EDITORIAL: A long war in Libya - Monday, March 21, 2011

Source : http://dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2011\03\21\story_21-3-2011_pg3_1

EDITORIAL: A long war in Libya
Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi has vowed that the western forces that have invaded Libya are in for a long haul. “We promise you a long drawn-out war with no limits. We will fight inch by inch,” warned Gaddafi. He also said, “You are unjust, you are the aggressors, you are beasts, you are criminals.” French aircraft led the campaign by firing the first shots, Britain joined in as well in the air and sea attack and after its initial hesitation, the US too has now joined the invasion.

The foreign forces are hitting Libyan airfields and air defence systems to implement the no-fly zone part of the UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution on Libya. But they have also resorted to attacking the Lybian government’s tank and armoured columns, especially around Benghazi, ostensibly on the pretext of protecting citizens. Despite the Libyan regime’s announcement of a ceasefire, the Libyan opposition claimed that Gaddafi’s forces were still attacking the rebels. The Libyan government claimed that the rebels were not respecting the ceasefire and were attacking their forces. In any war, especially a civil war, a ceasefire takes some time to take effect. Merely announcing a ceasefire does not mean that all fighting would immediately come to a halt. Instead of testing the ceasefire, the western forces launched an attack on Libya despite knowing full well that ceasefires need some time to take hold and for the fighting to cease. It is quite clear now that all this was pre-planned. France and Britain have been very clear on what they want: a regime change in Libya. They are prepared to go all the way and do whatever it takes to topple Gaddafi’s government, even if it means bending the interpretation of the UNSC resolution.

There is a wave of protests and revolt in the Arab world but the west did not take any action because it did not have any major strategic, political or economic interests in those countries. Tunisia falls into this category. As for Egypt, even though it is an important country strategically, the scales were tipped so much against Hosni Mubarak that the west willy-nilly had to go along with the people’s demands. But to prevent further radicalisation of the Tahrir Square movement, the western powers asked the Egyptian army to control the situation. As time goes by and as this spectrum of forces plays out, the constitutional referendum will indicate what the political bent, composition and trend of the Egyptian opposition to Mubarak will turn out to be. It has not yet been determined because of the wide array and broad spectrum of these forces. Yemen is a strategic ally of the west because it has now become one of al Qaeda’s main base areas. President Ali Abdullah Saleh is in trouble but despite the mealy-mouthed condemnation from the west at the killing of protestors in Yemen, Saleh is probably still an ally. The west has gone totally quiet about the UAE and Saudi Arabia’s intervention in Bahrain, probably because a successful revolution in Bahrain could potentially lead to Saudi Arabia’s destabilisation. Pakistani mercenaries are also present in Bahrain and killing the protestors. Such is the irony of our so-called Muslim ‘ummah’.

The opposition in Libya has a monarchist and pro-western tilt. A pro-western regime change in Libya will allow the west to lay its hands on the massive oil and gas riches of the country but the western forces have to realise that intervening in a country with superior military power is easy, predicting the outcome is the difficult part. Gaddafi will try to hold out as long as possible. As the war proceeds, it is inevitable that not only will the western bombardment take out Gaddafi’s forces, it will also lead to civilian casualties. Such incidents will only strengthen the religious right that will play on emotions by dubbing this as another attack on a “Muslim” country. By attacking Libya, the west is making things worse for itself and losing its credibility in the Muslim and wider world. It is also unclear whether anyone has calculated the consequences and fallout of this attack. The mess in Libya is getting messier by the day. The west’s aggressive posture is not helping anyone’s cause. *

SECOND EDITROIAL: Bitter-sweet offerings

Saudi Arabia’s security forces arrested several people who were demonstrating at the Interior Ministry in Riyadh on Sunday. In recent weeks, small protests have broken out in different parts of the Kingdom to protest against the monarchy and its heavy-handed rule. Saudi King Abdullah had made a short speech on television on Friday and promised to bring about reforms to placate his nation. He announced billions of dollars in handouts; the reform package includes a minimum wage of 3,000 riyals ($ 800) a month for government employees. The king also announced 500,000 new housing units to which around $ 67 billion would be allocated besides other social benefits such as offering employees two months extra salary, higher unemployment payments and better healthcare.

On the one hand, the Saudi monarch offered all these ‘perks’ to his people to bolster their morale and quell the demonstrations, while on the other he also warned them of dire consequences in case of ‘disobedience’. King Abdullah warned the Saudi people that his security forces would hit whoever undermines the Royal Kingdom’s security and stability. Addressing the Saudi security forces, he said: “You are the hitting hand against whoever considers undermining the nation’s security and stability.” This is a classic case of adopting a carrot and stick policy. The Saudi monarch sweetened the carrot enough to let the people allow him to continue with his despotic monarchy and its system while threatening the stick to dissuade them from any protests or uprising. The recent revolt in Arab countries has sent warning signals to all Arab despots, especially the House of Saud.

Saudi Arabia’s monarchy has the reputation of being one of the strictest in the world. Not only are the laws in Saudi Arabia too rigid, there is no regard for human rights. Now that Tunisia and Egypt have overthrown dictators and there are uprisings in Libya, Yemen, Bahrain and other Arab countries, the Saudi royal family is trying to take matters into their own hands and put a leash on their people. But the Saudi monarch is forgetting that when suppression and oppression become unbearable, sooner or later a people’s movement emerges. Even brute force cannot make them bow down. The days ahead may prove tough for the House of Saud. *

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