Pa­pers link ex-u.s. diplo­mat to Gad­hafi pro­pa­ganda

The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics - BY ELI LAKE

A for­mer U.S. diplo­mat ad­vised the crum­bling regime of Col. Moam­mar Gad­hafi on how to counter its crit­ics, ac­cord­ing to doc­u­ments found after rebels gained ac­cess to the regime’s in­tel­li­gence min­istry in Tripoli.

Other doc­u­ments show that an anti-war con­gress­man was in touch with an in­ter­me­di­ary from Col. Gad­hafi’s regime and asked him for po­lit­i­cally us­able dirt on the Libyan rebels.

The first set of doc­u­ments pur­ports to be notes of an Aug. 2 meet­ing be­tween David Welch, a ca­reer U.S. diplo­mat who ne­go­ti­ated the nor­mal­iza­tion of ties be­tween the United States and Libya dur­ing the George W. Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion, and two se­nior regime of­fi­cials, Abubakr Al­zleitny and Mo­hammed Ahmed Is­mail.

The English-lan­guage ver­sion of the Ara­bic news chan­nel Al-Jazeera first re­ported the notes of that meet­ing at the Four Sea­sons Ho­tel in Cairo.

The notes show Mr. Welch rec­om­mended that the regime fun­nel any in­tel­li­gence link­ing the rebels’ Na­tional Tran­si­tional Coun­cil and al Qaeda to the United States through con­tacts in Moroc­can, Jor­da­nian or Israeli in­tel­li­gence. The rec­om­men­da­tion was part of pub­lic re­la­tions advice Mr. Welch pur­port­edly gave the regime, ac­cord­ing to the doc­u­ments.

Mr. Welch also urged the Libyan of­fi­cials to highlight the dou­ble stan­dard of the Western na­tions at­tack­ing his regime while Syria es­capes in­ter­ven­tion.

While the doc­u­ments say Mr. Welch sug­gested that Col. Gad­hafi step down as leader of his countr y, ac­cord­ing to Al­Jazeera, the notes of the meet­ing also say Mr. Welch sug- gested that the Libyan dic­ta­tor still could re­tain some power.

State Depart­ment spokes­woman Vic­to­ria Nu­land on Aug. 31 said the depart­ment is aware of the re­port. “David Welch, for­mer as­sis­tant sec­re­tary, is now a pri­vate cit­i­zen,” she said. “This was a pri­vate trip. He was not car­ry­ing any mes­sages from the U.S. gov­ern­ment.”

Mr. Welch took a job as a se­nior vice pres­i­dent for Bech­tel Corp. cov­er­ing the Mid­dle East and North Africa after leav­ing gov­ern­ment in 2009. Nei­ther Mr. Welch nor spokes­men for him in the In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court, and build­ing a case against NATO and the U.S. gov­ern­ment in a court chal­lenge to the war.

Mr. Kucinich is­sued a state­ment Aug. 31 on the re­port. “Al Jazeera found a doc­u­ment writ­ten by a Libyan bu­reau­crat to other Libyan bu­reau­crats,” he said. “All it proves is that the Libyans were read­ing the Wash­ing­ton Post, and read there about my ef­forts to stop the war. I can’t help what the Libyans put in their files.”

He added: “My op­po­si­tion to

The notes show David Welch, a ca­reer U.S. diplo­mat who ne­go­ti­ated the nor­mal­iza­tion of ties be­tween the United States and Libya dur­ing the George W. Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion, rec­om­mended that the regime fun­nel any in­tel­li­gence link­ing the rebels’ Na­tional Tran­si­tional Coun­cil and al Qaeda to the United States through con­tacts in Moroc­can, Jor­da­nian or Israeli in­tel­li­gence. The rec­om­men­da­tion was part of pub­lic re­la­tions advice Mr. Welch pur­port­edly gave the regime, ac­cord­ing to the doc­u­ments.

Bech­tel re­turned phone calls and emails seek­ing com­ment.

Bech­tel owns 40 per­cent of Power Gen­er­a­tion Engi­neer­ing and Ser­vices Co., a joint ven­ture with the Egyp­tian Min­istry of Elec­tric­ity that had a con­tract with the Gad­hafi regime to build and de­sign power plants in and around Tr ipoli, the Libyan cap­i­tal.

