By George Grant
Tripoli, 16 May:
Recordings of private conversations between Muammar Qaddafi and his aides have been released to the public, providing . . .[restrict]fresh insights into the mind of Libya’s former leader as last year’s revolution turned against him.
Although invariably bombastic in his public appearances, these recordings, released by Al Jazeera, reveal a less confident Qaddafi when amongst his inner circle, although his grasp on reality seems no less tenuous.
As the revolution spread, Qaddafi clung to the hope that he enjoyed widespread popular support from Libyans, both at home and abroad.
In a conversation on 20 March 2011 with his then prime minister, Al-Baghdadi Al-Mahmoudi, Qaddafi asks: “Aren’t you preparing a green rally?”
“We did it locally”, Al-Mahmoudi responds.
“Not here. Do it abroad”, Qaddafi retorts. “For us it’s more important overseas. We need to show a green rally with tens of thousands of Libyans”.
At the time, Libyan expatriates had staged anti-Qaddafi protests in London, Washington DC and a number of other cities.
In another recording, taken on 9 March, the “Brother Leader” seems more concerned about the level of support enjoyed at home. “Tobruk must be on our side”, Qaddafi insists, having just berated his close aide Tayeb El Safi for his lack of “revolutionary spirit”. Tobruk, located on the border with Egypt in the far east of the country, was one of the first to rebel against Qaddafi in February 2011.
“They are raising the green flag in Bir Al-Ashab”, El Safi replies, referring to a tiny village also located in the east of the country.
Qaddafi also urges Libyans to “join together” and defend the country. “Shoot at whoever approaches”, he tells El Safi. “Take the green flag and establish districts there.”
The recordings also reveal Qaddafi’s eccentric rationale when it comes to putting down the protests and garnering support for his regime, both at home and abroad.
“I want provocation”, he tells El Safi in the same conversation. “People should take to the streets. Smash those dogs and tell them: ‘You traitors will bring us the British’.”
On 8 April, as the European Union was preparing to impose an embargo on Libyan oil imports, Qaddafi seems unable to comprehend the lack of support he was receiving from Spain, a country he had believed was close to him. As recently as 2009 King Juan Carlos had visited Libya, in part to promote closer business links between Libya and Spain.
“What’s wrong with the Spanish?” he demands to know of Al-Mahmoudi. When Mahmoudi fails to offer a convincing response Qaddafi advises his prime minister to “Tell them [the Spanish government] they do not appreciate their own interests. Tell them we will recognise the Basques. Threaten them with this, and recognise Andalucia”.
In another part of the conversation, Qaddafi advises Al-Mahmoudi of the need to find alternative destinations to the EU for Libyan oil exports, and suggests that this shouldn’t be too difficult.
“Oil is like drugs”, he muses. “Find the commodity smugglers. Many are adventurous; they will buy from you at a discount and they don’t care about embargoes.”
“I will look into East Asia”, Al-Mahmoudi replies. “We should send people to Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore.”
“This is a commodity”, Qaddafi says. “It can’t be stopped.”
The recordings can be heard by following this link. [/restrict]