World

After Qaddafi, Arabs Tell NATO: Thanks, Now Please Go: Noe & Raad

By Nicholas Noe & Walid Raad

   

Aug. 29, 2011 (Bloomberg) -- After Muammar Qaddafi's regime fell in Libya,
even Mideast and North African commentators normally critical of Western
policies in the region generally affirmed the positive role played by NATO.

   

At the same time, some worried that NATO's triumph, in supporting the rebels
who overthrew the regime, would encourage a new colonialism. Libya and other
Arab states that are in crisis, they argued, are vulnerable to exploitation of
their natural resources by the West and to calls for outside military
intervention or another round of it.

   

Wrote Ibrahim al-Amine, chairman of the board of the Beirut-based Al-Akhbar, a
leftist daily opposed to U.S. policy in the Middle East that also runs pieces
critical of the Syrian regime and the militant Lebanese Shiite movement
Hezbollah:

   

  The Libyans got rid of Muammar Qaddafi -- this will be the story carried by
  history. But the king of the African kings did not fall because of the
  bullets of his own people. His people do not like him, they do not want him
  and no one can doubt that. However, these people needed some help. This
  time, the West, i.e. the colonizer itself, was the helper.

   

He continued:

   

  It will be hard for any Libyan citizen, (even one) who has been oppressed by
  Qaddafi and his aides, to come out and yell: "I do not want NATO here."

   

Al-Amine warned of the "harsh truth" that colonialism will return “under a new
form and with new faces.” Western leaders who had embraced Qaddafi and had
“plunged their hands in his pocket, which was full of the wealth of his
people, are the same leaders who are now embracing the rebels and extending
their hands directly towards the nation's wealth.”

   

This will have larger implications for the region, Al-Amine predicted. Having
been caught unprepared by the Arab uprisings, he wrote, the West has now taken
the initiative, which can mean only one thing:

   

  We must expect some additional madness among some of those who think they
  are leading revolutions, including leaders, media personalities and
  intellectuals. These people will now increase their calls for external
  interference in Yemen and Syria under the pretext of supporting the
  protesters there.

   

Sateh Noureddine, a columnist for the Beirut-based daily As-Safir, took a
somewhat different view. He agreed that outsiders played a vital part in the
important overthrow of Qaddafi's government. “The shame is about to be erased
off the face of Libya and the (Arab) nation,” he wrote, and the "European
West," a formulation that inexplicably left out the U.S., scored a “definite”
moral victory through its contribution.

   

However, Noureddine separated himself from blanket assertions made by other
commentators that the West was preparing to plunder Libya's oil wealth. He
wrote that Egypt's recent experience points to a different story. In the wake
of its revolution, he said, Egypt has regained many of its rights and is in
the process of reclaiming more income from its gas resources. The Libyan
rebels must therefore quickly prove that “they are now masters of their
decisions,” which means, first and foremost, asking the Europeans to rapidly
“end their interference in Libya.”

   

Noureddine expressed great confidence in the Libyan rebels. He said they
presented themselves "in an attractive manner even at the pinnacle of the
street wars, which seldom broke the honor and rules of fighting, and which did
not collapse into a civil war similar to the Lebanese or Iraqi experience, in
spite of many provocations and traps.”

   

Noureddine, who is Lebanese, wrote that the behavior of the Libyan rebels is
testimony that the Arabs of North Africa are “classier” than their brothers
living in the Levant and Persian Gulf. This latter group, he said, can’t even
manage to proceed with moderate reforms -- such as those recently proposed by
the King of Morocco, establishing a constitutional monarchy -- “without civil
wars, mutual accusations and lies that Israel is on the side of the opposition
or that change in any Arab country is a free favor offered to the Israeli
enemy or other enemies of the nation.”

   

Those worried about outside interference had an ally in Abdel-Bari Atwan, one
of the leading critics of Western policy in the region. In the London-based
Al-Quds al-Arabi, Atwan wrote that NATO's “rush” to implement the UN-supported
no-fly zone was understandable “when the tanks of Colonel Qaddafi were
marching towards the city to commit a massacre.”

   

But he asked why NATO continued its air raids and military operations even
after the collapse of the regime, transforming itself into a police force to
hunt down the toppled dictator with the aim of assassinating him.

   

Referring to recent UK news reports of British and French troops and British
security contractors on the ground in Libya, as well as discussions about a
possible deployment to Libya of a European peacekeeping force, Atwan charged
that NATO “is behaving as if it is on a mission of permanent occupation rather
than engaged in an intervention bound by a specific time limit.”

   

Atwan wrote that Arab satellite TV stations like Al-Jazeera were no longer
performing the vital role of critics of and checks on Western intervention --
now rarely showing the victims of NATO bombings, for example. And with the
rebel leadership calling for Qaddafi's extra-judicial killing, the country’s
sovereignty, not to mention the rule of law, is being gravely undermined, he
argued.

   

For the NATO forces, without whom the Libya rebels arguably would not have
prevailed, the commentary was a good lesson in the limits of alliances, and
the long, bitter taste of colonialism.

   

(Nicholas Noe and Walid Raad are the Beirut correspondents for the World View
blog. The opinions expressed are their own.)

   

To contact the writers of this article:

   

noe@mideastwire.com.

   

To contact the editor responsible for this article:

   

Lisa Beyer at lbeyer3@bloomberg.net or +1-212-205-0372.
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