Sunday, March 13, 2011

Libya Turmoil 12

Saif Sal Islam Gaddaffi speaks with TIME's Vivienne Walt
Christopher Morris / VII for TIME
Muammar Gaddafi's powerful son Saif al-Islam tells TIME in an exclusive interview Thursday night that his father's military is on track to seize the entire area of rebel-held eastern Libya, with pounding victories on Wednesday and Thursday in various parts of the country irreversibly turning the momentum of the war in Gaddafi's favor. "The big war is over," Saif says, sitting in a hotel room in central Tripoli. Thursday had been a bloody day of battle in Libya, during which Gaddafi's forces pummeled the key eastern oil-refinery town of Ras Lanuf, seizing it back from rebels with aerial bombing, ground attacks, and blasts from the Mediterranean, and reportedly inflicting heavy casualties. In an interview filled with rage, hurt, a sense of betrayal, and a taste of triumph, Saif — who before the war was long regarded as Libya's likely next ruler — says of the rebels: "Their backbone is broken. We have airplanes, reconnaissance, telling us they are escaping everywhere. They have no future."
Saif's sense of impending victory comes as NATO members gather in Brussels on Friday to debate whether to impose a no-fly zone over Libya. The U.S. and E.U. are scrambling to coalesce around military and diplomatic strategies to stop Libya from tearing itself apart. France on Thursday became the first country to recognize the rebels' National Transition Council as Libya's legitimate government, and declared that the French embassy would soon move from Gaddafi's capital Tripoli to the rebels' headquarters of Benghazi, Libya's second city where the revolt first exploded on Feb. 17.(See exclusive photos of rebels fighting Gaddafi.)
Thousands of miles from the politicking in Washington and Brussels, Tripoli's mood has palpably changed since Wednesday, when government tanks pounded the oil-refinery town of Zawiyah, 30 miles west of Tripoli, finally crushing a two-week revolt there, and leaving a shattered city under tight control, with government tanks parked in the central square where just a week ago rebels held sway. Then came Thursday's military success across the country in Ras Lanuf.
Taken together, Saif concludes — perhaps optimistically — that the regime has mortally wounded the morale of the rebels, and that the military might not need heavy firepower to crush the remaining anti-government forces, whose frontline skills have proved wanting. From now on there will be only "small, very small" battles, he says. "The way is clear to Benghazi."(See what a day is like in Gaddafi's Tripoli.)
There is one big obstacle to a smooth Gaddafi victory, of course: the possibility of Western intervention in support of the rebels. Yet in Saif's mind, the efforts currently under discussion in Washington and Brussels come too late to save the rebels from defeat. "Nobody cares about NATO, about Europe," Saif says, waving his hand dismissively. "They [Western countries] have the sense that the game is over in Libya. We will win the war, insh'allah, by the will of God."
If Saif's prediction proves right, the West's decision to back the rebels could leave it shut out of Libya, with Gaddafi still installed in Tripoli. Yet Saif believes the West will once again court Libya if his father survives in power, even after blunt declarations from U.S. President Barack Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron, and other leaders that Gaddafi should go. After all, Gaddafi has endured years of being a pariah, isolated from the West under heavy sanctions. "One month ago [Western countries] were sooo nice, so nice like pussycats," Saif says in a contemptuous sing-song tone. "Now they want to be really aggressive like tigers. [But] soon they will come back, and cut oil deals, contracts. We know this game."(See "Libya: The Case for U.S. Intervention.")
On Thursday afternoon Saif drummed home a message of an imminent military victory at a youth rally in a tented hall in Tripoli, packed with about 2,000 young devotees of his father's regime. The crowd stood spellbound through Saif's fiery one-hour speech, a rabble-rousing pep talk to potential recruits for the war effort. "We will never ever give up. We will never ever surrender," Saif told his father's supporters, who erupted in wild cheers as he warned the rebel leaders in Benghazi: "We are coming! We are coming!"
Yet despite his almost-cocky confidence, Saif — relaxing at day's end in blue jeans and a zip-up sweater — admits that his father's regime has been deeply shaken by the revolt, caught off guard by the rebels' ability to whip up an armed force and take a large chunk of oil-rich eastern Libya. "Everybody is shocked," he says. "In 48 hours they controlled more than 10 military sites in the country."(See "March of the Volunteers: Can the Rebels Take Tripoli?")
Everybody, that is, except him. Looking back — which Saif notes he is loath to do now — he says he had long warned his father's regime that there would be trouble if they did not implement democratic reforms. Talking to TIME in Tripoli in February 2010, Saif said that Libyans urgently needed open elections and other freedoms — "freedom like in Holland," he said in that interview. Yet as the bitter internal struggles within Gaddafi's government dragged on through the years, Saif lost many of his political battles, failing to convince hard-liners of a truly dramatic reform program — and so the seeds were planted for the explosive revolt that occurred last month.(Comment on this story.)
With a tone of bitterness, Saif says he was betrayed "big time" by his closest reformist allies, who ditched him last month and joined the rebel side. Yet he blames above all the hard-liners, who blocked democratic reforms out of "stupidity," he says. "We talked about everything in the past and we were so hesitant. The terrorists took advantage of this."(See the latest scenes of unrest in Libya.)
With Libya now at war, Saif still insists that sweeping reforms are possible — something which seems unfathomable if his father's 41-year rule survives this conflict. Saif disagrees, saying that on the contrary, the regime has been shaken into realizing the need for democracy. "We have a golden opportunity now," he says." "Everybody is convinced that the things we said 10 years ago, five years ago, were right. To have a modern democracy, modern economy, more freedom." The hard-liners, he says, have learned "a very tough lesson." Which is? "That they should listen to me."

