Despite the unfinished character of the Libyan Revolution, it is clear that the days of Muammar Qaddafi are numbered. How has this news been received in the rest of the world? There is a lot of hope for Libya as an independent country, yet one friendly with neighbors and new allies. Even those lukewarm about the NATO intervention are now accepting reality. But the new Libya itself is eager to dispel any illusion that it might like a Western military base on its soil.
The Arab League says that it will take up the matter of giving the Transitional National Council Libya’s seat in the organization at its next meeting. The Arab League kicked off the outside intervention by asking the UN Security Council for a resolution authorizing other countries to protect Libya’s protest movement.
Abdel Moneim al-Huweini, the TNC delegate from Libya to the Arab League in Cairo reaffirmed Libya’s commitment to the League, saying,
“Libya is an Arab and Islamic nation before NATO and after NATO . . . the Libyans revolted from the 1970s against Western bases and there will be no non-Libyan bases.” He said the revolutionary government is grateful to NATO for minimizing the death toll in Libya through its air strikes [on attacking Qaddafi forces].
(Huweini was referring to the US Wheelus Air Force base in post- WW II Libya, which the Qaddafi government closed in 1970).
The Saudi-owned Arab News editorialized with guarded optimism about the fall of the old regime. It condemned Qaddafi’s so-called socialist-masses state (it wasn’t actually very socialist toward the end) as an absurdity. It noted with satisfaction that the Transitional National Council will want to be close to those countries that supported it, including Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf, and Western Europe. The editorial applauded that Libyans’ achievement of control over their own destiny. That is, this middle class Saudi newspaper is glad that Saudi Arabia (an oil state with an alliance with the US and the North Atlantic countries) will have a new friend in the region. The editorial hopes for a Libyan democracy, and it is an irony of the Arab Spring that Saudi Arabia, itself an absolute monarchy with some theocratic tendencies, has backed some democratic reform movements purely on pragmatic grounds. It supported the Libyan uprising, and led the charge to take the issue to the United Nations Security Council. It is seen by many as hypocritical, insofar as Riyadh helped the Sunni Bahrain monarchy crush the democracy movement among the majority of Bahrain citizens who are Shiites.
At the opposite side of the sectarian and ideological spectrum, a member of parliament in Iran welcomed the revolution and said that it was an object lesson to the region’s dictators. Mohammad Karamirad said he hoped Libya would become independent, and not bound to foreign patrons. (Iranian politicians have been in the paradoxical position of supporting the revolutionaries but condemning outside assistance to Libya).
The Shiite Party-Militia of southern Lebanon, Hizbullah,, warmly congratulated the Libyan people on the overthrow of Qaddafi, praising “their victory over the rule of the tyrant.” Qaddafi is suspected in the murder and disappearance in summer 1978 of Shiite leader Mousa Sadr.
On Monday, Future bloc MP Khaled Daher demanded that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad “step down and flee” before he met Qaddafi’s fate.
The Future Party of former Lebanese PM Saad Hariri groups most of Lebanon’s Sunni Arabs, and is said to have ties to Saudi Arabia.
Daher’s sentiments were implicitly shared by the foreign minister of Turkey, Ahmet Davutoglu, who told a news conference:
“The change taking place in Libya in compliance with people’s demands, following the one in Egypt and Tunisia, should teach a lesson to everyone… Leaders of other countries must also be aware of the fact that they will be in power as long as they satisfy the demands of the people.” Observers saw his statement as referring to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Davutoglu added, “Today is a historic day for Libya … One of the most important stages to rebuild a new Libya is taking place. This new Libya must be a democratic, free and united one meeting the demands of the people.”
Turkey, as a member of NATO, helped impose a naval blockade on weapons imports to Tripoli, though early on it was more interested in seeking a negotiated settlement than in arranging for a rebel victory. Turkey had expended some diplomatic capital in reestablishing good relations with Qaddafi, and it took time for the Turks to decide that the relationship was over with. Over time, Ankara forged links to the TNC, and last month formally recognized it as the government of Libya.
China, which had called for a ceasefire last March (which would have left Qaddafi with half the country), changed its stance. Ma Zhaoxu, spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said, “We have noticed recent changes in the Libyan situation and we respect the Libyan people’s choice.” China is Libya’s biggest oil customer in Asia and probably would like to make oil investments in the new Libya. Likely, however, it will be frozen out in favor of countries that more warmly supported the Benghazi revolutionaries.