I have only been in Libya a few hours but am intrigued with this place and the people here.
Libyan Leader Muammar al Gaddafi’s pictures are everywhere — but at least they are creative and have some panache compared to what one finds in some other countries with dominant political bosses who have no style.
Gaddafi is working overtime pulling major summits into Libya — particularly the Arab Summit which will take place here next week. Just last week, he celebrated the 40th anniversary of his takeover of the country’s government and giant celebratory posters and placards are all over the city.
Tomorrow, I will be meeting one of Colonel Gaddafi’s sons, Seif, who has supported programs that purport to de-radicalize violent Islamists. I’ll know more about the program after some meetings tomorrow, but at least Libya figured out a way to seriously confront the reality of political Islam. The U.S., as of now, has no real strategy regarding political Islam — other than sticking its head in the sand.
I just had an exchange with my friend Arnaud de Borchgrave, one of the world’s greatest chroniclers of the Middle East over the last six decades.
De Borchgrave sent an email to me on the occasion of my first trip to Tripoli:
I first went there [Tripoli] one month after the Colonel took over Sept 1, 1969 and I’ve interviewed him at length six times since then.
Alexandra* grew up there as her father was the first US ambassador to Libya after independence in 1952.
She was present at two of my interviews, shooting covers for Newsweek.
He’s maintained himself in power since the age of 27! Can’t be dismissed as a fruitcake.
*[de Borchgrave’s wife, Alexandra Villard de Borchgrave]
I was up at the UN General Assembly meeting when Col. Gaddafi was on a bit of a long rant during his time on stage — and reminded folks on a CNN show that listening to Libya’s leader speak for an hour, or two, or three — was well worth cooperation on other fronts, particularly in Libya suspending its nuclear weapons program.
I also have a hunch and some hope that Gaddafi is going to use the Arab Summit to arm twist the Egyptians and Saudis to stop playing games with Fatah and Hamas and to remove the blocks each of them have had at various points in resecuring a unified Palestinian government, something Ban Ki-Moon also called for in more general terms on Sunday.
As it stands, the Saudis are ready to support a unity government in Palestine — but the Egyptians, who are allegedly trying to broker a deal between Fatah and Hamas, are according to my sources actually blocking things (in part because of US pressure).
— Steve Clemons