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Saadi: the smartest Qaddafi?

Michael Hastings’s look at the Obama administration’s thinking leading up to the war in Libya contains this interesting nugget about Saadi al-Qaddafi, the late dictator’s son: As Rice scrambled to line up votes at the United Nations, Qaddafi and Saif, his son and heir apparent, didn’t believe that NATO would actually intervene. Why would the ...

Olivier CHOUCHANA/AFP/Getty Images
Olivier CHOUCHANA/AFP/Getty Images

Michael Hastings’s look at the Obama administration’s thinking leading up to the war in Libya contains this interesting nugget about Saadi al-Qaddafi, the late dictator’s son:

As Rice scrambled to line up votes at the United Nations, Qaddafi and Saif, his son and heir apparent, didn’t believe that NATO would actually intervene. Why would the West move to overthrow him after they had reintegrated Libya into the international community? "Qaddafi was genuinely surprised," says Dirk Vandewalle, an expert on Libya who has consulted with both the U.N. and the State Department. "Saif and his father were never really very good at reading accurately where Libya stood in the West. They thought everything was forgiven and forgotten." On March 17th, two nights after the meeting in the Situation Room, Qaddafi went on Libyan television and gave the speech that sealed his fate. His army, he declared, would hunt the rebels down and show "no mercy."

Qaddafi’s son Saadi immediately realized that his father had made a major miscalculation. According to Jackie Frazier, an American business consultant who worked for Saadi in Tripoli during the run-up to the war, Saadi leapt into his Jeep, raced to his father’s house and begged him to withdraw the threat. "Dad," he pleaded, "you have to take it back." In a last-ditch effort to prevent the U.N. from voting to authorize military intervention, Saadi also tried to get a message out to CNN that Qaddafi would not march on Benghazi.

Now that Muammar, Muatassim, and Khamis have been killed, and Seif reportedly captured, it sure seems as though Saadi, whose bisexuality is described in State Department cables as a source of estrangement from his father, was the one member of the Qaddafi family who was somewhat in touch with reality. Not only did he apparently see the writing on the wall, but it was Saadi who seems to have spared rape victim Eman el-Obeidi’s life back in the spring, and it was Saadi who offered a cease-fire (that admittedly he clearly couldn’t deliver) back in August.

Having fled Libya in September, he’s now supposedly in luxurious digs in Niger, where the prime minister has vowed not to extradite him despite an Interpol warrant calling for his arrest. I assume Saadi has his hands on some of his father’s assets, which certainly helps in a country as poor as Niger.

Of course, it was supposedly Saadi who first ordered security forces to fire on demonstrators in Benghazi, so perhaps he’s not so different than his brothers after all…

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