Libya: Too Soon to Celebrate

by THE EDITOR, ADRIAN MORGAN August 23, 2011
 
Premature celebrations for Gaddafi’s defeat.
 
Yesterday, news reports were trumpeting the imminent fall of Muamar Gaddafi, (also spelled Gadafy, Qadaffi). Rebel troops were surrounding Libya’s capital. Soon, it was reported that two of the dictator’s sons, Saif al-Islam and Mohammed had been arrested by rebel troops.
Now, however, the clear picture of victory for the rebels has grown murky. Saif al-Islam, the man chosen by Colonel Gaddafi to be his heir, has now appeared in Tripoli, talking to reporters. His brother Mohammed, who was conducting a telephone interview with Al-Jazeera shortly before he surrendered to rebel troops, has apparently escaped his house arrest.
 
Colonel Gaddafi is nowhere to be seen. At his father’s famous compound, Bab al-Azizya, Saif al-Islam told reporters that the dictator’s regime had “broken the backbone” of the opposition.  Mustafa Abdul Jalil, the leader for the National Transitional Council, the body representing the rebel factions, yesterday told reporters that Tripoli was under opposition control. Perhaps he was expressing wishful thinking, or there has been a substantial shift in the fortunes of the rebel forces. It is also possible that the confidence of the rebels in an assured victory allowed them to take risks. It is likely that the ultimate defeat of the dictator’s regime is inevitable. The reappearance of Saif al-Islam, smiling as he claims that the regime is in full control of Tripoli, could be a last splutter of the regime’s torch before it is permanently extinguished.
 
 
Mustafa Abdul Jalil.
 
Many conservative writers have rightly warned that the body of rebels that make up the opposition to Gaddafi include hardline Islamists. These Islamists are enjoying the patronage of Obama and Nato, but they have no love for the West. Andrew Bostom points out the zabibah on Abdul Jalil’s forehead. This darkened callus seems to only appear on the heads of fanatics – many senior Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood leaders carry this mark, as does Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of Al Qaeda. The zabibah is caused by pressure, of a head pressed against the ground in the prolonged prostration of Islamic prayer.  When Abduljalil claimed that the rebels controlled Tripoli, was he issuing propaganda, or using taqiyya, the tactic of dissimulation employed by Islamists?
 
It seems that the rebels are set on an inexorable path to power, and when they do govern the entire nation, their ultimate agenda will be revealed.  On July 28th, a senior figure in the rebel military was murdered in Benghazi, shot in the head.  Two other individuals had also been shot. Their bodies had been partially burned. Abdel Fattah Younes had formerly been a member of Gaddafi’s army who had defected early in the rebel uprising that started in February. Younes had become the head of the “Free Libyan Army” general staff. The rebel spokesman, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, claimed that Younes had been slain by Gaddafi’s forces.  He had warned:
 
“I ask you to refrain from paying attention to the rumors that Gaddafi's forces are trying to spread within our ranks.”
 
Jalil, who had been a Justice Minister under the Gaddafi regime until February 2011, said at that time that a suspect in Younes’ murder had been apprehended, but did not give further details. It was suggested by Mohammed Agoury, a member of the rebel military, that Younes had been killed by a rebel faction called the February 17 Martyrs Brigade. The reason for the killing, it was said, derived from Younes’ former role in Gaddafi’s army, where he had led a crackdown upon the group. Mustafa Abdul Jail, who has been seen by the U.S. administration as a potential reformer of Libya, has not given an adequate explanation of what really happened to the head of the rebel army. This augurs badly for the future. It calls into question his integrity.
 
 
Abdel Fattah Younes.
 
The individual who was arrested in connection with Younes’ killing has been identified as the head of the February 17 Martyrs’ Brigade. He has allegedly confessed that officers underneath his rank had carried out the assassination. The Gaddafi regime claimed then that the assassination had been carried out by members of the group who were linked to Al Qaeda.
 
