ANALYSIS: Slow Arab sign-up to Libya intervention as region agonizes
By Clare Byrne and Aya Batrawy Mar 24, 2011, 2:05 GMT
Libyan rebels keep their position on the road between Ajdabiya and Benghazi, Eastern Libya, 24 March 2011. EPA/KHALED ELFIQI
Paris/Tunis/Cairo - The slow sign-up of Arab states and the flip-flopping of Arab League chief Amr Moussa have shone a light on the scepticism that much of the Arab world holds toward the international intervention in Libya.
The coalition members participating in the Western-led airstrikes against Moamer Gaddafi's regime had feared as much.
Dreading comparisons with its invasion of Iraq, the United States had dithered for weeks on whether to back British and French proposals for imposition of a no-fly zone over Libya.
When the 23-member Arab League came out on March 12 in support of a no-fly zone, it gave the West the regional support it craved.
But the shadow of Iraq, and Gaddafi's record of bankrolling terrorism, looms large over the campaign of airstrikes and cruise missiles.
No sooner had the bombardments started Saturday than Arab League Secretary General Moussa appeared to be rowing back on his support, accusing the allies a day later of overstepping their mandate and of bombarding civilians - remarks he later retracted.
In Egypt and Tunisia, two countries that ousted their autocratic leaders this year in uprisings that inspired Gaddafi's opponents, support for the Western intervention is lukewarm.
'Western powers claim that they intervene in order to promote democracy, but in reality, they are always going after their interests,' said Gehad Hossam Eldin, a political science student at the American University in Cairo.
'I am very disappointed with the Arab reaction because rescue actions (in the region) should be undertaken by Arabs, not the US or Western countries.'
In the Tunisian tourist resort of Djerba, residents seemed particularly concerned about the fallout of the air raids on the local economy.
'Who wants to go on holiday to a place where military jets are bombing the next-door neighbour,' asked Amor Gattoufi, a hotel manager.
While Tunisia and the new administration in Egypt have been tight- lipped on the conflict in a country where tens of thousands of their nationals live and work, Seif Abou-Zaid, 26, a political activist in Cairo, expressed the sentiments of many when he said he was 'with the coalition airstrikes but under condition they (Western forces) won't stay behind.'
The US and France have ruled out putting boots on the ground and have given assurances they are not out to effect regime change.
But their reiteration, in the same breath, that 'Gaddafi must go' has made potential Arab partners wary of a potentially lengthy war against fellow Arabs.
Many countries in the region also balk at being signed up for action by Western powers anxious to to restore their credibility in North Africa, after being seen to have cosy relations with the ousted leaders in Tunisia and Egypt.
Five days into the operation, only one Arab state has sent planes to help 11 Western countries impose the no-fly zone, though the pace of Arab buy-in appeared to be accelerating.
Qatar has sent a Mirage fighter jet and support aircraft, British Prime Minister David Cameron said Wednesday.
Jordan and Kuwait had promised 'logistical contributions,' he said. The United Arab Emirates has offered humanitarian support.
While Saudi Arabia had yet to join, reports have emerged that Egypt, while outwardly taking a neutral stance, is secretly arming the Libyan rebels.
The Wall Street Journal quoted unnamed US and Libyan rebel officials as saying that Egypt's military had begun shipping arms over the border to the Benghazi-based rebels.
Like Gaddafi, some Arab commentators have questioned the loyalties of Arab countries that support the intervention.
'The emirs and kings cooperating in the attacks were only trying to ensure support for their thrones,' Emad el-Arian wrote in an opinion article in the London-based pan-Arabic daily al-Hayat.
'Their actions are one of main reasons for the crises for which Arabs pay a high price, either through war or suppression of their revolutions.'
Read more about Arab
Read more about Libya Conflict
FROM THE WEB
Further Reading on M&C
COMMENT on ANALYSIS: Slow Arab sign-up to Libya intervention as region agonizescomments powered by Disqus
Latest Headlines in Africa
- 1. Several dead in car bombing in northern Nigeria
- 2. Mogadishu blast kills seven, including sports chiefs
- 3. Seven dead in Mogadishu suicide bomb attack
- 4. ANC suspends Youth League leader with immediate effect
- 5. Police arrest Uganda's opposition leader and others at protest march