NTC forces based in the western city of Zawiya have for the past days been clashing with Wershifanna tribal fighters in the nearby Hashan area. Rumors maintain that Saif al-Islam Qaddafi is being harbored by the tribal fighters. AFP tells us Warfalla tribesmen are “thirsting for revenge” after their bastion Bani Walid was “looted and pillaged” by anti-Qaddafi fighters. The Washington Post in its Nov. 13 report of the clashes notes that fighting also broke out two weeks ago when fighters from the city of Misrata and the mountain town of Zintan attempted to “settle old scores” at Tripoli’s central hospital. There have also been at least three shoot-outs between a local Tripoli brigade in the upscale Hay al-Andalus district and a group of Zintanis who have taken up residence in the plush Regatta compound where Qaddafi cronies lived. Zintan is in the Berber area of western Libya, but a very pessimistic National Post analysis of Oct. 29 notes that Zintan is also the name of an Arab tribe from the area, also called the Megrahi, which is allied with the Warfalla tribe in opposition to the NTC. As we have written, these tribes are traditional enemies of Qaddafi’s own tribe, the Qadhadfa, and joined the rebellion against him, but seem to have suffered reprisals by NTC forces nonetheless.
NTC chairman Mustafa Abdul Jalil meanwhile backed off from controversial remarks of last month that sharia would be the main basis of legislation in the new Libya and that tenets violating it would be nullified. At a Tripoli news conference with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, he assured: “We will not be an extremist Islamic country. Our Islam is moderate.” (AP, Nov. 12)
Jihadis in the NTC ranks have already pledged to resist the new government if it moves in too secular a direction. With US-trained technocrats now predictably assuming leadership of the new regime, the stage could be set for a new civil war between Western proxies and jihadis. The “tribal” conflicts could quickly become politicized along these lines—especially given recent indications that Qaddafi forces are forging an alliance with regional jihadis. This would be a colossal disaster, and could spell the definitive end of the Arab Spring.
As we have maintained since the beginning of the Libyan war:
[T]he Libyan opposition does indeed seem to be a “hodge-podge”: In one corner, a small coterie of aspiring bourgeois-democratic technocrats (now in ascendance thanks to deals being quietly made in Paris and Washington); in the other, a few fanatical cells of jihadi types…and in the middle, a very large swath of very angry Libyans who have no particular ideological commitment but basically secular and progressive instincts. These are the people we must root for.
This assessment has not changed.
See our last post on the struggle for Libya.