Gulf nations must help Libyan rebels - Sulaiman Al Hattlan - April 18, 2011

The UAE and Qatar have done well to publicly support the Libyan revolutionaries in their fight for freedom. They gave an Arab face to the Western-led coalition to protect Libyan civilians from dictator Muammar Gaddafi's firepower.
By doing so, the UAE and Qatar are laying the ground for future relations with the Libyans on the basis of mutual respect and cooperation.
The move by the two Gulf nations to join the international coalition in enforcing a no-fly zone over Libya will not only help protect civilians from the barbaric bombing by Gaddafi forces, but also lay the foundation for a long friendship with the Libyan people who are eager for freedom and prosperity.
Anyone who has followed Gaddafi's speeches or even statements issued by his official media would have noticed his aggressive tone against the UAE and Qatar. Gaddafi is known for the filthy language he has used against his foes during his 42 years in power.
With the UAE and Qatar being considered to be on the list of Gaddafi's enemies, the GCC countries should now urgently advance their support for the Libyan rebels who are going through turbulent times at this critical transitional stage. The rebels are in need of arms and training. Politically, the GCC countries can begin an Arab lobby to convince the United States and Nato member states of the importance of supporting the rebels on the ground with arms and training.
It is no secret that the key reason behind the US reluctance to help the rebels is its fear that rebels who belong to extremist groups, like Al Qaida, may take advantage of this support.
Yet, it is more likely that the slowdown in military operations to end the battle in favour of the rebels may have encouraged some Al Qaida fighters to join the rebels secretly.
The delay in ending the battle in favour of the rebels may have complicated the situation on the ground, and terming the Libyan opposition as fundamentalist is a big strategic mistake.
New faces
In fact, the Libyan opposition, which has been underground for a long time, is composed of groups with diverse ideological backgrounds. Yet, having religious people among the rebels does not necessarily mean they belong to Al Qaida, as Gaddafi and his son, Saif Al Islam claim.
Indeed, the revolution led to the emergence of new Libyan faces — people who are well educated but were overshadowed by Gaddafi's regime for more than four decades. They include doctors, politicians and media personalities who are optimistic about the future of their country, which has been reduced over the past four decades into sarcastic images of Gaddafi's volatile personality! If the battle drags on in Libya, it will serve no one but Gaddafi, who is now seeking to divide the country into eastern and western Libya. Therefore, he will hold on to anything that can lengthen the battle even if he will only maintain control of his Bab Al Aziziyah compound.
Gaddafi will recruit mercenaries and terrorists to seek revenge against those who extended political and military support to the rebels. He will also do his utmost to destabilise the region, including GCC countries.
Hence, the GCC countries must support the Libyan revolution publicly, politically and militarily. This is indeed to serve their interests in the long run. And it is simply because the future of Libya will soon be in the hands of young Libyan rebels — those who are eager for freedom and human development similar to that experienced by Gulf states, and the progress seen in cities, such as Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Doha.
Long battle
Furthermore, the GCC countries provided concrete examples of their ability to utilise oil revenues in giant projects that led to the creation of internationally-recognised companies, such as Mubadala, SABIC, Emirates and Aramco, among others.
The good impression thousands of the young Arab revolutionaries will have about the development seen in the Gulf region would help establish positive relationships with the Gulf people. This will happen if the GCC countries provide military, political and economic support to the Arab youth who are eager for development and freedom, like the approach the UAE and Qatar have taken towards the rebel heroes in Libya.
The prolongation of the battle between Gaddafi's superior forces and the lightly-armed rebels who do not lack the courage and resilience, but are short of weapons and training, is not in the interest of anyone, especially the Gulf States.
Most importantly, supporting the revolution is the only winning bet on the future of Libya, which will be run by the young who are open to the new world and eager for comprehensive human development based on knowledge and a strong economy.
This makes the Gulf nations more concerned than at any time before to lobby for a UN resolution that allows arming the Libyan rebels. It's in their interest to provide the Libyan rebels with all forms of support to help them get rid of Gaddafi.
Sulaiman Al Hattlan, a former Nieman Fellow at Harvard, is the host of Gulf Talks on Al Hurra TV. He is the founder of the upcoming news project, He lives and works in Dubai.

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