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    UNSCR 1973: Lessons Learnt

    A few thoughts on the diplomatic and military response to Gaddafi’s actions in Libya over the past few weeks:

    Middle East security can do without US leadership

    By far the most interesting facet of the rapid progression and voting in of UN Security Council resolution 1973 was the lack of any vocal public support by US authorities. Although it would be silly to ignore the US role in the corridors of the UN in trying to garner the 9 necessary votes or their subsequent military role, I would argue that one the main factors in this resolution’s success was that it wasn’t led by the US. Instead, a common concerted effort by the UK, France and Lebanon led to an incredibly speedy compromise at the UN and in the Arab world. Western planes circling the skies above Arab land is something that could make anybody nervous. If Hillary Clinton had been the face of such action, the initiative would have been certain to die before birth.
    So why not try to extrapolate this approach to US policy in the rest of the Middle East? When US leadership on Arab initiatives nearly automatically leads to failure (think Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process), the US should content itself with a supporting yet essential role in the future and let other nations with less tainted records take on the lead.

    The Arab League cannot be taken seriously

    Amr Moussa’s support of the Libyan intervention at the Paris summit and his subsequent backtracking the next day hurts the credibility of an institution that is already somewhat irrelevant. The Arab world is not homogeneous in any way, especially when it comes to foreign policy and the interests and fears of the leaders of its constituent members. Besides the obvious organisational flaws, Amr Moussa, the head of the Arab League, is probably spending more time thinking about how to become Egypt’s next president and is therefore more preoccupied with the sway of Egyptian public opinion than with presenting a unified Arab front towards Gaddafi’s atrocities in Libya.
    The Arab League, in its current state, cannot be taken seriously and the West would be better off dealing with individual Arab countries if it is to find reliable partners to further its aims of security and to prevent Gaddafi’s deadly advance.

    Germany: A missed opportunity for EU leadership on Mediterranean security

    Although Brazilian and Turkish opposition to UNSCR 1973 comes as an avatar to their opposition to UN sanctions on Iran, Germany’s abstention from the UN Security Council vote comes as a surprise and a disappointment to many.
    Not only has Germany found itself in opposition to its most important allies but it has effectively prevented the EU from taking a leading role in Mediterranean security, instead making this largely a French-US-UK affair. This is a huge missed opportunity for the Mediterranean’s largest stakeholder.

    The need for similar interventions in the future is unlikely

    Libya, where a popular uprising has tuned into an armed revolt and now into an internal military confrontation, is a situation that arguably hasn’t been seen in the Arab world since the 1982 battle for Hama in Syria where authorities battled and subsequently massacred insurgents who had taken up arms against the Baath regime.
    Such a military confrontation is unlikely to develop in any of the boiling civilian uprisings happening in the Arab world today mostly due to the absence of a weaponised opposition and the unity and loyalty of the armed forces and security services in those countries. Therefore comparisons with Bahrain or other countries in the Middle East experiencing unrest (including Iran and Syria) are largely unfounded. The need for a Libyan-style intervention by the international community in other countries is therefore hard to envisage in the foreseeable future.

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