Arab world divided on Libya no-fly zone
The Arab world is largely supportive of Libya's rebels and a no-fly zone to protect them, but is unsure how it feels about Western intervention on their behalf.
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Atiaf al Wazir, a Yemeni-American blogger and activist who lives in Sanaa, the Yemeni capital, said she's against Western intervention in Yemen now that she's seen bombs fall on Tripoli. She added that Qaddafi is a "brutal tyrant" who left rebels a choice of slaughter or outside assistance.Skip to next paragraph
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"I have mixed feelings about the Western military action against Qaddafi, but if I were in Libya, I would've called for the same help," al Wazir said. "I don't think Libya is going to turn into another Iraq. This is different – the Libyans are actually calling for Western military action. In Iraq, there was no invitation."
Syrian authorities have sealed off an entire town to contain the revolt emerging against one of the region's most repressive regimes, but the protests barely registered amid the nonstop media coverage of Libya. Egypt's historic referendum Saturday – the first polls since a popular uprising led to the fall of President Hosni Mubarak last month – likewise received short shrift.
In Tunisia, where the overthrow of a corrupt dictator in January launched the so-called "Arab spring," many expressed solidarity with the Libyan opposition on Sunday – but some were suspicious of the true goals of Western intervention.
Others noted bitterly that the US and Western powers haven't stepped in to support other popular revolts in the Arab world, and some wondered whether protecting Libya's massive oil resources was the real reason for the military campaign.
"Why Libya and why not Bahrain, Yemen, Tunisia, or Egypt? I hope they have humanitarian objectives and it isn't about oil," said Khaled Chaker, a nurse who was sipping espresso at an outdoor cafe.
Chaker and his two friends said the US-led invasion of Iraq began with a no-fly zone and worried that Libya would go down the same track. Qaddafi is determined to stay in power – "like Hitler," Chaker said – and would force the Western allies into a drawn-out campaign.
Supporters of the rebels choose their words carefully when expressing relief over the Western involvement, pointing to Bosnia as a precedent rather than Iraq or Afghanistan. In 1993, NATO enforced a no-fly zone over Bosnia to protect civilians from Serbian offensives. That intervention lasted two and a half years.
Libyan activists also stress that Qaddafi was the first to drag foreigners into the fight, dispatching African mercenaries to fire on peaceful demonstrators.
"The person dropping bombs on cities is Qaddafi, not the West," said Masoud Buisir, a Libyan composer who left Cairo on Sunday to join the rebels in his home country. "It's a relief that the international community acted, even if it's a little bit late. They're here to help us, and we appreciate it."