Tue, Feb 22, 2011 | WikiLeaks
WikiLeaks: ‘Internecine Warfare’ in the Gaddafi Family
US embassy cables shed light on Gaddafi family – including son Saif al-Islam, who vowed in TV address to eradicate enemies.
The leader of the Libyan revolution presides over a “famously fractious” family that is powerful, wealthy, dysfunctional and marked by internecine struggles, according to US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks. The documents shed light on how his eight children – among whom rivalries have sharpened in recent years – his wife and Gaddafi himself lead their lives.
Read related article “A guide to Gaddafi’s ‘famously fractious’ family” in the Guardian here.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 05 TRIPOLI 000208
DEPT FOR NEA/MAG, INR/NESA
E.O. 12958: DECL: 3/4/2019
TAGS: PGOV, PREL, KCOR, ECON, MARR, MASS, PHUM, PINR, LY
SUBJECT: LIBYA’S SUCCESSION MUDDLED AS THE AL-QADHAFI CHILDREN CONDUCT INTERNECINE WARFARE
REF: A) 08 TRIPOLI 564, B) 08 TRIPOLI 592, C) TRIPOLI 198, D) 08 TRIPOLI 870 , E) 08 TRIPOLI 679, F) 08 TRIPOLI 494, G) TRIPOLI 196, H) TRIPOLI 134, I) 0 8 TRIPOLI 227
CLASSIFIED BY: Gene A. Cretz, Ambassador, U.S. Embassy – Tripoli, U.S. Dept of State. REASON: 1.4 (b), (d) 1. (C)
Summary: A series of events since last summer suggest that tension between various children of Muammar al-Qadhafi has increased, XXXXXXXXXXXX. Much of the tension appears to stem from resentment of Saif al-Islam’s high-profile as the public face of the regime; however, deeper tension about contradictions between Saif al-Islam’s proposed political-economic reforms, XXXXXXXXXXXX and XXXXXXXXXXXX also play an important role. The arrest and intimidation of a number of Saif al-Islam allies since last summer, on the one hand, and moves to circumscribe Muatassim’s role in military equipment procurement, on the other, suggest that the current level of discord among al-Qadhafi’s children is acute. While internecine strife is nothing new for the famously fractious al-Qadhafi family, the recent escalation of tension comes during a particularly momentous period. Amid turmoil related to the 40th anniversary of the revolution, Muammar al-Qadhafi’s recent election as African Union chairman, proposed political-economic reforms and persistent rumors about al-Qadhafi’s health and the absence of a viable mechanism to orchestrate a succession, the sharp rivalry between the al-Qadhafi children could play an important, if not determinative role, in whether the family is able to hold on to power after the author of the revolution exits the political scene. End summary.
3. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX the arrest of Hannibal al-Qadhafi, a son of Muammar al-Qadhafi, in Geneva in mid-July (ref B subsequent) and a visit to Rome by Saadi al-Qadhafi, a son of Muammar al-Qadhafi, against his father’s express wishes in early August. Hannibal and Saadi both have checkered histories of unseemly behavior and public scuffles with authorities in Europe and elsewhere. Although Muammar al-Qadhafi was reportedly fed a carefully vetted version of the events attendant to Hannibal’s arrest to help minimize the perception that Hannibal was to blame, the elder al-Qadhafi was reportedly vexed that Libya, for reasons of protecting the first family’s pride, had to engage in a bilateral spat with Switzerland at a time when it was trying to move ahead with negotiations for a framework agreement with the European Union. XXXXXXXXXXXX
… PROMPT AN AL-QADHAFI FAMILY MEETING
4. (C) The upshot of Muatassim’s solicitation of funds, Hannibal’s arrest and Saadi’s jaunt was an al-Qadhafi family meeting in mid-August. Al-Qadhafi reportedly decided to reduce Sanussi’s role as a minder for the most troublesome children (he is still a key adviser to Saif al-Islam al-Qadhafi) and to
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instead assign his daughter, Aisha al-Qadhafi, the task of monitoring the activities of ne’er-do-wells Saadi, Hannibal and Saif al-Arab. (Note: The latter is the least publicly know of al-Qadhafi’s children; he lives in Munich, where he pursues ill-defined business interests and spends much time partying. At the meeting, Saadi reportedly criticized his father for having ignored him, and specifically cited the fact that his (Saadi’s) efforts to establish an Export Free Trade Zone near the western Libyan town of Zuwara had not enjoyed the kind of support that Muatassim’s activities as National Security Adviser or Saif al-Islam’s high-profile efforts under the Qadhafi Development Foundation and Libya Youth Forum. As reported ref C, Muammar al-Qadhafi subsequently made an unusual visit to Zuwara last September and significant work on the development project began within a few days of his visit. Although the Zuwara Free Trade Zone is an ambitious and expensive project, XXXXXXXXXXXX
5. XXXXXXXXXXXX have told us that Aisha played a strong role in urging a hardline Libyan position with respect to the Swiss-Libyan contretemps over Hannibal’s arrest. Separately, the Swiss Ambassador told us that Aisha’s less than accurate rendering to her father of the events surrounding Hannibal’s arrest and treatment by Swiss authorities helped stoke Muammar al-Qadhafi’s anger, limiting the extent to which Libyan and Swiss officials could maneuver to find an acceptable compromise. The Swiss have told us that in the most recent effort between the two sides to resolve the issue in Davos, Saif had approved an agreement that had the Swiss literally bending over backwards to assuage Libyan demands. After making a phone call (to either Aisha or the leader), Saif returned somewhat chastened after several minutes to rescind the aproval. The Swiss crisis, together with other points of intra-family tension, has reportedly brought Aisha, who enjoys closer relations with Hannibal than with her other brothers, together with Hannibal, Saadi and, to a lesser extent, Saif al-Arab. Muatassim reportedly agreed with the hardline approach vis a vis the Swiss and has been closer to Aisha’s end of the spectrum than to that of Saif al-Islam, who urged a more moderate approach. Muhammad al-Qadhafi (the eldest son, but by al-Qadhafis’ first wife) and Khamis al-Qadhafi (fifth son by al-Qadhafi’s second wife and the well-respected commander of a special forces unit that effectively serves as a regime protection unit) have remained neutral. XXXXXXXXXXXX expressed frustration XXXXXXXXXXXX that Saif al-Islam had persisted in his hard-partying, womanizing ways, a source of concern in a socially conservative country like Libya.
