Is Qaddafi Really going to Flee to Tunisia?

NBC News is reporting that US intelligence officials are telling it that Muammar Qaddafi is considering fleeing into exile in neighboring Tunisia. This in the wake of the dramatic advances made by Free Libya forces, who now control about 2/3s of the country, and who are in a position to cut the capital off from fuel.

I fear that NBC is being used by US intelligence for psy-ops purposes, since the report strikes me as highly unlikely to be true.

1. While Qaddafi might be willing to flee Tripoli, I’m not sure he has it in his cantankerous old soul to go into exile abroad.

2. Tunisia would not want him. He opposed the Tunisian revolution and had had members of the Ben Ali government on retainer. When I was in Tunisia this summer I found that most Tunisians to whom I spoke were afraid of Qaddafi and tended to support the Transitional National Council in Benghazi, even if some opposed NATO intervention. There would be a danger of him intriguing with tribal supporters in Libya from Tunisia, which would be a huge headache for the latter.

3. The Transitional National Council would not accept Qaddafi’s presence right next door, from which he could do mischief, nor his residence on the soil of a friendly neighbor.

4. Tunisia has joined the International Criminal Court. Since the ICC has indicted Qaddafi for war crimes, as a signatory Tunisia would be constrained to turn him over to the Hague for trial.

So, while it would be a wonderful thing if Qaddafi would just go away somewhere, and it might even save Libya’s future, I just don’t believe the intelligence officials who told NBC this story. My guess is that they wanted to demoralize the loyalist officers and high politicians in Tripoli and encourage them to defect. After all, anyone who defects now is a hero. Wait too long and the same person will be on trial for treason. And if Qaddafi himself is about to abandon ship like a rat, then why risk your life for him any further?

As the rebels close in on the capital, there will be popular uprisings in working class suburbs, repeating what happened from Feb. 17. Some opposition sources say that these uprisings are already beginning. Many troops will switch sides at that point. If the officer corps has any sense, it will arrest its pro-Qaddafi minders, slip some rags soaked in chloroform over the mouths of the Qaddafis, and put them on a plane to some distant country that would host them and is not a member of the ICC.

All the alternatives to this scenario are much less desirable, and some are potential disasters. Qaddafi has threatened to mine and booby-trap the capital, which could make it a death trap for civilian non-combatants for years to come. Apart from those concerns, on the political side of things it would be far better if Tripoli can claim to have made its own revolution against the tyrant, so that its residents can join the TNC as equals with their heads held high.

Posted in Libya | 14 Responses | Print |

14 Responses

  1. Professor Cole,
    Is it possible that they have half the story? That he is fleeing to Tunisia to reach a point where he and his family may depart to a country like Venezuela? I suspect that he could not leave Libya by air or sea without notice.

  2. That is a very valid perspective, Dr. Cole. I thought it was a bit weird to choose Tunisia as a home, especially when it has overthrown its own dictator. Who in Tunisia will guarantee a safe haven to Qaddafi and to what end? If it were Zimbabwe I would have given the tidbit a thought, but not Tunisia.
    I am inclined to say that Tripoli will have an implosion-explosion scenario. Simultaneous or sequential deflection within the regime and a local rebellion stoked and encouraged by rebels’ advances from the East. Explosion must be rapid to catch the Qaddafi regime off-guard lest targeted attacks against rebels from inner city adopt a scenario we’re currently witness in Syrian Latakia.

  3. assuming a “popular uprisings in working class suburbs in Tripoli & the areas loyal to Gaddafi, repeating what happened from Feb. 17” make no sense
    After NATO’s intervention the uprising “revolution” aborted, divided the population into tribal loyalties the ‘national and patriotic’ shift to Gaddafi side , as we speak Benghazi protest against some, if not all the Transitional National Council regulation, dictated on them from above

    • After NATO’s intervention the uprising “revolution” aborted

      No, it didn’t. It was violently put down where the Gaddafi military was strong enough, but it never aborted. It took Gaddafi forces weeks to put down the uprising in Zawiya. The revolutionaries were able to hold out in Misurata, and look at the uprising, weeks after the UN protective mission began, in the Nafusa Mountain towns.

  4. Sounds too inept and implausible even for US intelligence psy-ops. Sounds more like something that Qaddafi might be putting about whilst his sons sneak off to Zim or SA. He’ll stay there and put himself in the way of a NATO bomb,

  5. The analysis was built over a premise different from what I understood: That G would stay in Tunisia, what is clearly impossible. Like Tom, I understood that Tunisia would only be a path to another place. And, at this time, I do believe G is searching a way to get out from Libya.

  6. I should think they would be far more likely to slip some bullets into the bodies of the Qaddafis (or Khadafys or Gadaffis or however you want to spell it) than to anesthetize them and ship them off to Venezuela. Much simpler.

  7. I agree completely, I think the notion that the Tunisians, who I’m sure still recall the rumors during their uprising that Libyan special forces were helping Ben Ali’s secret police, would take in Qaddafi is ridiculous. I don’t even think the Tunisian government would allow Qaddafi to come through as a transit point to another destination.

    Also, while Hugo Chavez might be buddy-buddy with Qaddafi, I don’t think the Venezuelan people will be too keen on a war criminal setting up shop in their country.

  8. I highly doubt it, Professor Cole. It sounds more like a stop-over, a lay-over on his way to a safer haven, if it ever happens. He is definitely a persona-non-grata in Tunisia in light of his stand towards the revolution, his close friendship with the main actors in the previous regime and the tumumltuous love-hate relationship towards Tunisian migrant workers in Libya for the last 40 years or so.

  9. NATO has not been killing too many soldiers because it wants the army there to keep order in the post-Gadaffi time? And the rebels are not pleased about that? So in the new Libya there will be soldiers who defected, those who did not, and the rebels all together. Very awkward.

    • So far where security forces defect to the rebels, even very late in the game, as at Sabratha, they have been welcomed into the fold. The impetus for national unity and reconciliation is strong among the rebel forces. Once the Qaddafis are gone and the Republic itself becomes the object of loyalty, those who have no innocent blood on their hands should be able to rejoin the body politic.

      There wasn’t a guerrilla war in the US South after 1865.

    • And the rebels are not pleased about that?

      I think the point is, the rebels are not pleased the NATO is not doing something that is could help them win battles, not that the rebels think there is a shortage of dead army troops.

  10. Im in Tunisia now… one thing i can guarantee you all is that he will not be living here. It has been rumored though that he may pass through Tunisia to escape to another country, which if allowed at all would be met with great protest from the people as well as many members of the government.

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