This article in today’s New York Times, particularly these following two paragraphs, sent a shiver down my spine for the fate of the Libyan people:
“The most powerful military leader is now Abdel Hakim Belhaj, the former leader of a hard-line group once believed to be aligned with Al Qaeda.The growing influence of Islamists in Libya raises hard questions about the ultimate character of the government and society that will rise in place of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s autocracy.….
.…Mr. Belhaj has become so much an insider lately that he is seeking to unseat Mahmoud Jibril, the American-trained economist who is the nominal prime minister of the interim government, after Mr. Jibril obliquely criticized the Islamists.”
The Libyans, finally free of Gaddafi’s 42-year dictatorship, now seem faced with a choice between an Islamist faction that has stated publicly that it wants to base the new constitution on Sharia — a statement that must have caused a few ripples amongst Libya’s educated and relatively emancipated women — or a new government headed up by an American-trained economist.
And we all know what happens to countries when such economists move in: asset stripping, the syphoning off of the national wealth to transnational mega-corps, and a plunge in the people’s living standards. If you think this sounds extreme, then do get your hands on a copy of Naomi Klein’s excellent “Shock Doctrine” — required reading for anyone who wants to truly understand the growing global financial crisis.
Of course, this would be an ideal outcome for the US, UK and other western forces who intervened in Libya.
Mr Belhaj is, of course, another matter. Not only would an Islamist Libya be a potentially dangerous result for the West, but should Belhaj come to power he is likely to be somewhat hostile to US and particularly British interests.
Why? Well, Abdul Hakim Belhaj has form. He was a leading light in the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, a terrorist organisation which bought into the ideology of “Al Qaeda” and which had made many attempts to depose or assassinate Gaddafi, sometimes with the financial backing of the British spies, most notably in the failed assassination plot of 1996.
Of course, after 9/11 and Gaddafi’s rapprochement with the West, this collaboration was all air-brushed out of history — to such an extent that in 2004 MI6 was instrumental in kidnapping Belhaj, with the say-so of the CIA, and “extraordinarily rendering” him to Tripoli in 2004, where he suffered 6 years’ torture at the hands of Libya’s brutal intelligences services. After this, I doubt if he would be minded to work too closely with UK companies.
So I’m willing to bet that there is more behind-the-scenes meddling from our spooks, to ensure the ascendency of Jibril in the new government. Which will be great for Western business, but not so great for the poor Libyans.….