Tag: gaddafi

“Day of Rage” on the Day of Love: The Arab Spring Two Years On

Valentine’s Day. The one day of the year most associated with chocolates and red roses is being marked by bird shot and blood on the streets of Bahrain. Clashes between civilians and security personnel this morning have left at least one civilian dead, adding to the toll of at least 55 deaths since the revolution began two years ago. Since a “Day of Rage” was launched in Bahrain on February 14, 2011, demonstrations against the regime have been a common occurrence.

Similar “Days of Rage” also kick started the revolutions in Egypt and Libya in early 2011. Protesters in Egypt took to the streets in earnest on January 25. In Libya, the demonstrations began in full on February 17, with small-scale protests starting two days earlier.

In the two years since then, the anniversaries have served as flashpoints for public gatherings in each of these countries. Whether these gatherings proved to be celebratory or demonstrative in nature depended, and continues to depend, on the relative success of the revolution as judged by the people.

In the case of Egypt, while former President Hosni Mubarak is out of power and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) is no longer running the show, the now Muslim Brotherhood-led government has caused consternation among many in the populace. Protests against the regime on January 25, 2013 led to clashes with security forces. At least seven people were killed in the violence. While demonstrations were held last year, this year’s violence on the anniversary outpaces that witnessed in 2011.

In Bahrain, the monarch demonstrators sought to topple in 2011 remains on the throne. King Hammad bin Isa Al Khalifa has had little patience for protest, which has been best demonstrated by the constant use of police force to break up demonstrations against his regime. Such was the case a year ago and such is the case today. Given the life of this latent revolution, this was not unexpected.

Crucial Month for Libya?

The reality in Libya more closely reflects the situation in Egypt than it does in Bahrain. The first year anniversary of the uprising’s beginning was characterized by its peaceful nature. The mood was celebratory in the wake of the country’s success over former dictator Moammar Qaddafi. The victory was still fresh and optimism still high only four months after a once captive population beheld the corpse of their captor. The celebrations were for Libya, rather than against the government.

This year, however, there is more public pressure against entities hindering the realization of the Libyan revolution’s goals. People are calling for action to be taken against the militias, which, operating outside of the government’s purview, continue to wield considerable sway in the country. Calls for autonomy in eastern Libya’s Cyrenaica region have increased. The government has closed its borders with Tunisia and Egypt through February 18 and will man 1,400 checkpoints around the country through February 22.

 

The bottom line: there’s more of an edge to the anniversaries of the revolution in Libya this year than there was in 2011. Protests have been called for both February 15 and February 17 in the country. As in the case of both Egypt and Libya, this is not surprising. What should also not be surprising is more aggressive demonstrations in the days ahead in Libya as people gather to decry the failures of the revolution alongside those who bask in the now dated memory of a Libya recently freed of dictatorship.

What do you think?

Reminder: Join Recorded Future on February 19 for a webcast on monitoring web-based open source information. Special guest speaker is retired Navy Captain and maritime cyber analyst, Scott Phillpott. Register here.


Would Gaddafi-Islamist Alliance Change Complexion of Western Commitment to Libyan War?

It’s been a while since we last weighed in on Libya, but recent events warrant an updated look at the future of the conflict. Two events in particular raise questions worth exploring. First, a recent New York Times piece interviewing Seif al-Islam Gaddafi suggests the family has found an ally in Islamist groups. This news was followed shortly by reports from rebel fighters suggesting that Khamis Gaddafi, son of Muammar and the head of a prominent military division, was killed by NATO airstrikes.

I’ll start with the second issue and work back to the claims of state ties with Islamist groups. As for reports of Khamis Gaddafi being killed by airstrikes, it’s worth noting that similar rumors emerged from the fighting earlier this year and remain unconfirmed (something mentioned in our coverage of Gaddafi’s inner circle).

Timeline of Gaddafi's son Khamis killed in Libyan fighting

It will be interesting to see if anything concrete comes of the reports this time around, but if true, it’s almost certainly an event that could alter perception on progress from the international pressure being applied.

