Is it time to arm the rebels?

Writing in ‘The Times’ today the former Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind called for arms to be provided to the rebels fighting the regime in Libya. Of course treading carefully in this area is important as the well cited example of getting it wrong is the US support for the then Mujahedeen resistance in the war with the Soviets at the start of the 1980’s. At that time Bin Laden was part of Maktab al-Khadamat [a group fighting the Soviet advance] – the rest as they say is history.

The west has been slow to act in terms of the no fly zone and this [at least up to now] has been a good strategy – the Libyans are an independent race and opinions have been mixed as to whether the rebels on the ground want or do not want this zone in place. Regardless of their decision a ‘no fly zone’ without the full support of neighbouring Arab states would be difficult to initiate and deliver. A further consideration has to be that most of those states have either a limited air force or are in a state of flux. Western influence in the war [perhaps through the NFZ] could strengthen Gaddafis hand with the ‘undecided’s’ as he could claim to his own people not only to be fighting the rebels but the Western Infidels as well.

This neatly brings us back to intervention through the supply of arms. The end game would suggest that if the rebels lose they stand to lose much. Already reports of torture of prisoners are leaking out.

Wary as I am of further western intervention in conflicts which are not our own the genocide in Rwanda weighs heavily on my mind. The west and the UN did nothing [until it was too late] and a whole population was massacred. It’s not an easy one to call but perhaps limited shipments of SAMs would make a great deal of difference to those fighting Gaddafi and prevent another genocide.


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