Be­fore join­ing Bech­tel, Mr. Welch was as­sis­tant sec­re­tary of state for Near East­ern af­fairs and ne­go­ti­ated the nor­mal­iza­tion of ties with Libya. The U.S. re­stored diplo­matic ties with Libya after Col. Gad­hafi gave up his nu­clear weapons pro­gram and pro­vided the United States and Bri­tain with in­tel­li­gence on A.Q. Khan, a Pak­istani engi­neer who pro­vided nu­clear weapons tech­nol­ogy to Iran, Libya and North Korea.

An­other doc­u­ment found by Al-Jazeera in­side the per­sonal of­fice of Ab­dul­lah al-Senussi, Libya’s in­tel­li­gence chief, was a memo ad­dressed to Col. Gad­hafi’s son, Saif al-Is­lam, de­scrib­ing a con­ver­sa­tion be­tween an in­ter­me­di­ary for the son and Rep. Den­nis J. Kucinich, Ohio Demo­crat and out­spo­ken critic of the mil­i­tary in­ter­ven­tion in Libya since it was launched in March.

That doc­u­ment, ac­cord­ing to Al-Jazeera, said Mr. Kucinich was ask­ing for in­for­ma­tion aimed at dis­cred­it­ing the Libyan op­po­si­tion, such as ev­i­dence of cor­rup­tion and links to al Qaeda. The in­for­ma­tion re­quested by Mr. Kucinich, ac­cord­ing to the re­por t, was aimed at im­prov­ing the Libyan regime’s im­age, de­fend­ing Saif al-Is­lam from charges against the war in Libya, even be­fore it for­mally started, was pub­lic and well known. My ques­tions about the le­git­i­macy of the war, who the op­po­si­tion was, and what NATO was do­ing, were also well known and con­sis­tent with my of­fi­cial du­ties. Any im­pli­ca­tion I was do­ing any­thing other than try­ing to bring an end to an unau­tho­rized war is fic­tion.”

Tom Mali­nowski, the Wash­ing­ton di­rec­tor of Hu­man Rights Watch, said lim­ited con­tacts be­tween for­mer se­nior U.S. of­fi­cials and mem­bers of Col. Gad­hafi’s regime are not in­ap­pro­pri­ate.

“I have ab­so­lutely no prob­lem with a for­mer Amer­i­can of­fi­cial ad­vis­ing Gad­hafi, so long as he was ad­vis­ing him to not mas­sacre pris­on­ers as he did shortly after this pur­ported meet­ing took place,” Mr. Mali­nowski said.

“For all I know, that was 90 per­cent of what they talked about. Any­thing be­yond that sort of thing, though, I don’t think would be ap­pro­pri­ate.”

David Mack, a for­mer se­nior U.S. diplo­mat who spe­cial­ized in the Arab world, said: “It’s very nor­mal for Libyans who knew David Welch when he was as­sis­tant sec­re­tary, and that in­cludes Libyans with the Na­tional Tran­si­tional Coun­cil, to have reached out to Welch and for him to say he has re­ceived the mes­sage.”

Mr. Mack said hav­ing a meet­ing does not mean Mr. Welch would have said ev­ery­thing he is pur­ported to have said ac­cord­ing to the notes dis­closed by Al-Jazeera.

Mr. Mali­nowski said he was hope­ful about one el­e­ment of the Al-Jazeera story. “The one good thing about this story is that the re­porter said a guard tried to stop him when he was try­ing to leave the build­ing with these doc­u­ments,” he said. “The doc­u­ments in that min­istry are important his­tor­i­cal records of the Gad­hafi regime that will be needed for any fu­ture truth telling and jus­tice process.”

The United States be­gan nor­mal­iz­ing ties with Libya in 2004 when Pres­i­dent Bush lifted many U.S. sanc­tions against Libya by ex­ec­u­tive or­der. How­ever, the first U.S. am­bas­sador to Tripoli since 1972 was not sent un­til the end of 2008 after Col. Gad­hafi paid $1.5 bil­lion to the vic­tims of ter­ror­ism his regime had once spon­sored.

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