Mahmoud Jibril, a reform-minded former Libyan official and the face of the rebel movement to the West, has played a key role in persuading the United States and its allies to offer a lifeline to Libya’s rebellion.
Those who have met him — including Senator Kerry, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton; and President Nicolas Sarkozy of France — have emerged from their meetings more confident that Libya’s fledgling opposition is steered by democratic and Western-leaning visionaries, not Islamic extremists.
Jibril, who went by the name Mahmoud Gebril ElWarfally when he lived in the United States, is in many ways an unlikely leader of rebellion. Born in 1952, Jibril attended college in Cairo and earned his PhD in 1985 from the University of Pittsburgh under the late Richard Cottam, a former US intelligence official in Iran who became a renowned political scientist specializing on the Middle East, aid Alberta Sbragia, a political science professor at the time. Sbragia recalled that Jibril stood out as a bright student.
But Jibril is best known in Libya for his work with the regime. Around 2005, just as relations between Khadafy and the West were thawing, Saif Khadafy recruited him to help restructure Libya’s economy, with technical support from the Boston-based Monitor group, which sent dozens of consultants to Tripoli.
When the opposition rebels appointed Jibril, “there were a lot of people saying, ‘You are bringing a person from the regime,’ ’’ said Mazin Ramadan, a Seattle-based Libyan technology entrepreneur who is helping the opposition. “But he didn’t come in to kill people. He came to help Libya.’’
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