Libya: Qaddafi regime flips the script, will ally with jihadists

We have noted the rather hilarious irony that Qaddafi actually tried to play to the West by portraying the rebels as jihadi terrorists—and even claimed the West was supporting him against a jihadist insurgency!—but has recently threatened suicide attacks against European capitals. Today the New York Times reports:

After six months battling a rebellion that his family portrayed as an Islamist conspiracy, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s son and one-time heir apparent said Wednesday that he was reversing course to forge a behind-the-scenes alliance with radical Islamist elements among the Libyan rebels to drive out their more liberal-minded confederates. “The liberals will escape or be killed,” the son, Seif al-Islam el-Qaddafi, vowed in an hourlong interview that stretched past midnight. “We will do it together,” he added, wearing a newly grown beard and fingering Islamic prayer beads as he reclined on a love seat in a spare office tucked in a nearly deserted downtown hotel. “Libya will look like Saudi Arabia, like Iran. So what?”

The Times said the younger Qaddafi identified as his main counterpart in the talks one Ali Sallabi. The newspaper said Sallabi “acknowledged their conversations but dismissed any suggestion of an alliance. He said the Libyan Islamists supported the rebel leaders’ calls for a pluralistic democracy without the Qaddafis.” We have noted the Egyptian regime’s attempted use of Islamists to beat back revolutionary currents. Hopefully, it will not work in Libya.

Meanwhile, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, who has repeatedly weighed in uncritically on behalf of Moammar Qaddafi, did so in even more glorified terms, when he told a national television audience Aug. 1 that he had received a letter from the Libyan dictator thanking him for his support. “I respect him a lot,” Chávez said, according to an AP translation. “He’s resisting there. Long live Libya!” Addressing Qaddafi, the Venezuelan leader added: “Live and be victorious. We’re with you.”

Reading from a translation of the letter, which was written in Arabic, Chávez said Qaddafi told him: “I highly value your noble positions in support of the Libyan people, as well as the leaders and revolutionaries of Latin America and the Caribbean. We hope to count on that support continuing.” Chávez went on to call Libya’s rebel National Transitional Council a “group of terrorists”—an epithet which is rendered rather ironic following Saif’s announcement in Tripoli

See our last posts on Libya and the politics of the Arab Spring

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