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and the Libyan muddle By Peter
The United Nations Security Council
voted at the UN headquarters in New York on
Thursday to approve a no-fly zone over Libya and
"all necessary measures" to protect civilians from
attacks by forces led by Muammar Gaddafi.
The 10-0 vote included five abstentions,
from two permanent members - China and Russia, and
three non-permanent members - Brazil, Germany and
India. The other three permanent members backing
the vote were Britain, France and the United
China supports the "UN Security
Council's adoption of appropriate and necessary
action to stabilize as soon as possible the
situation in Libya and to halt
acts of violence against civilians," but "China
has serious difficulty with part of the
resolution," Li Baodong, the Chinese permanent
representative to UN, said after he cast the
The Arab League, a
voluntary association of nations, last week
resolved that the UN Security Council should
declare a no-fly zone over Libya.
attitude is not so much a big surprise. History
will probably vindicate China's mealy-mouthed and
self-serving stance that the response to the
serial crises in the Middle East should be guided
by the principle of non-interference in the
internal affairs of nations.
And history may vindicate
China sooner than most people expect. The most interesting and dangerous
element in the no-fly-zone debate is the dawning
awareness that ''Responsibility to Protect'' - R2P
aka humanitarian intervention in do-gooder jargon
- is not just a Western monopoly
just an opportunity for feel-good posturing by
British Prime Minister David Cameron and French
President Nicolas Sarkozy that gives the West
another chance to assert its global moral
Once the intervention
jinn is out of the bottle, there's no
telling who will seize the R2P sword, or for what
manner of end.
Saudi Arabia apparently
believes in R2P when it comes to protecting a
Sunni autocracy in neighboring Bahrain…
…which raises the disturbing possibility
that Iran has a R2P the Shi'ite majority in
…and maybe the Arab world has a
R2P the Palestinians next time Israel rampages
into the Gaza strip…
If the Arab world's
national revolutions blossom into regional wars,
we will soon feel intense nostalgia for the good
old days when international affairs were governed
by the Treaty of Westphalia, which declared that
what rulers did inside their borders was nobody
It is unlikely that China
will work aggressively to claim the foreign policy
high ground, either regionally or in the UN
Security Council. That's because for
China, the key issue at stake in the Libyan
conflict is not the slippery slope toward a
sovereignty and security crisis in the Middle
East. The key issue is a simple and traditional
matter of intense personal enmity between two
rulers equally opposed to the democratic wave
sweeping the Middle East.
King Abdullah detests Muammar Gaddafi and expects
all of the kingdom's solicitous oil allies - of
which China is now the foremost - to lend a hand
in compassing his overthrow.
recent iteration of bad blood between Gaddafi and
Abdullah goes back to 2003.
confronted then Prince Abdullah over Saudi
Arabia's cooperation with the West in the
overthrow of Saddam Hussein.
that Abdullah had made ''a deal with the devil''.
Abdullah riposted that Gaddafi's ''lies
were behind him and his grave was before him''.
Although the Western press apparently
regarded Abdullah's remarks as little more than a
pithy Arabic aphorism, Gaddafi not unreasonably
interpreted them as a death threat.
Gaddafi apparently decided to strike
Libyan security services allegedly
staged an inept but extremely well-financed
assassination attempt. The intent was to barrage
Abdullah's Mecca apartment with RPG fire and blame
his murder on al-Qaeda.
The plot suffered
from a dearth of dedicated and capable Saudi
co-conspirators. One courier, confronted with the
enormous stash of cash earmarked for the attempt -
over $1 million - simply abandoned the money and
fled in panic.
Saudi Arabia withdrew its
ambassador to Libya for nine months.
Libyan state-controlled press delivered some
entertaining political invective in return:
The Libyan press on Friday launched
strong criticism against Saudi Arabia because of
its decision to summon its ambassador in Tripoli
and to expel the Libyan ambassador in Riyadh,
describing Saudi Arabia as "the kingdom of
darkness" ruled by Abu Jahel.
state run al-Jamahereyah said in its yesterday's
editorial under the title "the Kingdom of black
comedy" that Saudi Arabia might be the "best
ambassador for the pre-Middle Ages era". The
paper added that "Abu Jahel" (the Saudi royal
family) is still giving his rules in the life
affairs of the society and bans the woman from
driving the car." The Libyan daily al-Zahf
al-Akhdar described Saudi Arabia as "a swollen
kingdom" and issued an article showing the
difference between the life of the common Saudi
citizen and the life of luxury members of the
ruling family live. 
of Islamic invective, ''Abu Jahel'' was the
mocking title - ''Father of Ignorance'' - given to
a boss of Mecca who refused to submit to Islam. He
was slain in the Battle of Badr in 624 AD that
marked the triumph of Mohammed and secured Islam's
ascendancy in Mecca.
Supposedly, there was
a reconciliation between Gaddafi and Abdullah, now
King Abdullah, in 2007.
The exchange plays
more like a desert re-enactment of the scene in
Godfather II where Michael Corleone pretends to
forgive his feckless brother Fredo, while secretly
plotting his demise.
apology left something to be desired, as France 24
"It has been six years that you have
been running away and scared of confrontation
and I want to say 'Do not be afraid'," Gaddafi
said, addressing Abdullah. "After six years, it
has been proven that with ... the grave before
you, it is Britain that made you and the
Americans that protected you."
France 24 continued:
It was not clear if Gaddafi
intentionally repeated the accusations or was
explaining the incident he wanted to apologize
Apparently expecting another
attack, Qatar's emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa
al-Thani, chairing the summit, shouted down the
But Gaddafi, sporting
sunglasses and an orange hat and robes,
continued his speech in a more clearly
conciliatory tone, drawing applause from
"For the sake of the (Arab)
nation, I consider the personal problem between
you and me to be over and I am prepared to visit
you and receive a visit from you," he told the
In the United States, this
is characterized as a ''non-apology apology''.
As Gaddafi's difficulties multiplied in
2011, it was clear that Prince Abdullah did not
consider the personal problem over.
to the Arab League meeting in Cairo, the Gulf
Co-operation Council (GCC), a congerie of
authoritarian sheiks led by Saudi Arabia,
delivered a ferocious condemnation of Gaddafi's
The GCC's language went far
beyond the genteel wrist-slapping usually meted
out to misbehaving Arab potentates.
In a statement issued after their
meeting in Saudi Arabia's capital Riyadh on
Thursday, foreign ministers from the Gulf
Cooperation Council called on the Arab League to
take measures to stop the bloodshed in Libya and
to initiate contacts with the National Council
formed by the opposition.
"When it comes
to Libya I think the regime has lost its
legitimacy," Hamad bin Jasem bin Jaber Al Thani,
the Qatari prime minister and foreign minister,
"We support the no-fly zone. We
also support contact with the National Council
in Libya. It is time to discuss the situation
with them and the [UN] Security Council should
shoulder its responsibility."
Saudi Arabia put its money where
its mouth is, offering to provide substitutes for
Libyan petroleum products to Gaddafi's customers