Sharks weren't the only predators the Qadhafis took a shine to

Bad toys for bad boys

Straight-up Bond villain extravagances via Hannibal Qadhafi, reports the Financial Times. The dictator’s son was building himself a cruise ship with a shark tank:

Replete with marble columns, gold-framed mirrors and huge statues, the Phoenicia was to have included a 120-tonne tank of seawater for two sand tiger sharks, two white sharks and two blacktip reef sharks. Four resident biologists would have tended to the animals. The sharks’ nutritional needs mandated a dedicated food store.

No word on how much the liner cost Libyans – Hannibal skimmed off the top of the country’s port incomes – but the Phoenicia is being refitted by Swiss maritime conglomerate MSC for regular passenger duty at a cost of over US$720 million. Apparently Hannibal had extremely tacky taste and interior renovations have been rather involved. Sadly for passengers and Roger Moore enthusiasts, the shark tank will go – though that’s at least good news for the sharks.

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Did Qadhafi finance Sarkozy's election campaign?

Bad investment

Back in the early days of Libya war, the reasons for France's rapid intervention were the subject of much discussion. One of the rumors that was floating was that Nicolas Sarkozy, France's president, was eager to cover up the Qaddafi regime's close ties with his own party and business networks including the financing of Sarkozy's presidential campaign in 2007.

The rumor has now come back with a vengeance and possibly, proof. The quality (anti-Sarkozy) website mediapart.fr has published an incendiary document suggesting that the campaign was financed through Saif Islam al-Qadhafi to the tune of €50 million. The document, which was leaked by government sources and had previously been part of the evidence in a case involving the relationship between Sarkozy's party and the arms dealer Ziad Takieddin, suggests an elaborate setup negotiated between the Qadhafis and Sarkozy's advisors. The money was laundered through a Panama-based shell company and the Swiss bank accounts of the sister of a prominent right-wing politician also close to Sarkozy, according to mediapart. Takieddin was also known to be a troubleshooter and fixer for the French Interior Ministry in seeking contracts for French companies that provide security services, including for Saudi Arabia.

In March 2011, just a few days before French jets struck Libyan army vehicles moving towards Benghazi, Saif al Islam gave an interview in which he demanded that France return the money used in the presidential campaign, threatening that he had details of bank accounts that could incriminate Sarkozy. This was ignored at the time, and dismissed as an attempt to embarrass the French. What is beyond dispute, though, is that the Sarkozy administration had close an fruitful ties with the Qaddafi regime, both formally and through back channels.

Although this remains to be confirmed, it appears consistent with widespread rumors going back to at least the 1970s of illicit financing of right-wing little parties and candidates by Arab and African dictators. Jacques Chirac for instance was commonly said to have received campaign baksheesh from Lebanon's Rafiq Hariri and Morocco's Hassan II. This latest affair is part of a growing scandal dossier involving Sarkozy party and his entourage — one that could become a major reason he loses his reelection bid in May.

In Italy, Eulogies for Qadhafi's Wealth Mismanagement Fund

"Want to bunga-bunga or should we just zenga-zenga?"

An item in the Wall Street Journal reminds us that the ties between Libya and Italy's elites are very, very deep, and, as benefiting the lives of the rich and famous, sometimes produce strange little stories that illustrate much larger forces at work - in this case, the economic future of Libya following the National Transitional Council (NTC) and NATO's military successes: 

ANTRODOCO, Italy - Maurizio Faina, mayor of this small Italian town, has for three years been planning the construction of a lavish spa here thanks to one deep-pocketed financial backer: Col. Moammar Gadhafi.

Now that Col. Gadhafi is being ousted from power by his own people, "the whole plan is over, and it's sad," says the mayor, who had hoped to employ hundreds of people thanks to the €16 million ($22 million) resort.

Antrodroco's longing for Col. Gadhafi's largesse is a small, but significant, window into the vast economic ties between Italy and its former colony - a network that generated about $17 billion in annual trade before the conflict broke out.

Significantly, the spa deal began with a personal effort by Colonel Qadhafi (conduced alongside the Italian PM, Silvio Berlusconi, who has cultivated close ties with the deposed leader) and was, according to Italian sources, being managed by the Libyan Investment Authority (LIA), whose multibillion dollar assets were frozen several months ago. These assets include stakes in UniCredit, Italy’s largest bank (who largest foreign owner was, until recently, the Libyan government); Eni, the state energy company that produces the lion’s share (60%) of Libya’s oil exports; and Finmeccanica, a partly government-owned conglomerate with interests in Libya ranging from infrastructure to defense. The regime also had smaller stakes in various Italian sports, automotive, media and telecom interests – and was reported to be eying another, even larger, resort project in the Italian spa town of Fiuggi (so the Colonel would have a choice of resorts, presumably).