The group that is most closely linked to Al Qaeda is the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG). The day before February 17, 2011, the “Day of Anger” that kick-started the rebellion, 110 Islamists from this group had been released from prison. Many LIFG members had joined this first uprising, and became affiliated with the Martyrs Brigade.
 
The LIFG, also known as Al-Jama'a al-Islamiyyah al-Muqatilah fi-Libya, has been fighting its own insurgency against Gaddafi since it officially came into being in September 1995. According to Jamestown, before Gaddafi had usurped power in 1969, Libya had been governed by the descendants of the 19th century Salafist Muhammad ibn al-Sanusi. At first, Gaddafi had consulted with the leading clerics of the nation who also had revered the Islamic revivalism of al-Sanusi, but soon sidelined them. This had led to the resentments that led to the formation of LIFG, and their desire to keep Islamism at the heart of Libyan politics. The founders of LIFG were all veterans of the Afghan conflict against the Russians, a conflict which spawned the Al Qaeda movement.
 
The LIFG was designated by the U.S. and the UN as a terrorist group in the aftermath of 9-11, but the group claims that is not related to al-Qaeda. One Libyan member of the LIFG, who now acts as an emissary for Al Qaeda in Iran, is Atiyah Abd al-Rahman. He was appointed to his current role by Osama bin Laden.
 
 
The flag which has been openly carried since the February revolution is the same one that was adopted when Libya first became an independent nation. This happened in 1951, with the assistance of the United Nations. King Idris, who had been an emir of the former province of Cyrenaica (in the East, where most of the current rebellion took root), was the sole monarch of the new kingdom, until deposed by Gaddafi in 1969. Idris (1889 – 1983), whose full name Sidi Muhammad Idris Al-Mahdi As-sanusi, was the grandson of Muhammad ibn al-Sanusi. 
 
 
Abdel-Hakim al-Hasidi.
 
In March, one of the leaders of the rebel forces, a man called Abdel-Hakim al-Hasidi, who is said to be closely connected to Al Qaeda, gave an interview to an Italian newspaper. Al-Hasidi, a member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, had been among the Islamists who had fought American and coalition troops in Afghanistan until his capture in Pakistan in 2002. He admitted that he had recruited about two dozen Islamists to fight against the USA. He has praised al-Qaeda, but condemned the events of 9/11, and apparently maintained that once the regime collapsed, he would lay down his arms. It will remain to be seen if he remains true to his word.
 
The events in Libya, and the premature hysteria that hailed a victory over Gaddafi, should be warning to journalists who express what they desire to see, rather than what is actually happening. It seems certain that the regime of Gaddafi will fall, but to borrow a cliché, it ain’t over till the fat lady sings.
 
Colonel Gaddafi, according to Saif al-Islam, is still alive, and is “safe” in Tripoli. The dictator is probably at the secure compound of Bab al-Azizya. It was here that he survived the strikes mounted by Ronald Reagan on April 16, 1986. It is believed that beneath this compound there are networks of tunnels, which would potentially allow the dictator to be smuggled out, some distance from the base.
 
Currently, large explosions have been heard in Tripoli.
 
The war may soon be over, but only when Gaddafi is captured or killed can the regime be safely be said to have been destroyed. And then, the future of Libya may become clearer. At present, Libyan oil production is at an all-time low, and is unlikely to return to its previous rate of one and a half million barrels a day for more than a year.
 
No-one should delude themselves that Gaddafi was good for Libya, nor for the world at large. His kidnap of Swiss businessmen and his crazed demands at the UN for Switzerland to be abolished after one of his sons, Hannibal, was arrested by Swiss police for maid-beating, is a sign of his instability. Gaddafi has been irrational and delusional for years.
 
However, when he is defeated, then will be the time to take stock of the situation in Libya’s government. If America and Nato troops have spent taxpayers’ money on assisting the war that has brought the rebels so far, then there must be a payback. If an Islamist, anti-Western government emerges from the National Transitional Council, then America and Nato would be seen to have committed an act of great folly. As in Egypt, with the rigid autocrat Hosni Mubarak, sometimes it is better to deal with the Devil you know than the Devil you don’t.
 
 

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