In a highly significant development, the leadership of the large and powerful Wafala tribe announced that it was now siding with the opposition against Qaddafi. About a million Libyans belong to this extended kinship group. Since cultivating tribal loyalties was one of the ways Qaddafi had remained in power, this major tribal defection underlines his loss of authority. It was further underlined when Arab Warfala leaders managed to convince their Berber counterparts in the southern Tuareg tribe, who are 500,000 strong, to join in opposing Qaddafi.
Seif's speech was certainly crazy, but he may be right about one thing: There is a nasty internecine conflict on the way in Libya. From all that we've seen, the regime will do anything to stay in power, including shooting people in cold blood with heavy-caliber weapons. It doesn't look like there will be a nice, friendly "let's all hold hands and clean up Tahrir Square" moment. After four decades of unspeakable tyranny, Libyans will be out for vengeance.
Issandr El Amrani believes that "the most important protests now taking place in North Africa are those in Libya":
[A] reason that Libya's regime appears in some respects more fragile (at least in parts of the country) is that it is the worst in the Middle East basically the region's North Korea. Except that it's not protected by China, and is situated in a region of the world that is historically globalized. Libyans may have been cut off from the rest of the world by the sanctions, but they share an Arab and Mediterranean culture with over 300 million people and know that there is better than Qaddafi out there.
Qaddafi’s sons are said to be at odds, as was the case between Mubarak’s two sons during the last couple of days of his presidency. The struggle between the more mild-mannered Saif and his hardliner military brother Mu’tasim Billah, national security adviser to his father who enjoys the support of tribal traditionalists, illustrates the nature of the regime’s internal fissures. A castle coup by the nationalist moderate reformers within the regime may save the country many lives and more destruction.
There is no telling whether the ongoing fighting will be more or less likely to topple the regime than were the mass sit-ins of Egypt and Tunisia, or whether the protesters, as they become more isolated and violent, will coalesce into just another opposition militia in a part of the world that already has plenty. In a worst-case scenario, eastern Libya moves not toward peaceful regime change but low-level civil war.
Complicating matters is Libya’s unusual position in world affairs. Not long ago it was a pariah nation. But since 9/11, it has wormed its way back into favor with the United States and Europe because Qaddafi joined the war on terror, cooperating in the Lockerbie bomb investigation, coming down hard on al Qaeda, and kicking out terrorists he had once sheltered. At the same time, he has steered Libya into an increasingly powerful position in world politics because of its vast oil reserves. Libya has an especially close relationship with its former colonial master, Italy. It now provides about 20 percent of all Italy’s oil imports and has invested in sizeable amounts in that country’s energy infrastructure including the transnational energy giant ENI.
The masses of Libya (the jamahir as that loony leader calls them) hate the leader, and the leader is hated in the region by fellow dictators. So he has nowhere to go (possibly with the exception of Italy). So he and his sons will have to fight to the end. But the end is coming for them, no doubt.
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