- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Gadhafi’s circle

Western security and intelligence officials monitoring the unfolding events in Libya are closely watching Libyan Foreign Minister Musa Kusa, the former Libyan intelligence chief and close confidant of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

Mr. Kusa is well known to U.S. intelligence agencies as the mastermind behind the 1988 Libyan intelligence operation to bomb Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing all 270 people on board. He also was the key Libyan official who first contacted U.S. and British intelligence agencies in late 2003 when Col. Gadhafi agreed to give up his nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction.

A U.S. official said Mr. Kusa’s role may be diminished. “While Musa Kusa has served as one of Gadhafi’s closest advisers for many years, there are indications he’s not playing a key role in the current crisis,” the official said.

Robert Joseph, a former State Department and White House national security policymaker in the George W. Bush administration, said he dealt with Mr. Kusa in the operation to dismantle Libya’s nuclear program.

“I dealt with him when he was head of intelligence,” Mr. Joseph told Inside the Ring, noting that Mr. Kusa went to school in Michigan and is “very cosmopolitan in orientation and conceptual in his thinking.”

“The moniker he had when he was head of intelligence was ‘The Envoy of Death,’ which tells you a lot about his character,” he said.

Mr. Joseph said Mr. Kusa was someone who could be equally conversant about democracy or Islamic fundamentalism.

“He operates on the premise that the way to rule is through brute force, and that’s certainly being demonstrated in the streets and towns of Libya today,” Mr. Joseph said.

The Libyan official probably has money stashed away outside the country; and if things fall apart, Mr. Kusa would likely be one of the first people out the door of the regime, he said.

Another observer close to the region said Mr. Kusa currently is still a key official who is among the small circle of aides trying to keep the regime together in the face of both political and military defections.

“The thing to watch is what Kusa does,” this person said. “If he turns against Gadhafi, it is probably over. If he stays with him, most likely there will continue to be massive bloodshed. The odds of Gadhafi surviving internally remain high as long as he has Kusa’s support.”

China’s Jasmine revolt

Pro-democracy forces are quietly developing plans for continuous demonstrations to be held every Sunday in the hope of triggering mass protests like those now being witnessed in the Middle East and North Africa.

Initial protests called for 13 cities in China for last week produced several hundred demonstrators in Beijing and Shanghai. In other cities, police and undercover security agents outnumbered protesters, according to U.S. government officials.

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