America’s Libyans

The Benghazi council chose as its leader the colorless former justice minister Mustafa Abdel Jalil.  Jalil’s brain is Mahmoud Jibril, a former head of the National Economic Development Board (NEDB).  A U.S. embassy cable from May 11, 2009 (09TRIPOLI386) describes Jibril as keen on a close relationship with the U.S. and eager “to create a strategic partnership between private companies and the government.”  Jibril’s NEBD had collaborated with Ernst & Young and the Oxford Group to make the Libyan state more “efficient.”  Jibril told the ambassador that “American companies and universities are welcome to join him” in the creation of new sectors outside hydrocarbons and that “we should take him up on his offer.”  His Ph.D. in strategic planning from the University of Pittsburg is useful in this context.

With Jalil and Jibril are the February 17 movement’s men.  They take their name from an uprising in Benghazi on February 17, 2006 that was crushed by Qaddafi.  These men (Fathi Boukhris, Farj Charrani, Mustafa Gheriani and All Ounes Mansouri) are all entrepreneurs.  Gheriani told Jon Lee Anderson that they are “Western-educated intellectuals” who would lead the new state, not the “confused mobs or religious extremists.”

In December 23, 2010, before the Tunisian uprising, Boukhris, Charrani and Mansouri went to Paris to meet with Qaddafi’s old aide-de-camp, Nuri Mesmari, who had defected to the Concorde-Lafayette hotel.  Mesmari was singing to the DGSE and Sarkozy about the weaknesses in the Libyan state.  His man in Benghazi was Colonel Abdallah Gehani of the air defense corps.  But Gehani would not be the chosen military leader.  The CIA already had its man in mind.  He would soon be in place.

By March 14, the military wing of the Benghazi rebellion had been turned over to an ex-Colonel of the Libyan army, Khalifa Heftir and to the former interior minister, General Abdel Fateh Younis.  Heftir made his name in Qaddafi’s war against Chad in the 1980s.  At some point in that conflict, Heftir turned against Qaddafi, joined the Libyan National Salvation Front, and operated his resistance out of Chad.  When the US-supported government of Chad, led by Hisséne Habré fell in 1990, Heftir fled Chad for the United States.  It is interesting that an ex-Colonel of the Libyan army was able to so easily gain entry into the United States.  Also of interest is the fact that Heftir took up residence in Vienna, Virginia, less than seven miles away from Langley, Virginia, the headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency.  In Vienna, Heftir formed the Libyan National Army.  In 1996, Heftir’s Army attempted an armed rebellion against Qaddafi in the eastern part of Libya.  It failed.  But that did not stop his plans.  History called him back fifteen years later.  In March 2011, Heftir flew into Benghazi to take command of the defected troops, joining Younis whose troops had been routed from Ras Lanouf on March 12.  They faced the advance of Qaddafi’s forces toward Benghazi.  It was in this context, with the uprising now firmly usurped by a neo-liberal political leadership and a CIA-backed military leadership, that talk of a no-fly zone emerged (Resolution 1973 went through the Council on March 19, and the bombing began immediately).  The U.S. and France provided crucial air support for the rebels.

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You invade Bahrain.  We take out Muammar Gaddafi in Libya.  This, in short, is the essence of a deal struck between the Barack Obama administration and the House of Saud.  Two diplomatic sources at the United Nations independently confirmed that Washington, via Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, gave the go-ahead for Saudi Arabia to invade Bahrain and crush the pro-democracy movement in their neighbor in exchange for a “yes” vote by the Arab League for a no-fly zone over Libya — the main rationale that led to United Nations Security Council resolution 1973.

The revelation came from two different diplomats, a European and a member of the BRIC group, and was made separately to a US scholar and Asia Times Online.  According to diplomatic protocol, their names cannot be disclosed.  One of the diplomats said, “This is the reason why we could not support resolution 1973.  We were arguing that Libya, Bahrain and Yemen were similar cases, and calling for a fact-finding mission.  We maintain our official position that the resolution is not clear, and may be interpreted in a belligerent manner.”

As Asia Times Online has reported, a full Arab League endorsement of a no-fly zone is a myth.  Of the 22 full members, only 11 were present at the voting.  Six of them were Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members, the US-supported club of Gulf kingdoms/sheikhdoms, of which Saudi Arabia is the top dog.  Syria and Algeria were against it.  Saudi Arabia only had to “seduce” three other members to get the vote.

Translation: only nine out of 22 members of the Arab League voted for the no-fly zone.  The vote was essentially a House of Saud-led operation, with Arab League secretary general Amr Moussa keen to polish his CV with Washington with an eye to become the next Egyptian President.

Thus, in the beginning, there was the great 2011 Arab revolt.  Then, inexorably, came the US-Saudi counter-revolution.

Vijay Prashad is the George and Martha Kellner Chair of South Asian History and Director of International Studies at Trinity College.  His most recent book, The Darker Nations: A People’s History of the Third World, won the Muzaffar Ahmad Book Prize for 2009.  The Swedish and French editions are just out.  He can be reached at <>.  Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World Is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007) and Red Zone Blues: A Snapshot of Baghdad during the Surge.  His new book, just out, is Obama Does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).  The three texts above, reproduced here for non-profit educational purposes, are: an excerpt from Vijay Prashad, “American’s Libyans” (CounterPunch, 31 April 2011); Franco Bechis, “Sarkozy manovra la rivolta libica” (Libero, 23 March 2011); and an excerpt from Pepe Escobar, “Exposed: The US-Saudi Libya Deal” (Asia Times Online, 2 April 2011).  See, also, Robert F. Worth, “On Libya’s Revolutionary Road” (New York Times, 3 April 2011).

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