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  1. It seems that Saif al Islam's hand will be strengthened when this whole shooting match will be over, but will he be the figure able to win over most of the population, including the Easterners? Will the 'old guard' give him a chance? A victory followed by carnage and witch hunts, will be fertile ground for a guerilla style terror movement, iraq style... Magnanimity in victory and dialogue with opponents will in my view be the key to a better (reformed) future. And as long as there will only be the 'Green Book' as the 'Fountain of Truth', whereby any opposing voices are to be silenced by intimidation and violence, there is no hope to build a modern state. Long term the laws of Darwin will overcome. The sooner the oil runs out the sooner Darwinistic processes will kick in.


  2. @ jan

    We are here in the last garden of Eden, in the Cain versus Abel period.
    Darwinism has not even started yet.
    I will come back on the Saif subject tomorrow.

    One thing you have to take into account, today I heard a common Libyan man in the street argue with a French reporter, and I had to ask the translator twice, then I asked my Arab, non-Libyan, friend who was with me to confirm, the man said in his own crude way: ...those fu....g islamists are ruining our country...
    That's Libya for you.

  3. @Hermes:

    Exactly! And you can bet that French reporter will never find space in his home tabloid to publishing such reactions from the ordinary man on Libya's streets.

    Al Jazeera makes me want to puke on Obama's shoes. How come we don't get to hear one voice that's pro-government on this issue? Why is it all so one-sided? Saif told Janet to go out to the streets and interview ordinary Libyans, what she opted to do was join a pro-government rally. Why? Because it is so obvious a pro-government rally would be pro-Qaddafi.

    If she had that much freedom to rove, why didn't she get out on Main St. for us to hear the ordinary man's opinion on these unfolding issues? The propaganda is as nauseating as it is suffocating. It's all so preposterous!

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. For once, I'm really glad I'm wrong! May God bless that French reporter's gentle soul. Very good news... indeed, things change!

  6. @ Egoigwe

    I will protect my source for a few days and replace it afterwards, eventually with the copy.
    I cannot harm my source.

  7. @Hermes:

    Very well understood. On another note, I think my comment post is being sent to spam. My reply to Capo as per Libya Turmoil 10 keeps self-deleting. Can you fix it, I think Capo deserves a feed back from me.

  8. @ Egoigwe

    You were right.
    Found them and posted them.
    I don't know why the system is so sensitive, anyway I'll check regularly.

  9. Forget Darwinian processess for I hear from a reliable source that Sarko the Sarkophant has been in clandestine discussions with the teutonic virago Angela Merckel and their plan goes something like this:

    Fast forward several months and we see a victorious Saif Gaddafi handing out postumous Darwin Awards** to his erstwhile enemies in Benghazi.

    ** visit: and read "Rules" section.

    NB. Previous recipients of this award are believed to have included E.M. Snickering, probably the greatest Cornish poet ever to put pen to paper and Adam Weishaupt's alleged spiritual mentor The Grand Mufti of Morbihan to name but two...


  10. Sarko is also up for the Lam(e)arkian Awards, though that might be a stretch.

    Current news reports state the the "rebels" had some sucess at night in recent fighting. Hmm, rebels skilled in night time operations? What a tragedy, men who are probably some of the most skilled and highly trained warriors in the world commanded by morons like Sarkozy and Cameron.

  11. I wonder at what the real significance of the Monarchy flag, which these 'rebels' carry, is? Really, what does it indicate, the desire by them for a return to Monarchical rule in Libya, and if it does, why are democratic institutions in Europe and America so quick to recognize them?

    No matter how one spins it, it is of great relevance. Why would Europe and America in conjunction with their MSM, pretend or presume that a group of people carrying and advertising the symbol of tyranny and dictatorship are in search of democracy? It tells a whole load of story about their intent and goals and the hands steering this 'uprisings' i.e. the Muslim Brotherhood.

  12. refer to this article for some observations and context

    regards, janvonholland