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Opinion: Arab leaders are ducking responsibility

The Arab League called persistently for a no-fly zone, but is now distancing itself from the Western-led military operations against the Libyan regime. Deutsche Welle's Rainer Sollich comments.

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It was always clear that military action against the Moammar Gadhafi regime would be dangerous, and the prospects for success uncertain. Those concerns are now being confirmed.

The Libyan dictator is not giving in, and is mobilizing his supporters for an armed conflict against Western targets.

The international coalition's military might is superior, but it will not send ground troops into Libya. No one knows how and when this asymmetric conflict will be settled.

That's why we should prepare for the worst: it could be a long war. Many people could die.

Rainer Sollich

Rainer Sollich, head of the Arab desk

And yet, the United Nations Security Council did the right thing. It would have been fatal to stand by and watch while a dictator brutally destroys a civil uprising.

The international community had to show that its professed solidarity with the freedom movements of the Arab world was not mere lip service. It was faced with two extremely problematic moral options, and it had to make a choice under extreme time pressure.

However the fact that the US, France and Britain did not do enough to insist on a visible presence from Arab countries - despite assurances to the contrary - is dangerous,

Although the Arab League clearly called for a no-fly zone, up until now, only the tiny Gulf state of Qatar has offered military support.

It's hard to ignore the fact that all the important chains-of-command in this operation run through the western hemisphere, while Arab leaders have so far successfully ducked all responsibility.

That is a big risk for the legitimacy of the mission in the region. Granted, unlike the missions in Afghanistan or Iraq, Arab countries largely welcome the international involvement in Libya. There is a high degree of solidarity with the rebels and their fight against Gadhafi.

But the mood could turn very quickly indeed, when people are bombarded with images on TV or on Youtube of civlians killed by US-led attacks.

The Arab League has already criticized the mission, albeit without offering alternatives. It should set alarm bells ringing. The anger that many Arab nations are venting at their regimes at the moment, could quickly morph into anti-Western sentiment.

And that would suit beleaguered leaders in the region very well indeed.

Author: Rainer Sollich / bk, ng
Editor: Andreas Illmer

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