By Arab News
The suggestion that the Arab states are having second thoughts about military strikes against Libya by the ad-hoc coalition of the US, UK, France and other countries and that they now regret the UN motion authorizing both a no-fly zone and the use of “all necessary measures” to protect Libyan civilians is untrue. If it were, Arab governments would not be lining up to join in. Qatar has sent aircraft. Kuwait and Jordan are to provide logistical support. Saudi Arabia has given its full backing to the measures being undertaken to enforce the UN’s will.
When they asked the UN to impose a no-fly zone, the Arabs knew that it would require taking out Qaddafi’s air defenses. They also realized that protecting Libyan civilians would necessitate far stronger military action than simply preventing the regime’s planes from flying. Qaddafi had already shown what he could do with his tanks, ships, armored patrol vehicles and snipers.
At the Arab League meeting on March 12, then at the UN a week ago, the Arabs were completely aware of the significance of what was being asked and authorized. There was full support for the UN resolution. At no point did the Arabs think that the UN had gone too far. Lebanon, as the current holder of what is in effect the Arab seat on the Security Council, was totally involved in the wording of the resolution. Two days later, at the Paris meeting just hours before Qaddafi’s defenses and positions were attacked, the full scale of the operation was discussed and approved. Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa was involved in that meeting and approved its decisions. We can only conclude from the reservations that he is supposed to have made subsequently that he has been misquoted.
The Arab consensus remains. There have been no second thoughts about the necessity of strong military action to protect civilians.
It would be different if the coalition attacks resulted in serious or prolonged civilian casualties or if there were a ground invasion. But neither has happened. The Qaddafi regime claims civilian casualties including women and children. But there is no evidence whatsoever. Foreign reporters in Tripoli have asked repeatedly to see the bodies but there have been only those of men who, as the reporters point out, could have been members of the military.
It would not be surprising if Qaddafi were lying. He has managed to lie about almost everything else so far — from the love that the Libyans supposedly have for him to his cease-fire announcements.
Twice the regime has announced a cease-fire only to break it instantly, the first with continued attempts to move forward and attack Benghazi, the second with a continuing bloody onslaught against the city of Misrata. Obviously for Qaddafi, a cease-fire is a means to deceive the world. It does not work
One thing, however, the Arabs have not said — like the UN and the coalition governments — but clearly mean. There has been no word about regime change. But in reality there is not an Arab government that does not want to see Qaddafi toppled and brought to justice for his brutal attacks against his own people that go back decades. The people of Libya will be in danger for as long as he remains in power.