By A. K. Pasha
September 14, 2012
THE assassination of Christopher Stevens, the US ambassador to Libya, and diplomats is the first major indication of the enormous capability the Islamist groups have acquired in the aftermath of the Arab Spring in Libya.
The foreign intervention, including the supply of weapons by Arab states and in some cases Arab soldiers, has contributed to a sense of triumph, revival of pride and glory of the Arab past. At the same time, the long years of colonialism and Muammar Gaddafi’s anti- Islamic measures have contributed to the present continuing turmoil in Libya. Benghazi in particular has been the hotbed of Islamists. Gaddafi tried hard to suppress them but he was unsuccessful.
Although it was the Muslim Brotherhood which was popular from across the border in Egypt, during the Libyan revolution the Salafists supported by Saudi Arabia and Qatar appear to have gained an upper hand.
Way back in 2006, the Italian consulate was burnt down in Benghazi in reaction to the offensive cartoons demeaning Prophet Mohammed. Earlier in Benghazi, in a jail called Abu Salem, a large number of Islamists were killed in prison firing.
To commemorate their deaths, the fifth anniversary of which fell on February 17, 2011, protests against Gaddafi erupted in Benghazi and he lost control of the areas and the eastern part of Libya within a week.
It is interesting that Stevens, who had played a vital role in the Libyan revolution coordinating the entire Western effort, was targeted. The recent elections notwithstanding, the fact of the matter is that political leaders in charge at Tripoli are viewed with deep suspicion by people in Benghazi who have openly called for secession. In fact, the US envoy was in place to patch up between Tripoli and Benghazi along with efforts to disarm the innumerable militia and tribal groups which have accumulated weapons since the overthrow of Gaddafi. The people in Benghazi have openly contested the July elections and have ridiculed the claim of the “defeat” of the Islamists. Obviously the Islamists are from the Benghazi area.
The country is awash with weapons — not only AK- 47s but RPGs and missiles capable of bringing down flying objects.
These are now spreading to most countries in the region.
Not only is this an eye- opener for the US administration but a fierce clash between the Salafists and Muslim Brotherhood has the potential of a sectarian war involving Muslim and Christians elsewhere. Apart from the unresolved Arab- Israeli conflict, the new government in Egypt has become a headache for US President Barack Obama, more significantly since the turmoil is likely to continue in view of the struggle between Iran and Saudi Arabia for domination of the region.
Obama, who has so far tried to restrain Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Iran, is saddled with a new nightmare from Libya which is not going to fade away soon.