Arabs Back Allied Offensive on Libya as Leader Qaddafi Remains Defiant
Middle Eastern leaders backed an offensive by international forces seeking to protect Libyan civilians as President Muammar Qaddafi said his country would become hell for the “monsters” attacking it.
Qatar’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad Bin Jasim Al Thani said the emirate will join the U.S., U.K., Canada, France and Italy against Libya, making it the first Arab country to commit military forces. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Arab participation in talks in Paris yesterday “extraordinarily important” and said more can be expected from Middle East states.
“Patrolling the skies from afar is fine but they must not enter the country,” Osama Lamloum, 58, a sales manager at an Egyptian advertising firm, said in Cairo today. “How can someone bomb civilians? Enough bloodshed!”
Libya was pummeled yesterday by more than 110 Tomahawk cruise missiles in the first phase of an assault dubbed “Operation Odyssey Dawn.” The coalition struck after European, U.S. and Arab officials gathered in Paris yesterday to discuss the crisis. Leaders from the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Iraq, Qatar and Morocco participated in yesterday’s talks.
The Libyan revolt seeking an end to the four-decade rule of Qaddafi is the bloodiest of popular uprisings in the Middle East this year that have toppled the leaders of Tunisia and Egypt. Anti-government demonstrations continue in Yemen, Bahrain, Jordan, Syria, Algeria, Iran, Iraq, Morocco and Oman, with protesters calling for democracy and improved living standards.
“Qaddafi deserves this,” Naif al-Saleh, 31, a Saudi Arabian investment banker, said in an interview in Riyadh, the capital. “As an Arab, I wish the decision had been an Arab one enforced by Arab military forces. There’s no need for foreigners to come and protect us.”
President Barack Obama said that American involvement would not include ground troops and, after helping at the onset, the U.S. would leave enforcement of the no-fly zone to allies, including Arab nations.
The coalition offensive against Libya has been greeted with widespread support across the region, in contrast to regional reaction following the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which sparked mass demonstrations and anti-American sentiments across the Middle East.
“Iraq was an occupation based on faulty information,” said Theodore Karasik, director of the Institute of Near East and Gulf Analaysis in Dubai. “For Libya, the information is right there before their eyes as they watch television so nobody doubts the validity of this response. It’s game over for Qaddafi.”
Arab officials attending the Paris summit yesterday included Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa, U.A.E. Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh, Morocco’s Foreign Minister Taieb Fassi Fihri and Qatar Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad Bin Jasim Al Thani, according to an e-mailed list of the participants.
Jordan will not take part in the UN-backed measures to impose a no-fly zone, the Jordan Times reported today, citing Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh. No one was immediately available at the U.A.E. Foreign Ministry when contacted by Bloomberg.
Arab League Secretary General Amre Moussa said the no-fly zone does not require the use of force, the Middle East News Agency reported, citing remarks by him.
Iraq will not participate in any military operations in Libya and does “not support unilateral action,” Iraqi State Minister Ali Al-Dabbagh said in a telephone interview from Baghdad. “We support actions carried out under United Nations resolutions to stop the violence against the Libyan people.”
“What the international community is doing in Libya now is a positive thing in terms of protecting these civilians,” Rabie Abdel Ati, a senior official of Sudanese President Umar al- Bashir’s National Congress Party and adviser to the information minister, said today by phone from Khartoum, the Sudanese capital. “It is not acceptable that the whole population gets murdered for one person to remain in power.”
Still, some are wary of the involvement of international forces, saying that foreign intervention can often become problematic.
“They may have their own agendas,” said Reda Mohammed, a former official with the Egyptian Ministry of Finance, who added that a better solution would have been to offer support to the rebels fighting against Qaddafi.
The decision to launch an offensive in Libya came less than a week after troops from the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council, including Saudi Arabia, moved into Bahrain, launching the first cross-border intervention since the wave of popular uprisings began in January. Bahrain declared a three-month state of emergency March 15 as protesters, most of them from the Shiite Muslim majority, continued to stage against the Sunni monarchy.
Bahrain’s government condemned what it called “blatant Iranian interference” in its internal affairs, state-run Bahrain News Agency reported, citing several memos written by officials including Bahrain’s ambassador to the United Nations. At least 13 people have been killed in violent clashes since the protests began Feb. 14, according to a statement by the Bahraini Human Rights Society.
In Yemen, tens of thousands gathered in the capital, Sana’a, today for a day of mourning after at least 44 people were killed in clashes between police, pro-regime gunmen and anti-government demonstrators, in the deadliest crackdown in two months of unrest.
Demonstrations calling for an end to President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s three-decade rule have been held almost every day for the past two months in Yemen, and before yesterday at least a dozen people had been killed. The Arabian Sea nation declared a state of emergency March 18 following the unrest.
Residents of two Syrian cities where protests broke out March 18 handed a list of demands to authorities to halt an escalation, Damascus-based Al Watan newspaper reported.
In the southern Syrian city of Daraa near Jordan, protesters called for the release of detainees recently jailed on political charges, the dismissal of some officials and permission to sell land on border territories without prior government approval. They also want those responsible for the killing of two during the March 18 clashes put on trial, the newspaper said.