[Marxism] Rebels "roll their eyes" at TNC leadership
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
By DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK and STEVEN LEE MYERS
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
“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
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
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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