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You say Gathafi, I say Qadhafi

"Whatchoo talkin' 'bout, Willis?"Running into this Moor Next Door post on the spelling of Qadhafi's name, and this Atlantic report that his passport spells it "Kathafi", reminded me of a meeting I a few months ago. I was meeting with a bunch of business people who know no Arabic and little about the Middle East. The conversation turned to Libya and one of them turned to me and asked why there were so many spellings of Qadhafi's name. What follows is what I said, which is very much what Kal of TMND argues, except I put it in laymen's terms, without the phonetics.

In Arabic, Qadhafi's name is spelled القذافي which if you drop the article, means
ق - ذ - ا - ف - ي or q - dh - a - f - i. The "q" letter is almost unique to Arabic (sometimes called "the language of the qaf" — sorry, it's the language of the dhad, not qaf!) and often transliterated as a "k", since its pronounciation can be difficult for non-Arabic speakers. It is standard in classical Arabic and places like Fes in northern Morocco, but northern Egyptians, urban Syrians and others often pronounce this letter as a glottal stop, while southern Egyptians and Bedouins most often pronounce as a "g", as in "go". (This is why in Syria upscale Damascenes call the regime "the government of the Qaf", because pronouncing the letter is a country bumpkin thing to do, and Eastern Sunnis and Alawites — long dominant in the regime — often do it). Hence you see Qadhafi, Kadhafi or Gadhafi. The "dh" sound also has no equivalent in many languages as a standalone letter, and to top it off is made emphatic by a shedda — a kind of accent that indicates the letter should be doubled, which is why academics use the unwieldy "Qadhdhafi." And the "dh" is often not pronounced as such — in most colloquial Arabics, it is pronounced "d". I'm not sure why it might be pronounced "th", but perhaps this was used in Qadhafi's passport because it is close to the English sound in "the", which sounds very much like "dh".

I always write Qadhafi because it's simple and faithful enough without being completely anal, like Qadhdhafi. 

An anecdote about Khamis Qadhafi

Khamis Qadhafi

As I write these lines, Khamis al-Qadhafi, the most militarily-connected of Muammar al-Qadhafi's sons, is said to be leading his Khamis Brigade to the center of Tripoli in what may very well turn out to be his last stand. Khamis, the seventh and youngest son of the Brother Leader, operated discreetly at the repressive core of his father's regime for years, the military counterpart to his brother Seif's diplomatic role, tasked with protecting the family.

Several months ago, I heard a chilling story about Khamis. It came from an Egyptian acquaintance of mine who has done business in Libya for many years and was well-introduced with regime figures. The Egyptian's company, involved in construction and various state-financed projects, operated in Libya the way most foreigners did. They had regime-connected figures on the payroll, whose role was to smoooth out any problems with the government and make sure hurdles could be removed. It was just the cost of doing business in Libya, where the government could often prove unwilling to honor agreements and everyone needed a little help from a part of the mafia state the Qadhafis ran. 

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Libya after Qadhafi

Following the entry of Libya’s rebels1 into Tripoli last night was exhilarating. A civil war2 that had lasted much longer than initially expected seems to be finally nearing an end, even if Tripoli is still not fully controlled and other parts of the country remain in the hands of Qadhafi loyalists. Whether or not you supported NATO intervention in Libya, it’s a magnificent moment to see another dictator fall, especially one like Qadhafi who for 42 years ran one of the most brutal regimes in the region. Libyans have never really had a chance at defining their own identity and forging their own future — not under the monarchy, and certainly not under Qadhafi — and like in Tunisia or Egypt, the most amazing thing is that this is now more possible than it ever was.

Taking early stock of the Libyan civil war of 2011 (hoping it will soon be over), the first priority is how to carry out this transition. The TNC has the advantage of having been formed over six months ago, incorporating former members of the regime and figures from across the country, and having planned for this moment for some extent. It has diplomatic recognition, and enough credibility to secure aid, cash, weapons and other help foreign partners. In the eyes of the oil companies that are likely to be key in financing Libya’s post-war reconstruction, it also has enough credibility to be seen as an entity one can do business with.