INCREASED TENSION BETWEEN SAIF AL-ISLAM AND MUATASSIM
6. (C) Against that backdrop of tension, competition between Saif al-Islam, whom most still regard as the heir-apparent, and Muatassim, whose viability as a potential alternative successor has risen since his appointment as National Security Adviser, has increased since last fall. XXXXXXXXXXXX Saif reportedly bridled at the fact that Muatassim accompanied Muammar al-Qadhafi on the latter’s visit to Moscow, Minsk and Kiev last year (ref D), and played a key role in negotiating potential weapons contracts. Muatassim (who flew back early) and his older brother Muhammad greeted Muammar al-Qadhafi at the airport upon the latter’s return to Tripoli; Saif, who was in town, was pointedly absent. XXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXX It was further determined that Khamis al-Qadhafi would play a larger role in military procurement, since his Khamis Regiment (the 32nd Brigade) had demonstrated some success in procurement. Muatassim, whom the Serbian Ambassador described as “a bloody man” and “not terribly bright”, XXXXXXXXXXXX
7. (C) Saif al-Islam’s highly-publicized visit to the U.S. last November-December exacerbated tension with his siblings, particularly Muatassim, who viewed it as grandstanding. Saif al-Islam’s high-profile role as the public face of the regime to the West has been a mixed blessing for him. While it has bolstered his image (he is probably the most publicly-recognized figure in Libya other than Muammar al-Qadhafi), many Libyans view him as self-aggrandizing and too eager to please foreigners at the expense of Libyans’ interest. His role in the denouement of the Bulgarian nurses’ case, in which he acknowledged in media interviews that the nurses had been tortured and the investigation into their alleged injection of the AIDS virus into Libyan children bungled, badly damaged his reputation. The fact that his recent visit to the U.S. came not long after his August 2008 Youth Forum address – in which he strongly criticized the existing Jamahiriya system of governance, XXXXXXXXXXXX said that most of his proposed reforms had already been achieved, and declared his intention to withdraw from political life to focus solely on civil society issues (ref E) – reportedly irritated his siblings. XXXXXXXXXXXX have suggested to us that Muatassim’s desire to visit Washington this spring and his seemingly overweaning focus on having meetings with senior USG officials and signing a number of agreements are driven at least in part by a strong sense of competition with Saif al-Islam.
THE KNIVES COME OUT
8. (C) Recent events have fueled speculation that inter-sibling rivalries, and those of the more conservative regime elements they represent, have been increasing. XXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXX
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9. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX
11. (C) Comment: While internecine strife is nothing new for the famously fractious al-Qadhafi family, the recent escalation of tension between Saif al-Islam and Muatassim, Aisha, Hannibal and Saadi, comes during a particularly momentous period in the Jamahiriya’s history. The 40th anniversary of the revolution on September 1, 2009, together with Muammar al-Qadhafi’s recent election as Chairman of the AU (ref H), proposed political-economic reforms, consideration of a constitution, and rumored elections, have contributed to a sense that Libya is in the midst of a period of particular political turbulence. XXXXXXXXXXXX told XXXXXXXXXXXX that a draft constitution had been finished and submitted to the General People’s Committee (cabinet-equivalent) for approval, and that it could be submitted to the General People’s Congress for ratification sometime this year. The UN Resident Representative recently told the Ambassador that Saif al-Islam had established a super-committee under the auspices of the Economic and Development Board to draw up plans to implement wealth distribution and privatization/government restructuring advocated by Muammar al-Qadhafi last March (ref I). XXXXXXXXXXXX Saif al-Islam’s recent announcement of a regional organization that would publicly identify specific individuals who perpetrate human rights abuses and target them for sanctions has been interpreted by some local observers as a manifestation of his frustration with the slow pace of reforms
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and as a threat to conservative regime elements, many of whom personally played a part in the most serious transgressions of the late 1970’s and 1980’s.
12. (C) Comment (continued): Persistent rumors about Muammar al-Qadhafi’s declining health have lent particular urgency to questions about succession scenarios, throwing into stark relief the fact that, absent a constitution, there is no legal mechanism by which to orchestrate such an endeavor and seemingly increasing the stakes for the sibling rivalry. XXXXXXXXXXXX As Libya lurches forward with the effort to balance badly needed economic reform with the appearance of some political re-structuring – all against the backdrop of looming succession issues – the sharp rivalry between the al-Qadhafi children could play an important, if not determinative role, in whether the al-Qadhafi family is able to hold on to power after Muammar al-Qadhafi exits (one way or another) the political scene. End comment.