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Cablegate: What Passes for Political Ferment in Libya

VZCZCXRO0072
OO RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHDH RUEHKUK RUEHROV
DE RUEHTRO #0860 2991430
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
O P 261430Z OCT 09
FM AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5403
INFO RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 1176
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 0847
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME PRIORITY 0630
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHINGTON DC
RUEHTRO/AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI 5952

S E C R E T TRIPOLI 000860

SIPDIS

STATE FOR NEA/MAG

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/26/2019
TAGS: PGOV PREL ECON PINR LY
SUBJECT: WHAT PASSES FOR POLITICAL FERMENT IN LIBYA

REF: A) TRIPOLI 805; B) TRIPOLI 819

CLASSIFIED BY: Gene A. Cretz, Ambassador, U.S. Embassy Tripoli,
Department of State.
REASON: 1.4 (b), (d)

1. (S) Summary: Reform-minded Libyans are "cautiously hopeful"
regarding the recent appointment of Saif al-Islam al-Qadhafi as
"General Coordinator." While Saif al-Islam is widely seen as a
reformer, embassy contacts note that he will face continued
resistance from the Libyan old guard. Some observers believe
that the appointment was meant to give the regime a "new lease
on life" and counter subtle yet growing voices of opposition,
particularly with respect to corruption. Given that Saif
al-Islam was out of the country when the appointment was made,
the meaning of his new position will only start to become clear
when he returns to Tripoli. End summary.

2. (S) xxxxxxxxxxx, told
Pol/Econ Chief October 22 that he and xxxxxxxxxxxx
were "cautiously hopeful" about Saif al-Islam al-Qadhafi's
October 6 appointment as "General Coordinator of Social and
Popular Committees." He said that Saif was widely known to be a
reformer within Libya but had often encountered resistance from
the old guard Revolutionary Committee (RevComm) leaders when
proposing drastic changes to the government structure, such as
the drafting of a constitution or calls to scale back RevComm
influence on government administration. He will undoubtedly
encounter the same resistance in his new role, according to
xxxxxxxxxxxx. "He has a lot of good ideas, but he has been too
outspoken about them in the past," xxxxxxxxxxxx commented. Echoing
the warning of other embassy contacts, xxxxxxxxxxxx noted that
Saif's position would only be effective if empowered with the
authority to make decisions and act on them.

3. (S) While the exact responsibilities of Saif's new position
are unclear, xxxxxxxxxxxx asserted that the move provided the
Qadhafi regime a "new lease on life" by introducing a person
widely considered to be reform minded - both by local and
foreign observers - into the system. xxxxxxxxxxxx argued that the
regime was stagnating and that voices of opposition were subtly
rising across the country, particularly from the poorer, eastern
areas. "The people see what the rest of the world has and know
that the country is wealthy, but they do not see any of the
wealth. They wonder where it goes." A young Libyan businessman
and son of xxxxxxxxxxxx, echoed this
refrain, telling us that "Brother Saif will solve these problems
of corruption."

4. (C) xxxxxxxxxxxx stated that the younger generations are
particularly frustrated with their country's slow economic
development and lack of employment opportunities, estimating
unemployment at 30 percent. xxxxxxxxxxxx believes the regime is
concerned about this frustration exploding into violence. With
Saif at the top, xxxxxxxxxxxx reasoned, Muammar al-Qadhafi thinks he
will fool people into believing that real change is taking
place. Meanwhile, he still has a few more years to control
Libya from behind the scenes. xxxxxxxxxxxx fears that the official
role will also constrain Saif, who had been relatively free to
act and speak out in favor of reform in his nominally
"non-governmental" position as Chairman of the Qadhafi
Development Foundation.

5. (S) Comment: In true Qadhafi fashion, his latest political
move has local observers guessing about what practical effect
the announcement will have on the Libyan government and people.
Given that Saif al-Islam was out of the country when this
appointment was made, the meaning of his new position will
likely only start to become clear when he returns to Tripoli.
And given the backdrop of political apathy in Libya, ordinary
citizens are unlikely to react to the news until they begin to
see real change in their daily lives. Many observers here
believe that Saif's visible role in the return and welcome given
to convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdel Basset al-Megrahi was one of
the necessary steps the Qadhafi clan had to take to enable the
Leader to elevate Saif to this new position. End comment.

Cretz

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