There is already much hand-wringing about how this transition might take place. The truth is the rebels, once they had secured Western backing, never had any incentive to negotiate with the Qadhafi regime. There were multiple diplomatic attempts at doing so, but they were scuttled by the rebels and key Western powers much more than by Qadhafi. We can leave it to historians to argue whether this might have saved lives or provided a better blueprint for a Libyan transition to a post-Qadhafi regime. But the question of negotiating with the regime’s remnants now becomes more crucial. TNC officials have given some signs that they were not interested in revanchisme, although it’s hard to know how much control they can really exert over what amounts to a large, diffuse coalition of anti-Qadhafi forces that — once the Brother Leader is killed, exiled or arrested — may have less common cause. There are a lot of light weapons in the hands of volunteer fighters in Libya, and like in any conflict, it’s hard to predict what they might end up doing with them in the coming transition.3

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The Qadhafi social network

This is a first attempt at mapping the social and power networks around Muammar al-Qadhafi using existing reporting, Wikileaks cables from Tripoli, and a few academic sources. Any complementary information and corrections are appreciated. Please do not use this for any commercial or reporting purposes without contacting me first.

Large PDF version for download here.

UPDATE: Your feedback on this is invaluable. There are some errors in the chart above, and thanks to those who wrote in to point them out. This will be an update to the chart by Sunday, leaving time for more info to get in. For those who asked, the software I use for this is MindNode Pro, which is very simple to use. For more complicated projects I use OmniGraffle.

Links for 11.16.09 to 11.18.09

ضغوط أمريكية لزيادة الغاز المصري لإسرائيل وخفض أسعاره - بوابة الشروق | al-Shurouk reports that US is asking Egypt to increase gas deliveries to Israel, and at cheaper price. ✪ US rebukes Israel on settlement plans - Yahoo! News | ... but will do nothing about it. ✪ Nubian fury at 'monkey' lyric of Arab pop star Haifa Wehbe | World news | The Guardian | The Haifa Wehbe / Nubian scandal. ✪ The Obama admin is selling the peace process, but the press is not buying it. | Phil Weiss has surreal transcript from State Dept. over new settlements. ✪ Readability - An Arc90 Lab Experiment | Very nice bookmarklet for reading long articles. ✪ Palestinians say they will ask UN to recognise state - Yahoo! News | Doesn't the UN already accept previous resolutions with the 1967 line? Regarding my previous comment on US senators' call for a veto, the Palestinians do appear to want to take it to UNSC, not UNGA. ✪ Le Figaro - Conjoncture : Le grand Monopoly mondial des terres agricoles | Nice chart accompanying this article on the sale of arable land to food importing nations. ✪ U.S. "would veto" Palestinian state move: Senators - Yahoo! News | I suspect recognition by the UN would take place by the General Assembly, not the Security Council, so that turncoat Lieberman can take his veto and shove it... ✪ The pro-Israel lobby in Britain: full text | openDemocracy | Report on UK Israel lobby by documentary filmmaker Peter Oborne. ✪ FT.com - Inflation rears its head again in Egypt | Mostly affecting food prices ahead of Eid. ✪ Egyptian Blogger Beaten | "During the mayhem of a major soccer match, Egyptian blogger Kareem el-Shae’r was kidnapped and beaten. El-Shae’r moderates the Free Egypt blog and is a member of Ayman Nour’s el-Ghad party and the April 6 Youth movement. For his activism, el-Shae’r has been arrested several times and beaten before. The Egyptian interior ministry refused to comment on the incident." ✪ Gaddafi hires 200 young Italian women – to convert them to Islam | And tries to convert them to Islam. ✪ Israel must end Gaza blockade, evictions, alleged abuse of Palestinian children - Ban | "Israel should end the blockade of Gaza, cease evictions and demolitions of Palestinian homes, and ensure that the rights of children are respected and that all allegations of torture and ill-treatment are promptly investigated and perpetrators prosecuted, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in an annual report released today." ✪ Yemen Finds Dreamland of Architecture - NYTimes.com | On Yemen's traditional architecture. ✪ The Arabs by Eugene Rogan | Book review | The Guardian | Robert Irwin reviews this book, which I am currently reading.
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CNN on Libya's Islamists

