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Libya conflict is now a “civil war,” says the A.P.

The decision by the Associated Press -- the world’s most influential wire service-- to begin calling the conflict in Libya a “civil war” is worth noting since it’s where most newspapers (and websites, and television networks) across the United States and many outlets around the world derive their foreign news.   

The move is more than a mere semantics debate, as the Huffington Post’s Michael Calderone explains:

The White House may find it tougher to sell the public on taking sides in a North African ‘civil war’ rather than getting involved in a NATO-supported, limited military campaign to protect democracy-seeking rebels from a dictator's brutality”.

A recent memo from Tom Kent, the AP’s deputy managing editor for standards, to editors and reporters explained the rationale.

We avoided the term initially because of the short duration of the conflict. But it has gone on now at length, and shows no sign of ending.

It also has become more than an insurrection by a small group or region. The rebels, led by the National Transitional Council, are well in control of nearly a third of the inhabitable part of the country.

The term civil war also implies a conflict in which each side consists of a coherent group with a clear concept of what it’s fighting for; each side has some real military power; the fighting is basically over internal issues; and the conflict is protracted.

The conflict in Libya has met those standards. Although the rebels represent a broad base of ideology, they are united in their desire for an end to Gadhafi and the system he established. The rebels have a degree of military power apart from NATO's air assets. They also appear to have the outlines of a coherent military strategy. And armed resistance to the regime is approaching its fifth month.”

 

Calderone noted that Bloomberg News and the Wall Street Journal already have a similar policy, while the New York Times “has no set policy” on language of the conflict, according to the paper’s standards editor Phil Corbett.  

The media had a similar debate over the fighting in Iraq back in 2006. NBC News became the first major outlet to refer to that conflict as a civil war.

Meanwhile it seems that the White House doesn’t even think the United States is at “war” there.

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CIA informants? A few suggestions as to who Pakistan’s ISI might want to arrest

 

Pakistan rounded up five informants who provided information to the C.I.A. that helped lead to the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, according to the New York Times. The arrests, which reportedly include a Pakistani Army major who copied the license plates of cars visiting the compound, highlight once again how strained the relationship is between Washington and Islamabad. As Pakistan's powerful Inter-Service Intelligence directorate (ISI) was able to uncover and arrest the alleged C.I.A. informants very soon after the killing, one might wonder what they could do if they put as much energy into locating some of the world's other most wanted people believed to be hiding out in the country.

Here are a few bad guys who remain at large.

Sajid Mir

The man believed to be behind the Mumbai terrorist attacks in 2008 is a shadowy figure with ties to militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba and reportedly to the ISI, though they deny it. He directed the Mumbai operation as it was happening and can be heard on recorded phone conversations instructing the terrorists on the ground where to go, whom to kill, and when to go out in a storm of bullets. He also recruited the American David Headley to act as a scout for the group.

Ayman al-Zawahiri

Bin Laden's longtime deputy, the Egyptian-born doctor is one of America's prime targets in Pakistan. Since bin Laden's death, the United States has upped the pressure on the Pakistani government, military and ISI to provide more information on his whereabouts, according to reports.

Siraj Haqqani

The current leader of the powerful Haqqani network sends weapons, recruits, and supplies to attack U.S. forces in Afghanistan. The group is closely allied to the Taliban. Some analysts say it works as a proxy force used by the ISI, elements of which are accused of providing financial and operational support for their attacks in Afghanistan.

 ‘Major Iqbal'

Perhaps the most mysterious fugitive in Pakistan, Iqbal is an officer in the ISI who helped plan the 2008 Mumbai attacks, according to testimony from David Headley, who claimed that he provided money and helped choose targets. He's named as Headley's ISI handler in a Justice Department indictment. But very little is known about him--including his real identity and how high up in the ISI he was.

Dawood Ibrahim

In 2009, Forbes Magazine named. Ibrahim the 50th most powerful person in the world. The head of the Mumbai-based crime syndicate D-Company, he is also India's most wanted man, believed to be involved in everything from drug and weapons trafficking to terrorism (he's suspected of organizing attacks in Bombay in 1993 that killed 257 people and the U.S. says he has links to al Qaeda). He's reportedly hiding out in Pakistan, using plastic surgery to help avoid detection--as well as his connections in the ISI.

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