses on the part of Europe (nothing that was not already known), it has also shown that Europeans can project fighting power in complex operations and find the political will to take the lead.

Moreover, Operation Unified Protector tells the story of an Alliance yet unmatched in terms of its command and control capability and its flexibility and ability to conduct a complex operation. Perhaps even more importantly, NATO was the only organization with the political will to take over from the American, French, and British coalition in Libya, despite differences of views within the Alliance. Finally, Alliance capacity in terms of command and control was trusted by partners in the region to be able to run the operation, thereby gaining their political support.

In fact, the Libyan operation can be seen as the symbol of American success in convincing its Allies that Europeans had to take a greater share of the burden and assume greater responsibility for security in Europe and its periphery (5).  The operation was the first in which the United States agreed to play a pivotal but supporting role while Europeans took the lead. It is a prime example of American forces and assets being made available to Europeans through NATO as Allies lacked the necessary weapons and munitions to carry out the mission. The United States was indispensable to the operation; the supporting role came after America provided the initial heavy strikes and once Europeans finally agreed to do the heavy lifting. That is transatlantic partnership at its best.

The Libya operation has managed to identify what a limited model of intervention can be with a supporting yet indispensable role for the United States. It also outlines the type of support that European Allies are likely to need in today’s operations. This seems to indicate a clearer division of labor rather than an inability to act on the part of the Europeans or disengagement on the part of the United States. It also corresponds to the burden-sharing requirements with today’s fiscal constraints, stopping short of giving in to the isolationist forces within parliaments. It is hardly a sign of despair for the Alliance, although the lack of European capabilities identified should not be met with complacency.

Transport of Equipment

Concrete Summit Deliverables

A strategy review in Chicago could offer three types of deliverables. First, there is the NATO circle for discussion among the 28 NATO member states. One of the lessons learned by Allies from the Balkan operations is that without the deployment of ground troops, it is difficult to win from the air. We will have to see whether there will be a need for ground troops to assist in the monitoring and transition phase following air operations, and which organization will have to take the lead (if any) given that no Ally seems inclined to deploy ground troops. There may be no request from the Libyan operation for any assistance in this regard, but the capability should exist.

Operation Unified Protector may be a turning point for NATO recognizing the flexibility to conduct different types of operations—from the demanding in Afghanistan to the shorter UN-mandated “bridging missions,” which are less demanding in human and financial terms. NATO is the only organization with the flexibility to operate at both ends of the spectrum, and this flexibility has proven critical in the face of uncertainties in contemporary operations. Moreover, smaller scale missions may be more likely because of budgetary constraints. These bridging missions could also make best use of NATO’s decision at the 2010 Lisbon Summit to improve the ability to deliver stabilization and reconstruction effects by agreeing to form an appropriate but modest civilian capability to interface more effectively with others and conduct appropriate planning in crisis management (6).  These missions, aimed at roughly a 6-month period toward stabilization, would pave the way for another organization to take the lead in reconstruction efforts, while buying time for the international community to assist “home grown” political settlements necessary for stabilization prior to reconstruction (7).  In any case, this type of operation should foster cooperation with other international organizations and refrain from any competing calls between organizations.

Allies will be called upon in Chicago to consider their core capabilities for future operations on the basis of the guidance provided by the 2010 Strategic Concept, while taking full account of today’s fiscal constraint. It may prove useful to consider reviewing the case of Libya and draw some key conclusions when it comes to defining NATO’s core capabilities for limited operations (8).  This should not detract from the major allied focus and U.S.-led effort in operations, such as the International Security Assistance Force. Afghanistan will undoubtedly remain the central theme of the Chicago Summit.

Second, the Libyan crisis can offer some lessons in terms of NATO partnerships. Inviting partners to a NATO strategy review of Operation Unified Protector in Chicago would recognize the contribution of NATO partnerships both militarily and politically in terms of the support provided by partners both in the region, such as Qatar, and beyond, such as Sweden. This would militate in favor of a “big tent meeting” at the Chicago Summit where the Libyan operation, and possibly the post-operation strategy, could be reviewed. While the tendency at NATO would likely be to organize a meeting with troop contributing nations, it may be that Allies would gain from reaching out more broadly to countries in the region in order to develop a balanced political dialogue (9).

A partnership meeting on the post Libyan operation, open to other international organizations, might also give focus to ongoing discussions regarding whether and how NATO could assist countries south of the Mediterranean in developing the necessary security reforms in the face of popular uprisings experienced in the wake of the Arab Spring. Partnering with the EU in this context may offer some valuable prospects for enhancing NATO–EU cooperation (10).  Cooperation with other regional organizations, such as the Arab League, Gulf Cooperation Council, and African Union, also hold significant potential in developing capacities in the region.

