Cablegate: A Glimpse Into Libyan Leader Qadhafi's Eccentricities
OO RUEHBC RUEHDBU RUEHDE RUEHDH RUEHFL RUEHKUK RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP
DE RUEHTRO #0771/01 2721721
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
O P 291721Z SEP 09
FM AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5305
INFO RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 0239
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHINGTON DC
RHMFISS/CDR USAFRICOM STUTTGART GE
RUEHTRO/AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI 5851
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 TRIPOLI 000771
STATE FOR NEA/MAG AND INR.
EO 12958 DECL: 9/29/2019
TAGS PREL, PGOV, LY, PINR
SUBJECT: A GLIMPSE INTO LIBYAN LEADER QADHAFI’S ECCENTRICITIES
CLASSIFIED BY: XXXXXXXXXXXX, Ambassador, U.S. Embassy Tripoli, Department of State.
REASON: 1.4 (b), (d)
1. (S/NF) Summary: Recent first-hand experiences with Libyan Leader Muammar al-Qadhafi XXXXXXXXXXXX primarily in preparation for his UNGA trip, provided rare insights into Qadhafi’s inner circle and personal proclivities. Qadhafi appears to rely heavily on XXXXXXXXXXXX and reportedly cannot travel with his senior Ukrainian nurse, Galyna XXXXXXXXXXXX. He also appears to have an intense dislike or fear of staying on upper floors, reportedly prefers not to fly over water, and seems to enjoy horse racing and flamenco dancing. His recent travel may also suggest a diminished dependence on his legendary female guard force, as only one woman bodyguard accompanied him to New York. End Summary.
QADHAFI’S PERSONALITY REFLECTED IN HIS PHOBIAS
2. (S/NF) Muammar al-Qadhafi has been described as both mercurial and eccentric, and our recent first-hand experiences with him and his office, primarily in preparation for his UNGA trip, demonstrated the truth of both characterizations. From the moment Qadhafi’s staff began to prepare for his travel to the United States, XXXXXXXXXXXX various proclivities and phobias began to reveal themselves in every logistical detail. When applying for Qadhafi’s visa, protocol staff asked whether it was necessary for the Leader to submit a portrait of himself that fit consular application regulations, noting that his photo was displayed throughout the city and that anyone of hundreds of billboards could be photographed and shrunken to fit the application’s criteria. When the rule was enforced, protocol staff reluctantly conceded to take a portrait of the Leader specifically for the visa application.
3. (S/NF) XXXXXXXXXXXX informed us that the Leader must stay on the first floor of any facility that was rented for him. (XXXXXXXXXXXX told XXXXXXXXXXXX that Qadhafi could not climb more than 35 steps.) XXXXXXXXXXXX cited this requirement as the primary reason that the Libyan residence in New Jersey was selected as the preferred accommodation site rather than the Libyan PermRep’s residence in New York City.XXXXXXXXXXXX also sought to find accommodations with room to pitch Qadhafi’s Bedouin tent, Qadhafi’s traditional site for receiving visitors and conducting meetings, as it offers him a non-verbal way of communicating that he is a man close to his cultural roots.
4. (S/NF) Qadhafi’s dislike of long flights and apparent fear of flying over water also caused logistical headaches XXXXXXXXXXXX explained that the Libyan delegation would arrive from Portugal, as Qadhafi “cannot fly more than eight hours” and would need to overnight in Europe prior to continuing his journey to New York. XXXXXXXXXXXX also revealed in the same conversation that Qadhafi does not like to fly over water. Presumably for similar reasons, Qadhafi’s staff also requested a stop in Newfoundland to break his travel from Venezuela to Libya on September 29. [Note: The Government of Canada recently confirmed that the Libyan delegation canceled plans to stop in Newfoundland. End Note.]
DEPENDENCIES: RELIANCE ON A SELECTIVE GROUP OF INDIVIDUALS
5. (S/NF) Qadhafi appears to be almost obsessively dependent on a small core of trusted personnel. XXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXX appears to play an equally important role in Qadhafi’s personal retinueXXXXXXXXXXXX We constantly hear that XXXXXXXXXXXX also plays a key role XXXXXXXXXXXX also seems to have been tasked with insuring that the Leader’s image is well-preserved through the full array of carefully-planned media events.
6. (S/NF) Finally, Qadhafi relies heavily on his long-time Ukrainian nurse, Galyna XXXXXXXXXXXX, who has been described as a “voluptuous blonde.” Of the rumored staff of four Ukrainian nurses that cater to the Leader’s health and well-being, XXXXXXXXXXXX emphasized to multiple Emboffs that Qadhafi cannot travel without XXXXXXXXXXXX, as she alone “knows his routine.” When XXXXXXXXXXXX’s late visa application resulted in her Security Advisory Opinion being received on the day Qadhafi’s party planned to travel to the U.S., the Libyan Government sent a private jet to ferry her from Libya to Portugal to meet up with the Leader during his rest-stop. Some embassy contacts have claimed that Qadhafi and the 38 year-old XXXXXXXXXXXX have a romantic relationship. While he did not comment on such rumors, a XXXXXXXXXXXX recently confirmed that the Ukrainian nurses “travel everywhere with the Leader.”
PREFERENCES - FROM DANCING TO HORSEMAN
7. (S/NF) In addition to the personality quirks revealed through Qadhafi’s travel to New York, the Qadhafi’s preferences for dancing and cultural performances were displayed over the last month. The three-day spectacle of his 40th anniversary in power included performances by dance troupes from Ukraine, Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt, and Morocco, as well as musical performances by bands from Mexico, Russia, New Zealand, and a number of other nations. Qadhafi appeared particularly enthralled by Tuareg horse racing during two of the events, clapping and smiling throughout the races. The flamenco dancers that participated in his celebratory events appeared to spark a similar interest, as Qadhafi decided to stop in Seville (for a “personal trip” according to the Spanish Ambassador here) on his way back to Libya from Venezuela specifically to attend a flamenco dance performance. [Note: That stop has reportedly been scrapped for unknown reasons. End note.]
NO NEW YORK PHOTO OPS - QADHAFI LEAVES FEMALE GUARDS AT HOME
8. (S/NF) While Qadhafi’s reported female guard force has become legendary, it played no role in his travels to New York. Only one female guard was included among the approximately 350-person strong Libyan delegation to New York. This is the same female bodyguard who sticks close to Qadhafi in his domestic and international public appearances and may, in fact, play some sort of formal security role. Observers in Tripoli speculate that the female guard force is beginning to play a diminished role among the Leader’s personal security staff.
9. (S/NF) Comment: Qadhafi’s state visits and appearances at various conferences and summits, both at home and abroad, have revealed greater details about his personality and character. While it is tempting to dismiss his many eccentricities as signs of instability, Qadhafi is a complicated individual who has managed to stay in power for forty years through a skillful balancing of interests and realpolitik methods. Continued engagement with Qadhafi and his inner circle is important not only to learn the motives and interests that drive the world’s longest serving dictator, but also to help overcome the misperceptions that inevitably accumulated during Qadhafi’s decades of isolation. As XXXXXXXXXXXX told us, pointing to a larger-than-life portrait of Qadhafi, “When you have been isolated for so long, it is important to communicate.” End comment.