Arab League approves no-fly zone in Libya. But is it too late?
The US and UK expressed support for the Arab League's approval of a no-fly zone as Libyan rebels beat a hasty eastward retreat from forces loyal to Col. Muammar Qaddafi.
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The Christian Science Monitor reported Friday that both Britain and France have been pushing for EU support of a no-fly zone, though they have been meeting resistance from those worried about increasing the risk to Libyan civilians and getting entangled in an ongoing conflict in North Africa and the Middle East.Skip to next paragraph
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The decision by the Arab League to come out in favor of a no-fly zone may shift global opinion, as the request is a major departure from the League's long history of rejecting foreign intervention in Arab affairs. Al Jazeera English reports that Youssef bin Alawi bin Abdullah, Oman's foreign minister and the chair of the Saturday meeting at which the decision was reached, said all members of the League were in support of the decision.
Amr Moussa, the secretary-general of the Arab League, said that the no-fly zone was needed to protect Libya's people, though he added that he did not know "how nor who [would] impose this zone, that remains to be seen." He also said that the no-fly zone would have to end immediately upon resolution of the crisis in Libya. The Arab League noted that it did not support any "foreign military" intervention in Libya, which is a member of the League, though currently suspended due to its actions against its people.
But even with the Arab League's support, it is unclear whether a no-fly zone will be of help to Libyan rebels. The Wall Street Journal reports that while Abdel Hafeez Goga of the Benghazi-based rebel government said that his people "welcome and salute [the League's] decision and look at it as a step forward to the imposition of no-fly-zone imposition," Qaddafi's forces were ousting the rebels from the cities of Ras Lanuf and Zawiya. And the fall of Brega Sunday only underscores the urgency of the rebels' need for support.
Further, the efficacy and ease of a no-fly zone remains a subject of debate. The Washington Post writes that while Qaddafi has used some air power, "[m]uch of the fighting is being done by ground forces, including tank-fired artillery...." And US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates warned last week that a US-enforced no-fly zone would require serious military effort, reported The Christian Science Monitor. "There’s a lot of, frankly, loose talk about some of these military options. Let’s just call a spade a spade. A no-fly zone begins with an attack on Libya to destroy the air defenses. That’s the way you do a no-fly zone."