WHO WILL BE THE NEXT LIBYAN AMBASSADOR IN ITALY?
Within the system of security structures that
Khadafi had set up in Libya, foreign espionage activity was delegated
to the External Security Service (Jihaz al aman al Kharigi), a body
whose workings fell officially within the Libyan Ministry of Foreign
Affairs (aka the general committee for foreign relations and
international co-operation). Despite the official version, in a
more practical sense the administrative part of the ESS was under
the Ministry's control, but the head of the Service took orders and
answered to the Rais alone. Thus one control was formal
(theoretic) and another functional (practical).
The advantage of this set-up was to generate a strong mix of a country's foreign policy with its espionage activity. Ambassadors and/or any among the ranks of the diplomatic structure of the Jamaryah abroad were either coming directly from the secret services or were Khadafi's most trusted collaborators (who operated in the interest of the secret services). Among the primary duties of the ESS, before the opening to the West that occurred in 2003, was that of gathering information on Libyans residing abroad, locating the dissidents among them, and eliminating them.
During this period of dissident hunting, a wide share of the diplomats representing the country abroad were picked from the ranks of the secret services. The 1988 designation of Hafez Gaddur to the role of Libyan consul in Palermo sees the former Libyan police captain and member of the secret services being officially in charge of a diplomatic seat. Gaddur was a trusted man of the regime and a close friend of another exponent of the regime that will later assume the control of the External Security Service: Mohamed Abdulsalam Musa Kusa, whom, in June 1980, while working as Libyan Ambassador in London, will be expelled for expressing in public the opinion that the physical elimination of dissidents abroad is a necessity.
Gaddur will spend 12 years in Palermo thanks to the rise of Musa Kusa in Khaddafi's consideration and to his heading of an organisation, the “Mathaba”, that was dedicated mostly to foreign activity as a centre “for the fight against imperialism, sionism, fascism and racism”. More prosaically, the Mathaba continued the hunt against dissidents of the regime that sought shelter abroad. In 1992 Musa Kusa became vice-minister of foreign affairs and in 1994 he took the helm of the External Security Service. Gaddur's career is a long downhill ride. After leaving Palermo he was designated Libyan Ambassador to the Vatican and, 3 years later, Libyan Ambassador in Italy.
Meanwhile the tie between Musa Kusa and
Gaddur tightened and Gaddur became more and more important.
Gaddur had other influential friendships as well, such as the one with
Abdallah Senussi, the husband of Khadaffi's second wife's sister, one
of the pillars of the regime's security system, former head of the
military intelligence, later the recipient of an international arrest
warrant for his involvement in the 1989 destruction of a UTA flight in
the skies above Niger. Senussi is a brutal man who was personally
involved in the repression against the inmates of the Abu Salim
penitentiary in 1996 (about 1200 detainees killed, sparking the
protests in Benghazila against the regime in February, following the
arrest of a lawyer that defended the interests of the families of the
Senussi – after leaving the helm of the military intelligence for reasons of international opportunity, was then designated vice-director of the External Security Service (thus – but only apparently - under Musa Kusa) to then re-emerge once more in 2009 as head of the military intelligence and head of the committee for the fight against illegal immigration, an office that has served the purpose of bestowing upon Senussi the co-ordination of the country's entire security apparatus: Police, Army, Secret Services (domestic, foreign and military). Gaddur spoke often in favour of Sanussi to accredit him with Italy, despite the international arrest warrant: he introduced him without advance notice to the Italian Interior Minister in 2009 during the latter's visit to Tripoli. He also accredited Senussi as a member of the delegation visiting Italy during the negotiations regarding illegal immigration.
Guddur used his influential contacts in Libya (his sister was also accredited as being liked by Khadafi and by Musa Kusa's brother who was the head of the rais' secretariat) to increase his prestige on the Italian territory. The treaty of friendship, partnership and co-operation that would be signed on August 30th 2008 in Benghazi, Libya, was piloted by Gaddur who became the principal interlocutor in the negotiations, substantially replacing the Italian diplomats in Tripoli.
He spoke directly with the highest political and institutional personalities of Italy. He did so in a transversal way but all the while accrediting – sometimes through the use of lies – his decisional power in order to confirm his credit back home in Libya. He placed himself in the midst of every economic negotiation (Unicredit bank, ENI – the Italian public power giant, Finmeccanica). He contacted the companies and piloted every possible Libyan investment. He even became the member of several companies' boards of directors. He decided on the issuing of visas to enter Libya unilaterally, such visas would not be issued without his personal authorisation. He thus had the possibility of approving or rejecting the companies that intended to operate commercially in Libya. He often invited Italian authorities and public figures in Libya. He became the only vehicle for any possible accord – both commercial and political – with his country.
But in February this year things changed. The regime began its repression, the international Powers decided to enact an armed intervention against Khadafi. Gaddur immediately realised that the wind was changing. He initially tried to adopt a prudent position by giving the idea that he did not share the repressive ideas of Khadafi. When his principal sponsor, Musa Kusa, escaped to London in March, he consolidated his new line. He issued public declarations in the presence of another dissident ambassador – and predecessor of Gaddur as Ambassador in Rome, Italy – Shalgam. He removed the Jamaryah flag from his residence, replacing it with the new one. He would show up for interviews with the rebel's badge pinned to his shirt. During the first visit of the new Libyan prime minister in Rome he did all he could to appear and accredit himself as the trait-d'union between past and present Libyan-Italian relationships. What Gaddur really needed was to erase his past collusion with the regime.
Today Gaddur is fighting a new battle. He does so for his political, and perhaps physical, survival. In Tripoli he arises great suspicion. He knows that the National Transitional Council has begun to put together a file with his name on it. He has been summoned to Tripoli during the past weeks but declined circumspectly while waiting – or so he claimed – that the new government acquire full powers. The fact that he knows every past commercial intrigue between Italy and Libya and is close to powerful figures in the Italian establishment plays in his favour. In order to keep his contacts in Italy he now needs to show that nothing has changed in terms of his personal power.
The National Transitional Council needs Gaddur's know-how, at least during the initial period, after which they will be able to dismiss this man who has been for over 20 years in the midst of every Libyan-Italian intrigue.
Thus the burning question: who will be the next Libyan Ambassador in Rome?