Politics & Policy

Arab League Endorses No-Fly Zone

Evidently led by their secretary general (and Egyptian presidential candidate) Amr Moussa, the Arab League has come out in favor of a no-flight zone over Libya. Peculiarly, the White House has said it honors the statement from the Arab League, but seems to have no intentions to respect it: 


The Arab League asked the United Nations Security Council on Saturday to impose a no-flight zone over Libya in hopes of halting Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s attacks on his own people, as his forces pushed rebels east in the three-week-old civil war.

The unexpected move by the 22-nation bloc increased pressure on Western powers, which have said they will not take military action unless it is endorsed by Libya’s neighbors.

Amr Moussa, the secretary general of the Arab League, said at a news conference that a no-flight zone would protect ordinary people, and that it should be ended as soon as the crisis in Libya was over.

“Our one goal is to protect the civilian population in Libya after what has been reported of attacks and casualties in a very bloody situation,” he said.

In Libya, forces loyal to Colonel Qaddafi pushed the rebels east and strengthened their hold around Tripoli, the capital, intensifying pleas from the rebels for Western military support.

Abdul Hafidh Ghoga, the vice chairman of the rebels’ shadow government, the Libyan National Council, said a no-flight zone would give his fighters a chance to reverse the losses they have suffered over the last few days.

“If the international community chooses to play the role of bystander,” he said, “we will have to defend ourselves.”

Despite the Arab League’s request, which was a major victory for supporters of a no-flight zone, the prospects that it would be carried out were far from assured.

A no-flight zone would require military aircraft — with many of them almost certain to come from Western countries — and the Obama administration has been hesitant to support it.

In a statement on Saturday, the White House said it welcomed the Arab League decision, “which strengthens the international pressure on Gaddafi and support for the Libyan people.”

But the Arab League’s resolution put President Obama and several of his allies in the unaccustomed position of appearing to be more reluctant to intervene than Libya’s Arab neighbors.

The Obama administration expressed doubts that the no-flight zone would prove effective, and has insisted that it must be preceded by a United Nations Security Council resolution, which China and Russia are likely to oppose.

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