Now that the battle for Tripoli is almost over, there will be much in the way of analysis regarding what could happen in the future. Since I am not a political analyst, I am not going to enter into the conjecture on the subject. What I will say is that I am in disagreement with analysis where it is claimed that Libya will become another bastion for the Muslim Brotherhood, and I disagree because I am not all that certain that MB is strong in Libya, even though there will be pockets of people who follow those ideals. If anything the Salafists have the stronger foothold. However, what these analysts fail to understand is that the majority of Libyans follow the Sufi line of Islam (but without the dervishes). This is because, prior to Gadhafi king Idris was the head of the Sanusi sect of Islam. The Sufi sect was founded by the grandfather of Idris. At the same time I have no real way of knowing whether this victory is good or bad for Israel, since Gadhafi was not a friend of Israel in the first place.
Here are some things to consider regarding what some of this means for the future:
1. The influence of Iran: Since Iran was backing Gadhafi, and secretly supplying Gadhafi with weapons, I do not forsee any increase of Iran’s spehere of influence via Libya. If anything the defeat of Gadhafi has weakened Iranian influence, not strengthened it.
2. The Muslim Brotherhood: this is an unknown for me. As far as I am aware, the Muslim Brotherhood are backed by Iran, and the Muslim Brotherhood supporters are Shia, not Sufi. For this reason, I do not believe that the Muslim Brotherhood will be influential, at least in the short term.
3. The Salafists representing Sunni Islam and Al Qaeda. Again, I am unable to comment upon the influence of the Salafists and Al Qaeda in Libya. I will learn more when further information becomes available. It is true that there are pockets of Salfists and Al Qaeda supporters, however, it is also true that a majority of Libyans actually reject this hardcore version of Islam.
4. The Sanusi: this is the sect that was founded by the grandfather (or great-grandfather) of the leader who was deposed by Gadhafi – king Idris. It is only by understanding something of the history of the Sanusi in Libya that one begins to understand the links to the British since the Sanusi Army under Idris were allied to the British during the second world war. The founder of the Sanusi was influenced by both the Wahibbi and the Sufi form of Islam. The Sanusi is therefore a mixture of both forms of Islam. I remain uncertain as to how this translates for relationships with the west or even with Israel because in the past there was some resistance to any Christian influence in the region. In my view, this remains an unknown.
It is the number 4 that helps me to understand the motivations behind the unrest in Libya as well as the determination displayed in ousting the horrible man, Gadhafi. After the coup Gadhafi threw his opponents in prison. He also murdered more than 1000 of them whilst they were in prison, after one such coup attempt. In some cases the long arm of Gadhafi led to the arrest and extradition of some of his opposition. One story that I read very early in the whole saga was in regard to a doctor, a heart surgeon from the USA. His father had been an army officer, and he opposed Gadhafi. The family fled to Egypt where the father was arrested in the middle of the night and then transported back to Libya. It is understood that he was killed in prison. The widow and her three sons became refugees or immigrants in the USA thanks to a relative. The man who is the heart surgeon returned to Benghazi to offer assistance during the unrest, and he did it for his family, especially his father.
As well as arresting his opponents and killing them, Gadhafi dismantled the Sanusi madrasses, and he took over the university which is located near to Benghazi, which had been established by the family of Idris. Gadhafi had also destroyed the Sanusi mosques. These actions have no doubt provided further motivations of resistance to the rule of Gadhafi.
5. The Socialist state of Libya: the people of Libya did not desire to be part of a socialist state. At least in Benghazi there were people who had their businesses and goods taken away from them by the state. This was a further motivation.
The clues relating to this particular motivation is the displaying of the old Libyan flag. This flag is an important part of the whole opposition movement. It represents the old Libya, the one that existed before the coup that placed Gadhafi in power. As such it also represents the distaste that many showed for Socialism under Gadhafi. Another clue is the numbers who defected so quickly from the Gadhafi regime. The last big defection was the commander of the elite brigade in Tripoli which surrendered when the opposition forces arrived. This surrender was planned from the beginning. The general had to keep quiet and pretend that he was loyal to Gadhafi, whilst at the same time harbouring a hatred based upon the death of his brother as a prisoner of Gadhafi. The imprisonment and death of Gadhafi opponents has proved to be a very strong motivation for their grieving relatives. This is the one thing that actually sealed Gadhafi’s fate as far as his continuing in the role of dictator is concerned. The February 17 movement began over this whole issue. It grew because so many had suffered at the hands of Gadhafi, his sons and the whole regime.
However, I see the transition from the Socialist state of Libya back to a free enterprise state to be one that will cause social problems, unless it is handled in the right way. Libya has oil riches, and the oil money belongs to the people. It means that the state actually pays the people for their food, clothing, medical and education. A lot of money needs to be spent in Libya to repair the damage done by the NATO raids. A lot of money is required for much needed medicine as well as food etc.
6. Name calling: I think that this is the one motivation that caused anger amongst those people who were least likely to rise up. From the beginning the opposition were called: Al Qaeda (some people have embraced this idea without looking at the origins), drug addicts, rats, and thugs, as well as a variety of other names. By claiming that they were on drugs Gadhafi drew contempt from those opposed to his regime. This has been one of the strongest motivations of the opposition forces, and reading some of the comments from Libyans, it was the one thing that got them angry to the point of being prepared to join in the ousting of the biggest rat of all. The people who have stomed the Gadhafi compound actually refer to Gadhafi as a rat, as they take issue with him calling them rats.
Considering the professional background of many Libyans I do not see this as too troubling, unless there is a massive social upheaval. Libya remains very tribal. The impact of the tribalism has not so far been assessed. These are early days for a very big transition of power.
From what I had read, religion was not a strong motive for the upheaval in Libya. This is why it was always different from the upheaval in both Egypt and Tunisia. In those countries, the Muslim Brotherhood has been more active. In fact in those countries the Muslim Brotherhood used the useful idiots amongst those who harboured socialist dreams, especially in Egypt.
In Libya, though, we need to watch to see if the more religious elements try to exert influence just like they have in both Egypt and Tunisia. The Libyan revolution has been far more political than it has been religious. This is probably due to the fact that more professional people had joined in and were prepared to fight against the regime by taking up arms. Most of them just want to return to their old way of life as engineers, lawyers, doctors, builders and teachers.
The motivation in Libya sounds similar to the motivations in Egypt and Tunisia, but is it really the same? Time will tell.