Libya–Well here’s a surprise … Islamists emerging as dominant force there
It must be true, both the New York Times and the Washington Post have stories on it today. The New York Times:
In the emerging post-Qaddafi Libya, the most influential politician may well be Ali Sallabi, who has no formal title but commands broad respect as an Islamic scholar and populist orator who was instrumental in leading the mass uprising.
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.
Nice. The Times goes on:
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. The United States and Libya’s new leaders say the Islamists, a well-organized group in a mostly moderate country, are sending signals that they are dedicated to democratic pluralism. They say there is no reason to doubt the Islamists’ sincerity.
But as in Egypt and Tunisia, the latest upheaval of the Arab Spring deposed a dictator who had suppressed hard-core Islamists, and there are some worrisome signs about what kind of government will follow. It is far from clear where Libya will end up on a spectrum of possibilities that range from the Turkish model of democratic pluralism to the muddle of Egypt to, in the worst case, the theocracy of Shiite Iran or Sunni models like the Taliban or even Al Qaeda.
And which do you suppose, given no traditional institutions or experience with “democratic pluralism” in Libya, is most likely to emerge?
Oh, gee, I don’t know?
Who are the best organized and the most ruthless?
Islamist militias in Libya receive weapons and financing directly from foreign benefactors like Qatar; a Muslim Brotherhood figure, Abel al-Rajazk Abu Hajar, leads the Tripoli Municipal Governing Council, where Islamists are reportedly in the majority; in eastern Libya, there has been no resolution of the assassination in July of the leader of the rebel military, Gen. Abdul Fattah Younes, suspected by some to be the work of Islamists.
Yet I’m sure this will all come as a complete surprise to the politicians.
As Libya’s leader, Moammar Gaddafi regarded Islamists as the greatest threat to his authority, and he ordered thousands of them detained, tortured and, in some cases, killed. The lucky ones fled the country in droves. But with Gaddafi now in hiding, Islamists are vying to have a say in a new Libya, which they say should have a system based on Islamic law.
Although it went largely unnoticed during the uprising that toppled Gaddafi last month, Islamists were at the heart of the fight, many as rebel commanders. Now some are clashing with secularists within the rebels’ Transitional National Council, prompting worries among some liberals that the Islamists — who still command the bulk of fighters and weapons — could use their strength to assert an even more dominant role.
Unnoticed by whom? Oh, those in charge of our State Department, apparently. Organization and ruthlessness? Still no guess?
“Secularists don’t like Islamists,” said Ismail Sallabi, an influential cleric who is among nine leaders commanding rebel forces in eastern Libya. Before the revolution, he said, he had never held a weapon. “They want to use Islamists in the fighting stage and then take control.”
And that’s been successful where so far?
Meanwhile, in the category of “best organized”, we have a winner:
Libya is a conservative Muslim nation, and its future government will probably reflect that; the governments of Egypt and Iraq are among Arab states that base their governance on Islamic law. Although Gaddafi’s government tolerated little in the way of activism, Libya’s Islamist groups appear to have emerged from his reign as the best-organized among political groups, and secularists among the country’s new leaders appear determined not to alienate them.
Sigh … do you suppose one day we’ll learn?