Who’s in Charge in Tripoli? A Deepening Mystery

Four fighters were killed in gun battles raging hours between two former rebel militias on the main streets of the Libyan capital Tripoli Tuesday, Jan. 3. Both sides, the militia controlling the capital and the fighters from Misrata, fought with machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and anti-aircraft guns.
Col. Walid Shouaib, a member of the Tripoli Military Council, reported that the Misrata fighters took up the cudgels against the arrest of one of their number on New Year's Eve. A member of the Misrata military council, Mohammed al-Gressa, said he feared a civil war. “I am not optimistic because blood has been spilled,” he said. “I feel this looks like a civil war.”
Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, chairman of the National Transitional Council (NTC), shares that view. He did not endorse the claim by some Tripoli officials that the Misratan councilor exaggerated the incident's importance. Wednesday, Jan. 4, he warned bluntly that Libya risked sliding into civil war unless it brings under control the rival militias which filled the vacuum left by Muammar Qaddafi's downfall.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s sources report that a cloud of uncertainty hangs over Libya these days. No one can tell who is speaking the truth, who is lying and who is serving which interest.

Revolt has fallen off track, a mysterious puppeteer is pulling Jalil's strings

Disappointment in the revolution is widespread in the towns and villages, disillusion especially in the much-vaunted new beginning promised by the National Transitional Council and its head Abdel-Jalil. There is a pervasive sense that the revolt has gone off track and is heading toward terra incognita where no individual, family or tribe is safe.
Many believe the "Islamists" are in control. But no one knows which Islamists. It also depends whom you ask. Just last month, Abdelhakim Belhaj, formerly of al Qaeda and head of the military Council of Tripoli, was considered the strongman of the capital.
But then, at the end of December, he suddenly dropped out of sight.
On Dec. 23, in its last issue of 2011, DEBKA-Net-Weekly 522 revealed his whereabouts: He and members of his Islamic Fighting Group in Libya-IFGL had been airlifted to the Turkish-Syrian border (Assad Prepares for Western-Arab Invasion, NATO Airlifts Libyans to Rebels); and on Dec. 27, debkafile’s military sources reported the missing Tripoli commander had established a command center in the Turkish city of Antakya (Antioch) in the Hatay district abutting Syria.
But what persuaded Belhaj to desert his position of power in Tripoli? And why did he turn his back on a critical power struggle for control of post-Qaddafi Libya? No one has the answers to these questions.
Interim ruler Abdel-Jalil is at the center of wild speculation. Some say he is a mere puppet manipulated by arcane (Islamist?) forces; others that he is playing a double or even triple game to keep his head above water and hold onto his shrinking influence.

No trials held for Qaddafi's son and intelligence chief

Much is made of the fact that after convening the NTC Council – the transitional parliament until elections – for decisions on how to run the Libyan state, he proceeds to make public decisions which differ widely from the council's resolutions.
So is he deliberately muddying the water or taking dictation from an unknown master who tells him what to say?
Some Western circles in Tripoli believe that a mysterious body called Lajna Itimad al-Majlis, about which nothing is known, is pulling his strings.
Libyans on the street admit they resent and fear the NTC chairman, sentiments unheard of straight after Qaddafi's downfall just a few months ago. Most of all, both supporters and opponents of the revolt see his interim government as too weak to control the rival militias and unite the country.
Everyone is asking why the two symbols of the discredited regime, Qaddafi's son Saif al-Islam and his infamous intelligence chief Abdallah Sanoussi, have not been brought to trial.
While Sanoussi is held in a secret hideout by unknown forces, Saif al-Islam, three months after his capture on Nov. 19, 2011, remains in the hands of his captors, the Zintan militia. He is not known to have faced investigation – least of all trial.
According to the rumors flying around anti-Zintan circles in Tripoli and Benghazi, Qaddafi's son shelled out tens of millions of dollars of the family fortune for Zintan militia chiefs to stage his capture and provide him with sanctuary. Some of the gossip assumes he is funding the militia's political activities and aspirations.
In other words, the Qaddafi family continues to be actively involved in Libya's domestic politics.

Libyans skeptical about oil revenues reaching state coffers

Other hands suspected of stirring influence-peddling and bribes into the Libyan stewpot are agents of the American CIA, the British MI6, the French DGSE foreign intelligence agency, and the Qatari spy service.
The rumor mill is also busy grinding out data on the Libyan oil industry.
Tuesday, Jan. 3, an optimistic report was released by the state-owned National Oil Co. on oil production and exports: Libya is currently producing over 1 million barrels of crude oil per day and expects to boost output about 1.6 million barrels a day by mid-2012, reverting to levels prior to the March outbreak of revolt against Qaddafi.
Most analysts were surprised. They hadn't expected Libyan oil production to reach to its pre-war volume in less than a year.
Libya's interim oil minister Abdurahman Benyezza told the last OPEC meeting in Cairo on Dec. 27 that production could reach 2 million barrels a day within five years.
The fall of this year will be critical in terms of making up for the shortfall in the international markets when oil sanctions on Iran reach their peak.
The European Union will endorse an embargo on oil purchase from Iran at the end of January.
All this means little to the average Libyan. What he sees are two top officials, the Oil Minister and Acting Prime Minister Ali Tarhouni, a professor at the University of Washington’s business school and former finance minister, each running their administrations like private fiefs without public accountability.
No actions seem to be documented or published. Deals are transacted by word of mouth. Very few Libyans believe that even a fraction of the incoming oil revenues will reach state coffers or be invested in Libya's economic future.

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