By Phil Muslims
New York Times’ interview with Saif Al-Islam, the son of the the slain Libyan dictator Muammar al-Gadaffi once again brought to the spotlight the Gaddafi family in the North African country. Talking to the American newspaper, Saif Al-Islam criticized the mess caused by a decade-long civil war in Libya and nostalgically remembered the reign of his father and said he intends to return to the politics to take Libya power back.
The rebel Libyan groups agreed to hold general election on December 24, first since Gaddafi was ousted and killed by the revolutionaries in 2011, reflecting the Libyan dream to embrace democracy after decades of Gaddafi dictatorship. In the middle of this and after a decade of uprising and at a time the country is failed and there is neither a living economy nor security and there is almost no normal life for people, Saif al-Islam says he is ready to return.
Saif al-Islam; from the brink of death to international prosecution to return to politics
Former Libyan dictator Muammar al-Gaddafi faced a popular revolution and NATO airstrikes campaign in 2011 ending his rule after four decades. As a result, Muammar and his 3 sons out of a total of 7 were killed by the revolutionaries, but the fate of Saif Al-Islam remained obscure after these developments. A day after his father was slain, Saif Al-Islam was found and arrested. Under his father’s rule, he built a major diplomatic record, including the successful 2004 negotiations that led to a compensation deal with the US and Britain over the Pan Am Flight 103 crash in Lockerbie, Scotland which was blamed on a Libyan-plotted bombing aboard the plane. Also, the case of the Bulgarian medics injecting HIV to children in Libya was handled successfully by him in 2007. Analysts believed that Saif al-Islam would one day replace his father. Unlike his brother Al-Saadi, who was an adventurous athlete, he had leadership qualities, but the Arab uprisings shattered most of Saif al-Islam’s dreams of ruling the country. Things happened fast and he wanted to flex his muscles but later faced a series of defeats.
“Libya is witnessing rivers of blood. We will fight to the last drop of blood, to last man standing, to last bullet,” he said as the fighting against the opposition was raging.
Four years after Muammar fall, a Tripoli court convicted him for crimes he committed during the uprising and sentenced him to death. But in June 2017, he was released following a general amnesty by the Supreme Court and has since lived silently and away from the media and expressed his stances through his lawyers.
However, the 49-year-old is still wanted by the International Criminal Court for “war crimes.” But he says that the Libyan conditions over the past decade have been critical and “the armed group that detained me figured out at the end of the road that I can make a powerful ally.”
Saif Al-Islam, from enmity to revolutionaries to political factions’ friendship with him
Saif Al-Islam’s return to the Libyan political and power scene should not be limited to the past few weeks. In 2018, when the December elections date was set, he declared readiness to join the race. At that time and at present, many political observers, taking into consideration Libya’s tribal social and political structure, believe that he has the competency to lead the country. Simply, Libyan tribes can throw their weight behind his leadership bid.
The interesting point is that just unlike in the early years of uprising that some revolutionary forces were his sworn enemies, now part of them seek to take advantage of his political potentials and popular support base. In his recent interview he said that he was a free man and arranging for return to the political scene, adding that those who arrested him are now his friends and if the majority of Libyan people pick him leader, the existing legal issues can be settled.
Saif Al-Islam rising from ashes of political crisis
There is no doubt that re-emergence of Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi as a political figure in Libya can be seen as the result of the failure of the foreign intervention project in the country in the years after the uprising. The country has been in chaos in the years since Gaddafi was overthrown. The West under the cover of assisting the revolution but in fact for dominating the country’s oil and gas reserves waged war on Libya and paved the way for emergence of terrorism there. Over the past decade, the Libyans witnessed tough economic and civil war conditions.
In recent years, two rival governments have ruled over different parts of the country, one with the political support of the UN and the military support of Turkey and Qatar, and the other with the military support of Russia, the UAE, and Egypt.
Actually, it was less than five years from Gaddafi ouster that the differences in the new leadership rose to their highest levels. The division gave birth to the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) in the capital Tripoli and also to Tobruk-based Libyan National Army and political council led by General Khalifa Haftar. Also, much of the north is held by tribes allied to ISIS. In a campaign launched in 2019, Haftar pushed to seize the capital Tripoli from the GNA. He failed as the GNA received military assistance from Turkey.
Following Turkey’s resolved intervention in the Libyan civil war since June 2020 and the defeat of Khalifa Haftar’s forces, as well as the arrival of the two sides in the city of Sirte as a vital point between them and warning of direct Egyptian military intervention, the warring parties declared a ceasefire and emphasized on a diplomatic solution. A UN-sponsored meeting of the opposite sides in Geneva brought forth a deal according to which the two sides finally agreed to form an interim government in June 2020. Mohammad Yunus al-Manfi, an eastern diplomat, was elected head of Presidential Council and Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh, a businessman, was elected prime minister.
Ten years after Muammar ouster, Libya witnesses public and political tendency towards his son. (Ahlulbayt News Agency)