Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
August 28, 2011

Abdelhakim Belhadj And Saif al-Islam Gaddhafi

The Independent reports today what was to be expected of some of the rebels in Libya:

Yesterday, The Independent on Sunday learned that the rebel military commander behind the successful assault on Tripoli had fought in Afghanistan alongside the Taliban and was an Islamist terror suspect interrogated by the CIA. Abdelhakim Belhadj, the newly appointed commander of the Tripoli Military Council is a former emir of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) – banned by Britain and the US as a terrorist organisation after the 9/11 attacks.

Maybe the Independent on Sunday learned this from watching Pepe Escobar who reported it yesterday on Russia TV (video).

Or maybe Pepe Escobar and the Independent read about this in the piece by Hossam Salama published last Thursday in the English version of Asaraq Al-Awsat:

Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat – Abdelhakim Belhadj is the commander of the Libyan rebel Tripoli Military Council; he emerged as a leader during the Libyan rebels’ operation to liberate the Libyan capital from Gaddafi control. Belhadj is also a former Emir of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), which was banned internationally as a terrorist organization following the 9/11 attacks.

Funny how much gets reported without giving credit where its due to those who did the original work.

But away from that the the issue is interesting because what follows from it. Abdelhakim Belhadj and his fellow LIFG fighters now in charge of Tripoli have personal reasons to hate the U.S. and to like Saif al-Islam. This could further a comeback for Saif.

Abdelhakim Belhadj (aka Abdelhakim Al-Khoweildy aka Abu Abdullah Assadaq aka Abdallah al-Sadeq) fought with the Mujahedeen against the Soviets, was caught after 9/11 and tortured by the CIA.

According to Human Rights Watch which later interviewed him in a Libyan prison:

Malaysian security officials had arrested him on March 3, 2004 and handed him over to the CIA which he says interrogated and tortured him in Thailand. The CIA rendered Abdelhakim Al-Khoweildy to Libya on March 9, 2004.

In a footnote HRW notices:

His claims are consistent with what is known about the CIA's treatment of detainees, ...

In Libya Abdelhakim Belhadj was kept in prison on death row until March 2010 and was released on the insistence of Gaddhafi's son Saif al-Islam:

"These releases come in the context of national reconciliation and social peace," said Mohamed al Allagi, chairman of the human rights committee of the Gaddafi Foundation, the charity which helped organize the release.

The charity is headed by Saif al-Islam, a reform-minded son of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi who some analysts say could eventually succeed his father.

Saif al-Islam has campaigned for reconciliation with Islamists who promise to lay down their arms. His initiative has met resistance from conservatives in his father's entourage with whom he is competing for influence.

Saif al-Islam seems to have trusted Abdelhakim Belhadj's on others claimed conversion to peaceful means. He has some reason to be disappointed by them. But he has even more reason to be disappointed with the "west".

In his last public interview Saif al-Islam said that he will join forces with the Islamists:

“The liberals will escape or be killed,” the son, Seif al-Islam el-Qaddafi, vowed in an hourlong interview that stretched past midnight. “We will do it together,” he added, wearing a newly grown beard and fingering Islamic prayer beads as he reclined on a love seat in a spare office tucked in a nearly deserted downtown hotel. “Libya will look like Saudi Arabia, like Iran. So what?”

By no means is the rebellion or revolution in Libya over. Lots of things will still happen.

Saif al-Islam has personally helped to get Abdelhakim Belhadj and many other LIFG folks off the death row and out of prison. He knows them well. They have at least some good reason to be thankful to him. 

The "western" forces that arranged for the current upper hand of the rebels will now try to scheme their ways into installing a pliant puppet regime. The LIFG folks will not like that and Abdelhakim Belhadj will remember who tortured him.

An "expert" in the Independent says 30% of the rebel front fighters are Islamists. They do have the force and military means to win against the more liberal revolutionaries. They did not join the rebellion for seculatity, liberty or democracy. If Gaddhafi or his son can get some of their constituency to join with them, there may well be a comeback to the top for at least Saif al-Islam.

Posted by b on August 28, 2011 at 17:41 UTC | Permalink


Why the sudden attack of after battle remorse? And what about some in the NTC playing as 'nationalists' and rejecting any chance for extradition of libyans to western countries (obviously this is about 'the Lockerbie Bomber').

What U.S. ignores about Libyan rebels could be lethal

Also AJE has an OPED about western and oil interests (no mention about Qatar, oil interests and their attempts at controlling the Arab world).

