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Asharq Al-Awsat Talks to Maj. Gen. Omar al-Hariri of the Libyan Transitional National Council | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat- Major General Omar al-Hariri, the official in charge of military affairs of the Libyan revolutionaries opposed to Col. Muammar Gaddafi’s regime, considers the collapse of the ruling regime in Tripoli to be imminent and expects it to end within one month from now according to his view of the military and political situation and the crisis that has been raging since 27 February.

Speaking in an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat in Cairo before his return to Benghazi in eastern Libya, the stronghold of the revolutionaries and headquarters of the Transitional National Council (TNC) where he is in charge of its military affairs, Al-Hariri has said the revolutionaries’ military situation is good on all fronts and Gaddafi is about to be finished. He added that the revolutionaries are in a stage of bitter fighting but which will lead to victory, adding that the main objective is to remove Gaddafi because he cannot rule Libya again.

The following is the full text of the interview:

[Asharq Al-Awsat] What are you doing in Egypt?

[Al-Hariri] We were going to Greece and passed through here and will be returning to Benghazi later. As you can see, Cairo is our corridor to the outside world.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Did you meet with any Egyptian officials?

[Al-Hariri] No. Our mission was in Greece where we met the senior officials there and explained to them the truth about what is happening (in Libya).

[Asharq Al-Awsat] How would you describe the current military situation in Libya?

[Al-Hariri] It is good. There are several fronts and the situations in them are good. We hope that this stage will not be long. We have a good situation in Ajdabiya, Misratah, Al-Jabal al-Gharbi, and Al-Zintan. All the areas are in the stage of struggle. It is true that it is bitter but it will lead to victory.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] When will the ruling regime in Tripoli fall?

[Al-Hariri] I wish it falls today before tomorrow. This depends primarily on the international pressure. We too are exerting military pressure on the ground as armed forces. It is not going to take long.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Will it end within weeks or just days?

[Al-Hariri] I do not know. Will it fall after weeks or months? Only God knows. This is war and it has its ups and downs. What I wish is that the war will not last longer than one month and it could be less. The noose around him (Gaddafi) is tightening and the only place left for him is Tripoli and Al-Aziziyah which is coming under heavy bombardment. He is now moving from one place to another. It is just a matter of few days before Libya is liberated. Of course, we wish it will not take longer so as to stop the hemorrhage. This man confronted his people in a way that no one had done it before him. After 42 years of ruling with injustice, repression, destruction, and lack of infrastructure despite the available financial resources, he has destroyed Libya completely. The popular revolution was carried out by youths who demanded nothing more than their freedom. We have endured much but, at least, our children and grandchildren should live in dignity. He brings the Libyan homeland to this state after 42 years. Libya will need our great struggle to rebuild it. Our main objective is to remove Gaddafi because he cannot rule Libya again.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] But Gaddafi still has forces?

[Al-Hariri] NATO said before two months “we have destroyed 30 percent of Gaddafi’s forces.” The truth is that all the forces were assembled in the western area and there is now a concentration on (certain) areas. I believe that more than 60 percent of Gaddafi’s forces have been destroyed. More important is the breaking of his soldiers` morale and making them run away. Most of them are mercenaries.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] What is your assessment of NATO’s strikes? How does it not have accurate information about Gaddafi’s whereabouts?

[Al-Hariri] That is their affair but Gaddafi has now become a target, whether for NATO or others. They said at one time that Gaddafi’s departure was the target but if they have another explanation then that is their affair. But we believe that NATO’s strikes are strong and effective. Al-Aziziyah area where he is based has tunnels reaching 30 km and some of them lead to the sea.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] He most certainly did not build these tunnels alone but had partners. If Western governments know where he is, why do they not target him and end this thing?

[Al-Hariri] They undoubtedly know his whereabouts. But the area is large and it is not easy to reach a specific person. I met NATO at one time and told them that the most important thing they should strike are the walls of (Bab) Al-Aziziyah because their thickness is one meter and they cannot be penetrated by a tank or gun and there must be a penetration from the air.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] In your opinion, why did Gaddafi built such a fortified wall?

[Al-Hariri] All that he was concerned about was to survive.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Was he preparing for such a day?

[Al-Hariri] He might have been preparing for such a day. He used the Libyan people’s entire resources for two things: “His protection and defense.” He had advisers from foreign countries, such as for example the former East Germany. His personal safety was his most important thing. The walls are four meters high in addition to their thickness. I talked to NATO and asked they concentrate on them because there were people wanting to get out. The revolutionaries in Tripoli are the ones who will enter for Gaddafi in his headquarters. He is now seeking shelter in hospitals. I consider the NATO strikes good.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Is the situation now at the threshold of bringing in land troops following Britain’s signal that helicopters would be used?