[Note: if you can't see the above video, go here.] CNN's Nic Robertson has really outdone himself in sycophancy and breathlessness - and he has quite a track record. In this special facilitated by Seif al-Islam al-Qadhafi, who gave CNN access to prisons as well as himself, Robertson does PR for Seif's efforts to reconcile his father's regime with one of the main opposition groups in Libya. This story is interesting, as is the recantations of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), but what CNN presents here is a simplistic "Seif has converted Islamists away from jihadi violence" story along with Dan Browneseque "Jihadi code" nonsense, complete with pained, serious look at Robertson reads the Arabic manuscript of these ideological revisions (I don't know for sure, but my guess he probably does not read Arabic at all.) It is pure self-inflating propaganda, and CNN fails in two major ways here. Firstly, it does not really question the history of the LIFG and its relationship with the regime, or the regime's policies towards the opposition. The attempts to portray Libya as vibrant and dynamic (shots of the city at dusk, emphasis on the modern, etc.) are risible and the Seif-Benotman buddy narrative slightly sick. Secondly, everyone knows that in one of the rare findings about al-Qaeda in Iraq it was found that Libya and the LIFG was a major source of foreign fighters. There have been allegations that the regime has facilitated jihad abroad to get rid of the domestic threat. None of this is covered, as it would not make Seif look very good. The LIFG story is interesting - see Hugh Miles' recent LRB blog post - but it deserves a lot better than Nic Robertson's antics and CNN kowtowing to the Qadhafis.
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Seif Qadhafi's Comeback

qadhafi-mural.jpg From Flickr user Miles_78.

Al Sharq al-Awsat brings some clarification about the recent nomination of Seif al-Islam Qadhafi to a post that would bring him, legally at least, much control over Libya's institutions - Saif al-Islam to Decide on Nomination Soon:

"Saif-al-Islam withdrew suddenly from the political and public life in Libya last year in what appeared to be a setback for his plan to bring about radical changes in the Libyan state at the political and economic levels. Col. Al-Qadhafi proposed to the institutions in Libya in an official speech last week, which the official media did not report, to enable his son to occupy an official post so that he can continue and implement his reform program and the social leaderships immediately nominated his son as their chairman.

Seif's appointment, should he accept it (I can't imagine he won't), contrasts with the public visibility of his brother Muatassim over the last year. Ever since it was leaked that Muatassim has been getting help from American lobbying firms in not only reaching the ears of prominent Western politicians and academics, but also in setting up the National Security Council that he allegedly runs. The leaks revealed Muatassim was hardly impressive, requiring much coaching, although his money and lobbyists did buy him a photo-op with Hillary Clinton. Should we read into this that Seif, who had earlier overreached, is back as designated successor after his eclipse over the past year? Was it his brother's disgrace alone that did the trick, or did Seif have something to do with the liberation of Abdel Basset al-Meghrahi which so overjoyed his father? If any readers have a theory about this, do let us know.

Do read the rest of the article, which speculates that Seif's return aux affaires may give a boost to the ongoing reconciliation with Libya's Salafists.
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Links for 10.14.09 to 10.18.09

Is Obama giving up on democracy in Iran? | Because Haaretz really, really cares. ✪ 'Delegitimization of Israel must be delegitimized' | Great pic on this FLC post. ✪ Al Jazeera English - Focus - Leadership 'let down' Palestinians | As`ad AbuKhalil. ✪ ANALYSIS / U.S. using Goldstone report to punish Netanyahu - Haaretz - Israel News | Ridiculous argument. ✪ Egypt: 29 years between a president and his heir | Bikya Masr | Ayman Nour on Mubarak's Egypt. ✪ Nationalism in the Gulf State | A LSE paper on GCC nationalism by Neil Partrick. ✪ In Morocco, editor imprisoned, court shutters paper - Committee to Protect Journalists | al-Michaal newspaper closed over articles on king's health. Also rumors of closing down of Le Journal, TBC. ✪ ei: EI exclusive video: Protesters shout down Ehud Olmert in Chicago | "The demonstration was mobilized last week after organizers learned of the lecture, paid for by a grant provided by Jordan's King Abdullah II." ✪ FT.com / UK - Storm over Egypt's Israeli links | On the Hala Mustafa / normalization debate. ✪ Citing Work Of Right-Wing Intern Spy, GOP Accuses Muslim Group Of Infiltrating Hill With Intern 'Spies' | TPMMuckraker | "Four House Republicans are charging that the Council on American Islamic Relations is infiltrating Capitol Hill with undercover interns, and they're basing the charge on a WND-published book that itself is based on the work of a man who posed as a Muslim to infiltrate CAIR as ... an intern!" ✪ Confessions of an AIPAC Veteran | Helena Cobban profiles Israel operative Tom Dine. ✪ Brian Whitaker's blog | The son also rises | Seif Qadhafi gets put in charge of, well, almost everything. ✪ First Egyptian School Closes For Swine Flu - Daily News | Mere de Dieu girls' school -- a stone's throw from Arabist HQ -- closed. ✪ U.S. Iran plan is a bunker-busting bomb - thestar.com | That's not very nice.
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Losing Libya

