Second Eldest Son is out. Fourth Son Steps forward
From 2003, when Muammar Qaddafi made his peace with the United States and the West, he began touting his second eldest son Saif al-Islam as his anointed favorite as future ruler of Libya.
But a few weeks ago, DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s Middle East sources reveal, the capricious Libyan ruler changed his mind. Saif was dropped in favor of Son No. 4, Mutasim-Billah Qaddafi. Those sources also disclose that the Bush administration and Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak supported the switch.
On Sept. 26, secretary of state Condoleezza Rice interviewed Mutasim-Billah in New York and was favorably impressed.To demonstrate how much the times have changed, the candidate was accompanied by Musa Kusa the Libyan intelligence chief who was longed barred from entering the US because of his involvement in international terrorism. Today, the American CIA as well as French and British intelligence trust and are ready to do business with him.
In his thirties, the candidate was a backroom boy of Qaddafi’s intelligence services and attained the rank of colonel. Shortly before he presented himself in New York, his father elevated him to the up-front position of National Security Adviser. That was the first outward sign that Mutasim-Billah was challenging his elder brother for the future top slot.
For some months now, the elder Qaddafi has been losing patience with Saif al-Islam, DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s sources report, although his mostly overseas following did not suspect anything amiss. Certainly they did not foresee his fall from grace.
Saif loses favor over Palestinian and Gulf ties
Muammar Qaddafi was upset with him on three counts:
1. The father did not trust the two Palestinians his son had cultivated as his closest advisers: Muhammad Rashid, the tycoon who was Yasser Arafat’s secret financial adviser, and Muhammed Dahlan, Fatah’s displaced Gaza strongman and top Palestinian Authority official.
2. Neither did he approve of Saif’s close friendship with the Al Thanis, the ruling family of Qatar. He disliked his son’s close alignment with the Gulf emirs at the expense of neglecting Libya’s ties on the African continent.
3. Muammar saw Saif’s championship of citizens’ rights and economic reform as a long-term threat to the regime.
Mubarak, according to our Middle East sources, told his neighbor in Tripoli that the candidate to succeed him was unsuitable because of his pretensions to play the international celebrity with liberal views.
Libya is important to Cairo and its future regime is therefore of great concern.
The paychecks of the two million Egyptians working in Libya provide Egypt with one of its main sources of revenue.
Then too, the Egyptian-Libyan border region cutting through the Western Desert is populated by tribes with kin on both sides of the frontier. The Egyptian president does not trust Saif al-Islam, a Western cosmopolitan tycoon type, to have the finesse for dealing with this delicate kinship relationship.
He told Qaddafi senior frankly that he would prefer to see Mutasim-Billah as successor and that he had been favorably impressed by his performance in their bilateral intelligence interchanges.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s sources disclose at the bottom of the Egyptian president’s preference is concern for his own designated successor, his son Gemal “Jimmy” Muabarak. He believes Jimmy would get on better with the fourth Qaddafi son in Tripoli than with Saif.
Two prodigal sons out of seven, one daughter
This may not be the end of the story. The Libyan ruler, with seven sons and one daughter – each of whom holds down a key position of influence – has plenty of cards for further reshuffling:
Muhammad Qaddafi, the eldest, is head of Libya’s Olympic Committee and owns Libya’s telecommunications network.
Saif al-Islam, now out of favor, left Libya a year ago after a sharp exchange with his father. He took up a position in a foreign bank but was soon back home in Tripoli.
Al-Saadi Qaddafi, the third oldest, runs the Libyan Football Federation, plays for a Italian soccer team, produces films and has made billions of dollars in the oil industry.
Mutasim-Billah is another prodigal son, who challenged his father and returned home. In fact, at one time, he fled to Egypt after being accused of leading a coup attempt against his father, who forgave him.
Hannibal is the fifth son down, whose claim to distinction rests on his reputation for violence in various escapades across Europe. They include charges that he beat up his pregnant girlfriend Alin Skaf.
Qaddafi’s two younger sons are Saif al Arab and Khamis, who is a police officer.
His only daughter, Ayesha Qaddafi, is a lawyer who was a member of counsel defending Saddam Hussein at his trial in Baghdad before his execution. She married a cousin of her father in 2006.
An adopted daughter, Hanna, was killed in an American bombing raid in 1986.