How they see us: Sowing chaos in Libya

The kidnapping of Abu Anas al-Libi is an outrage committed against Libyan sovereignty—and it will have repercussions.

The U.S. has once again stomped all over a Muslim country’s sovereignty, said Al-Quds Al-Arabi (U.K.) in an editorial. The kidnapping of Abu Anas al-Libi, an alleged al Qaida militant suspected of playing a role in the 1998 embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, “raises a great deal of question marks and enigmas.” Al-Libi was snatched from his home two weeks ago and spirited off to a U.S. Navy ship for interrogation and eventual trial in New York. Yet the son of the abducted man said that the gunmen who captured his father were Libyans, not Americans. “Does U.S. intelligence have a small army of Libyan nationals, or is there collusion with security agencies or with domestic militias in Libya?” Either way, the outrage committed against Libyan sovereignty is extreme—and it will have repercussions. Some of the many Islamist militant groups there are “calling for kidnapping U.S. citizens and attacking gas lines, ships, and aircraft.”

The backlash has already begun, said the Arab News (Saudi Arabia). In fact, the illegal U.S. operation has “come very close to costing Libya’s prime minister his life.” Last week, a group of armed men burst into a Tripoli hotel and briefly captured Prime Minister Ali Zeidan. Photos on social media show “a disheveled and confused Zeidan being bundled out of the building” at 4 a.m. The militants apparently believed that Zeidan had approved the U.S. attack on al-Libi, and they intended to use him to barter for al-Libi’s release. “It is Washington’s good fortune” that the militants were identified and that “wise counsel was able to prevail.” Libyan politicians and other negotiators persuaded the militants to hand back Zeidan unharmed after just eight hours. The prime minister may be unpopular, but if he had been killed by his captors, “the reaction against America would have been massive.”

Who’s to say the Libyan government didn’t stage the prime minister’s kidnapping? asked Le Pays (Burkina Faso). Libyans are furious at Zeidan’s perceived complicity with the Americans, and the government may have tried to win sympathy by portraying him as being menaced by terrorists. How else can we understand his security team’s “almost burlesque level of incompetence”? I seriously doubt that Zeidan faked it, said Rajih al-Khuri in Al-Nahar (Lebanon). On TV after his rescue he “sounded more like a victim than a capable prime minister.” His tale convinced me all the more “that Libya is rapidly sliding into complete chaos.”

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The country has the West to thank for that, said The Daily Star (Lebanon). NATO’s 2011 military intervention helped to topple Muammar al-Qaddafi, but there was “a gross lack of parallel political assistance.” The West simply abandoned Libya to armed gangs, which are now moving into business and crime and dabbling in politics. “The countries which leaped behind the Libyan revolution, and supported it militarily, must now step up” and help Libya forge a strong central government—-before it becomes another Somalia.

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