The PJ Tatler

Save the Libyan rebels! (But do we know who they are?)

With Libyan government troops closing in on the rebel stronghold of Benghazi, virtually all American commentators appear to be united in the conviction that America or “the West” should intervene to save the Libyan rebels. But one month after the unrest in Libya began, we still know almost nothing about them. This fact seems not to trouble the commentators or even certain heads of state.

Last week, French President Nicolas Sarkozy famously recognized the rebels’ so-called National Council as the “legitimate representative of the Libyan people.” But a report in last weekend’s edition of the French daily Le Figaro notes that the full membership of the council is not even known. Reporting from Benghazi, Figaro correspondent Tanguy Berthemet writes, “Officially, it is supposed to have 31 members. But only seven names have been made public. …One does not know where its headquarters are or what its daily order of business is.”

More ominously, Berthemet’s report makes clear that the National Council is supported by local Islamists. Indeed, it might well contain some. Although Berthemet’s article cites “security concerns,” perhaps this is the reason that the names have not been released. In any case, Berthemet notes that the next step for the National Council is to put together “a veritable transitional government.” His report continues:

“It’s just a matter of time,” Mohammed Bosidra says, “It’s not a problem, and this government will be recognized by all countries, even in the West.” For Bosidra, a lawyer who is close to the Islamists and who was imprisoned for twenty years, radical Muslims are the only force capable of preventing the formation of a cabinet. But Abdul Hakim al-Hisasady, the voice of Libya’s Islamists, has given his go-ahead.

By “Abdul-Hakim al-Hisasady,” Berthemet appears to mean Abdul-Hakim al-Hasadi, who reportedly declared an “Islamic Emirate” in eastern Libya shortly after the start of the Libyan unrest (and who landed a notably chummy interview with the New York Times earlier this month).

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