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Cablegate: Qadhafi Children Scandals Spilling Over Into Politics

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O P 021408Z FEB 10
FM AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5759
INFO RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHINGTON DC
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DEPT FOR NEA/MAG AND INR/NESA

E.O. 12958: DECL: 2/2/2020
TAGS: PREL PGOV PINR PHUM LY
SUBJECT: QADHAFI CHILDREN SCANDALS SPILLING OVER INTO POLITICS

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CLASSIFIED BY: Gene A. Cretz, Ambassador, U.S. Embassy Tripoli,
Department of State.
REASON: 1.4 (b), (d)
1. (S/NF) Summary. According to a local political observer XXXXXXXXXXXX the family has been in a tailspin lately, trying to put a stop to one rumor or another, in the name of defending the family's honor. From Mutassim al-Qadhafi's headline-grabbing St. Bart's New Year's Eve bash to Hannibal's latest violent outburst, the Qadhafi
family has provided local observers with enough dirt for a Libyan soap opera. Meanwhile, as his brothers, sister, and mother scurry to cover-up scandals, Saif al-Islam seems to be strategically disengaged, traveling in New Zealand and Algeria, and focusing on Haiti relief efforts. The widening contrast between the respectable, cultured image that Saif has taken on and the spoiled, boorish image his siblings project has local audiences rallying behind Saif as the next heir to the Qadhafi throne. End Summary.

2. (S/NF) A local political observer XXXXXXXXXXXX told us that the Qadhafi family has been consumed in recent weeks by efforts to control the damage from Mutassim and Hannibal's recent headline-grabbing behavior. National Security Advisor Mutassim al-Qadhafi kicked off 2010 in the same way he spent 2009 -- with a New Year's Eve trip to St. Bart's -- reportedly featuring copious amounts of alcohol and a million-dollar personal concert courtesy of Beyonce, Usher, and other musicians. Mutassim seemed to be surprised by the fact that his party was photographed and the focus of international media attention.
XXXXXXXXXXXX, his carousing and extravagance angered some locals, who viewed his activities as impious and embarrassing to the nation. Others took the events and rumors surrounding it as further argument that Mutassim -- often considered to be a rival of brother Saif al-Islam to succeed his father -- is not fit to be the next leader of the country. The Egyptian ambassador recently told the Ambassador that the Egyptians had been bracing for retribution after an Egyptian newspaper published the report of Mutassim's carousing.

3. (S/NF) Days before Mutassim's extravagant display, international press reported that his brother Hannibal had physically abused his wife, Aline, in a London hotel room over Christmas. XXXXXXXXXXXX told us that Aline had threatened to leave Hannibal a few weeks before the incident and had fled to London. When Safiya, Hannibal's mother, heard the news, she pleaded with Aline by phone to return to Tripoli, promising to
give her "whatever she desired," in exchange. Hannibal pursued Aline in London, and the encounter ended in assault. When Safiya and Hannibal's sister, Ayesha al-Qadhafi (at that time many months' pregnant), heard the news, Ayesha traveled to London to intervene. Both Qadhafi women -- Safiya by phone and Ayesha in person -- advised Aline to report to the police that she had been hurt in an "accident," and not to mention anything about abuse. London press reported that Hannibal was allowed to leave the UK discreetly, on diplomatic immunity.

4. (S/NF) In the meantime, heir-apparent Saif al-Islam has been opportunely disengaged from local affairs. According to his staff and press reports, Saif celebrated the New Year far away from Tripoli in a small New Zealand town of 8,000 people, on a hunting trip. He spent a week in mid-January hunting as well, in Western Algeria, according to Algerian press. Saif's Qadhafi International Charity and Development Foundation has recently been active in the Haiti relief effort, sending hundreds of tons of supplies. Saif al-Islam's inner circle has been officially dismissive of any reports that he may accept the "General
Coordinator" position to which he was appointed by his father in early October. XXXXXXXXXXXX told us that Saif did not want to be "tainted" by the current political environment.

5. (C) Young Libyan contacts have repeated over the last few weeks that Saif al-Islam is the "hope" of "Libya al-Ghad" (Libya of tomorrow), with men in their twenties saying that they aspire to be like Saif and think he is the right person to run the country. They describe him as educated, cultured, and someone who wants a better future for Libya. By comparison, when asked about the prospects of Mutassim, Hannibal, or the other brothers as leaders of country, young contacts shake their heads and point to their famously irresponsible behavior as more reason to hope that Saif will succeed his father.

6. (S/NF) Comment: Amidst the Qadhafi family antics, Saif al-Islam has wisely distanced himself from the local drama. While no stranger to the playboy lifestyle himself, Saif has managed to keep international press coverage of his activities benign. Saif seems to be making progress in casting himself as a humanitarian, philanthropist, and reformer. In so doing,
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Libyans cannot help but to contrast his brothers' spoiled behavior with the mature, respectable image that Saif projects. If Saif al-Islam does intend to accept an official role in the near future, domestic audiences -- particularly among Libya's swelling ranks of young adults -- may welcome him as Libya's knight in shining armor. End comment. CRETZ

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