Libya has certainly been in the news lately. I've never visited the country and have worked on it very little, but from what I know about it (apart from my regular, and yes, facile jokes about Qadhafi) I've always found it profoundly tragic that a country can drift away like this for decades. We know so little about the horrors of the Qadhafi regime that we can't even compare it to other in the region. In this respect, and perhaps more than Saddam Hussein's Iraq, Libya appears to be the Middle East's North Korea. Here are some links and thoughts on recent reading -- this a long one, so the rest is after the jump. Lockerbie I was profoundly uninterested in the release of Abdel Basset al-Meghrahi, at least in the way it was mostly covered: as a supposed affront to justice and the relatives of the memory Lockerbie bombing's victims. It's not clear what prompted his release, although reports about al-Meghrahi's serious illness appear to be true. What is evident is that it was part of a deal with the Libyans, and the timing seems awfully convenient in giving Qadhafi a trophy for his big bash. This is shame for British democracy (already damaged in the same way by Tony Blair's decision to end the enquiry into the BAE / Yamama arms deal), and as the Economist noted, Gordon Brown is now paying the price although the Economist appears more concern with the damage to transatlantic relations.) More to the point, it seems to me, is that the Lockerbie trial was not conducted was not satisfactorily conducted, and further investigations and testimonials suggest that the decision to point blame towards Libya was at least in part politically motivated (earlier suspects were Palestinian groups, Iran and Syria -- which may have sidelined in the context of the strategic needs of the 1990 Gulf War.) Relatives of the victims and stellar investigative reporters such as the late Paul Foot have long established the holes of in the Lockerbie case, and they have never been addressed. I would encourage you to read this post at Lenin's Tomb or purchase the special report by Paul Foot at Private Eye. The Lybian government, incidentally, basically saw the $1.5 billion payment to the Lockerbie victims' families (an outrageous sum for what remains a poor country -- in comparison the families of the victims of the US-downed Iranian airliner of 1988 got $61.8 million). This point was made again by the odd op-ed by Seif al-Islam al-Qadhafi, the "soft side" of this terrible regime, in the IHT. The rather grotesque part of the article comes when Seif, trying to convince the West that Libya did not give al-Meghrahi a hero's welcome, boasts of his country's strict control of the press:
When I arrived at the airport with Mr. Megrahi, there was not a single government official present. State and foreign news media were also barred from the event. If you were watching Al Jazeera, the Arabic news network, at the time the plane landed, you would have heard its correspondent complain that he was not allowed by Libyan authorities to go to the airport to cover Mr. Megrahi’s arrival.
The biggest loss of al-Meghrahi's release is that it forecloses the possibility of an appeal to the first trial, which many believed was coming. Libya may have carried out Lockerbie, but it has not been proven yet. The new West-Libya relationship Part of Libya's rehabilitation over the last few years has been due to counter-terrorism priorities, but in the long term it was about oil and gas contracts and energy security for the EU and US. For several years now businessmen and brokers have been lining up with their briefcases in Qadhafi's presidential palaces to cash in on the least developed hydrocarbon-rich area in the MENA region, one which further exploration could reveal to be even richer than it currently is. As the US Deparment of Energy notes:
Libya, a member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), holds the largest proven oil reserves in Africa, followed by Nigeria and Algeria (see graph below). According to Oil and Gas Journal (OGJ), Libya had total proven oil reserves of 43.7 billion barrels as of January 2009, up from 41.5 billion barrels in 2008. About 80 percent of Libya’s proven oil reserves are located in the Sirte basin, which is responsible for 90 percent of the country’s oil output. Libya hopes to increase oil reserve estimates with incentives for additional exploration in both established oil producing areas as well as more remote parts of the country. . . . Expansion of natural gas production remains a high priority for Libya for two main reasons. Libya aims to use natural gas instead of oil domestically for power generation, freeing up more oil for export. Second, Libya has vast natural gas reserves and is looking to increase its natural gas exports, particularly to Europe. Libya's proven natural gas reserves as of January 1, 2009 were estimated at 54.4 trillion cubic feet (Tcf ) by OGJ –but the Libyan government estimates have been cited as being more than twice that volume.
Of course, now that it is back in the international fold, Libya is starting to reimpose all sorts of things on oil and gas companies -- but only if this was done with some common sense. I suppose this all of this is to be expected in this economic and energy environment, but it is worth highlighting the gravy train Libya's rehabilitation has created. David Manning, Tony Blair's pointman in making the deal to bring in Libya from the cold several years ago, is now on the British Gas payroll using his contacts with the country. The UK has not hosted Qadhafi (yet - for now this would be too unpalatable to the public, as the brouhaha over al-Meghrahi showed), but others have rushed in. In 2007, Nicolas Sarkozy received Qadhafi in Paris (suddenly less adamant about the primacy of human rights in international relations), while the clown Silvio Berlusconi has gone out of his way to appease the Guide, apologizing for Italy's colonial-era crimes, building a 1700km coastal highway and more recently offering to send the Italian air force's show planes for the celebrations. In the US, of course, high-level