Sunday, March 13, 2011

Libya - 'Not All Revolutions are Equal'

The Libyan revolution is now a civil war and it does not appear to be ending any time soon. More importantly, this civil war is now drawing in the key players in the region as they scramble to strengthen their positions. By this I mean Iran, through Syria, on the one hand, and the West on the other. They key point of contention is over the implementation of a no-fly zone over Libya, aimed at restricting Gaddafi's airforce from inflicting hurtful blows on the rebels. Apart from bringing up painful memories of the no-fly zone forced onto Iraq almost two decades ago, there is another very important issue that is being fought over at this very moment. That issue is whether NATO will have another toehold in the region or not.

Unlike with the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions, the Libyan revolution is now being ardently championed throughout Western capitals. France has already recognised the Benghazi based ruling council as the legitimate ruler of Libya, and it is likely that other Western states will not be far behind. The United Kingdom has been the key proponent of a no-fly zone but this has been severely contested by both China and Russia. al Jazeera Arabic also report that Syria is the only Arab country which opposes this no-fly zone.

The reason for this is very clear, and it was made very eloquently by someone I consider my political mentor. Syria is supporting Gaddafi in his attempt to maintain power, and may or may not be assisting him directly with pilots and planes. It is absolutely certain by now that Algeria is also providing pilots and planes for bombing rebel positions in Libya and they have been doing so for some weeks, in addition the Polisario fighters from the Western Sahara have also been given passage through Algeria to fight in Libya. From Syria (and Algeria's) point of view, the revolutionary wave sweeping the region must be contained. It is absolutely vital for Iran that Syria not be swept or affected by this tide of unrest. Syria is the lifeline for Hezbullah and a vital support for Hamas in Gaza, both politically and morally. In turn, Syria is quite prepared to burn down the house next door to prevent a fire from spreading to her own roof, as is Algeria.

This sentiment is shared by the Gulf states and other Arab countries, however, whilst Saudi Arabia and what remains of America's allies in the region support the crushing of the rebellion with the assistance of the West, Iran and Syria would prefer to maintain Gaddafi, as a matter of realpolitik, than allow the West a stronger position in the region. The opportunistic Amr Moussa is, in the meantime, ardently supporting a no-fly zone at any cost, hoping to ride the wave of revolutionary sentiment that sweeped aside Mubarak. Finally, the timing for an Iranian ship to arrive in the Mediterranean so soon after the fall of Mubarak was clearly an attempt at political one-upmanship.

Ultimately any moral considerations about the Libyan people and their rebellion is not what anybody is concerned about. At stake is the political future for the region, meaning not all revolutions are equal and not all dictators deserve to be toppled. At least not yet...

**UPDATE** Turkey has announced on Monday that it is opposed to a no-fly zone in Libya, especially one that is imposed by the West.


Keef said...

There's a dichotomy here: I think the West is afraid that if these long-serving autocrats are swept away, they'll be replaced by fundamentalist Islamist governments. For the West, this would be a huge step backwards. For sure, everyone wants to see Gaddafi gone, and the best way to achieve that would be a covert operation by special forces, absolutely not by sending in hundreds of thousands of regular troops. And ultimately, it's about oil. The West, despite decades of warnings about Peak Oil, is still heavily reliant on it, and has done very little to develop alternative sources. I wish it was about people. The problem is that the people of the Middle East have been oppressed for so long by autocrats and (dare I say it) religion, that the idea of each individual standing up for himself (or herself) is totally alien. GWB wanted to bring 'democracy' to the Middle East. You can't do that overnight, and you certainly can't do it under an autocratic ruler. I'm rambling: people of Libya, rise up, get rid of Gaddafi. I wish I could help you somehow.

Maysaloon said...

Thank you for the comment, I guess just the fact that you are concerned and understand what is happening is help enough.