Late Night Libya Update: Defections and “Secret Talks”

Saif Gaddafi

This is just a quick update on the events of the last couple of days related to Libya. You can use this as an open thread. The big headline is that Gaddafi’s sons may want to find a way out of the mess they’re in. Last night the Guardian reported that

Colonel Gaddafi’s regime has sent one of its most trusted envoys to London for confidential talks with British officials, the Guardian can reveal.

Mohammed Ismail, a senior aide to Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam, visited London in recent days, British government sources familiar with the meeting have confirmed. The contacts with Ismail are believed to have been one of a number between Libyan officials and the west in the last fortnight, amid signs that the regime may be looking for an exit strategy.

Disclosure of Ismail’s visit comes in the immediate aftermath of the defection to Britain of Moussa Koussa, Libya’s foreign minister and its former external intelligence head, who has been Britain’s main conduit to the Gaddafi regime since the early 1990s.

In the Guardian’s follow-up article, Peter Beaumont writes that Gaddafi’s sons seem to be running things in Libya, and they want to make a deal with the opposition fighters.

…increasingly, according to those familiar with how Saif and his brother Saadi are thinking, Gaddafi’s sons have become aware that they have a problem that they need to find a way out of – despite Saif’s bellicose language.

Ismail’s visit, described in Tripoli as a trip to see his children who are being educated in Britain, is all the more significant given the defection of Libya’s foreign minister and former external intelligence chief, Moussa Koussa.

He was here, say Foreign Office sources, on regime business. And that is significant at a time when diplomats and others have been in the capital to discuss how Libya might be after Gaddafi.

While it is difficult to assess in a regime as opaque as Libya, the evidence is that something is afoot. What it suggests is that under intense international pressure, key figures around Gaddafi – including, it would seem, some of his sons – are reaching out to channels of communication with the west.

According to Beaumont, there have been a number of contacts between Libya and the Brits, the French, and the U.S. in the past couple of weeks. Nevertheless, Gaddafi turned down the opposition’s offer of a cease fire today.

The tempo of diplomatic and military action paving the way to a possible ceasefire in Libya’s bloody civil war was gathering pace yesterday with reports that a son of Muammar Gaddafi was attempting to broker a deal.

Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, who has appeared as a public and belligerent face of the regime during the weeks of violent strife, is said to be proposing an agreement which would limit the role of his father and include opposition figures in an interim government. Elections would be held in the near future and a “reconciliation process” put in place.

The details of the plan cannot be independently verified. However, according to diplomatic sources, senior officials in the West view Saif al-Islam, who supposedly wants to remain to play a “constructive role” in a post-war Libya, as a credible figure.

I don’t think the opposition is interested in having anyone from the Gaddafi family involved in the running any future Libyan government though.

Some other important members of Gaddafi’s regime have already defected, and the Guardian provides a list of those, along with big names who are sticking by the Libyan dictator.

The latest defector was Ali Adussalm Treki, had been appointed to represent Libya at the UN. Yesterday Treki, who was in Cairo, announced that he would not accept the post and did not intend to return to Libya. The Arabist Blog excerpted an article from the London Times (behind a paywall) that says more defections are coming.

…there were reports that other top Libyan officials had also defected, including the Prime Minister, the Speaker of Parliament, the head of external intelligence and the Oil Minister. An influential deputy foreign minister was also said to have quit.

If those reports are confirmed, it would suggest that Colonel Gaddafi’s regime is is indeed “crumbling and rotten” – as David Cameron said today – and about to collapse around its leader.

Another name added to the list of defectors was Ali Adussalm Treki, a former foreign minister whom Colonel Gaddaffi had appointed as ambassador to the UN. He refused to take up the post, condemning the “spilling of blood”.

Since Gaddafi was running low on candidates for the UN ambassador, he asked someone from Nicaragua to do the job. From Bloomberg:

Miguel D’Escoto Brockmann, a former foreign minister of Nicaragua’s socialist Sandinista government and one-time president of the United Nations General Assembly, has been named by Muammar Qaddafi’s regime as Libya’s ambassador to the UN.