meetings Qadhafi is still beyond the pale, but Hillary Clinton recently met his fourth son (and possible heir), Muatassim, a few months ago. The encounter gave us this memorable picture: Secretary+State+Hillary+Clinton+Meets+Nat+-EucUjLEx-Al.jpg Speaking of Muatassim, who has been named National Security Advisor, it's not only governments that have had to do some shameful pandering. The London Review of Books's blog recently linked to a Libyan opposition website, where you can find documents of a contract between Muatassim's office and PR and lobby firms worth millions of dollar. The aim is groom Muatassim, teach him English, help him set up a National Security Council (which surely if set up by foreigners can't be such a powerful organization) They will also put together a book lauding Libya. The book alone will cost nearly $3 million dollars, and the people these documents say are involved in it should be ashamed. They include Lord Anthony Giddens (the sociologist behind the meaningless "Third Way" rhetoric of New Labour), Benjamin Barber (author of Jihad vs. McWorld and a longtime Libya apologist), Francis Fukuyama (he of "The End of History" and "Trust"). These and many more are listed in this document as people who visited Libya (including Nick Negroponte, Richard Perle, Bernard Lewis, David Frost etc... although a visit is of course different than writing a positive book.) I hope those allegedly involved in the book quickly distance themselves from it. Mark Fuller, CEO of Monitor Group, is the asshole putting this together. He will also be in charge of wooing foreign dignitaries to Libya and generally boosting the country's image. In this document he promises:
• We will identify the relevant American and international publications that target the specific audiences of interest identified in the network map. • We will provide operational support for publication of positive articles on Libya in these publications. For example: o Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post, Economist, International Herald Tribune, Financial Times, Weekly Standard, National Interest, Public Interest, Foreign Affairs etc. • We will identify and encourage journalists, academics and contemporary thinkers who will have interest in publishing papers and articles on Libya.
Here's another document outlining the goal of this project:
According to the proposal agreed on July 4 2006, the goal of the project was defined as follows: “The project is a sustained, long term program to enhance international understanding and appreciation of Libya and the contribution it has made and may continue to make to its region and to the world. It will emphasize the emergence of the new Libya and its ongoing process of change.” During the course of the project a second important goal was introduced by the client. This goal is to introduce Muammar Qadhafi as a thinker and intellectual, independent of his more widely- known and very public persona as the Leader of the Revolution in Libya. Libya has a unique positioning in the world, driven in particular by its history of the last forty years as well as by the high profile of the Leader. Libya is in the midst of a transition from an era when stringent sanctions isolated the country. Part of the strategy for the transition towards enhanced national economic development and security involves simultaneously upgrading the world’s understanding of Libya, as well as Libya’s understanding of the world.
The italics are mine -- this must be a tough client for Monitor. Puzzlingly, one of the invoices (for $617,000) contains no details but is called "Project Armani" -- could it be a reference to the above suit? More seriously, the invoice for the lobby firm the Livingstone Group is basically a fully-fleshed policy document for engaging various US institutions, establishing a relationships with USAID, visa authorities, AFRICOM, etc. It is basically a subcontracting of Libyan foreign policy to a firm that is conveniently close to the US government - assuming Muatassim even has the clout to decide such policy. Not that it matters for Livingstone, which will still get the cash. [Update: A rights activists who works on Libya just emailed me to say: "Livingstone Group just told me today that they've resigned from representing Libya.. i think this is pretty significant given the timing and may be an inidcator as to the mood in Washington."] The celebrations I liked this description from the FT:
The Libyan capital has been preparing for weeks. Buildings in the centre have been whitewashed, the streets have been decked with green flags. The unlined face of a much-younger Mr Gaddafi adorns billboards, against a background of pictures of the historical figures he most admires. These include Che Guevara, Nelson Mandela and Gamal Abdel Nasser. If Libyans disagree with these descriptions, no one is making an outcry. This is not a country where dissidence is tolerated. Some people murmur privately that the leader is throwing millions at his party, while they make do with tiny salaries and poor services. They may complain they should be as prosperous as citizens of oil producers in the Gulf. But they know to keep quiet in public because as one of Mr Gaddafi’s more famous slogans goes: “Democracy is not popular expression.” Intended to celebrate Libya from the dawn of history to modern times under Mr Gaddafi’s ”great revolution”, Tuesday’s party will feature horses, flame dancers, military bands and lasers. To top off the event, there will be a fireworks display launched from ships off the coast of Tripoli. The climax will be a grand spectacle performed by hundreds of French dancers on a specially-erected open air stage in the shape of a massive tent—a symbol close to the heart of Mr Gaddafi who likes to underline his Bedouin origins.
