The European- and US-led military action against Libya in the past two days pivoted on the Arab League’s crucial support of a no-fly zone that would protect civilians there.
Without the Arab League’s endorsement, the United Nations Security Council likely would not have passed Resolution 1973 on Thursday, which approved “all necessary measures” to protect the Libyan people.
But Arab League leader Amr Moussa is now distancing his organization from the resulting military action in what may be a sign he is feeling pressure in the region from member states fearful of Libyan leader Muammar Qadaffi’s reach.
“What is happening in Libya differs from the aim of imposing a no-fly zone,” he said today. “What we want is the protection of civilians and not the bombardment of more civilians.”
The comments, which preceded an emergency Arab League meeting, came less than a day after Mr. Moussa represented the Arab world at a Paris meeting designed to achieve unity.
While Moussa’s remarks have puzzled some officials and irritated others, one French analyst who met with him ahead of the Paris meeting says the Arab leader was under pressure by Arab senior officials worried about Libyan operatives working in their states that could conduct “retaliatory operations.”
French Arab specialist Antoine Sfeir said Moussa had tried for a collective call for Mr. Qaddafi’s ouster, but that in recent days the Arab league leader had come under pressure by members worried about Libyan operatives in their states ready to conduct terrorism.
“The Arab states are worried about retaliation from Libya, and I think French citizens have to be worried about that as well,” he added.
French military spokesman Thierry Burkhard said today that the Arab state of Qatar has contributed four planes to the allied effort that France took the lead on, and that the enthusiasm of the citizens of Libya’s de facto rebel capital of Benghazi was a clear signal of support.
When asked about Moussa’s statement he said: “Clearly the Arab League took part in the summit yesterday in Paris…. One stipulation of the UN resolution is that we will report all actions [in Libya] to the Arab League as well as the UN Security Council, are we are complying with that criteria.”
Debates in and around the Arab community over the international military action against Qaddafi’s regime in Libya continue to be intense.
Rami Khouri, editor of Lebanon’s Daily Star and a prominent voice in the Arab world, told reporters Sunday that Moussa’s statement was either “confusing or hypocritical.”
Mr. Khouri, who has opposed foreign military intervention in the Arab world, nonetheless came out in favor of the international military action against Qaddafi’s regime in an editorial two days ago.
“There are times when nuanced arguments of diplomatic principles must be set aside in order to embrace with all our might the compelling opportunity to come to the aid of brave Libyans who are paying for their liberty with their lives,” he wrote. “The simultaneously Killer and Comical Colonel Gaddafi is an abomination in the annals of statehood, leadership, and Arabism. He is in a class of his own in degrading his country…. He has moved beyond the stage of being a harmless fool, and now practices mass brutality and sows death.”
That position contrasted sharply with that of Phyllis Bennis of the Institute of Policy Studies in Washington, who found that “the Libyan opposition… has made a legitimate demand for international support.”
Yet she went on to state that, “Governments, however, are not people, and do not make strategic decisions for humanitarian reasons. Governments do not use scarce resources and most especially do not deploy military force, to achieve humanitarian goals. So the cold strategic calculations of powerful governments cannot be viewed as a legitimate response to the humanitarian needs of Libya’s people or the humanitarian impulses of international civil society.”