Elliott Abrams

Pressure Points

Abrams gives his take on U.S. foreign policy, with special focus on the Middle East and democracy and human rights issues.

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The Defection of Musa Kusa

by Elliott Abrams
March 30, 2011

Libya's Foreign Minister Musa Kusa addresses the foreign press in Tripoli on March 7, 2011.

Libya's Foreign Minister Musa Kusa addresses the foreign press in Tripoli on March 7, 2011. (Chris Helgren/Courtesy Reuters)

On March 30, Libyan Foreign Minister Musa Kusa apparently defected. The UK Foreign Office statement on Musa Kusa is as follows:

“We can confirm that Musa Kusa arrived at Farnborough Airport on 30 March from Tunisia. He travelled here under his own free will. He has told us that he is resigning his post. We are discussing this with him and we will release further detail in due course.

“Musa Kusa is one of the most senior figures in Qadhafi’s government and his role was to represent the regime internationally–something that he is no longer willing to do.

“We encourage those around Qadhafi to abandon him and embrace a better future for Libya that allows political transition and real reform that meets the aspirations of the Libyan people.”

Kusa was for fifteen years Libya’s spy master. I met him in London in 2004 as part of the negotiations over Qaddafi’s handover to the United States of his WMD programs. He was a handsome, well-dressed man who spoke perfect English, acquired as an undergraduate at Michigan State (Class of 1978). He was an easy and relaxed conversationalist—until one recalled that as Qaddafi’s intelligence chief, Kusa had plenty of blood to answer for. I wonder how the British will now treat the man probably responsible for the Lockerbie bombing, the act of terrorism that brought down Pan Am 103 in 1988. Libya has long claimed that Iran was responsible for this act of terror, and if Kusa can prove that he’ll be worth listening to.

His defection is a serious blow to Qaddafi. This is the first loss of such a close comrade, and Kusa may well have a great deal of useful information about other potential defectors. In fact his ability to defect, to secure a plane and fly off to England under Qaddafi’s nose, suggests that the regime is falling apart despite its battlefield victories in the last two days.

What to do with Kusa once the Qaddafi regime falls will be a difficult question for lawyers on both sides of the Atlantic, and he can expect endless law suits. But his departure tells us that the people closest to Qaddafi expect they now know how this story ends, and do not wish to be with the dictator when that end comes.

Post a Comment 6 Comments

  • Posted by Henry Clasing

    People are the essence, aren’t they?.We all have a sense of the Truth in everything. Given the facts of a general awakening for freedom in the Mid-East, now accelerated with the Internet, Musa Kusa is no fool. His departure is the beginning of the “writing on the wall”. The next several weeks need to be watched for a follow though to such defections.

    But, quality people are the key to these indications.

  • Posted by Dean Smallwood

    I would assume that his exit from Libya was negotiated through a back channel , allowing him to side-step the no-fly zone .

  • Posted by Steven Gilbert

    Britain will do nothing just as when they
    releaseed one of the Lockerbie terrorists
    from jail as an act of “mercy and compassion
    when he feigned terminal cancer.

  • Posted by Ed Roberts

    For several years 4 of my poems were printed and circulated by different
    members of the armed forces in Iraq and Afghanistan to try and stop the
    violence there- One Word, The Pen of Life, Three Grains of Sand, and Trying
    to Understand the Bombings. (There are videos for these poems on my Youtube
    site) http://www.youtube.com/amayhem11 )

    What I am trying to do is to get this to happen in Libya with my latest poem
    “Words to those who serve”
    http://thesop.org/story/20110318/a-poem-with-an-urgent-message.html

    The best way to end the war in Libya is to convince those who are fighting
    for Gaddafi that he is not what is best for their people. A dictator only
    has power as long as there are those to follow him. I am afraid too many
    innocent lives will be lost in the upcoming struggle.
    Guns and weapons should not shape our future; they are simply tools to
    destroy it.

    Many people will think it is insane to try and stop a war with a poem. I
    think that war itself is insanity at every level. Take a look at the back
    cover of the book Whispers, Tears, Prayers and Hope, my last book. A man
    decided to leave a PLO terrorist training camp because of one of my poems.
    This is what words can do. I know I can’t change the minds of all the people
    there but if I can simply reach one, who could reach ten, who could reach a
    hundred —-

    This is not a new tactic, it has been used in several military efforts in
    the past with some success. The cost would be minimal and compared to the
    possible reward seems to be well worth considering.

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