LIBYAN LIBERATION: Islamic extremists,' Barack Obama's, and left wing Western journalists' wet dream

As Tripoli fell to anti-Gaddafi rebel forces, the euphoria that erupted in some parts of the city was matched only by that which broke out among Middle East pundits in the West. The fall of the Libyan capital represents a clear victory for freedom over tyranny, they tell us, and a new country — defined by an enthusiastic embrace of democracy, pluralism and representative government — will emerge.

UK DAILY MAIL  However, we have been here twice before in the Middle East in recent months. First, when Tunisia’s strongman, Zine El-Abidene Ben Ali, fled Tunis, and then when Egypt’s dictator Hosni Mubarak vacated the presidential palace in Cairo.

Seven months on, both countries are as authoritarian as ever. The Islamists have hijacked the popular uprisings there. And little evidence of a popular thirst for democracy can be found. If the Arab Spring has so miserably failed to blossom into an enthusiasm for democracy in these two relatively modern and unified Arab states, what chance is there of it doing so in a desert backwater such as Libya?

Other events in the Middle East also bode ill for Libya’s future. A decade after the American-led invasions, Afghanistan and Iraq — also deeply tribal countries — are, despite regular elections, just as far in social terms from Western notions of liberalism and pluralism. Instead, their populations are busy tearing each other apart along tribal and sectarian lines, and the liberals are so marginalised they barely manage to get a word in.

Now, more suddenly than any of us imagined, we are confronted with the same question that has caused us so many problems in those countries: what happens next? Several months ago, as the West became ever more deeply embroiled in its Libyan misadventure, it became increasingly clear that it did not have the faintest idea who the ‘Eastern Rebels’ they were defending and arming actually were.

Yet the coalition forces have gone to dramatic lengths to assist this ragtag army in its attempt to unseat Gaddafi, with Nato flying 2,000 sorties, which (to put it charitably) pushed to the limit its UN mandate giving authorisation only to protect civilians.

Only in the weeks and months to come will we discover if the West has repeated the deadly mistake it made in Afghanistan and Iraq: arming fanatical jihadists and tribesmen who will, sooner or later, turn against their paymaster.

For not all the rebels are chaotic. One of their commanders, Abdel-Hakim Al-Hasidi, has been a member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) since the Nineties. This is a violent jihadist outfit that, for decades, had been waging a holy war against the Gaddafi regime with an aim of creating an Islamic state. It was banned worldwide after the 9/11 attacks, when Al-Hasidi fled to Afghanistan.

Now he admits he recruited dozens of Al Qaeda members to the insurgent cause in Iraq, where the LIFG made up the second largest group of foreign fighters; and, worse, that many of his jihadists have joined the rebellion in Libya. Al-Hasidi said his fighters in Libya ‘are patriots and good Muslims’, but added that Al Qaeda men ‘are also good Muslims and are fighting against the invader’ in Iraq.

Even as the rebels continue to pour into Tripoli, the numerous Islamist militias, who have been fighting independently, are still refusing officially to join their ranks.

Rebel leader Abdul Jalil says his opposition forces had chosen to start their first attack on Tripoli on the 20th day of Ramadan, which marks the ancient Islamic Battle of Badr, when Muslims fought for the holy city of Mecca in AD 624. That hardly inspires confidence in a secular, liberal future for Libya.

The fiercely independent Islamists, moreover, will not relent on their demands for an Islamist state. In the transitional council’s draft constitution it is clearly stated that Islamic law will be ‘the principal source of legislation’.

Nato, then, can at best achieve replacing the Gaddafi regime with an Islamist-infiltrated tribal council. And that means Libya is as far as ever from being a Western-style democracy. Indeed, it is more likely to turn into the West’s worst nightmare.

Euphoric British journalist in Libya (sounding like Anderson Cooper in Egypt)

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