Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Wikileaks: The Qaddafi Soap Opera

From a Wikileaks cable written in February 2010:

A local political observer XXXXXXXXXXXX told us that the Qadhafi family has been consumed in recent weeks by efforts to control the damage from Mutassim and Hannibal's recent headline-grabbing behavior. National Security Advisor Mutassim al-Qadhafi kicked off 2010 in the same way he spent 2009 -- with a New Year's Eve trip to St. Bart's -- reportedly featuring copious amounts of alcohol and a million-dollar personal concert courtesy of Beyonce, Usher, and other musicians. Mutassim seemed to be surprised by the fact that his party was photographed and the focus of international media attention. XXXXXXXXXXXX, his carousing and extravagance angered some locals, who viewed his activities as impious and embarrassing to the nation. Others took the events and rumors surrounding it as further argument that Mutassim -- often considered to be a rival of brother Saif al-Islam to succeed his father -- is not fit to be the next leader of the country. The Egyptian ambassador recently told the Ambassador that the Egyptians had been bracing for retribution after an Egyptian newspaper published the report of Mutassim's carousing.

Days before Mutassim's extravagant display, international press reported that his brother Hannibal had physically abused his wife, Aline, in a London hotel room over Christmas. XXXXXXXXXXXX told us that Aline had threatened to leave Hannibal a few weeks before the incident and had fled to London. When Safiya, Hannibal's mother, heard the news, she pleaded with Aline by phone to return to Tripoli, promising to give her "whatever she desired," in exchange. Hannibal pursued Aline in London, and the encounter ended in assault. When Safiya and Hannibal's sister, Ayesha al-Qadhafi (at that time many months' pregnant), heard the news, Ayesha traveled to London to intervene. Both Qadhafi women -- Safiya by phone and Ayesha in person -- advised Aline to report to the police that she had been hurt in an "accident," and not to mention anything about abuse. London press reported that Hannibal was allowed to leave the UK discreetly, on diplomatic immunity.

In the meantime, heir-apparent Saif al-Islam has been opportunely disengaged from local affairs. ... Saif's Qadhafi International Charity and Development Foundation has recently been active in the Haiti relief effort, sending hundreds of tons of supplies. ... Young Libyan contacts have repeated over the last few weeks that Saif al-Islam is the "hope" of "Libya al-Ghad" (Libya of tomorrow), with men in their twenties saying that they aspire to be like Saif and think he is the right person to run the country. They describe him as educated, cultured, and someone who wants a better future for Libya. By comparison, when asked about the prospects of Mutassim, Hannibal, or the other brothers as leaders of country, young contacts shake their heads and point to their famously irresponsible behavior as more reason to hope that Saif will succeed his father.