Thursday, August 25, 2011

The blood is up and the hunt is on: Where is Gadhafi?

A face that could blend into a crowd
Colonel Gadhafi (another dictator who never made general) has been heard from but not seen for over a week. His compound in Tripoli has been overrun; rebels control the closest international airport and are looking furiously for him. His options are becoming fewer by the minute.

So where could Gadhafi be?

Professor Abubaker Saad, a former Gadhafi aide, on Tuesday described a system of bunkers under the Gadhafi compound in Tripoli that could serve as a hideout. However, Saad noted that NATO and the United States have fired anti-bunker bombs at the compound, so he doubted Gadhafi would hide out there. "You have to remember that he is a military man," Saad said. "He knows they have weapons that could penetrate those bunkers. That's why I'm dismissing the idea that he's still in there."

Gadhafi's recent public communications, such as a statement broadcast on radio and the reported telephone call to Russia, were audio messages to avoid detection of his whereabouts.

While no sightings of Gadhafi have been reported at the time of this writing, at least one source outside Libya -- the head of the World Chess Federation -- told Russia's Interfax news agency that he spoke by telephone with him on Tuesday. According to Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, as reported by Interfax, Gadhafi said in the phone call to him at around 10 a.m. ET that he is "alive and well in Tripoli and not going to leave Libya” (it caught my attention that he now says he will not leave Libya –until now he has been saying he will not leave Tripoli).

A U.S. official said Gadhafi is most likely still in Tripoli. There has been nothing to confirm some reports or speculation that the longtime leader has gone to his hometown of Sirte.

Observers cite three likely scenarios for Gadhafi's immediate future -- his death at the hands of rebel forces, his capture, or his escape or exile to another country. Those observers seem to dismiss the idea of him remaining “underground” and leading an insurgency. They are probably right, but I am not so sure. I think that is still a possibility.

Gadhafi and his second-eldest son, Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, are under indictment for alleged crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands. Officials at the ICC have made clear they want the Gadhafis to stand trial in The Hague, if possible. I don’t. As nice as it would be to see him tried and convicted for crimes against humanity, the Libyan people have first claim to him –and they still have the death penalty (hello Saddam).

Of course, there is a remote possibility he will escape into exile. Countries considered possible exile homes for Gadhafi include Venezuela, a rumored destination for months. Gadhafi and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez have a close relationship forged in part by shared opposition to U.S. influence around the globe.

In 2009, Chavez was one of three world leaders to attend a lavish celebration of Gadhafi's 40 years of rule in Tripoli, along with Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe and King Abdullah of Jordan (I bet he regrets that now). That same year a new football stadium in the now rebel-held town of Benghazi was named after the Venezuelan leader. 

On Tuesday, Chavez said his country would only recognize a Libyan government led by Gadhafi. "From here we confirm our solidarity with the Libyan people, our brother that is being assaulted and bombed ... as part of the imperial insanity," Chavez said during a meeting of government ministers in Caracas.

Zimbabwe also is considered a possible exile destination, due to common interests between Gadhafi and President Mugabe -- an interest in pan-African solidarity, a disdain for colonial influence and the ignominy of being largely shunned by the international community.

Saudi Arabia is considered a desert nation that might be more to Gadhafi's Bedouin liking. The Saudis accepted the deposed leader of Tunisia, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, after the uprising there that helped touch off protests across the Middle East and North Africa, including Libya, this year.m However, Gadhafi's relationship with Saudi Arabia has cooled since the Saudis accused Libyans of trying to kill their king several years ago, and it would be unlikely for the desert kingdom to accept an exiled Gadhafi now.

Other nations mentioned as possible destinations for Gadhafi include Cuba, Syria and Sudan.

Where is he and what will happen to him? Your guess is as good as mine or any of these “observers and experts”. One thing is certain though: the blood is up and the hunt is on.

Live Long and Prosper....

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