Libyan Developments and International Politics: Three Different Views

Monday, September 26, 2011

Seyed Mohammad Kazem Sajjadpour
University Faculty Member, International Issues Analyst

Popular uprisings in the Arab world have led to the collapse of past political structures the most recent of which was the fall of the 40-year rule of Libya’s ruler, Muammar Gaddafi through a combination of domestic uprising and foreign intervention. Every one of political uprisings in the Arab world has had its own specifications and they were different from one another. But what happened in Libya was new in terms of its relation to the international system. Perhaps it was the first instance of a political regime change in which various political players supported the uprising of an oppressed nation under the aegis of modern legal concepts such as responsibility to protect. Launching heavy military, psychological and propaganda assaults, they overthrow a regime which had weathered forty years of political disturbances by relying on personal power. The cooperation of Western and international players with the Libyan people’ uprising can be viewed from various angles one of the most important of which is the quality of relation between Libyan developments and international politics. At least, three viewpoints exist on this issue.

The first viewpoint is a media view in which Western players are simply supporting the Libya people on the basis of the responsibility to protect. That concept is a new concept in international law which has been introduced in the past two decades. According to this principle of international law, when a government cannot protect the primary rights of its citizens, it is for the international community to intervene and defend the rights of the country’s people. Therefore, faced with Gaddafi’s crimes, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the West had to intervene and topple him. This concept is not only the basis of the UN Security Council resolutions 1970 and 1973 in February and March 2011, but is held up by analysts in various parts of the world. A comparative review of the way Western countries dealt with popular uprisings in Bahrain and Yemen will not only prove lack of support for downtrodden rights of oppressed people in those countries, but reveal clear indifference toward their suppression. Thus, the latter cases cast serious doubt on the sense of responsibility among Western countries.

The second viewpoint, which is the most dominant, traditional and institutionalized view in the Middle East and the Third World holds that the West got along with the Libyan people’s uprising in order to dominate the country’s oil resources and strategic locations. Proponents maintain that there are strong and remarkable reasons to support this view which is also backed by historical and strategic realities. The proponents are not necessarily supporters of Gaddafi and his repressive rule. The arguments they provide for their view cannot be easily ignored and undoubtedly contain worthwhile reflections on opportunism of Western countries and their true intentions. The main point, however, which should be taken into consideration, is not alliance of Western countries with the Libyan people, but cooperation of part of anti-Gaddafi forces with Western players despite awareness about their colonialistic past.

The third view is related to diversity of national, regional and international policies. This means that new players have emerged in Libya’s domestic political scene which preferred cooperation with the Western forces over survival of Gaddafi regime. Those players are not homogenous. Although they may be heavily dependent to the West, they may also be smart enough to use cooperation with the West as a means of toppling Gaddafi’s regime. At regional level, there are various players such as Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey which are playing different parts.

Meanwhile, there are Western political players at the international level, which have not only brought their military technology to the scene, but have also geared in their political technology to change Gaddafi’s regime through recognition of transitional government and holding an international conference of Libya’s friendly states at Élysée Palace in France. In short, many regional and international players are now involved in the Libyan game which are not necessarily homogenous or pursuing the same goals.

On the whole, a combination of continuity and change is evident in Libya and international politics surrounding it.
Continuities are repetition of past models. The West and Western players have regularly preferred their own strategic interests over other things during the past centuries. Let’s not forget that dictatorship has always paved the way for entry and intervention of Western countries in the Arab world. Continuity, however, is not everything. Serious changes are also on the horizon. There are new players, concepts and political functions which connect local and regional politics to international politics.

Source: Ettelaat Newspaper
Translated By: Iran Review

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