Posted by: ThePaper | Aug 28 2011 18:17 utc | 1

At the end who controls Libya? The 'rebels'? And who are the rebels?

At least for me it's who control the money and the weapons (the real weapons that 'won' the 'rebellion'). And that's not anyone remotely connected with Libya.

The tribe of the killed military rebel leader Younes was yesterday threatening 'war on the East' if their are not given proper compensation.

At the end of the day the ones with the money and weapons can hire a different set of warlords and militias if that suits their interests and if that includes some 'ex-gaddafist' tribes or militias no problems at all. See all the ministers from Gaddafi government turning on western country and changing sides.

Posted by: ThePaper | Aug 28 2011 18:23 utc | 2

If Gaddhafi or his son can get some of their constituency to join with them, there may well be a comeback to the top for at least Saif al-Islam.

I wouldn't be at all surprised if Qaddafi is planning a comeback coup.

Hardly to be supported though.

Posted by: alexno | Aug 28 2011 19:13 utc | 3

Could very likely happen like that. Once NATO has used the Islamists to win the war in Libya they will probably lean on the NTC to throw them under the bus. Would give a prime opportunity for Seif Gaddaffi to wave the Islamic banner as a new leader. Doubt Gaddaffi senior would mind he always planned to groom Seif to replace him.

Also in the Pepe Escobar interview he mentioned that he had checked his "Jihadist sources" in Pakistan and Afghanistan who had confirmed that Belhadj had fought with the Taliban and was now commanding the attack on Tripoli. So Pepe might have got the news from a different source.

Posted by: Colm O' Toole | Aug 28 2011 20:08 utc | 4

Some people are going to be very disappointed about this...

Posted by: dh | Aug 28 2011 20:34 utc | 5

i love pete escobar. awesome video!

Posted by: annie | Aug 28 2011 20:51 utc | 6

I think that NYT article is suspicious. The journalist tells us what Saif is saying, with snippets, no link to the full interview. The occasional snippets don't quite justify the journalistic line. I asked at the time if there the unedited interview was available anywhere, no joy, but maybe it is now?

From the snippets released at the time, it seemed to me Saif was saying:

"The only two actual power groups here are us and the Islamists. Maybe we could work together!"

Irony, irony, oh the irony! - is what I heard, rather than a serious position.

(The story of the beard and the prayer beads also seems ironic - look, I can be a jihadi too! There was no such beard when he appeared at the Rixos hotel after his supposed capture.)

If together they make up a majority on-the-ground military power base, I can see a common ground in kicking out NATO advisors, businessmen, etc. - but to create what?

Posted by: ahji | Aug 28 2011 21:14 utc | 7

"Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun."

Posted by: somebody | Aug 28 2011 21:21 utc | 8

no seriously, who pays? ideology is used to cover power, no?
all these actors need money from somewhere, and they can get the oil flowing only if they unite. It would be a miracle if they can work it out.

Posted by: somebody | Aug 28 2011 22:19 utc | 9

Fwiw, I flagged that item in previous thread (linking to French media).

I’ve no doubt that some factions in the TNC - and their paymasters / controllers are ready to throw those militias under the bus; whether they will fully succeed is obviously up in the air. The whole country now appears to be flooded with relative modern weapons; I doubt those will be easily put back under state control in the coming weeks.

Iraq redux indeed. ‘Funny’ how all those “humanitarian” Western interventions always end with the targeted country in a semi-state of permanent war.

Posted by: philippe | Aug 28 2011 23:28 utc | 10

a brawl on AJazeera between a NTC representative and a Kenyan diplomat over African Union relations with Libya

one big problem is that the great part of Libyan resources where invested by Gheddafi in Africa, and there isn't a consensus to return them to TNC; indeed, some have been nationalized by recipient countries (no further details given)

Posted by: claudio | Aug 28 2011 23:32 utc | 11

"It is not necessary to bury the truth. It is sufficient merely to delay it until nobody cares". Napoléon Bonaparte.

While the NATO-Financed Al Qeada-linked Mercenaries in Libya are murdering any and all that might have supported Ghaddafi the execrable BBC (Propaganda wing of the NATO-Member British State, currently bombing Libya) publishes a concern-troll 'story' (and a story is all it is) titled "Libya rebels fear for Gaddafi prisoners"

Remember that there is photographic evidence of these NATO-Financed Al Qeada 'rebels' murdering prisoners who have had their hands cuffed. -

But the BBC wants us to think it's Ghaddafi that might murder prisoners and makes absolutely no mention of the 'rebels' murdering prisoners.

