Eye On Arab Media: Pundits Critical of Military Intervention in Libya

Eye On Arab Media: Pundits Critical of Military Intervention in Libya

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Arab journalists are voicing serious concerns about Western military intervention in Libya after the U.N. enforced the no-fly zone over the country.

Some say that it may lead to dreadful consequences, especially a divided Libya, civil war and even a failed state. Only a few journalists back the optimistic scenario advocated by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in which Gaddafi supporters would defect in large numbers, forcing him to give up power.

“Make no mistake about it, the battle over Libya did take a turn for the worse with the international intervention to protect the Libyan people and impose the no-fly zone among other measures,” Al Jazeera Senior Political Analyst Marwan Bishara wrote.

He continued, “The ongoing bombardment is and will remain a controversial subject that has already been criticized by the Arab League. Further escalation could lead to a backlash.” 

Dr. Ghassan Atiyyah, director of the Iraqi Foundation for Development and Democracy, told Alhiwar Television, “Instability in Libya may last for years, not weeks and months.”
He predicted  that one negative outcome could be the transformation of Benghazi into another Kurdistan, which was isolated from Iraq during the no-fly zone that was imposed there in the early 1990s. If this were to happen, Libya may end up divided between Gaddafi loyalists based in Tripoli and rebels based in Benghazi, he said. 

Abd Al-Bari Atwan, editor-in-chief of Al-Quds Al-Arabi Newspaper, wrote, “The no-fly zones that were imposed by the U.S. and Britain on the Kurdish region of Iraq and Southern Iraq did not bring Saddam Hussein down. To the contrary, Saddam stayed in power for 11 years despite the brutal international sanctions. The two countries [the United States and England.] invaded and occupied Iraq.”

He has been one of the most critical of the no-fly zone imposed on Libya. “They dismantled its institutions, dissolved its army and plunged the country into a sectarian conflict--not to mention that 1 million Iraqis were martyred. What guarantees do we have that the same scenario would not be repeated in Libya," Atwan said?

He added, “It is possible that a civil war may ignite transforming Libya into another Somalia, Iraq or Afghanistan. We do not wish for this thing to happen, but weren’t these the result of Western military interventions in all Middle Eastern countries and even in the Balkans?” 

Arab Journalists also question the motives behind the Anglo-French military intervention in Libya. Munir Shafiq, a political analyst, wrote on AlJazeera.net, “This time the U.S. decided not to let its former ally, the Tyrant (Gaddafi) go down without making an arrangement with the Libyan Transitional Council. It appears that the U.S. does not want to enter into an unknown situation like what happened in Egypt and Tunisia. Rather, it wants to negotiate an arrangement with the powers that will come after Gaddafi.” 

Others also agree that Western help for the Libyan rebels will not be for free. “I think the Libyan people will pay a price for the international military intervention,” political analyst Abddalh Hamuda told Alhiwar television. “Perhaps the price will include changing oil contacts.”

It is important to keep in mind that some Arab journalists believe Gaddafi will not stay in power for long. Political analyst Tariq Yusuf is one of them. “Gaddafi is facing total political isolation, suffocating economic sanctions,” he told Al-Arabiya Television, “and he is unable to export oil.”

“The painful blows that were caused to Gaddafi's regime and his military forces by the Western bombardments will give the rebels a great deal of confidence and ability to maneuver in Benghazi and other cities even Tripoli,” Yusuf continued. “The rebellion and intifada will eventually topple Gaddafi inside Tripoli and other cities.” 

One can’t help but notice that ordinary Arabs view the Western bombardment in Libya differently from that of Iraq, perhaps due to the wide spread hatred of Gaddafi.

Muntaha Al-Ramahi, one of Al-Arabiya's senior anchors and host the prime-time talk show, "Panorama," noted, “Perhaps this is the first time in history in which ordinary Arabs changed their view of military interventions, thanks to Gaddafi. This is the first time ordinary Arabs support military interventions in an Arab country. Usually military interventions are rejected and they cause demonstrations in the Arab world.” 

There are no polls to verify Al-Ramahi’s view. More importantly, ordinary Arabs may react differently if Libya is plunged into a civil war and becomes a failed state. Then President Obama and, to a lesser extend, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who hoped to win the hearts and mind of the Arab masses, will become the ones to blame.