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Dislike for Qaddafi Gives Arabs a Point of Unity   NYT

CAIRO -- With his brutal military assault on civilians, and his rantings about spiked Nescafé, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi handed many leaders across the Arab world what had otherwise eluded them: A chance to side with the people while deflecting attention from their own citizens' call for democracy, political analysts around the region said. And they really do not like him.

Even Arab leaders most critical of the United States' intervention in the Middle East have reluctantly united behind the military intervention in Libya. That has given a boost to Arab leaders in places like Saudi Arabia who are at the same moment working to silence political opposition in their backyards.

"The Arab street reaction to the Western attacks on Libya has been warm," said Hilal Khasan, chairman of the department of political studies at American University of Beirut. "This is not Iraq."


"I see hypocrisy in everything the Arab leaders do, and I'm talking as a person of the Arab world," said Randa Habib, a political commentator in Jordan. "I wanted them to take such a decision. There were too many people being killed in Libya. That man is cuckoo."

This new and unpredictable tone seemed to partly explain the flip-flopping of Amr Moussa, the longtime secretary general of the Arab League who plans to run for the Egyptian presidency. Last week, the Arab League asked the United Nations to impose a no-fly zone in Libya, largely on humanitarian grounds. On Sunday, Mr. Moussa said military action there had gone too far. But he repeated his contention that the no-fly zone could not have been imposed were it not for the Arab League.

But concern about popular reaction forced Mousa to back off that position and re-state the Arab League's support for the NFZ. His new ambitions force him to be concerned about popular opinion.

"In a way, the Arab League is trying to follow the sentiment of the Arab street," said Shafeeq Ghabra, a political science professor at Kuwait University. "The street is now more in control. If we ever had an Arab street, this is the moment."

Many experts noted that that was itself a remarkable turn of events, given that the league had long been a special-interest group for the very leaders who had been pressed by their people to allow democratic change. At the very moment of the vote, some of those leaders were repressing their own citizens' calls for that change, especially in the Persian Gulf, where Saudi troops rolled into Bahrain to help crush a popular uprising.

The article notes that much of this has to do with Gadaffi personally and his relation with other Arab leaders:

There is arguably no Arab leader besides Colonel Qaddafi who might have been able to unite much of the region against him all at once -- though Algeria and Syria did not agree with the no-fly zone -- and empower the much-maligned Arab League, which is an institution often mocked by Arab commentators for failing to carry out its pronouncements. It was clear that those backing the no-fly zone, the analysts said, especially the king of Saudi Arabia and the emir of Qatar, most likely drew personal satisfaction from the effort to push Colonel Qaddafi from power, though they did not say so.

"This is not related actually to Qaddafi's attitude to his people or the way he is ruling Libya," Mr. Masry said. "It is related to his attitude. He was very unpredictable."

Saudi animosity runs deep. In 2004, Colonel Qaddafi was accused of being directly involved in a plot to assassinate King Abdullah, who was then the crown prince. Then in 2009, Colonel Qaddafi embarrassed the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, and infuriated King Abdullah, during an Arab summit meeting in Doha, Qatar.

Colonel Qaddafi first denounced King Abdullah "as a British product and American ally," concluding by calling him a "liar." When Sheikh Hamad tried to quiet him, he said, "I am an international leader, the dean of Arab rulers, the king of kings of Africa and imam of Muslims, and my international status does not allow me to descend to a lower level."

At that point the sound was cut on the television broadcast and Colonel Qaddafi stormed out of the room, leaving a memory that surely made it easier for those leaders to endorse the no-fly zone, political analysts said.

Sweets to the sweet, I say.  

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Mar 21st, 2011 at 11:35:57 PM EST
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