How did the Libyan NFZ proposal succeed in the Security Council ?
My short answer, following Chomsky: The West must periodically dump its favourite dictators when their crimes become obvious to the the general population of Western democracies.
Marcos, described by GH Bush as ‘pledged to democracy’ adding that ‘[the US] love[s] your adherence to democratic principle and to the democratic processes’ was dumped for Aquino due to mass public protest. Others, including Mubarrak, have met the same fate. Now its Gaddaffi’s turn.
The average Western voter, unaware of Gaddaffi’s general working relationship with the US thinks of Gaddaffi as an anti-Western psycho-tyrant. This is a left-over from his ‘official enemy of civilisation’ status earnt around the time of the Lockerbie bombing. For the westerner in the street, Gaddaffi’s ‘official enemy’ status has never been revised or rescinded despite his aforesaid working relationship with the US and the West. The eruption of civil war in Libya including air-force strikes on civilians and rebels rightly disgusts Norm and Noreen Everage who expect the innocent to be protected. So there is domestic political expectation in the West, grounded in basic decency, that our governments will enact a NFZ.
But governments, naturally, approach the situation based on realpolitik and self-interest.
The crucial political factor which allowed the NFZ proposal to succeed is the alliance of common interest between Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations with the US.
While significant chunks of the grass roots Arab citizenry may hate the US, their governments rather enjoy selling the US oil and receiving Megatons of military equipment as part of various perverse aid and friendship packages. The Americans base the bulk of their Persian Gulf fleet in Bahrain , to name just one important aspect of this relationship.
The Arab League does not wish to succour the highly energetic and successful protest movements swelling under their feet, so to provide a precedent of supporting a rebel movement in Libya must have stuck in their craw and contributed to a great deal of hesitation in their agreement with the UN/NATO.
The Arab League is a Sunni organisation. Iran is not a member. This makes the Arab League easier to deal with for the US/West than the Organisation Of The Islamic Conference, of which Iran, a trenchant opponent if the USA is a member. I think this is why the US/NATO sought agreement with the Arab League rather than the OIC. Iran would have it harder for the Saudis to make a deal which was predicated partly on the basis of Shiites being massacred in Bahrain.
As to why Saudi planes (or the Arab League generally) are not doing the bombing runs, well, they have to save face with their own population. Its not great internal press to openly bomb other Muslims. If the Brits do it then that may just distract the rebel movements a little into an anti-Western lacuna.
But the Saudis wlll happily massacre as many Shiite Bahranis as they have bullets, or Apache helicopters.
The typical Western voter, unaware of the basic alliance between Arab and Western governments, and with no pre-existing mental image of Bahraini royalty except a vague negative Arab/Muslim sterotype will consider the Bahraini massacres an internal Arab matter and will not expect Western intervention. Besides which, war with Saudi Arabia is beyond the comfort level of most of the sane.
But in regard to Libya, the West needed the NFZ deal to save face with its own populace – particularly the British, whose royalty are friends with Gaddaffi’s son and whose famous London School Of Economics received bequests from the psycho-tyrant himself.
So I would guess the essence of the deal with the Arab League would be “Let us do a NFZ in Libya and we’ll look the other way while you massacre as many as you want elsewhere, starting with Bahrain and Yemen’
How China and Russia were talked into abstaining, I don’t know, but it would have cost the West a barrel of favours that would make even a FIFA junket look trivial.
So, the NFZ is not a specific imperialialist gambit or lunge for Libyan oil, but rather an unfortunate turn of events where popular protest has forced the West to abandon one of its murderous clients.
This happens regularly and is very distressing because revolution is more unpredicatable than Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates and who the West gets to deal with next will have to be cultivated/managed/bombed or bribed into compliance which is costly, time-consuming and has no guarantee of success.