Tag Archives: Libya
The May 2011 edition of World Soccer – a publication in a particularly cerebral phase and which presently vaunts a Web 2.0-inspired aesthetic – reports that despite an internal situation that can be described as challenging, the Libyan national football team lies atop qualification Group C for the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations. A recent 3-0 thrashing of the mighty Comoros – a game held in Bamako, the burgeoning capital of Mali – means that Libya could mathematically book a place in next year’s finals in oil-soaked Equatorial Guinea and Gabon as early as the first week of September 2011.
Almost totally overshadowed by the teams of other Maghrebian countries – neighbours Tunisia and Egypt have enjoyed considerable success at continental level and have qualified for the FIFA World Cup finals six times between them – Libya’s presence in the latter stages of major tournaments has been a rare phenomenon, occurring only twice to date: the 1982 Africa Cup of Nations, which they hosted, losing the final on penalty kicks to Ghana; and the 2006 iteration of the same tournament, when a team featuring two cult footballers – Tarek El Taib (Gaziantepspor, Al Hilal (Riyadh)) and Jehad Muntasser (Arsenal, Treviso, Catania) – and a Uruguay-born goalkeeper crashed out in round one.
The present vintage could become subject to extraordinary pressures in the event of a further escalation of violence in Libya, and in this respect would do well to avoid the sobering precedent of another North African state: going into the 1992 Africa Cup of Nations finals in Senegal, Algeria’s squad was said to have been riven by divisions between supporters of the Front Islamique du Salut and those who were not so enthusiastic; Algeria shortly descended into a gruesome civil war from which it may take generations to recover. The situation on the ground in Libya in 2013 – when the country is scheduled to host the Africa Cup of Nations – confounds prediction.
African Union posits roadmap for #Libya, democratic elections http://english.aljazeera.net/news/africa/2011/03/201132521323292102.html—
Asad Yawar (@Mediolana) March 25, 2011
United Nations Resolution 1973 (2011) – adopted by the UN Security Council via a margin of 10-0 with five abstentions on 17th March 2011 – is a young instrument, but it is already feasible to posit that it may go down in history for reasons that its formulators may not have foreseen. It was the Arab League that first called on the Security Council to impose a no-fly zone on 12th March 2011, with the Lebanese Ambassador to the United Nations – Nawaf Salam, a graduate of Harvard Law School – proposing a resolution that garnered British and French support.
The resolution authorises all necessary means to protect civilians and civilian-populated areas, except for – with presumed deference to the recent history of Iraq and Afghanistan – a ‘foreign occupation force’. This is no doubt a noble aim, but it raises an interesting and perplexing question: at what point in any future analogous scenarios should a resolution be tabled and implemented?
In Libya, we have witnessed the macabre spectacle of an overwhelmingly popular grassroots revolution being crushed by a dictator who has promised to cleanse his country ‘house by house’ in order to destroy the ‘cockroaches’ behind the protest movement; to date, thousands of civilians have died in a matter of weeks as a result of this lethal process of expurgation.The speed, brutality and sheer insanity of Muammar Gaddafi’s actions – together with the clear desire of the National Transitional Council for a no-fly zone – appear to have forced the hand of the international community in this case.
But where does it stop? If dissidents in cities such as Shanghai or Tianjin manage to attain critical mass via Sina Weibo and are met with a Tianenmen-type response, will a permanent member of the Security Council be embarrassed? And what about the protection of civilians in countries which do not enjoy at least relative proximity or salience to the world’s major media centres, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo? Where is their resolution?
Moreover, if protestors in Saudi Arabia are gunned down en masse in the future – something that no longer seems beyond the realm of possibility – will a resolution be forthcoming? And will Arab League members Qatar and the United Arab Emirates – who may be contributing up to 30 fighter jets to Libyan operations – be so comfortable about a military confrontation with a fellow Gulf Cooperation Council member? UN Resolution 1973 (2011) may yet have some extraordinary and quite unintended consequences.
As all students of great literature should be aware, an almost infinite number of small actions make large events possible: from Lear’s moment of divine realisation at the end of arguably Shakespeare’s most complete play to Galip’s outpourings to his beloved Ruya in Orhan Pamuk’s magnum opus The Black Book, this rule is seemingly set in stone. And as this blog goes to press, we are indubitably confronted with an event of genuine magnitude: the 17th March 2011 passage of United Nations Resolution 1973 (2011), a measure which transmogrifies Libyan airspace into a no-fly zone with the stated aim of protecting that country’s beleaguered civilian population.
But how have we got here? What other actions comprise the ingredients of these purified North African skies? The official reason given by the resolution – an humanitarian motivation – seems genuine, at least by the often questionable standards of international diplomacy. However, as with virtually all occurrences of this size, there are other factors involved:
1. The uncertain position of the centre-right in Britain and France. David Cameron, who first mooted the idea of a no-fly zone across Libya on 28th February 2011, and Nicolas Sarkozy, who has strongly backed the idea of military intervention in Libya, are both leaders who are facing a difficult future: Cameron leads a coalition which is enacting a raft of unpopular spending cuts, while Sarkozy has long had his credibility undermined for a whole list of reasons, not least an apparent political incoherence and crudity that has made him a byword for intolerance. This crisis gives the British and French leaders a prime opportunity to gain an international stature which has thus far eluded them.
2. A low-risk, high-profile intervention. Unlike the multi-trillion dollar debacle in Iraq and the increasingly surreal NATO mission in Afghanistan, a circumscribed operation in Libya – the resolution does not provide for the invasion of Libyan territory by ground forces – does not appear to offer a great deal of threat to international actors. At the same time, the potential positive media exposure to be gained by helping to topple Muammar Gaddafi is a huge prize, despite the fact that the self-styled King of Kings of Africa was until recently a paradigm of rehabilitation, having taken significant steps to normalise relations with the United States, France, Italy and the United Kingdom during the last decade; the irony of Libya and Italy signing a curious August 2008 US$5bn cooperation treaty in Benghazi should be lost on no-one.
3. Regional and economic instability. The price of oil has soared in recent weeks as the consequences for a planet deprived of Libyan oil – Libya meets around 2% of global oil demand – start to make themselves felt in markets; as the Libyan government announced an official ceasefire in response to the promulgation of the resolution, the cost of oil significantly declined. Libya is a vital source of energy for a number of European countries, including Spain; José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, the Prime Minister of Spain, has been one of the most enthusiastic advocates of the no-fly zone, with the Spanish willing to provide air bases as well as deploy the country’s air force and navy.