National Security Brief: October 21, 2011

— Yesterday in a speech at the White House Rose Garden, President Obama called Muammar Qaddafi’s death “a momentous day in the history of Libya.” “Without putting a single U.S. service member on the ground, we achieved our objectives, and our NATO mission will soon come to an end,” Mr. Obama said. “We’ve demonstrated what collective action can achieve in the 21st century.”

— Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) said Qaddafi’s death vindicates Obama’s multilateral strategy in Libya. “The United States demonstrated clear-eyed leadership, patience, and foresight by pushing the international community into action,” Kerry said.

— Another expert commented on Obama’s strategy on Libya. “It’s time to set aside the snide interpretations of ‘leading from behind,’ and simply call it leading,” said David Rothkopf, a foreign policy expert who wrote a history of the National Security Council. “This was the kind of multilateral, affordable, effective endeavor that any foreign policy initiative aspires to.”

— Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC) will begin its handover of power and set up elections following Qaddafi’s death, the Libyan ambassador to Washington told Foreign Policy. “That’s what they declared before and that’s what they have to do now. Now they have to start work for the election and the institution building for the new Libya,” said Ambassador Ali Aujali.


— Inspired by Qaddafi’s death, Syrian protesters took to the streets on Friday shouting that Bashar Assad’s regime will be the next government to fall in the Arab Spring.

— The U.N. Security Council will vote on a British-drafted resolution on Yemen today that condemns the government crackdown against pro-democracy demonstrators and says those responsible should be held accountable.

— Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Kahamenei continues to reject any negotiations which would require compromise but an influential faction of former activists and politicians, including former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, are pushing for back-channel talks with the U.S. as a step toward lowering tensions following U.S. allegations about an Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador to Washington.

— The oil industry has been establishing contacts with Libya’s National Transitional Council since April and, with the death of Qaddafi, Italian oil giant ENI and American partners in the Oasis Group are expected to ramp up productions in their oil concessions and expand refining capacity.