Sources in Libya have claimed that the downfall of former dictator Moammar Gadhafi was accelerated by the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
According to a report in Britain’s Daily Telegraph newspaper. In an effort to save his own regime, Assad provided French authorities with intelligence about Gadhafi’s whereabouts, leading to the colonel’s brutal death almost one year ago.
French intelligence agents in the Libyan city of Sirte were then able to set a trap for Gadhafi after obtaining his satellite telephone number from Damascus officials.
Rami El Obeidi, a Libyan intelligence official, told the paper that Assad made the deal with France as a way to dilute global attention on Syria, which was already embroiled in its own civil conflict.
"In exchange for this information, Assad had obtained a promise of a grace period from the French and less political pressure on the regime, which is what, happened," El Obeidi said.
Indeed, France, under former President Nicolas Sarkozy, aggressively supported the NATO bombing campaign in Libya to oust Gadhafi.
El Obeidi also claimed that French operatives specifically directed the operation to kill Gadhafi by informing Libyan rebels of the convoy that the colonel was travelling in.
"French intelligence played a direct role in the death of Gadhafi, including his killing," El Obeidi said.
"They gave directions that he was to be apprehended, but they didn't care if he was bloodied or beaten up as long as he was delivered alive."
Having Gadhafi's Iridium satellite telephone number, French agents were able to trace his exact location after he made a call to loyalist Yusuf Shakir and to Ahmed Jibril, a Palestinian militant leader, both in Syria.
The Telegraph also noted that El Obeidi’s comments followed statements by Mahmoud Jibril, the former Libyan prime minister in the transitional government, to Egyptian television that a foreign “agent” played an important role in the killing of Gadhafi (although he did not identify the nationality of that agent).
Aside from raising questions about France’s ties to Assad, the report also could prove embarrassing to NATO, which claimed that its bombing mission did not target specific individuals, but rather the forces loyal to Gadhafi.
Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera reported that Sarkozy is a key figure in this bizarre intrigue. Once friendly with Gadhafi, Sarkozy reportedly wanted the Libyan strongman dead in order to prevent him from revealing that he had made significant financial contributions to Sarkozy's successful 2007 presidential campaign.
"Sarkozy had every reason to want to get rid of the colonel as quickly as possible," a Western diplomat said, according to the newspaper.
Ironically, Assad and his family could suffer the same violent fate as the man he may have betrayed, Gadhafi.
“Assad and his family will be killed in Syria; their next steps will be very bloody," Haitham Maleh, a member of the executive committee of the Syrian National council, told Western media earlier this year. "We offered him the option to leave us alone and go, but instead he went for the blood of his people. The end for him will be that he is killed like Gadhafi."