Rather amusingly, the piece also mentions that there is still a dispute on whether the Italian show planes will blow the white, green and red smoke of the tricolore or omit the red to match the jamahiriyya's flag. But rather then go on about the celebrations, I think this picture will suffice: libyacelebrations.jpg Is that bit about the Libyan invasion of ancient Egypt? Because that ended badly for the Libyans, as history buffs will know. Qadhafi at the UN The apotheosis of Qadhadi's gradual re-insertion into world affairs will surely be his speech at the UN later this month. The US and the UK will be gritting their teeth if he boasts about al-Maghrahi, but they should also be worried he raises this issue:
Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi is set to ask the United Nations to 'abolish' Switzerland and share the land among its neighbouring countries. The eccentric dictator has filed a motion with the U.N. saying the Alpine state should be wiped off the map and split among France, Italy and Germany. Gaddafi is set to present his bizarre plan when Libya takes over the year-long presidency of the U.N. general Assembly on September 15. He first mentioned his idea at the G8 summit in Italy in July. 'Switzerland is a world mafia and not a state,' he said. 'It is formed of an Italian community that should return to Italy, another German community that should return to Germany, and a third French community that should return to France.'
For more examples of Qadhafi madness, check out our Libya archives. Libya beyond the headlines It's been interesting to see, alongside the sotto voce criticism of ordinary Libyans at their Guide's latest folly, that the regime is rewarding more moneyed citizens with crass materialism:
Tripoli nights are hot and steamy at this time of year so shops offering effective air-conditioning and high-quality goods at knockdown prices are big crowd-pullers in the hours after the iftar meal that ends the daily Ramadan fast. Marks & Spencer, on Girgash Road in the opulent west of the Libyan capital, heaves until four in the morning with women – in chadors or western dress – inspecting lingerie and swimwear watched by irritable husbands and children expecting presents for the Eid. "Last chance to buy," say the Arabic signs above neat fitting rooms in that familiar green and white trim. No returns are allowed during the sale. The spanking new branch of BHS nearby is so busy that customers triple-park outside. Monsoon is doing well too. But there is more to this story than underpants or skirts at 60% off and the slightly weird transportation of the high streets of middle England to this sweltering north African city.
Well, it works everywhere else, so why not. But did Qadhafi really need to take all this time to get to this -- the shallow reward of a M&S (and I love their cookies as much as anyone) and a fancy dance show? The biggest crime disaster of a country like Libya is that, while not very developed in 1969, it has been run into the ground ever since by a madman. As the Economist a few weeks ago put it well, also running an appropriate double portrait as illustration:
3409MA1.jpg Mr Qaddafi is reaping rewards for his reformed behaviour at home too. Tripoli, Libya’s capital, is sprouting fancy new hotels, as well as a new airport, to welcome an influx of would-be investors and tourists. Literacy is now nearly universal among schoolchildren. Life expectancy has gone up by 20 years, and infant mortality has fallen to less than a tenth of the level it was at the time of the revolution. Yet such gains ought to be unremarkable for a country that exports nearly as much oil, per head, as Saudi Arabia: a total of $46 billion-worth last year, divided among just 6m people. In fact, Libya trails far behind other oil-rich states by many measures, and not just in the contrast between Tripoli’s garbage-strewn thoroughfares and the gleaming Miami-scapes of the Gulf. As any Libyan who recalls the days before Mr Qaddafi’s revolution can attest, this is a country where something has gone very wrong. Things are not so bad as in the dark days of the 1980s, when the Great Leader experimented with ruinous social theories and had dissidents hunted and shot. Yet while Libya’s peculiar form of socialism still brings free education and health care, along with subsidised housing and transport, trade unions remain banned, along with nearly every kind of independent social organisation. Salaries are extremely low, thus keeping Libyans cash-poor even as billions stack up in foreign reserves, or in the pockets of a narrow band of regime insiders. A lack of jobs outside the government has led to youth unemployment of perhaps 30% or more (all statistics in Libya are as blurry as a Saharan sandstorm). Such shortcomings reflect more than simple inefficiencies. Mr Qaddafi’s Libya is a country that has been systemically mismanaged for a generation, at virtually every level of government.
Rami Khouri riffed to the same tune, seeing Libya's case as an echo of the wider Arab predicament:
Gadhafi’s Libya is everything we always dreaded we would become, as independent states, societies, governing systems and leaderships. It is hard to know where to start in listing the reasons that the 40th anniversary of Gadhafi’s rule is a hollow celebration. He and his small circle of ruling partners have managed, remarkably, to accomplish virtually every failure that can possibly be envisaged in the world of statehood and governance. The biggest failure is probably to strangle the country from within, laying siege to his own people by driving away the best and brightest Libyans, and subjecting those who remain to a life of material mediocrity and political indignity. The core of the calamity in Libya – common to the entire Arab world – is the lack of freedom for the ordinary citizen. Libya is a special case, because it combines authoritarianism with eccentricity, waste of massive wealth, and Arab and international derision.
One could not agree more. Also read:Brian Ulrich on the role Libya played in the 1970s changes in the oil business. ✪ Laila Lalami on Libya's political prisoners. ✪ Ibn Kafka on the long history of murder and dire human rights situation of Libya. ✪ Bill Frelick of HRW on the rights situation and the treatment of sub-Saharan migrants.
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Links for 09.01.09 to 09.02.09

