This Update focuses primarily on the aftermath of the election in Libya earlier this month, but also looks at the apparent turn of battle in Syria, with rebel forces now engaging in extended battles with the regime in Damascus and a suicide bombing overnight killing several key regime figures - including the Defence Minister and President Assad's brother-in-law - and wounding others, including the Intelligence Chief and Interior Minister.
The death of long-standing Libyan Dictator Muammar Gaddafi on Thursday has led to the effective end of the NATO-supported Libyan revolution against his rule. This Update is devoted to understanding Libya's outlook and dilemmas in the wake of Gaddafi's death.
First up is noted American Middle East scholar Fouad Ajami, who comments that the end of a despot like Gaddafi is always odd and somewhat anti-climactic, revealing the mighty dictator as only a petty, frightened man - and comparing Gaddafi's end to that of Saddam Hussein.
This Update deals further with aftermath of the overthrow of the Gaddafi regime in Libya, and particularly the prospects for the rebel "Transitional National Council" (TNC) to effectively rule the country and establish the "pluralist democracy" they claim is their aim.
First up is former Middle East academic expert turned policy adviser Dr. Walid Phares, who makes a number of predictions; first that regardless of their policies, the new TNC rulers of Libya will face a lingering insurgency from pro-Gaddafi forces. But more importantly, he takes issue with the claim often heard that "we don't know the rebels", saying that we do know a lot about them, and while they are a mixed bag, the Islamist forces are the strongest and largest organised militia. He argues that they therefore pose a considerable threat of an Islamist takeover if liberal forces are not supported.
When the Spanish-American War of 1898 ended with a victory for the United States, John Hay, US ambassador in London, felt moved to celebrate. In a letter to Teddy Roosevelt, he described it as a war "begun with the highest motives, carried on with magnificent intelligence and spirit, favored by the fortune which loves the brave." It was, in short, "a splendid little war."
The fall of the Gaddafi regime in Libya has inclined many contemporary commentators to similarly effusive bursts of cheer. But does the war in Libya deserve all the praise being bestowed upon it? Will this be the dawn of a new era of low-cost, humanitarian intervention? Was this our own era's "splendid little war," a model for future wars to come?
The Libyan people are right to celebrate as their country's benighted Muammar Gaddafi era comes to a definitive close, but the country's new leadership should also not forget that its work is just beginning. Building a new political order will be difficult, not least because Libyan political culture is notoriously underdeveloped, with only the barest history of civic engagement.
However, if the leaders of the National Transitional Council (NTC) prove to be as politically canny as they were physically brave, they'll soon realise that their national vice is actually a potential virtue.
Some analysts just cannot help themselves.
Take ANU Professor Amin Saikal who has articles in today's Age, the Australian Financial Review and on ABC's Unleashed website playing an old favourite love song - Libya's Colonel Gaddafi (or insert Middle East dictator's name here) remained in power for so long because the West supported him for his oil.
Well, analysts like Saikal who peddle a predictable line in blaming the West for all the Middle East's ills should note that Libyan rebels are unhappy, not with Western states but China, Russia and Brazil for abstaining from voting for the UN Security Council Resolution authorising NATO's use of force to impose a no-fly zone in Libya.
Please don't bother seeking out any references to China, Russia and Brazil in Saikal's pieces; they aren't even mentioned.
With news this morning that the UN Security Council has passed a resolution calling for a no-fly zone over Libya, as well as allowing "all necessary measures... excluding a foreign occupation force" to protect Libyan civilians, this Update features a look at the military situation in Libya and the case for additional measures along the lines of those just approved.
The unrest and violence in Libya continue, with allegations of thousands killed, terrible stories coming from refugees, and dictator Muammar Gaddafi apparently consolidating his hold over the capital Tripoli even as rebels gain control of more and more other towns. This Update is devoted to provide the background, details and analysis to help understand both what is happening in Libya and what is at stake.