Libya between empire and jihad

As fighting continues in Sirte, David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy toured Tripoli to cheering crowds and triumphalist headlines (“David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy given heroes’ welcomes in Libya”—UK Metro). They pledged to continue NATO bombardment, even as Cameron assured: “This was your revolution, not our revolution.” (Read: “This is our revolution.” We’re reminded of similar British assurances not quite 10 years ago when Afghanistan was invaded—which remains NATO-occupied today.) The New York Times acknowledged some “awkward” contradictions in the junket:

The visit to Tripoli itself was held under heavy security and was diplomatically awkward, at least, because Libya technically has no head of state. The leader of the Transitional National Council, Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, and the de-facto prime minister, Mahmoud Jibril, appeared with Mr. Cameron and Mr. Sarkozy at a news conference in Tripoli. But Mr. Abdel-Jalil has not even officially moved himself to Tripoli yet from the council’s base in Benghazi, where the anti-Qaddafi revolt began in March.

While a growing number of Transitional National Council officials have come to Tripoli, the bulk remain in Benghazi. Their official position is that the government will not relocate here until they declare the conflict over — which will not happen until Colonel Qaddafi and one of his fugitive sons, Seif al-Islam el-Qaddafi, who had been considered his heir apparent and often acted on Colonel Qaddafi’s behalf, are either captured or confirmed out of the country.

If that is the standard, the NTC leaders may remain in Benghazi for quite some time. Remember how long it took to find Saddam and Osama… The Cameron-Sarkozy visit also comes as tensions within the NTC—between secularists and jihadists—are bubbling to the surface. Notes the Los Angeles Times, in a piece dubbed “Libya factions clash over nation’s future”:

On Tuesday, a prominent Islamist scholar denounced Jibril and his allies as “extreme secularists” who seek to enrich themselves via “the deal of a lifetime.”

Jibril and his associates were guiding the nation into “a new era of tyranny and dictatorship,” Ali Salabi told Al-Jazeera in comments posted Tuesday on its website. The cleric charged that the new administration could be “worse than Khadafy.”

The broadside seemed sure to escalate a conflict that has been simmering for some time. A plan approved Sunday by the transitional leadership to bring rebel fighters under civilian authority angered the rebel commander whose forces patrol Tripoli. That commander, Abed-Hakim Belhaj, is an ally of Salabi.

In an ominous admission of what spooks call “blowback,” Canada’s CTV reports:

The European Union’s counterterrorism coordinator, Gilles de Kerchove, said members of al Qaeda have capitalized on Libya’s turmoil and “gained access to weapons, either small arms or machine-guns, or certain surface-to-air missiles which are extremely dangerous because they pose a risk to flights over the territory.”

We warned back in March that, while the Arab Spring created a poor propaganda environment both for imperialism and the jihad, NATO’s Libya intervention threatened to reverse this situation—that re-igniting a slightly moribund jihad could be the cost of imperialism’s bid to control the political trajectory of the Arab revolutions.

We fervently hope that we are not about to be dramatically vindicated.

See our last post on the struggle in Libya.

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