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US Immature to Face Arab World Unrest: Analyst

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TEHRAN, March 3 (ICANA) – More than two weeks into the Libya anti-government protests, the United States' dispatch of air and naval forces to the Mediterranean has brought up speculations that there will be military intervention in the North African country.
Thursday, March 03, 2011 9:39:49 PM
US Immature to Face Arab World Unrest: Analyst

The following is a rush transcript of a Press TV interview with Roula Talj, a political analyst in Beirut, Lebanon, who believes in a “bi-standard attitude” from the United States in the Middle East and North African region.

Q: The center of attention now seems to be the fact of the possible intervention made either by the United States or, as we have also heard, by certain European countries or NATO. Could you tell us what you make of this issue?

Talj: It is a very similar scenario to the one that was conducted by NATO and the United States against former Yugoslavian president. I hear fears in Arab streets and from Arab leaders, who are concerned that this might be similar to the Iraqi invasion - which I doubt very much. The US Army has neither the responsibility right now, nor the appetite within the NATO forces to invade Libya, but I am pretty sure that the more casualties caused by Muammar Gaddafi's forces against civilians, the closer we are getting to a confrontation through the air, like air strikes against his headquarters.

Q: Why would there be considerations made by the United States and certain other countries in terms of even extending arms to the opposition? Meanwhile, the opposition in Libya has said it does not need United States' armed assistance to handle this protest.

Talj: There is no doubt that after the fall of the US-backed Egyptian regime, the United States finds itself in a very difficult position regarding the strategic importance of Libya and Egypt. I find it very difficult to believe that the United States will give up its interests in the region so easily. This is on the one hand; while, on the other hand, we should not neglect the importance of the Libyan oil for the West. So they will do anything possible to remove Gaddafi from power, on the one hand, which is a well-deserved move, and they would, on the other hand, like to ensure a new government that is pro-American, through which they will try to save their strategic interest in the region, and those of Israel's, as well.

Q: We have forty years of ruling by Muammar Gaddafi, and then we have the United States after all this time. The United States has already contacted a range of opposition leaders to help them form organizations, political parties and entities “that they feel are justified and warranted,” according to the US ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice. How can they think that they could be part of the political process? Does it not violate the sovereignty of a nation?

Talj: Let us not forget that the United States was busy the last thirty years with the Cold War, which took a lot of time; and with President Gorbachev it came to an end. Then, they had to go on further and divide Eastern Europe and the old USSR. After that, the Muslim world became an important strategic focus to the United States' external politics, and ever since the fall of the USSR, many agencies in the United States have been trying to find a solution to the growing number of Muslims throughout the world. We have seen, since September 11 many maneuvers by the United States through former Egyptian President Mubarak and other leaders in the region, trying to find a way to clash Sunnis and Shias in the Middle East in order to let the Muslims focus on killing each other; on dividing the region, instead of focusing on growing in the West and mainly in the United States. Let us not forget that Islam is the most growing religion in the United States and in most of the European countries today. So there is no doubt that the Muslim world is a number one focus in the United States.

When you ask me about Libya, I find that now with the revolutions, Gaddafi's attitude toward the demonstrators, and the vicious manner he is dealing with them, is giving an excuse to the United States to reinforce its presence in Northern Africa. The question to the Americans is why we never saw them as keen to stop Israelis from killing Palestinians in Gaza, or in Lebanon war in 2006. It is true that maybe six thousand people died in Libya and the world has to do something to stop Gaddafi from his murders. But the question is why when three thousand civilians died in Southern Lebanon, the United States was opposing a cease fire between the Israelis and the Lebanese resistance and the same with Palestine and Gaza. If we see the Americans are trying to stop Gaddafi today, on a human level it is a very amazing move. But when we see the bi-standard attitude and behavior of the United States in the region, that is where I start wondering and asking questions why.

Q: Do you not think the United States made a very faulty error of judgment in terms of not having contacts through oppositions throughout the years? We can mention Lebanon and even Hamas which was a democratically elected government there in the Gaza strip, but the United States did not establish a communication with them to at least safeguard itself from these uprisings it is witnessing right now. Now the United States is trying to maintain some kind of relationship with the opposition. Their decision-making process is not quite understandable.

Talj: I do not agree with you. I think the United States has been building close ties with the oppositions throughout the Middle East, Egypt and elsewhere, but it was done very quietly of course, because of the official support they gave to President Mubarak. They have always supported the opposition in Egypt and other countries. I am not sure about Libya, because it has been a difficult place for the Americans to deal with, and Gaddafi was known for having everybody under very serious scrutiny in his country. So maybe the Libyan opposition is different, but you do see some major opposition figures throughout the world that have been having quite an interesting support of the United States and other countries.

Q: Recently the British Prime Minister David Cameron had a trip to Egypt as well as two US senators, McCain and Lieberman. Do you think there is something wrong with officials visiting these countries at this point of time when they are fresh from a revolution?

Talj: I think it is political immaturity and stubbornness which is leading the United States and the British to alienate those parties who are part of the Egyptian society, who were like the main players in those demonstrations. Whether they like it or not, the Brothers [Muslim Brotherhood] are part of the Egyptian society and sooner or later, the United States will have to deal with them; because the United States wants to secure some of its interests in Egypt. By alienating these parties they [the West] would be the biggest losers. David Cameron did not meet with any representative of the Brothers. By not meeting with them, he is not removing any legitimacy or credibility from them. He is just alienating those people. In the next two months, when they [Muslim Brotherhood] get the majority in the parliament, how would the relation with Egypt continue?

The same goes with other countries like Lebanon, where they never met with Hezbollah, although there are ministers and members of parliament from Hezbollah. By doing this, the gap is only growing. Hezbollah is here, Hamas is there in Gaza. The power of these components of the society is growing. By not talking to them, the West is digging a deeper grave in its relations with those countries they represent.

Q: If the West, including NATO, goes inside Libya, they are going to pick and choose which opposition they are going to side with. What are the consequences of these actions in the case of Libya?

Talj: I do not see the West, NATO or anybody who would want to go into Libya. What could be done is an air strike against Gaddafi's headquarters, and unfortunately Gaddafi will not go on trial, but he might most probably be killed in his headquarters under the bombs of the United States and NATO.

Q: The Arab League has rejected any type of military intervention in Libya. Do you think they have done enough?

Talj: To be honest with you, I think there is no such thing called the Arab League. They failed us Lebanese during the war of 2006 and failed the Palestinians during the Gaza war. They all stood against Hamas and Hezbollah, and in their own way, they gave legitimacy to Israel to keep on bombarding our children and women, killing innocent civilians. As of today, I am the wrong person to ask since I do not believe in the Arab League. I think they are useless and after these revolutions come to an end, the change in the Middle East should also start with the concept of the Arab League which is its [Arab League] main mission. I think they are not capable of doing anything to prevent a NATO strike against the Libyan dictator.

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