Rumors have been circulating over the past 24 hours that a group of Libyan army officers is preparing to move into Tripoli to oust Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. A STRATFOR source claims Gen. al-Mahdi al-Arabi Abdulhafiz is leading this movement but that the officers are awaiting the results of a U.N. Security Council (UNSC) meeting currently in progress.
Based on allegations that Gadhafi ordered the Libyan air forces to bomb civilian opposition targets, many high-level Libyan defectors, including Libyan Ambassador to the United States Ali Suleiman Aujali, have been calling on the UNSC to declare a no-fly zone over Libya and for the United States to enforce the zone. Although the U.S. Air Force has the assets in place to do so, there is not yet any clear indication that it is an option the United States is pursuing. According to one source, the army officers leading the movement are trying to lobby the United States to enforce the no-fly zone so that Gadhafi cannot order his remaining loyal units in the air force to bombard advancing army units. However, Gadhafi is likely calculating that global concerns over energy cutoffs from Libya and civil unrest escalating in the country could deter such plans.
According to a STRATFOR source, the following military and civilian members within the Libyan elite are presently being discussed as candidates for a new ruling council:
* Abu Bakr Younis Jabir, secretary of the General Interim Committee for Defense and Libya’s de facto minister of defense, who Gadhafi reportedly placed under house arrest Feb. 21. According to a STRATFOR source, Jabir is well-liked by the army and has a decent chance of assuming leadership of the proposed council.
* Abdulsalam Jalloud, the No. 2 man in Libya until he was sidelined by Gadhafi in 1993 and pushed out of the regime elite in 1995 (the Revolutionary Command Council, or RCC, instituted after Gadhafi took power in 1969 was dissolved by the Libyan leader in 1977). Jalloud was one of the original “free officers” who helped Gadhafi come to power in the 1969 coup. He served as interior minister, deputy prime minister, minister of economy, minister of finance and deputy secretary general of the General People’s Congress. Jalloud fell out of favor with Gadhafi in August 1993, just two months before a failed coup attempt carried out by military officers from the Warfallah tribe. Jalloud, who belongs to the Maqarha tribe — the dominant tribe in Libya’s southern Fezzan region and which is said to have “allegiances” to Gadhafi’s Qadadfa tribe — was accused of having links to this movement. Gadhafi family members recently were quoted as saying, “We even have the support of Abdulsalam Jalloud.” On Feb. 21, however, Al Jazeera reported that his entire tribe had renounced Gadhafi.
* Gen. Abdel Fattah Younis, Libya’s interior minister, former member of the RCC and general secretary of the People’s Committee for General Security. Younis, who ran Gadhafi’s personal security detail, reportedly defected during the recent unrest in Benghazi, leading a battalion under his command in an effort to combat the foreign mercenaries contracted by Gadhafi to suppress the demonstrations in the east.
* Maj. Mohammad Najm al Ma’ruf, former foreign minister (1972-1973) and RCC member until the 1980s, when he withdrew from politics. He has been sick and was sent by Gadhafi to Switzerland in 2002 for treatment. According to a STRATFOR source, Ma’ruf was sidelined by the regime.
* Abdulmun’im al-Hawni, Libya’s former representative to the Arab League who resigned Feb. 20. Al-Hawni is a former RCC member and was one of the original officers who took part in the 1969 coup. Al-Hawni allegedly took part in a failed army coup against Gadhafi in 1975 that was led by Minister of Planning and Revolutionary Command Council member Maj. Umar Mihayshi and involved some 30 army officers. Al-Hawni was the foreign minister at the time and sought asylum in Egypt. In 2000, former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak mediated between al-Hawni and Gadhafi and convinced Gadhafi to take al-Hawni back after the latter re-pledged his loyalty to the Libyan leader. Al-Hawni was then appointed Libya’s Arab League ambassador, a post he held until his resignation.
* Gen. Suleiman Mahmud al-Obeidi, commander of Tobruk region in eastern Libya. Unconfirmed rumors over the past couple of days have claimed al-Obeidi has been calling for a coup against Gadhafi.
Though plans appear to be in the works for an army-led intervention to oust Gadhafi, there is no guarantee that such a new regime would hold in place. Events over the past 48 hours indicate a splintering of the armed forces, though the severity of the splits remains unclear. Ultimately, without a strong regime at the helm, the loyalties of Libya’s army officers are more likely to fall to their respective tribes. At that point, the potential for civil war increases considerably.
Moreover, the Libyan military is not a highly respected institution in the country — unlike in Egypt, where the military held together as a cohesive force and was welcomed by the populace — and has long been viewed as the source of the Gadhafi regime’s repression. Unless Libyans distinguish between those army units that defected early on and those that remained loyal to Gadhafi, any army-led faction that tries to impose control will likely encounter great difficulty in sustaining its hold on power.
In other words, the Libyan situation cannot be viewed as a replication of the crisis management employed by the military in Egypt.(STRATFOR)