[Marxism] Rebels "roll their eyes" at TNC leadership

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Aug 23 06:23:06 MDT 2011

NY Times August 22, 2011
After Uprising, Rebels Face a Struggle for Unity

TRIPOLI, Libya — With rebels on the verge of ending Col. Muammar 
el-Qaddafi’s long reign, the character of their movement is facing 
its first real test: Can they build a new government of unity and 
reconciliation, or will their own internal rivalries mean 
divisions in the new Libya?

Six months after their revolt broke out, the day-to-day leadership 
of the anti-Qaddafi movement remains an unanswered question, with 
no figure emerging as the rebellion’s undisputed leader. Even the 
common struggle against Colonel Qaddafi never masked latent 
divisions between east and west, between political leaders and 
fractious militias, and, some say, between liberal public faces 
and Islamists in the rebel ranks.

The rebels from the western mountains who stormed into Tripoli on 
Sunday night often roll their eyes at their ostensible political 
leadership, the Transitional National Council, which is based in 
the eastern city of Benghazi. Many complained that their national 
leaders did not give them enough support, even after Western 
governments began allowing them access to the frozen assets of the 
Qaddafi government.

“The N.T.C. did not work so hard to bridge the gap” between what 
western rebels forces had and what they needed to subdue Tripoli, 
said Youssef Mohamed, a management consultant working as an 
adviser to one of the rebel units charged with securing the capital.

American and European officials said on Monday that they have been 
working for weeks to foster cohesion in the rebel ranks and to 
avoid a repeat of the sectarian strife that gripped Iraq in 2003 
after the American invasion. Officials said they thought that one 
reason Tripoli fell as quickly as it did was that important rebel 
groups closed ranks and came up with a coherent strategy to invade 
Colonel Qaddafi’s last stronghold.

Even so, rivalries began emerging on Monday well before Tripoli 
was fully subdued, along with questions about the rebels’ 
credibility. Officials of the Transitional National Council in 
Benghazi said Sunday that their forces had captured Colonel 
Qaddafi’s son and would-be successor, Seif al-Islam el-Qaddafi. 
But then on Tuesday he appeared at a Tripoli hotel housing foreign 
journalists — moving freely around the city — and even before then 
some in Tripoli appeared not to trust their Benghazi leadership to 
handle him.

Emhemmed Ghula, a leader of the Tripoli rebel underground 
stationed at a newly established military headquarters on Monday, 
said he worried that the Benghazi leadership had wrongly agreed to 
turn Seif al-Islam el-Qaddafi over to the International Criminal 
Court in The Hague, where he is wanted on war crimes charges.

“It was not us,” Mr. Ghula said, referring to the Tripoli rebels. 
“If we caught him, we are not going to give him to anyone. We 
would just take him to trial — a fair trial — under Libyan laws.”

Pressed on his relationship with the movement’s national 
leadership, he acknowledged: “We belong to them, politically. They 
did help us with the plan for this revolution.” But he added: “The 
general plan, I should say. Not with the local plan.”

Tensions were also on display Monday after the rebels captured a 
prominent broadcaster from Libyan state television, Hala Misrati. 
She was spotted driving in the city and was arrested, several 
rebels said, in connection with her role as Qaddafi propagandist. 
She was taken to a local office building for questioning, and 
through a cracked door a heavyset man could be seen leaning over 
her seat as she screamed, “I am innocent!”

A mob of rebels, many armed, tried to storm the office. They were 
pushed back when a rebel officer emerged from the interrogation 
room and fired his gun through the ceiling. He fired another shot 
to scare off the press.

Ultimately, however, order appeared to win out: an older officer 
made his way through the mob counseling patience, and the crowd 
dissipated. Ms. Misrati was quietly whisked away.

Rebel leaders say they have worked for months to try to pave the 
road to a national unity, including within their own ranks. At the 
start of Ramadan, for example, the chairman of the Transitional 
National Council, Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, flew to the western 
mountains — after getting NATO’s permission to breach its no-fly 
zone — so he could pass out financial aid to needy families for 
the holiday season.

