It’s a wake-up call

The International Criminal Court warrant against Muammar Qaddafi doesn’t really come as a surprise to anyone. Given the international outrage over the regime’s continuing atrocities against its own people and the West’s struggling military campaign, this was to be expected. Notwithstanding the hypocrisy often demonstrated in such cases, it has to be said that the ICC charges brought against the Libyan trio — Qaddafi, his son Seif Al-Islam and intelligence chief Al-Senussi — are far from unreasonable and unjustified.Thousands have been killed in the crackdown by the Libyan regime since the popular uprising began nearly four months ago. Hundreds of thousands of Libyans and foreign workers have been driven from their homes. Indeed, the whole country has been split into two, with situation worsening by the day. All attempts to talk sense into the maverick Libyan dictator, who has ruled the country with an iron hand for more than four decades, have failed. He remains as defiant and as murderous as ever.

On the other hand, the opposition fighters have failed to make any substantial progress despite the moral support they have received from across the Arab world and the international community. The NATO-US military campaign, first of its kind in the region, has so far failed to break the obstinacy of Qaddafi and his cabal, as they hope to wait out the unprecedented challenge to the regime from within and without.

The ICC warrant against the regime for its crimes against humanity will therefore come as a much-needed shot in the arm for the opposition, including to the US and NATO alliance. It could very well prove the proverbial last straw on the camel’s back for Qaddafi, although there are fears that the ICC move could also make the colonel desperately dangerous. Let us hope for the best.If nothing else, the ICC case should strip the Libyan leader of his fig leaf of legitimacy.  Indeed, the world court warrant will instill the fear of God in all tyrants and come as a warning to all those who do not hesitate to sacrifice their people’s lives and country for power.

While The Hague court move is likely to retain the spotlight on Libya in days and weeks to come, things are worsening in Syria, the other big hotspot in the region. The regime has responded to people’s demand for change with the same, brute excessive force that has become the hallmark of all these so-called Arab socialist republics.As in Libya, a humanitarian catastrophe is brewing in Syria whose cascading effects could impact the whole region.  Already, Turkey and other neighboring nations have been overwhelmed by the influx of thousands of Syrian refugees. It’s still not too late for President Bashar Assad to rein in his marauding troops and open communication channels with the protesters.

Syria has a long history of using brute force to put down dissent and slightest defiance of the regime.  It may have worked in the past — as in the Hama massacre of 1982 — but it won’t work today. Floodgates of change opened six months ago by a Tunisian fruit vendor cannot be shut at gunpoint. As someone who passionately talked of “reforms” and change when he took over from his father in 2000, he must avoid the road taken by Qaddafi and company. Dialogue and reform leading to people’s empowerment is the only way out. – Arabnews