Finally, the interest of emerging powers in the Middle East and North Africa was demonstrated in the various diplomatic efforts toward a negotiated settlement in Libya on the part of Russia, South Africa, and others, and should be recognized by NATO. Moreover, dialoguing with countries that hold a seat on the UN Security Council and that supported UNSCR 1973 is a long-term requirement for UN-mandated NATO bridging missions. This could also be handled as a side event as a summit conference. A strategy review on the Libyan crisis would be an opportunity to engage a broad political dialogue beyond NATO partnerships, reaching out to significant security interlocutors at a time when U.S. public and Congress seem to focus increasingly beyond Europe. There will likely be a growing interest internationally in ensuring security and stability prior to investing in the resumption of oil production in Libya. Chicago could be an opportunity to look beyond together while ensuring that the transatlantic partnership continues to deliver its unique and flexible capabilities in terms of command and control of complex operations when the security environment calls for action.

Dr. Isabelle Francois is a Distinguished Senior Visiting Research Fellow with the Center for Transatlantic Studies, Institute for National Strategic Studies, National Defense University.

WORKS CITED:

[1] See “Split in NATO over Libya mission,” March 22, 2011, available at <http://nation.com.pk/pakistan-news-newspaper-daily-english-online/Politics/22-Mar-2011/Split-in-Nato-over-Libya-mission&gt;; David Brunnstrom, “NATO still split on taking over Libya operation,” Reuters, March 23, 2011, available at <http://uk.mobile.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idUKTRE72M4T720110323?feedType=RSS&feedName=worldNews; Steven Lee Myers and David D. Kirkpatrick, “Allies are split on goal and exit strategy in Libya,” The New York Times, March 25, 2011, available at <www.nytimes.com/2011/03/25/world/africa/25policy.html?_r=1&scp=12&sq=25%20march%202011&st=cse>.

[2] On June 8, 2011, NATO Defense Ministers “extended Operation Unified Protector for a further 90 days from 27 June.” See NATO, “Statement on Libya,” June 8, 2011, available at <www.nato.int/cps/en/natolive/news_75177.htm>.

[3] Robert M. Gates, “The Future of NATO,” June 10, 2010, available at <www.defense.gov/speeches/speech.aspx?speechid=1581>.

[4] For example, fighter bombers, warships, surveillance, aircraft refueling, and drones. See Anders Fogh Rasmussen, “NATO after Libya”, June 29, 2011, available at <www.nato.int/cps/en/natolive/opinions_75836.htm>.

[5] Tomas Valasek, “What Libya says about the future of the transatlantic alliance,” Essays (London: Centre for European Reform, July 2011), available at <www.cer.org.uk/pdf/essay_libya_july11.pdf>.

[6] At the Lisbon Summit in 2010, building on earlier efforts, NATO heads of state and government in their Declaration (para. 2) “decided to enhance NATO’s contribution to a comprehensive approach to crisis management, as part of the international community’s effort and to improve NATO’s ability to deliver stabilization and reconstruction effects.” To that end, they “agreed to form an appropriate but modest civilian capability to interface more effectively with other actors and conduct appropriate planning in crisis management.” See para. 9 in NATO, “Lisbon Summit Declaration,” November 20, 2010, available at <www.nato.int/cps/en/natolive/official_tests_688828.htm?mode=pressrelease>.

[7] Some analysts have made a strong case for the European Union to take over from NATO in Libya. See John E. Herbst and Leo G. Michel, “Why the EU should patrol Libya,” European Voice, July 14, 2011, 9.

[8] For expediency, the NATO summit will focus on Afghanistan because it remains the most demanding allied operation. Also, there is an important public message to deliver in the context of transition. In addition, it would be difficult to gage and prepare for a summit meeting on Libya without any certainty regarding what NATO’s role will be. However, smaller operations are central to Alliance efforts and transformation, and the political message of an operation with Europeans in the lead is one that demands attention.

[9] The summit focus on Afghanistan could provide an opportunity for partners to attend based on their status as troop contributing nations to the International Security Assistance Force. It would be useful, however, to reach out beyond troop contributors to an operation. Allies and partners should consider future commitments for smaller operations such as Unified Protector, and should reach out more broadly to discuss the value-added internationally of United Nations–mandated bridging missions.

[10] See Anders Fogh Rasmussen, “NATO and the Mediterranean: the changes ahead,” June 16, 2011, available at <www.nato.int/cps/en/natolive/opinions_75547.htm>.

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