Raising more eyebrows than Khamis Gaddafi’s rumored death are the recent claims to the New York Times from another Gaddafi son, Saif al-Islam, claiming the ruling family is aligning itself with Islamist parties willing to cooperate against rebel and NATO forces. If there’s anything that could drum up public support in western democratic countries, it’s the threat of an Islamist force finding refuge.

Now that the news cycle has been able to churn out details for since the NY Times piece broke, let’s use that plus some historical data to see if we can outline connections between the Gaddafis and any groups of note.

Treemap of ties drawn up through scanning Gaddafi and Islamist

The dense set of results with linkages dating back to February shows that such potential alliances have long been discussed in this conflict. What we find, aside from the recent, vague claims of some sort of alliance between the Gaddafi family and rebel Islamists, are largely refutations that such a partnership would be possible.

Examples of this include:

All this doesn’t rule out an unexpected alliance, and signals such as the recent killing of rebel general Adbul Fattah Younes (a former Goddafi government figure) allegedly by an Islamist rebel faction.
In the murky world of Libyan politics, this open source data would be a perfect complement for HUMINT knowledge that can be partnered and compared.

Finally, let’s look at the time points currently on the horizon in Libya. The biggest twist in the plot could come from impending NATO dates for removal of forces and public pressure to downgrade operations as several countries involved face the need for major spending cuts.

Timeline of Libya events the rest of the year - Click for live view!

Also of note, and of course to be taken with the same caveats as a statement from Gaddafi, are the expectations that rebel forces are voicing about when they’ll reach Tripoli.

Would any real progress toward taking Tripoli force NATO to keep up the pressure and support the rebels in finishing the job? What about a clear connection between Gaddafi’s military and Islamist groups? Seriously tough questions even further complicated by the financial crunch on nations leading the rebel support.

Follow this issue by setting up Futures alerts for statements made by defense ministers about Libya and any new connections between Gaddafi and Islamist groups, or if you’re interested in using these open source intelligence tools


Behind the Scenes: Gaddafi’s Inner Circle

On April 1st, the Telegraph released a detailed analysis of Gaddafi’s inner circle. The article places the leadership into three categories: defectors, likely defectors, and loyalists. However, details were missing on high ranking Libyan military leaders. Further, few press reports have documented the role of military leaders directly involved in the conflict. This may be because Gaddafi has sought to, “weaken the conventional army, creating instead a parallel structure of security brigades whose loyalty is tied to his family”. Here we will examine the complex web of Gaddafi’s political and military relationships. Open source intelligence tools can help us discover new information about these social networks.

The recent UN Security Council resolution contains a wealth of information about Gaddafi’s inner circle. Within the document is a list of known members of Gaddafi’s political and military associates that are banned from traveling abroad. There are a two names on this list that stand out:

Abdulqader Mohammed Al-Baghdadi

Network visualization of Al-Bahdadi's relationships

Al-Baghdadi is the current Prime Minister of Libya under the Gaddafi regime. Although he is designated the Secretary of the General People’s Committee, he is not actually the head of state. Gaddafi and his military leadership appears hold those powers. However, al-Baghdadi does wield considerable power over the oil industry in Libya because of his post on the High Council for Oil & Gas. The report by the MEED also indicates five other influential Libyan leaders in the oil industry: Shokri Mohamed Ghanem, Ahmed al-Hadi Aoun, Azzam al-Mesallati, Omar Gazal and Ali el-Sogher Mohamed Salah. Although many of Gaddafi’s closest advisors have been sacked or defected, Baghdadi is still involved with Libyan government operations. Al-Baghdadi also appears to be affected by the UN sanctions as he was forced to send a deputy to Greece to convey Gaddafi’s message.

Colonel Abdullah Al-Senussi

Overview of media reports related to al-Senoussi

Colonel Abdullah Al-Senussi may be the most influential player within Gaddafi’s inner circle. One article discovered using Recorded Future’s open source intelligence tool states that, “Qadaffi’s most trusted aide, Abdullah Al-Senussi, the director of Military Intelligence…[is said to have] organized mass killings in Benghazi early in the uprising and recruited foreign mercenaries to fight for Qaddafi”. Al-Senussi is the brother-in-law of Gaddafi and is a shadowy figure- only two photos of him can be found. If the reports are correct, then Al-Senussi was responsible for the early mass killing in Benghazi. He was the adviser that called in foreign mercenaries to fight for Gaddafi. The mercenaries from neighboring African countries have bolstered Gaddafi’s security forces and made it more difficult for the rebels to advance.

