In NATO, our talk was: The Libyan Revolution

Sultan Alsa’ad Alqahtani

The moments of the Arab Spring were one of the dreams of young people whose results later surprised them. Many people in the Arab world thought they were in front of a new future. But what happened after that revealed the dark side of the moon, as the famous English expression says. It is a harsh choice and its price is high.


During a visit to NATO headquarters in late 2011, I met a number of Libyan revolutionaries who were so happy with their victory. A few weeks ago, they overthrew a dictator who ruled Libya for more than three decades and deprived it of the benefit of its oil wealth. They saw him as a grotesque example of absolute power, and they told me a lot about the human rights violations that the Libyans had suffered throughout his years of rule.


My conversations in that rainy city was an attempt to explore the future of an Arab country that wants to rebuild itself. We were sitting at Le Grande Hotel, with its high ceilings and marble corridors, talking about the shape of the future that these revolutionaries wanted, one of whom was still at that moment recovering from an injury he had suffered while fighting the remnants of Kaddafi in Zintan. 


The focus of my talk with them was that the monarchy is the most important element of stability in the Middle East, and the Arab world has not known, since the beginning of its history, a form of government other than a monarchy. The revolutionaries just coming from the battlefields didn't agree with me. They want a new Western-style system. I was skeptical about it. The talks were a kind of big dreams that the political and social climate of a country like Libya cannot bear. Perhaps the only realistic man who spoke to me later was the well-known Libyan journalist Mahmoud Shamam, who told me: "We want a well-being state, not a democratic state."


I remember these long dialogues about the shape of the future after the revolution and the regimes in the Arab world, and I see the instability that Libya is going through so far. The revolution was a great popular demand for a group that suffered greatly from marginalization and repression. Later, some of the revolutionaries have lost their way, and it was very embarrassing for them when someone like Bernard Levy, a pro-Israel thinker, spoke about his role in supporting military operations and that he was writing the statements of the Libyan Transitional Council. In his book " War Without Loving It," he tells in detail the story of the establishment of this Council and his various meetings with the new revolution men. 


The tragedy of Libya lies in the fact that Muammar didn't leave any other alternative for him that is capable of playing a role in the future of Libya. The situation for observers and researchers in international relations has shown that Libya has employees of political bodies but does not have politicians capable of obtaining public consensus.


More than five years after that meeting in Brussels, I met with the closest confidante of Colonel Gaddafi, his cousin Ahmad Qadhaf Al-Dam in Cairo, who insisted that what had happened was a Western conspiracy against his country, and Arab mediation was needed to bring the Libyans back together. " There must be a Saudi role," he told me. And I found it written on a paper, placed in front of him, in his handwriting, as if it were an idea that he did not want to forget to talk about.


The Saudi role in Libya was conservative. Saudi Arabia did not want to support the Libyan Transitional Council until it was sure that the Libyans themselves supported it. The absence of the Libyan consensus was one of the dilemmas of the new country. Thus, Saudi Arabia has not granted permission for the landing of an aircraft of the Libyan Transitional Council on its territory.


Later, Transitional Council President Mustafa Khalil tried to obtain Kuwaiti mediation to resolve the matter. He said to the Emir of Kuwait, "We want your mediation with Saudi Arabia, perhaps their position was against us because of our relationship with Qatar. We were a baby and Qatar came and carried us, supported us, and that is why we have a relationship with them."


Unlike the Saudi role in Libya, the Qatari role had its own agenda. Qatar's desire was the Brotherhood's control over Libya. After Qatar, the role of jihadist groups in Libya came to make the Libyan scene more complicated. 


The Libyan event is one of the substantial evidence on the way of revolutions deviation off track, how the interests of big powers take control of them, and how dreams fail to become a reality on earth. Today, we are witnessing in Libya a revolution against the revolution and the revolution of the rebels against the revolutionaries.


I heard from former Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed al-Sabah how everyone failed to deal with Iraq after the US invasion. They prepared meetings with the Iraqi opposition for six months and the first day of Saddam's fall was carefully planned. But these plans ran over a reality on the ground that differs from the plans on papers and the ideas of advisers, as a result, Iraq has plunged into chaos for more than a decade.


In the Arab Spring, monarchies managed to survive as a result of their political flexibility. One of their advantages was their concern for development and stability. I have remembered the first advice which I received from a great friend, while I was studying the international relations curriculum at London South Bank University, about the most important thing the state is looking for: "It's stability."


Through the conversations of Brussels, NATO, and the revolutionaries, that reform from inside is always the safest, and less expensive solution. Therefore, the revolutions have to beware of the dreams of revolutionaries!


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