Consider also the details of this ridiculous piece of BBC propaganda - the story states that

Libyan rebels say they are concerned over the fate of thousands of prisoners held in Tripoli by the Gaddafi regime.

Rebel military spokesman Col Ahmed Omar Bani said almost 50,000 people arrested in recent months were unaccounted for.

The rebels believe they may be being held in underground bunkers, which have since been abandoned.

This figure of 50,000 is pure nonsense - - 50,000 people take up a LOT of space, dead or alive, you cannot hide that number of people, or their bodies. Mass-Graves would show up pretty quickly. right now there must be at least 4 or 5 satellites, at an absolute minimum, trained on Libya, so where are these mythical 50,000 people being held?

Note that the BBC thought of that so they inserted complete nonsense about "they may be being held in underground bunkers" - pure nonsense - anyone that swallows such nonsense should consider themselves bona-fide morons

Rights groups have seen evidence that dozens of people have been massacred near prisons, but Col Bani did not accuse anyone of killing the prisoners.

Yes, because as France 24 have told us It is the NATO-Financed 'rebels' who are massacring these people. -

"The number of people arrested over the past months is estimated at between 57,000 and 60,000," he said in a news conference in Benghazi.

"Between 10,000 and 11,000 prisoners have been freed up until now... so where are the others?"

The colonel appealed for anyone with information to come forward, and said it would be "catastrophic" if they had been killed.

These 'rebels' (NATO-Financed Al Qeada mercenaries) are simply laying the groundwork for when evidence of massacres becomes undeniable - they can simply point the finger at Ghaddafi, and claim that the murders the rebels themselves are RIGHT NOW committing, are actually these non-existent 50,000 'disappeared'

And the BBC is happily helping them do this - some arse-head hack named Jon Lynne writes

Those still missing are many of the tens of thousands of Libyans rounded up since the start of the revolution on 17 February. They include protesters, both from Tripoli and elsewhere in the country.

The opposition insist they have kept detailed records.
[ O'Rly? And how exactly did they do this? The 'rebels' rolled in from the East - they had almost NO structure in Tripoli. How exactly did they keep "detailed records" of anonymous people in crowds in Tripoli being arrested?]

So they know that 57,000-60,000 Libyans were arrested, but so far only 11,000 are accounted for.

The fear is that the rest are still trapped in secret underground prison bunkers, where they have been abandoned by their captors since the opposition overran Tripoli. It's a race against time to find and to release them.

More of the 'seekrit underground bunker' crap - the BBC must think everyone is an idiot to even think they could get away with this shite.

What kind of moron would swallow this drivel?

Posted by: Hu Bris | Aug 29 2011 0:51 utc | 12

I should not think the Transitional Council can count to 11000 quite frankly.

more on that water thing

Posted by: somebody | Aug 29 2011 6:10 utc | 13

I read Pepe Escobars article in Asia Times, I don't think an alliance between Gaddafi and Islamist forces is possible
- Islamists presumably are financed by Gulf countries, their sponsors would not agree
- Nato tries to keep out of sight as much as possible, using Libyan expatriates and services from Arab countries i.e. Jordan, so internally there is no reason to join in fight
- Gaddafi and Islamists are competitors in the unification of Libya, Islamist ideology would go across tribes
an alliance between Gaddafi forces and tribes is much more likely as their power is threatened by Islamists, too
to sort this mess out will take a long time, if Libyans do not insist on a ceasefire by all sides

Posted by: somebody | Aug 29 2011 10:46 utc | 14


"The UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, has called on world leaders to "come together as one" to help Libya deal with humanitarian concerns.

He said there were widespread shortages of fuel, food and medical supplies, and that problems with the water supply in Tripoli were putting the lives of millions of people at risk."

protecting civilians anyone?

Posted by: somebody | Aug 29 2011 11:31 utc | 15

and Nato bombed a field hospital

Posted by: somebody | Aug 29 2011 12:30 utc | 16

Juan Cole is delusional.......

Posted by: georgeg | Aug 29 2011 13:45 utc | 17

Juan Cole is delusional.......

Posted by: georgeg | Aug 29 2011 13:45 utc | 18

Belhadj was arrested, according to many sites in French (one ex in Eng below), in 2003, not 2004, and he probably spent a year in one of secret prisons. I find this believable as a 6-day stay, in March 2004, in the hands of the US anti-terror secret prison system is absolutely unheard of, specially if it included torture. Even an innocent American or a ‘secret’ CIA operative would not have gotten out in 5 days but something more like 5 months or longer..