D’Escoto Brockmann, a Catholic priest who was General Assembly president in 2008 and 2009, once said former U.S. Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush were “possessed by the demons of manifest destiny.” D’Escoto was Nicaragua’s foreign minister for the Sandinista government as it fought U.S.-backed contra rebels during the nation’s 1980s civil war.

He called Reagan a “butcher of my people” for supporting a rebellion that caused Nicaraguans to suffer “something much bigger than the Twin Towers,” a reference to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York.

Nicaragua’s government said in a statement that D’Escoto Brockmann received instructions from Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega to “accept this nomination and represent the people and government of Libya to re-establish peace and defend their legitimate right to resolve their national conflicts without foreign intervention.”

Meanwhile, Libya is apparently crawling with CIA, MI6, and goddess knows what other secret operatives. Mark Hosenball, who first broke the story of Obama’s “secret finding,” now says intelligence operatives were there before Obama signed the authorization. I guess those guys don’t count as boots on the ground? Well, they still make me nervous.

U.S. intelligence operatives were on the ground in Libya before President Barack Obama signed a secret order authorizing covert support for anti-Gaddafi rebels, U.S. government sources told Reuters.

The CIA personnel were sent in to contact opponents of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and assess their capabilities, two U.S. officials said.

“They’re trying to sort out who could be turned into a military unit and who couldn’t,” said Bob Baer, a former CIA case officer whose memoirs were turned into the Hollywood thriller “Syriana.”

Baer said the U.S. operatives most likely entered Libya on the ground through neighboring Egypt and are lightly equipped.

The president — who said in a speech on Monday “that we would not put ground troops into Libya” — has legal authority to send U.S. intelligence personnel without having to sign a covert action order, current and former U.S. officials said.

Within the last two or three weeks, Obama did sign a secret “finding” authorizing the CIA to pursue a broad range of covert activities in support of the rebels.

Hosenball also says Obama is considering sending in special forces to help train the Libyan opposition fighters. I don’t like the sound of that either.

I’ve been supportive of the no-fly zone, just to prevent a massacre, but I don’t want to see this go much further.

UPDATE: The former Sandanista who had agreed to act as Libya’s UN representative has changed his mind.

The apparent about-face by Mr. D’Escoto, whose country has forged an unlikely friendship with Libya, marked a modest setback for the government of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi. It has endured several high-profile defections from among its diplomatic ranks this week, including the decision of its former foreign minister, Moussa Koussa, to defect in London.

Libya’s ambassador to the United Nations, Abdurrahman Mohamed Shalgam, defected in late February after denouncing Colonel Qaddafi during a Security Council meeting in which he pleaded for international help to save Libya from bloodshed. Then, the Libyan government’s choice to replace him, Ali Treki, a close associate of Mr. Qaddafi and a former United Nations General Assembly President, left the government and the country. But Mr. Treki said in an interview in Cairo on Friday that he would not call himself a defector.

A Nicaraguan diplomat, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly, said that the initiative to appoint Mr. D’Escoto as Libya’s envoy had come from Libya, and not Nicaragua. He declined to comment on the reasons underlying Mr. D’Escoto’s decision to represent Nicaragua instead, but he said that Mr. D’Escoto would use his new position to press for a cease fire in Libya.

Hmmm….sounds like someone pressured someone. Maybe Russia?


19 Comments on “Late Night Libya Update: Defections and “Secret Talks””

  1. WomanVoter says:

    (((Clapping))) That is a perfect photo of Saif Gaddafi, Mr. threatening folks with ‘The last bullet’.

    State TV staring Ben Ali, Mubarak, Gaddafi and Saif Gaddafi.

  2. bostonboomer says:

    Ex-Qaddafi Spy Chief Koussa May Spill Libyan Terror Secrets

    Moussa Koussa, the Libyan foreign minister and former intelligence chief who flew to London on March 30, may spill secrets of Libya’s trail of terror, including the 1988 Lockerbie bombing, as he tries to gain favorable treatment from the U.K., former intelligence officials said.

    Koussa, saying he would no longer represent Qaddafi’s regime, flew to London this week, after crossing from Libya to Tunisia by land. He’s since been sequestered at an undisclosed location for questioning, U.K. Foreign Minister William Hague said.