[Al-Hariri] UN Security Council Resolution 1973 does not stipulate the entry of land forces into Libya. We reject this. But he Gaddafi is seeking to have land forces enter so as to appear before the world as a hero. He only cares about himself and has always liked to appear as a hero. The option is absolutely out of question. Gaddafi’s tanks are near Misratah and we are capable of liberating our homeland but will not accept the landing of land forces in Libya.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Gaddafi relied for 42 years on the 1st September revolution’s legitimacy. Do you regret helping him then to seize power?

[Al-Hariri] I do. At first, we had objectives. We were young and lived under the shadow of (late Egyptian President Jamal) Abdul-Nasser at that time. Our objective was to liberate the Libyan bases. As officers, we carried out the revolution. Some are accusing us of harming the Libyan people. Reform was our intention but this did not happen as we had wanted. We might also be accused of bringing this man to power. But it is fate. I only got my freedom on 17 February and therefore say my age is only three months, which is the age of the revolution. An age under injustice and repression is not an age.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Who has remained of the RCC members since 1969?

[Al-Hariri] We were 12 persons. Our revolution was staged as a copy of Jamal Abdul-Nasser’s revolution in Egypt. We undoubtedly admired him then. Two of them died: Al-Muqayrif and Omar al-Muhayshi. Abdul-Munim al-Huni is here and has been a political refugee since 1986 and is an affective and good element. Muhammad Nijm left the RCC in its first year and Mukhtar al-Qarawi left it in 1974. Awwad Hamzah was arrested and Bashir al-Hawadi was put under house arrest. The others like Abdul-Salam Jallud remained within him and disappeared after 1993. Those left are Al-Khuwaylidi al-Humaydi who is unfortunately actually participating and commanding the security forces while Abu-Bakr Yunus who is commanding the armed forces.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Did you speak to them?

[Al-Hariri] Yes, I spoke to all of them and addressed through the satellite channels. I told them you took it as a profit and left it damaged. As to any man remaining with Gaddafi all this time, then that is his intellectual capability or choice.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Do you mean you were lucky when Gaddafi arrested you?

[Al-Hariri, laughing] Maybe. We brought him to power. He could not do anything alone without us. He lies when he says that he staged the revolution alone. This is historic deception and an unacceptable wronging of the others` roles.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] As Gaddafi’s cling to power, the stance of the king (Libya’s king until 1969) which you overthrew seems to be splendid?

[Al-Hariri] We wished to have just one of the king’s days after we saw what Gaddafi had done. I was the one who arrested Crown Prince Al-Hasan al-Rida and entered his residence. He was in any case a good man.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Why is the world refusing to arm you?

[Al-Hariri] We asked (for this) from fraternal Arab and other countries but they refused on the pretext that these weapons could fall into the hands of terrorists. Gaddafi claimed Al-Qaeda (organization’s) leader is in Libya. The Americans confirmed that this was not true yet they did not believe us because there is a clause in the UN law banning weapons from both sides.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] If you succeed in concluding a deal, would NATO let them in?

[Al-Hariri] I do not think so on the pretext that the UNSC resolution does not permit armament except in some way. Gaddafi is trying to get weapons through Algeria.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Why there are always accusations that Algeria is providing Gaddafi with weapons?

[Al-Hariri] Our accusation is not baseless. The Libyan people took a big stand with Algeria when we transported weapons for them from Egypt. I am amazed by its support for Gaddafi. There might be a personal explanation. They fear the opposition. But I recall that the Tunisian chief of staff asserted that the Tunisian revolution will illuminate the entire Arab world, Algeria, and many others. I said many times the Arabs are cursed by the seats (of power). This tide will not stop after what happened in Tunisia and Egypt and the Arab people are in a permanent revolution.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] How do you see Egypt’s stand?

[Al-Hariri] Egypt is the mother and the large receptacle.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] This is more a diplomatic answer than a factual one?

[Al-Hariri] Egypt is always with us. There is a group that has some opinion. Gaddafi is a savage and stupid person who does not refrain from saying anything. It is its right to fear for its nationals. We ask ourselves but appreciate its conditions and situations as it opens its borders with us fully. For example, we would not have reached Greece without much difficulty were it not for Egypt. I am certain that this stand is going to be better very soon. We do not fear for Egypt or fear it. We have a common and good history.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] There is apparently a battle over who represents you in Cairo?

[Al-Hariri] No, this is no true. Let me warn against any attempt by some to impersonate the TNC’s representative to Egypt and Arab League. Abdul-Munim al-Huni is our sole and legally and officially recognized representative. Any other person claiming to be this representative will be brought to account and subjected to legal action.