Veteran intelligence analyst Fred Fleitz tells Newsmax that the United States played a “backseat role” in toppling Moammar Gadhafi’s regime in Libya, while France and Britain are “big winners” for their staunch support of the Libyan rebels.
Fleitz, who spent 25 years working with the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency and the State Department, also says Gadhafi’s overthrow should have a “powerful effect” on the anti-government resistance in Syria, and hopes it will inspire the democracy movement in Iran.
But he warns that radical Islamists could gain significant power in Libya following the fall of Gadhafi’s 42-year dictatorship.
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Fleitz is managing editor of LIGNET.com, a new Washington-based global intelligence and forecasting website. He participated in negotiations in Libya between Gadhafi’s top officials and the U.S. State Department.
In an exclusive interview with Newsmax.TV on Monday, Fleitz commented on the events of the last 48 hours in Libya.
“They really are momentous. We’re seeing a terrible dictator being overthrown or on the brink of being overthrown.
“What’s interesting is how fast this happened. Neither the Gadhafi government nor NATO was prepared for this quick advance on Tripoli, and I think the surprise helped them take the city.”
The Libyans rebels will face new challenges after they seize control of the government, according to Fleitz.
“Governing is hard. The Transitional National Council has a hard road ahead of it to unite its disparate factions, to disarm them, to reestablish government services, to rebuild the economy and rebuild the government,” he says.
“They were able to unite in a common goal in opposing Gadhafi, but getting them to unite on an agenda to put the country back together is going to be more difficult.
“The U.S. role is going to be hard to figure out. It will be up to the rebel government to decide what role they want from the United States, Europe, and the United Nations, and we’re just going to have to see how that sorts out.”
Asked what the United States should be concerned about now in Libya, Fleitz responds: “This is a country with no democratic tradition. We don’t really know who the rebels are. And there is a lot of temptation in Libya to continue a dictatorship. There is a lot at stake. There are enormous oil riches.
“We also know that a portion of the rebels are radical Islamists. We don’t know how many but we know there is a Muslim Brotherhood presence in Libya. There is an al-Qaida presence.
“We’ve seen what happened in Egypt, where it appeared to be a democratic uprising. But in the elections Egypt is looking at holding this fall, according to an Al-Jazeera poll up to 50 percent of the seats in Parliament could be taken by Muslim Brotherhood candidates, who probably will try to set up a theocracy.”
Evaluating NATO and America’s support of the rebels in Libya, Fleitz tells Newsmax: “I think the support was crucial, and the big winners aside from the Libyan people are the French and the British, particularly the French and Prime Minister Sarkozy.
“They took a risk in carrying out air strikes. The French and British were training Libyan troops on the ground. They had special forces on the ground. They really went out of their way to overthrow Gadhafi.
“I think the United States played a significant role, but it also played a backseat role. We were sort of dragged into this conflict at the last minute. Our support was informal.
“The rebels will remember this, but I’m not sure that the role of the United States, the reluctant role, is necessarily going to be a plus for our relationship with some other countries. We did not come out when we really needed to at the beginning. If we had, we might have allowed this conflict to be resolved faster.”
As to how the fall of the Gadhafi regime might impact other countries, Fleitz says: “This should have a powerful effect on Syria and encourage the Syrian people to continue their resistance against the Assad regime.
“And it could encourage democracy movements in other states. It is my hope that news of this will get into Iran, where there is also a strong desire to overturn the government. They’re facing a very fierce effort to keep the people down, and hopefully this will inspire a democracy movement in Iran that may take off someday.”
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