Seif’s liberation of Islamist ‘terrorists’ was, I believe, as announced, in the spirit of national reconciliation and internal ‘peace’. It was an obvious move, and right in line with the K-clan’s multiple other appeasement moves, both within and towards the outside. Freeing some “US terror suspect caught in their crazed hunt for Muslims, etc.” would, I guess, have been approved of in Lybia by the man in the street. Of course, Saif released some other LIFG types plus some 200+ other ‘islamists’ (? number from news articles only.) Note, this was not just a blanket amnesty but was preceded by intense negotiation and the drafting of a new position paper by the top Islamists, and the freed were handpicked (I have read.)

When dragged-out coups or rumbling civil wars occur, any group that has a ‘base’ and a minimal organization and / or knee-jerk sympathy quotient (and there is nothing to beat religion there) will do well at the start. They either jump in or are courted to join, or both at once, but the future for them is often less rosy.

So the US, now here NATO, uses or exploits or supports ‘muslim fighters’ for their own purposes, that is very old news.

I also very much doubt any K-clan <> religionist alliance, Saif may be playing his last cards.. But who knows...Lybia is very opaque to me.

Posted by: Noirette | Aug 29 2011 13:52 utc | 19

Juan Cole is delusional. I would like to se the US left flank openly challenge Amy Goodman and the crew of Democracy Now! to quit giving him a bullhorn. I caught him cheering this madness on her show in the beginning and what was called victory last week... sickened me... she should know much better in her gut alone.

Posted by: Eureka Springs | Aug 29 2011 14:52 utc | 20

BBC reporting atrocities being committed by non-rebel forces in Libya. Who knows? One would do well to remember the bull-shit stories about the Iraqi troops that made the rounds( babies thrown from incubators), during the first gulf war, and the Iraqi invasion after 9/11. I don't know the truth, but, sounds remarkably like more justification for boots on the ground( NATO, UN). We'll see.

Posted by: ben | Aug 29 2011 16:06 utc | 21

somebody @23: Thanks for the link. More light shed on the sleaze balls that run the U.S. foreign policy.

Posted by: ben | Aug 29 2011 23:53 utc | 24

somebody@23: That is a good link. I have been wondering if finding a pliable host for Africom was the backstory for this whole sordid adventure.

Posted by: Maxcrat | Aug 30 2011 2:03 utc | 25

more on that water thing

Posted by: somebody | Aug 30 2011 6:01 utc | 26

and real life kicks in

Posted by: somebody | Aug 30 2011 6:28 utc | 27

and this African thing

Posted by: somebody | Aug 30 2011 8:29 utc | 28

Libya: The Other Side of the Story

A very good piece. Recommended.

Posted by: b | Aug 30 2011 16:33 utc | 29

i'd caution against reading too much into that cable @23 wrt NATO's green light for the use of force for regime change in libya. first, it was from two-and-a-half years ago and, second, the cable describes what is simply a part of what the combatant command has pursued throughout africa - to use carrots to cement mil-to-mil relationships w/ all nations under its (self-appointed) "area of responsibility" and get its boot in the door and attache's established in positions of influence/eavesdropping. libya has been a key player in that region & elsewhere and was an obvious target for both of those objectives, as well as a necessary public relations boost for AFRICOM in assauging concerns over imperial designs. the cable just provides a primer to the then-commander. and the colonel had been playing along, from what i recall reading, though still refraining from offering to host any imperial outpost. i don't see anything in there suggesting other than getting libya onboard through him and his network.

i still contend that setting up an AFRICOM base in libya is part of the reason the u.s. govt/military was supportive of this assault on libya/libyans, though. as i surmised at the outset, months back, AFRICOM will try for a physical presence in libya (probably along the lines of what was announced in southern sudan just recently) and a good part of the rationale will be training forces to protect critical energy infrastructure while also looking out to shore up client regimes throughout the broader region against popular mvmts ala the arab spring.

whether AFRICOM can pull that off, however, is a whole other story, given the context, which saw AFRICOM leading all-out military operations to bring about regime change in a key oil producing nation under the cover of R2P/humanitarian intervention, and how that is received and weighed largely by peoples w/ very long memories & a historical awareness.