By design, the council includes representatives from across the 
country. They pledged from the start to keep Libya’s capital in 
Tripoli, in western Libya, not in Benghazi in the east, a rival 
center of power in during Colonel Qaddafi’s rule. On Monday, the 
council announced that it was beginning to relocate its operations.

And despite the grumblings of some on the ground, local and 
national rebel leaders have sometimes coordinated closely. When 
rebels in Tripoli began to rise up Sunday, two senior officials 
from Benghazi were huddled in Tunis with a leader from the western 
mountains to monitor the movements together. On Monday, Jeffrey D. 
Feltman, under secretary of state for Near East affairs, said in 
an interview with CNN’s Web site that he was surprised by the 
closeness of the communication among rebels across the country.

“Saturday night we were seeing high-level officials in Benghazi 
who basically said: ‘O.K., in an hour Tripoli’s going to rise up 
and this is what’s going to happen. It’s going to start in this 
neighborhood, they’re going to go out to the mosques and start 
doing the call to prayer,’ ” he said. “So it was clear from that 
description that there’s a lot more communication than what was 
apparent publicly between the N.T.C. in Benghazi and Tripoli.”

Officials in Washington said that for the last several weeks, 
representatives of the rebel council had met quietly with 
American, European and other diplomats in Qatar and laid the 
groundwork for building a democratic government in a country that 
has never known one.

With the lessons of postwar Iraq very much in mind, the Obama 
administration and its allies oversaw the drafting of “a 
transition road map” that creates an interim governing authority 
to fill the vacuum created by the monolithic Qaddafi regime until 
elections are held.

The road map did not specify dates or a timetable for the 
election. But the officials said the rebel leaders had 
consistently pledged to have an open, inclusive government. They 
have also pledged not to pursue vendettas or a 
“de-Baathification-style” purge of the political and security 
bureaucracy, something that fueled the insurgency in Iraq.

“We try to learn lessons,” a senior administration official said. 
“That’s why there was such as emphasis on post-Qaddafi planning. 
It wasn’t strictly because of April 2003, but that definitely was 
on people’s minds.”

In Washington, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke by 
phone with Mr. Abdel-Jalil, the chairman of the Transitional 
National Council, to discuss the arrangements.

“He’s not perfect, but we’ve been very impressed,” a senior 
administration official said. “They’re focused, and we’re focused 
now, on not having a bloodbath.”

France, Britain, the United States and other powers involved in 
the Libyan struggle will meet with rebel leaders in Istanbul on 
Thursday to discuss the transition. Mrs. Clinton and other foreign 
ministers are considering meeting next week. The United Nations 
Security Council is also expected to meet to continue negotiations 
over a resolution that would allow countries to give the rebels 
the assets frozen under the council’s resolutions.

Still, American officials have also acknowledged that they do not 
yet know how well that leadership speaks for the military leaders 
or, for that matter, the many novice fighters in their loosely 
organized brigades.

Those questions were brought to the fore by the killing three 
weeks ago of a rebel military chief, Gen. Abdul Fattah Younes, by 
other rebels, apparently in revenge for his role in the Qaddafi 
government, which tortured and imprisoned many Islamists. The 
council has not yet identified the killer, but his assassination 
follows the murder of at least four lower-level security officials 
by an armed band who roamed Benghazi hunting them down. None of 
their killers have been found.

In the aftermath of General Younes’s killing, many in Benghazi 
blamed the Islamists in their ranks. And, although no evidence has 
linked Islamists with the killing, at least two liberals close to 
the rebel leadership said they appreciated the rumors, because 
they called attention to the Islamists’ threat.

Also after the killing, the Transitional National Council tried to 
organize its many quasi-independent militias into a national army. 
But that effort has faltered as the militias have insisted on 
forming their own independent coalition.

David D. Kirkpatrick reported from Tripoli, and Steven Lee Myers 
from Washington. Steven Erlanger contributed reporting from Paris.

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