WASHINGTON – A representative of Libya’s rebel Transitional National Council says radical Islamists such as members of the Muslim Brotherhood could have a role in a democratic post-Gadhafi government.
This has some prominent observers worried radical Islamists could use the power of the ballot to take over, much as they did in Iran after the shah was deposed.
Ali Aujali, Gadhafi’s former ambassador to Washington, who resigned his post in February to throw his lot with the rebels, told WND during a question-and-answer session at the American Enterprise Institute Monday that the Muslim Brotherhood is a part of Libyan society and would not be prevented from participating in a post-Gadhafi democratic government.
“If you have a democracy you have room for any peaceful, democratic organization to work in this society, and if there [are] Brotherhood members lobbying for the Libyan people, this is their right. They are Libyans, and they see Gadhafi as a criminal, and they don’t approve of what he is doing,” Aujali said.
Aujali denied the Libyan branch of the Muslim Brotherhood engages in violence, as does Hamas, the Palestinian branch of the Islamist group. Conversely, Aujali said he opposes allowing groups like al-Qaida to participate in a post-Gadhafi government.
The Muslim Brotherhood has had deep roots in Libya dating back to the 1950s when King Idris I invited the group into his kingdom after it was expelled from Egypt, but members have been repressed since Gadhafi came to power in 1969.
The former ambassador also said a democratic Libyan government would respect women’s rights, responding to a question from former Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, who moderated the talk.
Aujali says Gadhafi cannot stay:
Former CIA Director James Woolsey sees a threat of collaboration between the Muslim Brotherhood and Iran in a post-Gadhafi Libya.
Woolsey is worried that radical Islamists could push out more moderate elements in Libya just as the Ayatollah Khomenei did following Iran’s revolution.
“The thing that bothers me is that revolutions have historically in a large number of cases, although not all, had pretty bad third acts,” Woolsey said. “I think the Muslim Brotherhood organizations are likely going to try to look like moderates for some time, and then when they feel they have the upper hand they will try to establish a caliphate or establish Shariah law.”
The Islamist uprising against Gadhafi has a twist of irony to it because the Libyan dictator played an important role in bringing political Islam onto the world stage in the early 1970s.
“There has been Islamist opposition that has grown and grown toward him over the decades,” said Daniel Pipes, a leading scholar on the Middle East. “It’s been the Islamist opposition to Gadhafi that’s been the most potent, and Gadhafi’s condemnation has always been focused on them.
“Part of that is that he will win sympathy from us, but the truth is they are the real mainstay of the opposition. I am inclined that a large part of the opposition to him are from the Islamists, and you see that everywhere [in the Middle East] Ì¶ in Egypt in particular.”
Pipes believes a Libyan democracy would be more like that of Iran where candidates only can run if they receive support from the country’s religious leadership and Shariah is the law of the land.
And the former ambassador reports it’s not al-Qaida.
“They talk about democracy and the rule of law, but these are not democratic regimes,” Pipes said. “They have a double meaning because we think of one thing about democracy and the rule of law, they think about another, but they can talk the talk and sound convincing.
“But their meaning is quite another.”
Aulaji denies that the Libyan rebels are anything other than patriotic Libyans who are trying to come out from underneath Gadhafi’s brutal rule.
“If they are attacking your house, your family, or if you are a previous al-Qaida activist, or if you are a student or professor, you have to defend yourself,” Aulaji said.
“We can’t take this criteria as meaning who is fighting in Libya is al-Qaida. This is the wrong impression that Gadhafi’s been trying to sell to the media.”
Despite Aulaji’s denials that al-Qaida has played a part in the resistance to Gadhafi’s rule, numerous press accounts suggest al-Qaida members who fought against the United States in Afghanistan and Iraq have returned home to fight Gadhafi’s forces.
Last month, the London Telegraph interviewed Libyan rebel leader Abdel-Hakim al-Hasidi, who fought against the United States in Afghanistan in 2002. The rebel commander told the newspaper that his fighters were “patriots and good Muslims” and added that “members of al-Qaida are also good Muslims and are fighting against the invader.”
Woolsey believes the possibility of al-Qaida’s involvement in the rebellion is not enough reason to stay away from the rebels.
“My first instinct is to get some assets over there and get some intelligence on the people that are involved in the rebellion and their history and so on,” Woolsey said.
The former CIA director has been pressuring the Obama administration to follow France, Italy and Qatar in recognizing the Transitional Council as the legitimate government of Libya and release over $30 billion in Libyan assets to the rebels.
Thus far the Obama administration has been reluctant to do so, claiming they do not know who the rebels are, and according to Aulaji it took until last week for the administration to send a diplomat to Benghazi to figure that out.
Wolfowitz told WND that the administration’s response was unacceptable, because it should have sent emissaries to the rebels at the outset of the Libyan uprising to discover who its potential allies are and who should be opposed.
“I am mystified at the hesitation,” Wolfowitz said. “It is better that we get rid of Gadhafi and that we are supporting people who share our values.
“I don’t want us to make the same mistake we made in Bosnia where we had a no-fly zone for three years and developed an al-Qaida presence that has not gone away.”