Although Al-Senussi has been one of Gaddafi’s closest advisers, reports have surfaced that he may have been sacked in February. According to the Telegraph, “His current whereabouts and role are uncertain following reports he was sacked and even, in one rumour for which there is no evidence, shot”. His inability to contain the rebellion may have angered Gaddafi and caused him to take action against Al-Senussi. However, his role cannot entirely be ruled out because of conflicting reports.
Gaddafi’s Family

The role that Gaddafi’s sons play in the Libyan government should not be underestimated. Gaddafi has recently sought to decentralize the military and place this authority in the hands of his family. Thus, the power of Gaddafi’s sons has increased and has turned them into a force of military power. Which sons are the most powerful?

Khamis Gaddafi

Khamis Gaddafi's political relationships

 

Khamis is directly linked to his father militarily. According to one source he is the leader of the Khamis Brigade, one of Gaddafi’s most important armed factions. The Brigade has also played a leading role in the recent Libyan conflict. On March 22nd it was reported that Khamis Gaddafi was allegedly killed when a Libyan pilot crashed his plane near the Bab al-Azizia barracks. In response, Libyan state TV published a video claiming to show live footage of Khamis  Gaddafi. Both The footage claiming he is alive and the reports of his death have been disputed. Therefore, no one in the press truly knows whether Khamis is dead or not.

Press reports related to Khamis Gaddafi

Hassan Gaddafi
This son is an Army general and was recently “ordered to win support from the Ourfella tribe” for his father. He likely plays only a marginal role in his father’s regime.
Mutassim Gaddafi
He is his father’s National Security Adviser and has met with State Department officials. According to the Financial Times, he also has his own military brigade.

Seif al-Islam Gaddafi

Timeline of press statements related to Seif al-Islam Gaddafi

Seif has appeared as the public face of the Gaddafi regime during the Libyan crisis. He has conducted numerous interviews and appeared to be an heir apparent of his father. Although schooled in the West, he has since become the mouthpiece of his father’s oppressive regime .

The Thorn in the Side of Gaddafi- Abdul Fatah Younis

Overview of media reports mentioning Abdel Fattah Younis

Abdul Fatah Younis used to be one of Gaddafi’s most trusted generals. Younis was a member of the officer corps that overthrew King Idris in 1969 and held the post of Minister of the Interior. Some reports even suggest that he was Gaddafi’s right-hand man. Why should Gaddafi be afraid of Younis?
Younis was one of the first generals sent by Gaddafi to put down the Libyan uprising. Instead of putting down the uprising, he changed sides and joined the rebels. Gaddafi has since placed a US $4 million bounty on his head . Although the rebels have sinced demoted Younis to chief of staff, he is still playing an active role in the resistance movement.

The man who knows everything about Gaddafi’s tactics is fighting alongside the rebels.

Conclusion

Gaddafi’s inner circle is showing signs of weakness. Multiple defections of high-ranking officials has probably caused a brain drain within the Libyan government. The two actors with the greatest amount of knowledge and influence within Gaddafi’s government are on opposing sides. If Al-Senoussi is still at his post, he is likely coordinating attacks on the rebels and calling in mercenary reinforcements. Militarily he appears to be one of Gaddafi’s best suppliers of foreign fighters. In contrast, Gaddafi’s loss of Abdul Fatah Younis must have been a considerable blow to his campaign. Younis has 40 years of experience working for Gaddafi and represents the greatest tactical threat to the regime. The increasing military influence of Gaddafi’s sons should not be overlooked as Gaddafi has sought to decentralize the military in recent years.

