Last Updated: Thu Aug 25, 2011 17:20 pm (KSA) 14:20 pm (GMT)

US has a role to play in Libya, but it will be behind the scenes

Libya is on the minds of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, but the administration is taking a behind-the-scenes approach. (File photo)
Libya is on the minds of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, but the administration is taking a behind-the-scenes approach. (File photo)

The US was keen to stay out of the spotlight in Libya and away from a leading role in the conflict; however, the world power was not absent during the deliberations involved in the formation of the interim council. In addition, it has been heavily involved in NATO operations in the conflict.

It is now clear that the US president, Barack Obama, wants to repair the world’s image of America as a state interfering in other countries' affairs and seeks to stress that Washington considers other countries and regional forces as partners in foreign affairs.

The American president wants to affirm to US citizens, who have been hard hit by the economic crisis, that he cares about them and about the domestic affairs of the country. When it comes to foreign affairs, the US secretary of state, Hilary Clinton, receives most of the spotlight.

This system highlights the fact that the US considers Libya an important country, and does not want to repeat the experience it has had in Iraq.

The problem in Libya that should be urgently addressed is the proliferation of weapons in the hands of the rebels and Qaddafi supporters.

National reconciliation is the best way to maintain security and prevent Libya from becoming a security issue. When a regime like Qaddafi’s is toppled, it is necessary to embrace old regime members so that they don’t become angry and seek revenge.

The Obama administration is trying to convince the interim council that taking revenge on Qaddafi’s supporters would be unproductive. It is also stressing the importance of putting Qaddafi and his close associates on trial for the crimes they committed.

Interestingly enough, many American experts, including Colette Roush from the United States Institute of Peace, believe that it is inevitable that a strong Libyan leader will emerge, one who will lead his country through the transitional phase.

Anthony Cordesman, with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, suggests that Obama’s administration should adopt the necessary measures to make sure that future steps in Libya are safe and to safeguard the “national American security”.

Cordesman proposes to expand the US embassy in Libya and send hundreds of diplomats and experts in to provide support and advice. He also says the US should help Libyans form political parties and a credible electoral system.

Finally, he stresses that it is highly important for America to stay out of the spotlight in Libya while collaborating with European and neighboring countries. He notes that the European model is the best for Libyans, since “a European policeman is closer to the hearts of Libyans than an American cop.”

(Pierre Ghanem is a correspondent for Al Arabiya based in Washington, D.C.)

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