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Opinion: Stalling on Libya no-fly zone is tough, but necessary

The international community's reluctance to create a no-fly zone over Libya is a bitter, but necessary, pill for those on the ground, says DW's Daniel Scheschkewitz.

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While a horrified world remains glued to news about Japan, Gadhafi's troops in Libya are moving ahead with their agenda. City by city, the dictator's men are advancing on the areas in the east of the country that were freed back in February. And they're not afraid of using fighter planes.

portrait Daniel Scheschkewitz

DW's Daniel Scheschkewitz

In the face of this, the Arab League's desire for a no-fly zone seems obvious. Yet the international community is smart to be reluctant to establish one there. It would be much more complicated to set up a no-fly zone over the enormous desert-state than it was in Bosnia, say, or in the early 1990s in northern Iraq. Doing so could result in a long, drawn-out war, with an uncertain outcome and a change in dynamics for security in the region that would be hard to calculate.

A fragile situation

The fact that Saudi troops have entered neighboring Bahrain to help the government quell protests there is just one more sign of the fragile security situation in the region.

The Arab League's demands are contradictory. On the one had, they are asking for a no-fly zone, but on the other hand, they don't want outside military intervention. That's no basis for a clear mandate for the UN Security Council - especially since Libya's Arab neighbors have made no indication that that they would take part in enforcing the no-fly zone.

Passing off that responsibility entirely to the West could be grist for the mill to those who say such an action only stems from Western self-interest.

Legitimacy is needed

Until the modalities of the scope and military character of such a mandate are clarified, caution and restraint should remain the watchwords. Waiting for intervention is, of course, terrible for those people in the freed areas. Yet they also wouldn't profit much from an escalation of war. Such an action is only legitimate enough if it is backed by a unified community of states with a clear mandate.

Until then, the rebels need to pin their hopes on the consistent isolation of the regime - and the certainty that no dictator can cling to power forever against the will of the people.

Author: Daniel Scheschkewitz (jen)
Editor: Rob Mudge

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