Monday, March 21, 2011

Arab League Back On Board With Strikes In Libya (For Now)

Since the Arab League approval of intervention in Libya was key in getting UN approval, it was no small thing then the Arab League condemned that same intervention in Libya over the weekend.

But for now, at least, things look like they are back on track and the Arab League is again supportive of the Western airstrikes against Libya:
Arab League head Amr Moussa has qualified comments he made criticizing the reported civilian toll from Western airstrikes in Libya, telling reporters in Cairo on Monday that the Arab League and the U.N. Security Council are "united" on the need to protect civilians.

"[The Arab League] respects the U.N. Security Council resolution, and there is no contradiction," Moussa said.

"We will continue working to protect civilians, and we will ask everybody to take this into consideration in any military operation," he added."We have received assurances that these issues, especially the protection of civilians, will remain a unanimous goal for the U.N. and the Arab League."
The Arab League seems to have started having doubts after Libyan reports of 64 civilians being killed by the strikes. The problem is--the number of alleged victims of the Western attacks is unsubstantiated.

As it is, the Arab League has put itself into a delicate situation: on the one hand, the members of the the League want to appear to be supportive of the popular will of the people of Libya; on the other hand, many of these same countries are dealing with and trying to control popular protests in their own countries.

I've suggested before that one reason for the Arab League wanting to get involved may be that Amr Moussa, the Arab League's secretary general, has announced he is planning to run in the Egyptian presidential election. After all, how would it look to Egyptians if Moussa was perceived as being weak in responding to Egypt's fellow-protesters? All the more so, considering the fact that Egypt itself has been quietly aiding the Libyan rebels, while Syria--which opposes foreign intervention in Libya--has been helping Gaddafi.

If the Arab League thought this was going to be cut and dried, they have instead learned their first lesson in international affairs: when in doubt, stay out.

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