Posted by: b real | Aug 30 2011 18:19 utc | 30

what people can do re Libya and NATO: charge it with war crimes

Posted by: brian | Aug 30 2011 22:06 utc | 31 mean there are two sides? well there is the medias side...and then theres the truth.

Posted by: brian | Aug 30 2011 22:07 utc | 32

sorry B bit not as impressed by your post (29) as you might be...but this is cute:
'“NATO regrets the loss of innocent civilian lives and takes great care in conducting strikes against a regime determined to use violence against its own citizens.”' sure you are, NATO! This is from europe, where supposedly we have civic society! yet where surprisingly we have noone opposing NATOs war! You crty in the streets and you will be ignored

I will take Libyas non-civic society to the EUs example any day.

Posted by: brian | Aug 30 2011 22:11 utc | 33

1D4TW "In Libya, Captured Loyalist Says Qaddafi ‘Gave Us Dignity’ -" ( ) #Libya
about 3 hours ago

what will the european backed satrapy eg in civics?!

Posted by: brian | Aug 30 2011 22:20 utc | 34

1D4TW #NATO unable to explain how striking Sirte is protecting civilians -- no doesn't ( ) #Libya
about 6 hours ago

its a lesson in civics!

Posted by: brian | Aug 30 2011 22:20 utc | 35

1D4TW At UN on Libya, Ban Ki-moon Refuses to Take Questions on Leaked Report ( ) #Libya
about 17 hours ago

if i was him i bury myself in the bowels of the UN till this trouble blows over...suprised anyone is asking him a question at all: that so unlike the media, which prefers dictation!

Posted by: brian | Aug 30 2011 22:22 utc | 36

tweets of the day

Paul Danahar
@pdanahar Tripoli
BBC Middle East Bureau Chief

pdanahar Paul Danahar
Could be argued that as NTC presence is mainly coastal most of the country, if not the population, is still under #Gaddafi influence #Libya
vor 17 Stunden
Paul Danahar
pdanahar Paul Danahar
For anyone wondering where #Gaddafi is it's quite instructive to open out a map & remind yourself #Libya is a bloody big place to hide in
vor 17 Stunden

Paul Denahar

Posted by: somebody | Aug 31 2011 9:06 utc | 37

Ah ha! Perhaps this fine blogger reads MOA...)

"Democracy Now?"
Meet Professor Juan Cole, Consultant to the CIA

Thus on March 19, 2003, as the imperial invasion commenced, Cole enthused on his blog: “I remain (Emphasis mine.) convinced that, for all the concerns one might have about the aftermath, the removal of Saddam Hussein and the murderous Baath regime from power will be worth the sacrifices that are about to be made on all sides.” Now, with over 1 million Iraqis dead, 4 million displaced and the country’s infrastructure destroyed, might Cole still echo Madeline Albright that the price was “worth it”? Cole has called the Afghan War “the right war at the right time” and has emerged as a cheerleader for Obama’s unconstitutional war on Libya and for Obama himself.

Cole claims to be a man of the left and he appears with painful frequency on Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now as the reigning “expert” on the war on Libya. This is deeply troubling – on at least two counts. First, can one be a member of the “left” and also an advocate for the brutal intervention by the Great Western Powers in the affairs of a small, relatively poor country? Apparently so, at least in Democracy Now’s version of the “left.”

Posted by: Eureka Springs | Aug 31 2011 16:22 utc | 38

Belhaj (or whatever of his multiple names and alias) has clearly become a celebrity.

More about the future conflicts between the 'victors': NATO vs Qatar, islamists vs 'liberals', east and west and the 'tribes'.

Meanwhile NATO increases the bombing campaign on central Libyan cities to 'protect civilians'. Better finish it fast before it can't ever finish.

Posted by: ThePaper | Aug 31 2011 16:34 utc | 39

why post the NATO support Juan Cole...hed sell his own mother

'I've been calling Juan Cole 'Langley' as a sort of a joke based on the fact his 'informed' opinions always seem to parallel those of the CIA, but it is no joke. Remember the lame attempt to polish his flagging reputation by making it appear there was a government dirty tricks campaign against him? Ha!'

Posted by: brian | Aug 31 2011 21:49 utc | 40

b, now that this has been blathered all across the internet nyt thinks it is now worthy. if it weren't for escobar...

Posted by: annie | Sep 2 2011 3:30 utc | 41

The guy is getting in the limelight – Patrick Cockburn has a piece in the independent: Rebel military chief says he was tortured by CIA.

Posted by: philippe | Sep 2 2011 5:52 utc | 42

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