Old Europe’s rift on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) imposing a no-fly-zone over Libya came out in the open with diplomats from both sides defending their positions.
While 10 UNSC members favoured a no-fly-zone, Brazil, India, China and Russia were joined by Germany in abstaining from voting on the resolution passed last week.
“This shows how wise the G-4 (Germany, Brazil, India and Japan) is. This wisdom should be permanently enshrined in the UNSC. Germany is part of EU\NATO but also thinks independently,” said a top diplomat who is here for Foreign Office consultations.
On the other hand, diplomats defending the no-fly-zone resolution said they decided to rush through the resolution after the Libyan Opposition insisted that urgency was the need of the hour. As a result, despite starting military operations, the Western coalition is grappling with planning and command and control issues.
“We have to go through the goal to understand the process. The goal is to protect the civilian population. As long as it is harmed by the armed forces of its own Government we will continue with the operations,” formulated a pro-no-fly zone western diplomat when asked about the end goals of the move.
In particular the two sides remain bitterly divided on the consequences. “We don’t think air strikes will force Qaddafi to give up. The chances are he and his forces will hide with the civilian population. And what if stalemate happens with two thirds of the area with Qaddafi and rest with the rebels? Then Qaddafi will try to have the upper hand and there will be pressure to send ground troops. So the end game is very difficult to predict,” said the senior diplomat sceptical of enforcing a no-fly-zone.
“We don’t know what will be the end of the story. When you get militarily drawn in, how do you get out of it? The situation might become such that you are forced to send troops on the ground. The media has also drawn you to focus on Libya with images of Benghazi,” he added.
Two years ago, pointed the diplomat, the West did not intervene in the Iranian Presidential elections despite a bloody crackdown. “So why now? We have abstained and got criticism. We agree on the objective of the resolution – to have Qaddafi stop his violent behaviour and war on his own people. But we didn’t want to participate militarily for the reasons I have narrated.”
On the other hand, the pro military intervention side pointed out that there was no alternative for the freedom-loving West but to side with the “absolutely unprecedented movement” asking for democracy, freedom and social dignity. “They are not talking of Jehad etc. If Qaddafi is left to do what he wants, they will soon start doing that,” he reasoned. Coupled with the asset freeze, the no fly zone will reduce the “nuisance value” of Qaddafi.
He also objected to those fighting Qaddafi being referred as rebels and reiterated that West took the decision on the basis of requests for assistance by the “National Council of Transition”.
“The first point is that if there had been no UNSC resolution, you would have been witness to a crime against humanity. It was a matter of hours before it was too late. For the time being, Qaddafi has stopped operations on Benghazi. Had this [no-fly zone] not been done, forces of Gaddafi would have been involved in killing of thousands of civilians.”
Despite this logic, the confusion in the pro-military intervention camp on the next step after bombing Libya persists. The sources did not rule out foreign military forces entering Libya for a brief period. “Boots on the ground is not excluded from the resolution. What is excluded is occupation. So, technically that option is possible. It is not our intention to do that and we want Qaddafi to understand quickly. We believe his time is up,” he observed.