In a sign of the ambiguity of international policy toward Libya, Ali Suleiman Aujali, the diplomat who made headlines when he defected from the Gadafi Government in February, has registered as a foreign agent with the U.S. Justice Department to represent the Transitional National Council of Libya, the umbrella group representing the forces opposed to the rule of Muammar Gaddafi.
The State Department has not officially recognized the opposition rebels as the legitimate government of Libya. If it had, as the Foreign Agent Registration Unit notes on its website, no filing would be necessary. "Diplomats and officials of foreign governments, and their staffs, are exempt if properly recognized by the U.S. State Department."
While Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has called on the Obama administration to recognize the Trans National Council as the government of Libya, as yet the State Department has held back. France was the first country to recognize the opposition.
The Libyan opposition is already playing the DC lobbying game; in addition to Aujali, the Transnational Council of Libya hired the Harbor Group.
The most recent filing comes from the Transitional National Council of Libya, Office of the Representative to the United States, which operates a website that produces press releases, and contains information about Ali Aujali.
The Transitional National Council of Libya maintains a its own site, and an English version of which is available, containing visually appealing maps of areas where the rebels claim to have control. It also gives biographical information about the leaders of the Council. The group is also on twitter: @LibyanTNC.
The website has an anti-colonial message and links Gaddafi to the former Italian occupation. The Council proclaims, "Here, we call on all the people of Libya to participate in achieving these lofty goals through the commitment to the noble Libyan ethics and by prioritizing [sic.] our country before the self in the same way our ancestors did to liberate it from the Italian colonizers."
The Transitional National Council of Libya may be new, but it is taking a sophisticated lobbying approach to attracting foreign support against Gaddafi. According to the records filed on April 21, the Transitional National Council of Libya plans to “Advocate for the interests of the Transitional National Council and the Libyan people to the U.S. through meetings with U.S. government officials, members of Congress, scholars, policy makers and other relevant individuals and organizations.”