The first Islamic search engine? - The Majlis | About imhalal.com which filters haram links out of searches. Seems pretty useless to me but it's fun to keep on searching for dirty words, and if you try you'll see the site does not work very well. ✪ ei: Liberation, not a fictitious Palestinian "state" | Hassan Abunimah on the Fayyad plan and the alleged Obama outlines for peace, which he describes as including "international armed forces in most of the Palestinian "state"; Israeli annexation of large parts of East Jerusalem; that "All Palestinian factions would be dissolved and transformed into political parties"; all large Israeli settlements would remain under permanent Israeli control; the Palestinian state would be largely demilitarized and Israel would retain control of its airspace; intensified Palestinian-Israeli "security coordination"; and the entity would not be permitted to have military alliances with other regional countries." And of course no right of return. ✪ Israel PM vowed not to freeze settlements: minister (AFP) | "AFP - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed not to freeze settlement construction in the West Bank, according to one of his ministers quoted on Wednesday." ✪ Brian Whitaker's blog | Trials of a Jordanian poet | One year for poet who used Quranic references in his love poetry, gets threats from MB, mufti calls him apostate. ✪ LedgerGermane: Rectum? Damn Near Killed 'Em! | Prince Muhammad bin Nayif's would-be killer had explosives stashed in rectum. Ouch. ✪ Quarante années de crimes | Ibn Kakfa on 40 years of the criminal Qadhafi regime, which "disappeared" many dissidents at home and abroad. ✪ Iraq's flawed media law | Brian Whitaker on the draft Iraqi media law, which resembles that of other Arab states.
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Links for 08.21.09 to 08.22.09

Survey of Business Environment for Small and Medium- Sized Enterprises in Egypt | Survey of Egyptians SMEs, focuses on corruption perception. ✪ Who Should Rule Egypt? | Baheyya lays out an argument between three possible types of rule in Egypt -- hereditary succession, military rule, and parliamentary rule -- and makes the point that Hosni Mubarak has unwittingly opened up the debate over how Egypt should be ruled. ✪ Libya and Muammar Qaddafi, 40 years on: How to squander a nation's potential | The Economist | Poor Libya. ✪ Nile Delta: 'We are going underwater. The sea will conquer our lands' | Environment | The Guardian | Jack Shenker has a great story on rising salinity levels and the impact of global warming in the Nile Delta. ✪ Hilo Hero: H.P. Lovecraft | Happy Birthday H.P. Lovecraft. I highly recommend the essay on him by the French reactionary writer (and one of my favorites, to be honest - I don't care about his views on Islam) Michel Houellebecq.
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