The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Posts tagged seifqadhafi
Seif Qadhafi teaches us a lesson

The pic above (via FLC) must be the biggest double-take of recent times. After all, not only had the TNC and the (more unforgiveably) the ICC confirmed Seif's capture, but apparently he's free to roam Tripoli in his motorcade and drop by for a chat with journalists at the Rixos. Chapeau!

I suppose this shows (as does the continuing street warfare in Tripoli) that enthusiasm about the fall of Tripoi was premature. It also shows what anyone who has followed the Libyan civil war, no matter how supportive of the rebels, has known about them for a whiie: they are notoriously unreliable. It may be out of malice or simply because they seem so disorganized, but they hardly have a good track record. I hope the transitional government gets better about this.

Some on Twitter suggests that tweeps should have been more careful repeating the report of Seif's arrest and other rumors. Actually, I think that's secondary, and many of the people who were most followed for news about Libya, such as Andy Carvin, kept asking again and again for proof and corroboration. The record corrected itself fairly fast, and whatever psychological bonus might have been gained by the false information has surely now been damaged by Seif's resurfacing. Consider this in the NYT's coverage:

While rebel leaders professed to be making progress in securing Tripoli and planning for a post-Qaddafi government, and international leaders hailed the beginnings of a new era in Libya, the immediate aftermath of the lightning invasion was a vacuum of power, with no cohesive rebel government in place and remnants of the Qaddafi government still in evidence.

Seif al-Islam el-Qaddafi, whose capture the rebels had trumpeted since Sunday, walked as a free man to the Qaddafi-controlled luxury Rixos Hotel in the center of Tripoli early Tuesday, boasting to foreign journalists there that his father’s government was still “in control” and had lured the rebels into a trap, the BBC and news services reported. His appearance raised significant questions about the credibility of rebel leaders.

I guess much of the world has been schooled by Seif: truth remains the first casualty of war.

Seif al-Qadhafi's art collection / Arts / Collecting - The Art Market: Beware of buyers:

London’s Islamic art sales concluded last week with a notable absentee – Saif al-Islam Gaddafi. It turns out that the son of the Libyan leader was a buyer of mid-range items at previous auctions. Bidding through a London-based agent, he was collecting for an as-yet-unfinished museum of Islamic art in Tripoli. This buying has now stopped but Islamic art dealers were buzzing with the news that some consignors have been contacted because an unidentified buyer has failed to pay for purchases at the sales last October. From there, many concluded that Saif Gaddafi could be involved. Sotheby’s and Christie’s refused to comment.

Those art dealers must be taking a hit.

Seif Qadhafi's PhD thesis from LSE
A kind reader sent in a copy of the PhD thesis Seif al-Qadhafi, filed in September 2007 at the London School of Economics (whose former chancellor, Tony Giddens, was an advisor to his father). It's called "The Role Of Civil Society In The Democratisation Of Global Governance Institutions: From ‘Soft Power’ to Collective Decision-Making?"
Here's a somewhat relevant if stultifying passage, page 41:
Locke saw people as being able to live together in the state of nature under natural law, irrespective of the policies of the state. This self-sufficiency of society, outside the control of the state, was given weight by the growing power of the economic sphere which was considered part of civil society, not the state. The state is therefore constructed out of, and given legitimacy by, society, which also retains the authority to dissolve the government if it acted unjustly. Other writers continued with this distinction of civil society and government. The state kept its function of maintaining law and order that Hobbes had stressed, but was considered to be separate from society, and the relationship between the two of them was seen to be subject to laws that gained their legitimacy from society, not from the state. For example, Montesquieu saw the state as the governor and society as the governed, with civil law acting as the regulator of the relationship. The importance of law in regulating the way the state and society interacted was obvious to many writers who considered that a government that did not recognise the limitations of law would extend to become an over-reaching tyranny similar to that described by Hobbes in Leviathan.
Update: Ethan sent in this link to BoingBoing, which in turn links to documentation of plagiarism in the thesis. 
George Joffe on Seif al-Qadhafi's annointment

George Joffe, on Seif al-Qadhafi's comeback in Libya, in the ARB:

On October 6, 2009, Colonel Qadhafi, while attending a commemoration for the Union of Free Officers (the movement that planned and executed the 1969 revolution), called on Libyans to create a formal position for his 37 year old son so that he could properly serve them.  The next day, the Libyan Socialist Popular Leadership, a body that brings together heads of tribes and social institutions, proposed that he should become coordinator of its organizing committee, a position that made Saif al-Islam the second most powerful person in the Libyan hierarchy after his father.  His appointment was confirmed ten days later.

The significance of this appointment cannot be overstated.  It is, in effect, the formal endorsement of Colonel Qadhafi’s second son as his successor through a process of republican dynasticism, thus ending the speculation of recent years over how the succession process in Libya is to be managed.  Yet it is also a mechanism by which Saif al-Islam has been domesticated within the current Libyan political system, despite all his ambitions to reform it profoundly.  It remains to be seen how compromised his reform agenda might be in consequence.  It is also not clear whether Saif al-Islam has built up all the informal alliances within the power structure, the security forces, and the tribes that will be necessary if he is to preserve the freedom of action he will undoubtedly need to counter pressure from regime radicals (and possibly his brothers too) to displace him.

This reminds me of the leaks of letters between Seif's brother Muatassim and the US lobbying and PR firms that I blogged about in early September, and makes me wonder: were they leaked by Seif?

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.