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    Greater China
     Mar 19, 2011

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China and the Libyan muddle
By Peter Lee

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 States.

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 abstention vote.

The Arab League, a voluntary association of nations, last week resolved that the UN Security Council should declare a no-fly zone over Libya.

China's 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

It's not 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 leadership.

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 Bahrain…

…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 else's business.

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.

Saudi Arabia's 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.

The most recent iteration of bad blood between Gaddafi and Abdullah goes back to 2003.

Gaddafi confronted then Prince Abdullah over Saudi Arabia's cooperation with the West in the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.

Gaddafi said 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 first.

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.

The 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.

The Libyan 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. [2]
For students 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.

Certainly, Gaddafi's apology left something to be desired, as France 24 reported:
"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." [3]
France 24 continued:
It was not clear if Gaddafi intentionally repeated the accusations or was explaining the incident he wanted to apologize for.

Apparently expecting another attack, Qatar's emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, chairing the summit, shouted down the Libyan leader.

But Gaddafi, sporting sunglasses and an orange hat and robes, continued his speech in a more clearly conciliatory tone, drawing applause from delegates.

"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 Saudi king.
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.

Prior 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 behavior.

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, said.

"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." [4]
Saudi Arabia put its money where its mouth is, offering to provide substitutes for Libyan petroleum products to Gaddafi's customers in Europe. 

Continued 1 2

The Arab counter-revolution is winning
(Mar 17, '11)

Insights into China's place in the world
(Mar 15, '11)

1. Japan catastrophe sends shock waves

2. Saudis bring Iran, US closer together

3. The Arab counter-revolution is winning

4. Japan's nuclear disaster spooks India

5. Narco-capitalism grips North Korea

6. Yen hits record high

7. Military scandals test Taiwan

8. Counterpoint on Myanmar's transition

9. Seoul's bungling spies face backlash

10. Libya and Bahrain sheikh, rattle and roll

(24 hours to 11:59pm ET, Mar 17, 2011)


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