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Russia and the Libyan No-Fly Zone

The UN Security Council approved a no-fly zone and air strikes over Libya late last week, and in a previous blog post on February 23rd we noted, “the prospect of civil war or foreign intervention seems far more likely than Gaddafi stepping down.” Both of these outcomes are now reality as the Security Council voted 10-0 in favor of implementing the measure with five members abstaining. Media attention is largely focused on the air strikes, but the fact that five members of the council abstained from voting was mostly overlooked.

Why did these nations abstain from a vote? The explanation given by the BBC suggests ”Russia and China -which often oppose the use of force against a sovereign country as they believe it sets a dangerous precedent -abstained rather than using their power of veto as permanent members.” Why do these nations believe it may set a dangerous precedent? What internal concerns do these nations have? Open source intelligence tools can reveal interesting quotations linked to political events and actors to help solve critical international relations questions.

In this example, we will focus on the political interaction of Russia vis-a-vis the international community. We will then contrast Russia’s official statements at the UN with its domestic rhetoric. Are they similar or different? First, we need to gain a better understanding of the current Russian political situation.

Real Time Timeline of the Russian opposition movement

From the graph we see that there is a considerable democratic opposition movement in Russia. This movement has been gaining momentum and has been in the news lately:

  • A New York Times article describes the “rare bow to popular pressure”the Kremlin made to pacify opposition leaders in the region of Kaliningrad. The Russian government decided not to back Georgy V. Boos, an unpopular governor in the region. His reappointment was expected to spark some of the most intense protests in recent history.
  • 500 pro-democracy demonstrators rallied in Moscow with the permission of the Russian government following the unrest in Egypt

The Kremlin is generally hostile to any form of protest, but occasionally makes concessions to pro-democracy ethnic Russians. The replacement of Georgy V. Boos is one such example. Still, the unrest in the Middle East has visibly rattled Moscow, and the United Russia Party in recent months has bent more than normal. Protest permits are generally denied in Moscow, but Boris Nemstov was granted permission to protest in late January. So why the recent change in policy?

The elephant in the room for the Russian government is the Muslim population in the North Caucasus region. Over the past twenty years, the government has fought two terrible wars against separatists in the North Caucasus. Both sides committed their fair share of atrocities leaving hundreds of thousands dead, and they essentially remain at war.

The Russian government is afraid of the unrest in the Middle East spreading to the North Caucasus:

Timeline of Medvedev quotes related to the Middle East

  • In another article, the President of Russia explains that, “the situation in the Middle East may lead to the disintegration of major nations into small bits, the rise to power of fanatics and the spread of extremism for decades to come…They were preparing such a scenario for us before and will now try even more to make it happen”. Medvedev is referring to the Chechen militants in this case as the “fanatics” and to the “disintegration of major nations into smaller bits” as the goal of the Chechen separatist movement.

Medvedev may be correct on the stated goal of the Chechen resistance, but the likelihood of pro-democracy resistance spreading to Chechnya seems unlikely. The Russian President’s more realistic concern may be general unrest as seen in the Middle East taking hold in the North Caucasus.

The most interesting point that Recorded Future’s timeline tool uncovered was that Nashi openly supports Colonel Gaddafi. Nashi is the primary youth organization of Vladamir Putin’s United Russia Party and has the firm backing of the Kremlin. It is a bit shocking to read the statements of Boris Yakemenko, a high-ranking ideologist in Nashi: “Libyan leader Col. M. Gaddafi has shown the whole world how to treat provocateurs who aim for revolution, destabilization, and civil war.”

Yakemenko wrote the statement in an essay entitled “The Right Path,” posted on his blog and on Nashi’s official website. These statements of support for Gaddafi are coming from the main youth wing supported by the Russian government. Considering this, how close was Russia to actually using its veto power on the Security Council?

Conclusion

The Russian government believes that foreign intervention in Libya would set a “dangerous precedent” for encroaching on the territory of sovereign states. Using open source analysis we have unraveled some of the facts behind this statement. Evidence suggests that the Russian government is afraid that the unrest in the Middle East will spread to the North Caucasus. In that case, the Russian government would be forced to suppress the Chechen resistance once again. In regard to the UN Security Council, Russia and China would prefer not to have it looking into their own internal security problems.


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