By Iqbal Jassat
As Libya and its beleaguered leader Col. Muammar Gaddafi occupy center stage with news coverage being dominated by an American-led military offensive targeting his forces and weapons, a huge debate on it has emerged in many capitals of the world.
Apart from the vexing issue of whether military strikes have transgressed the limited mandate of the UN’s security council resolution, there is also divided opinion as to whether the Americans must continue leading the military coalition or hand command over to NATO.
With the war on Libya now about to enter a second week, it does appear that Gaddafi’s determination to fight to the last and his appeal on friends in the international community not to ditch him seems to be working for the “brother leader”.
Divisions in the rank of member states of the UN reveal at the outset how certain influential countries abstained from endorsing the resolution. These states, Brazil, Russia, China and India set the tone for further polarization which saw Latin American countries adopting a harsher and more critical approach to the war.
It is true too that Gaddafi has been lobbying via telephone calls to a wide array of friends, supporters and business partners around the world, not to gain their sympathy but to exploit weaknesses in the fragile coalition. His four decades of autocratic rule and grand display of solidarity for causes such as the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa has endeared him to many people, particularly in Africa.
It explains his bravado whereby revelations such as claiming that President Zuma had pledged support to him in a private telephonic conversation are made without blinking an eye. Though the Zuma government disputes Gaddafi’s version, it doesn’t deny that a conversation did take place between the two. So while confusion reigns in diplomatic circles about what may have been said or not, Gaddafi rides the storm by attacking his opponents as “terrorists”.
Amidst the intensity of this latest military mobilization by western regimes to strike a Muslim state in Africa that happens to straddle the heartland of the Arabian Peninsula, doubts have been raised about the true intent of this war on Libya.
France, Britain, America and other NATO countries claim their action is derived from UN Resolution 1973, which is intended to protect Libyans from Gaddafi. This follows the uprising against his 42-year reign by large parts of the population and the brutal method employed by Gaddafi to crush the freedom movement.
Critics of the war point out that if the coalition was so eager to intervene militarily on behalf of Libyans why isn’t the same conviction displayed regarding violent crackdowns against similar freedom struggles in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Yemen?
This question also applies to the silence of the United Nations. Unlike the case of Libya where it rushed to gain international sanction and a legal basis to go on a war footing, no such concern has been shown towards the victims of despots in these countries as well as Algeria, Morocco, Jordan and others.
Clearly to the West corrupt leadership of their allies in these countries offer ‘stability’. Western cultivation and installation of despots via coups and counter coups and acceptance of their regimes go beyond their treatment of their populations.
Inconsistency and double standard are norms associated with Western control and domination of Arab regimes that go back to the colonial period. The entire history since then of post-colonial Arabia and Africa is infested with treachery, suppression and exploitation. Western prescription for ‘stable’ dictatorships whether under Saddam Hussein, the House of Saud, the Saleh clan, the Khalifa monarchy or Muammar Gaddafi has been that they could suppress their people in order to stay in power and serve the political and economic interests of former colonial masters.
Libya therefore provides a major test for western powers:
Will Gaddafi outwit the military strategists of Pentagon by playing ‘cat & mouse’ thus allowing more negative public scrutiny of war postures adopted by Obama, Cameron and Sarkozy?
Or will he succumb to an assassination plot thus allowing the US – NATO forces an exit strategy and an opportunity to dictate the future of Libya?
As confusion mounts and suspicion grows over the real intent of ‘western liberators’, the African Union seems to have finally awoken to the challenges of revolutions amongst its member states. Its offer to resolve what it refers to as the ‘Libya Crisis’ is dependent on whether Gaddafi, who wields considerable political influence and financial clout within the AU, will accept its terms.
– Iqbal Jassat is the chairperson of Media Review Network, Pretoria – South Africa. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Visit: www.mediareviewnet.com.