    “He certainly knows backward and forward what Libyan intelligence has been doing for the last several decades,” said Bruce Riedel, a former U.S. intelligence officer who negotiated with Koussa to dismantle Libya’s nuclear and chemical weapons programs. “He probably knows exactly what happened to Pan Am 103 and may well have his own fingerprints on that.”

    • WomanVoter says:

      I think once the ‘Dirty Laundry’ is aired out for the for all to see, we will be very surprised at all that Gaddafi has been into.

      Syria’s president had people (in his camp) calling for him to be president of the world and of course we know Gaddafi wanted to be ‘Dear Leader’ to all of Africa. What egos… 😯

  3. bostonboomer says:

    Japan’s next scheme to deal with their Chernobyl x 4 is to spray resin all over the toxic waste and put the contaminated water on a “mega barge.”

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703712504576236820922754898.html?mod=googlenews_wsj

    • WomanVoter says:

      If the world hasn’t learned after this accident they will never learn. When the problems were first reported, Japan should have received and gotten help for their nuclear reactors and had everything available possible. There really needs to be a response team to deal with these situations.

      Today a Mayor of a Japanese city sent out an SOS, and I hope someone in Japan responds, as he says he has about 20,000 residents, Sheltering In Place, but they are running out of supplies. He has begun some evacuations, some have left on their own but still he has 20,000 residents to care for.

      An SOS By The Mayor Of Minami Soma City Fukushima

  4. bostonboomer says:

    I missed this when it was first published.

    Fukushima Engineer Says He Helped Cover Up Flaw at Dai-Ichi Reactor No. 4

    Mitsuhiko Tanaka says he helped conceal a manufacturing defect in the $250 million steel vessel installed at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi No. 4 reactor while working for a unit of Hitachi Ltd. (6501) in 1974. The reactor, which Tanaka has called a “time bomb,” was shut for maintenance when the March 11 earthquake triggered a 7-meter (23-foot) tsunami that disabled cooling systems at the plant, leading to explosions and radiation leaks.

    “Who knows what would have happened if that reactor had been running?” Tanaka, who turned his back on the nuclear industry after the Chernobyl disaster, said in an interview last week. “I have no idea if it could withstand an earthquake like this. It’s got a faulty reactor inside.”

    Tanaka’s allegations, which he says he brought to the attention of Japan’s Trade Ministry in 1988 and chronicled in a book two years later called “Why Nuclear Power is Dangerous,” have resurfaced after Japan’s worst nuclear accident on record. The No. 4 reactor was hit by explosions and a fire that spread from adjacent units as the crisis deepened.

  5. mjames says:

    Obama has proven himself to be a liar many times over. What was the first lie? FISA? Public funding of his campaign? I forget, there are so effing many. He has no credibility at all, as far as I’m concerned. The second he opens his mouth, I expect a lie. That’s what he does and that is what he is. One gigantic lie.

    Libya? This was probably a CIA operation from the gitgo. Humanitarian, my a$$. This was never about saving lives. This guy is one sick creep and a war criminal many times over. Gotta beef up those war credentials, dontcha know? It’s election mode in the warmongering US of A.

    We are so screwed. And I am sick over the loss of lives at this monster’s hands.

    • boogieman7167 says:

      i think you can kiss any cease fire good bye
      now that they are on the run sure they do. i dot think why Qaddafi would want one at lest not now .

    • bostonboomer says:

      MJames,

      Obama didn’t want to do this. It was Hillary who did. Is she “a sick creep and war criminal many times over?” According to your analysis, I guess she is.

      As far as the election goes, Obama’s approval ratings are at an all-time low, and Americans don’t like us getting involved in Libya, so I doubt that was the motivation. In fact I think that’s why Obama wanted to limit U.S. involvement so he could get out before the campaign starts. I just hope this won’t result in President Bachmann or Palin in 2012.

  6. Minkoff Minx says:

    Fukushima Daiichi Plant Reactor Core Damaged – NYTimes.com

    Energy Secretary Steven Chu said Friday that roughly 70 percent of the core of one reactor at the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan had suffered severe damage.

