In Bow to West, New Libya Cabinet Nixes Islamists

Can NTC Rule Without One of Its Largest Factions?

In a move that will settle once and for all how Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC) will handle the growing split between its faction of Islamists and its faction of former Gadhafi loyalists, Prime Minister ElKeib unveiled his new cabinet today.

The cabinet, incredibly, cut the Islamist faction, which controls virtually the entire NTC-loyal fighting force, out of the government. The cabinet is entirely made up of old Gadhafi loyalists, with the occasional tribal leader thrown in for good measure.

The most notable snubbing was military leader and former CIA torturee Abdulhakim Belhaj, who had been assumed to be a shoe-in for the Defense Ministry portfolio. Belhaj was not only not given that, but is not in the cabinet at all.

The move is being spun initially as an effort to placate Western interests who are having a hard time wrapping their heads around replacing Gadhafi with a number of Islamist leaders. In reality, however, it may be the first shot fired in a new civil war in post-Gadhafi Libya.

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Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of Antiwar.com.