Libyan leader Moammar Qaddafi finds himself in a potentially dangerous predicament.
He is sandwiched between two Arab countries (Tunisia and Egypt) which have convulsed with massive social unrest. Moreover, his prestige among the Arab world has been severely damaged by some embarrassing revelations in diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks.
The cables indicated that Qaddafi and his sons live a life filled with wine, women and song, as well as domestic violence, drunk driving and wild parties – all in stark contrast to their image as upholding traditional Islamic and Bedouin tribal values.
Although nothing remotely similar to what’s happening in Egypt has yet infected Libya, media reports indicate that Qaddafi’s plans to hand over his throne to one of his licentious sons is causing great concern among the population.
Qaddafi reportedly has defended the recently ousted president of Tunisia Ben Ali, by claiming that he was the “victim of lies” spread online.
Qaddafi has seven sons (that we know of) and only one, Saif, a British-educated architect, would appear to be the only one qualified to take power once his father dies.
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The US diplomatic cable said: the widening contrast between the respectable, cultured image that Saif has taken on and the spoiled, boorish image his siblings project has local audiences rallying behind Saif as the next heir to the Qaddafi throne” and that Saif has wisely distanced himself from the local drama.
The U.S., which once targeted Qaddafi as an exporter of terrorism, has in recent years made overtures to him – attracted, no doubt, to Libya’s vast oil reserves.
Apparently, Qaddafi gained the Americans’ favor by cancelling plans to acquire a nuclear weapon and taking responsibility for the 1998 bombing of Pan Am 103. The US established diplomatic relations with Libya in 2008 after four decades of no official contact.
But Qaddafi, who has ruled Libya with an iron-grip for more than forty years, is now 68 years old and might be worried about what has occurred in Tunisia and Egypt (both once ruled by corrupt dynastic families).