    His assessment of the damage to Reactor No. 1 was the most specific yet from an American official on how close the plant came to a full meltdown after it was hit by a severe earthquake and massive tsunami on March 11.

    • bostonboomer says:

      Hi Minx,

      That story reads like pure propaganda to me. Chu claims the worst is over? And yets 70% of the core is “damaged?” I think the New Scientist story I posted above is probably more realistic.

  7. doctory says:

    The real failure is to deal with Qadafi as a current, genuine threat to our security and our national interest. In 2 weeks, the coalition made almost no errors. In 2 days, NATO has ignored pleas of Libyan towns like Misrata and Zentan, where civilians are slaughtered and or kidnapped at will, and has already bombed the freedom fighters “by accident.”

    So why has NATO screwed this up so badly? MONEY MONEY MONEY:
    Erdogan was given last year Gadaffi’s award of peace, including $250k
    Turkish contracts awarded worth estimated 15b dollars, w/ more then 25,000 Turks in Libya
    1000 Turks company registered and working in Libya
    Russia has unlimited projects; the last project they got last year is to build railway for total contract of 5 billion dollars
    Russia has additional concessions for several oil fields, unknown contracts for arms, etc
    India has concession of the meal factory in Misurata, and several other major contracts worth billions
    Germany, Brasil, Italy and China have multi billion dollar contracts as well

    Estimated $125 billion to all these countries and all will be reviewed for irregularities after Qadafi is gone.

    OBAMA MUST PROTECT US INTERESTS FROM RUSSIA, INDIA, CHINA, ETC. These are not our friends, and they are chomping at the bit for more oil and more money. Screw them!

    • dakinikat says:

      There’s a variety of economic interests here and a lot of them have nothing to do with national borders. If we don’t get away from the idea of sovereign national compared to multiconglomerate international institutions and individuals that don’t care where the borders are, we will remained mired in 20th century solutions/thinking with 21st century problems. It’s not the border or the nation at all. It’s the economic interests that could care less about national boundaries and have power everywhere. The energy industry is not loyal to any country. Nor are weapons makers. They go where the money is. I think you need to get out of the 20th century notion that nation’s borders really matter much any more in the grander scheme of things. Just a thought for you. The powers that call the shots really don’t care about the boundaries. They only care about where the opportunities are and how they can extract the power and money from them. Most of the nation’s governments are still fairly parochial except when it comes to serving the economic interests of which ever business provides their political class with booty at the moment. Just think BP and it’s huge interests right now in Russia. It ain’t Russia. It’s BP and the ilk.

      • doctory says:

        Good comment, although in some states the line between corporation and government is completely blurred. But we also have to get out of these cartoonish characterizations of US Imperialism blah blah. Come off it, Russia has made billions of Libyan suffering. India, China, etc. are not engaged in some anti-colonial struggle for redistribution. They (as both states and corp entities within states) are out to get as much as possible. 40 years later and despite billions in oil revenues, Libya still has schools without windows. That is not because of the big bad USA. And not a word on Qadafi’s financial and logistical backing of child armies of Charles Taylor and Sankoh and Chad atrocities, etc etc. Regarding “anti-black” sentiment among freedom fighters, better to look at facts; the day Qadafi’s forces nearly entered Benghazi, a platoon of 22 was captured. Only ONE of them was a Libyan citizen. Furthermore, the darker skin communities of the south have been badly manipulated by Qadafi, with many unkept promises, such that the Tabo people have affiliated with the freedom fighters to stop the massive inflow of mercenaries from Niger, Chad, etc. And really, to describe Qadafi as “anti-imperialist” is a total joke. He plowed billions into a variety of “wealth managers” and certainly knows how to play the game. In the end, we have a royal family that demands total unquestioning obedience. And when Libyan youth (and yes it was the youth who started this confrontation) thought otherwise, he slaughtered them. By the way, estimates of 15,000-20,000 youth have been kidnapped as his thugs plow through each city.

      • dakinikat says:

        I do think that there are many corporate states which is why I fear fascism more than any silly notion there’s still dangerous Marxists around the world. The problem is the moneyed interests in cahoots with politicians who want their parochial interests served.

  8. foxyladi14 says:

    the worse is yet to come