This week the International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants for Muammer Gaddafi, his son, Seif al-Islam, and Abdullah al-Senussi, his intelligence chief, on charges of committing war crimes against the Libyan people. While the prima facie case against the Gaddafis is there for all to see, some analysts and diplomats believe that backing the Libyan despot into a corner will prolong the conflict and scotch any chance of a mediated outcome. These are not easy issues. Weve come across this dilemma several times, says Jonas Gahr Stre, Norways foreign minister. Of course we need to combat impunity, but the price you may end up paying is to sacrifice any incentive to get them out. Yet, on the evidence of this months Oslo Forum, the annual retreat of professional peace negotiators hosted by Mr Stres ministry, the Arab turmoil has opened fissures between the mushrooming industry of those who mediate for a living and the Arab protagonists of these uprisings, who insist there is nothing to negotiate with their autocratic tormentors. Everybody knows by now that it is not possible to mediate with Gaddafi, said one Libyan activist. It is not acceptable to us to offer him any form of immunity; that is a red line for any Libyan. Lectured on the need for inclusion, and told (by a South African official) that unless we can see through the lens of others there can be no peace, she replied: We are willing to sit round a table with his people, but not with him. There is no question of Gaddafi remaining on the political scene. The Syrian opposition to the daily more savage regime of Bashar al-Assad takes much the same view. After a meeting at Antalya in Turkey this month, which elected a 31-person executive and issued a transitional government programme, it went to the Hague to deliver a harrowing dossier of murder and torture to the ICC. No one on the front-line of these conflicts believes the Gaddafis or the Assads are susceptible to mediation or capable of reform, much less that they will come out with their hands up. Some dictators are biddable and end up in boltholes. Others prefer to die with their boots on. Even in a conflict such as Afghanistan, where talks are under way with the aim of eventually bringing the Taliban into a political solution, there is little agreement on what inclusive means. Taliban representatives at the Oslo meeting were not conspicuously inclusive, demanding that all militants give their allegiance to the Quetta Shura faction of Mullah Omar. Would Washington, moreover, ever agree to include the deadly Haqqani network of fighters based in North Waziristan, with whom the US has a blood debt to collect after the 2009 suicide bombing in Khost that killed seven CIA agents? But just as a successful strategy in Afghanistan would need to divide the forces loosely branded as Taliban, the best way to wear down the Gaddafi and Assad regimes is to split them and bodies like the ICC can help. As the isolation of the dictators and their inner circle grows, their henchmen increasingly confront the choice of whether they should defect, or risk ending up against the same wall or, at best, in the same dock, as their masters. This was a tactic, albeit deployed by European intelligence services, used to prey on the minds of Slobodan Milosevics generals, who in the end deserted him. Human Rights Watch, moreover, points out that the indictments against Bosnian Serb leaders Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic kept them out of the Dayton peace talks that ended the war in Bosnia. It is highly unlikely that the ICC has altered the calculus of Col Gaddafi. As Richard Dicker of HRW said: It beggars belief that a dictator who has gripped on to power for over 40 years would be frozen in place by this arrest warrant. But it may influence those around him. Similarly, a referral of the Assads to the ICC only possible through the UN Security Council where Russia is threatening a veto could weaken the cohesion of a regime whose base is narrowing. Or, as a minister from one Arab country once close to Damascus puts it: Lets deal with Libya first, and then Assad will know his turn is coming. Financial Times