Concern mounts over impact of Western action in Libya

By staff writers
March 20, 2011

Global concern is growing over the military action taken by US, UK and French forces in Libya, both in terms of its short- and long-term impact.

Arab League secretary general Amr Moussa says the current situation in Libya is worrying and is not what Arabs opposed to Gaddafi had envisaged.

"What is happening in Libya differs from the aim of imposing a no-fly zone, and what we want is the protection of civilians and not the bombardment of more civilians," he said today (20 March 2011).

An emergency meeting of the Arab League has been called, with the majority of members believed to be critical of unilateral Western military intervention.

In Misrata, residents have said pro-Gaddafi forces have entered the city following the US, French and British bombing, and there are reports of people being killed. Boats are in the port preventing aid from landing, Reuters reports.

One frustrated democracy supporter, Adul Morad, from Tobruk, told the BBC: "These attacks taking place have stolen the legitimate role of the uprising, and even if Gaddafi goes, it shows it has not been done by the will of the Libyan people."

Former British Army chief, General Sir Mike Jackson, says that Colonel Gaddafi may use the strategy of placing his forces in urban areas, making it difficult for air strikes to avoid civilians.

Gaddafi staying in power is "certainly potentially one outcome," US Admiral Mullen told NBC's 'Meet the Press' programme.

Poland's PM Donald Tusk has told national news agency PAP that he is ready to offer humanitarian aid for Libya, but will not participate in any military action there.

Meanwhile, Cyprus has expressed its displeasure at the prospect of British forces launching offensive strikes from RAF Akrotiri on the island.

India, Germany, China and Russia are among the countries who have expressed regret or condemnation of the air attacks, launched on Saturday 19 March 2011.

Russia called on the three participating countries in the military action to "stop non-selective use of force" in Libya, after Libyan state TV showed alleged victims of bombings in Tripoli.

"China has noted the latest developments in Libya and expresses regret over the military attacks on Libya," a government statement said.

China said it abstained on the UN vote after having taken into account "the concerns and positions of Arab countries and the African Union, as well as the current special circumstances in Libya."

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle has said that the establishment of a No-fly zone in Libyan airspace is tantamount to sending ground troops to the Maghreb country.

He condemned the Libyan regime for its brutal repression of the revolt, and maintained that Gaddafi has lost "all legitimacy." However, Westerwelle added, "I don’t see German troops in Libya; I don’t want Germany involved in an extended war in an Arab country."

Most opposition leaders share the German government’s sceptical position. Former foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, parliamentary leader of the SPD, commented: "It is right to doubt whether attacks from the air will really help the people of Libya."

The Left Party also supported the abstention. Green party leader Juergen Trittin suggested that Germany should offer Libyan refugees temporary shelter.

German abstention on the UN Security Council No-fly zone resolution is a consequence of the military assessment of the situation in Libya.

In an interview with the German media, deputy Defence Minister Christian Schmidt described the situation in the Maghreb country as "extremely complex." He said: "We have found out that most of the Libyan military continues to be loyal to Muammar al Gaddafi."

The Libyan leader says Libya will fight a "long war" against the Western forces.

A statement by the Ministry of External Affairs in India regretted the air strikes that are taking place: "India views with grave concern the continuing violence, strife and deteriorating humanitarian situation in Libya. It regrets the air strikes that are taking place. As stated earlier by India, the measures adopted should mitigate and not exacerbate an already difficult situation for the people of Libya.

"[We hope] that this would not lead to greater harm to innocent civilians, foreign nationals and diplomatic missions and their personnel still in Libya.

"India calls upon all parties to abjure use of or the threat of use of force and to resolve their differences through peaceful means and dialogue in which the UN and regional organisations should play their roles."

Marc Lynch, from Foreign Policy, writes: "Arabs are indeed deeply concerned about the bloody stalemate in Libya, and want international action. But if that action takes military form, including the kind of bombing [that] would actually be required to implement a No-Fly Zone, I suspect that the narrative would rapidly shift against the United States.

"The invasion and occupation of Iraq remains a gaping wound in the Arab political consciousness which has barely scabbed over. Any direct American military presence in Libya would be politically catastrophic, even if requested by the Libyan opposition and given Arab League cover."

"The enterprise is pregnant with perils, the durability of both domestic support and the international coalition has yet to be tested in the crucible of conflict," says Andrew Rawnsley of the Observer newspaper in the UK.

Ekklesia thinktank associate director Symon Hill commented: "People across North Africa and the Middle East have inspired the world with their courage and commitment to challenging injustice. It is local movements for change that lead countries away from tyranny. Freedom cannot be imposed top-down, least of all by a military intervention. More bombs will mean more deaths, not more democracy."

Reuters reports a Libyan government health official as saying the number of Libyans killed by Western air strikes has risen to 64 after some of the wounded died.

The UNHCR, the UN's refugee agency, says that some 3,823 people crossed the Salloum border from Libya into Egypt after the bombing began on Saturday - a considerable increase from the approximately 2,300 who crossed on 18 March.


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