It is now obvious that there is a mole inside Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi's inner circle.
On April 25th he survived a missile strike on his office inside the Bab al-Aziziyya barracks. Less than a week later another missile strike killed his youngest son, Saif al-Arab and 3 of his children.
The arguments in the international press right now are whether NATO is engaged in assassination.
But the real story is that someone in Gaddafi's inner circle is obviously reporting his movements, very accurately, in real time.
It is an indication that the alliance recognizes the seriousness of the deadlock as well as the ineffectiveness of the Libyan rebels and wants to end the stalemate in Libya urgently.
The colonel will now, after overcoming his natural fury, sorrow and rage, no doubt want to exact retribution. The vicious pounding Misrata is currently taking is an indication of the Libyan leader's anger. He is not stupid. He will realize that someone is transmitting intelligence about his whereabouts to his opponents. The race now is for Gaddafi to weed him out or NATO to make it pay. Assuming the alliance is willing to pursue this tack further in the face of the criticism of its "assassination" tactics, which it naturally denies.
I have refrained from commenting on Libya for about 3 weeks now while attempting to make heads or tails of the situation and figure out what the heck is going on over there.
On March 21 I said: It is up to the rebels to prove they're not a rabble. Or worse.
In the ensuing period I haven't seen anything to prove to me that they are an effective fighting force that can force its way to the gates of Tripoli where Gaddafi is hunkered down. Not that he's exactly cowering in his bunker. Yesterday he paid a visit to a school in Tripoli and seemed to greatly enjoy the enthusiastic reception he got from the kids.
By now the rebels have had every opportunity to rattle Gaddafi's Bab al- Aziziyya barracks. Instead I've been watching with great bemusement this cat and mouse game racing up and down the desert highway. I'm not privy to any military briefings but I'm pretty sure that those responsible for providing aerial cover to the rebels, the coalition commanders and their political bosses, are now at their wits end with the amateurish and incompetent way the rebels have conducted their military campaign. I've lost track of how many times Ajdabya has changed hands now. Yesterday evening I watched a live broadcast on Saif Gaddafi's al-Libiyyah channel from the western entrance of Ajdabya, those same green arches where the rebels have been filmed countless times. Only yesterday it was Gaddafi's fighters raising the green flag over the arches! A few minutes later I tuned into al-Jazeera and heard a harried correspondent tell viewers that the rebels were beating a hasty retreat down the desert highway after coming under missile attack.
The mystery to me is what happened to the various units of the Libyan armed forces that defected at the beginning of this uprising. I recall seeing several officers say they were joining, with their units, the 17 February revolution. And then... Silence.
I still contend that this is not a civil war. What it is now is a mess, an armed insurrection that has gone flat. Gone are the peaceful popular marches and protests and in their place we now have a ragtag rebel army in Toyota and Nissan pick-up trucks and small sedans doing military duty. And they are not fighting the bulk of Gaddafi's forces which I'm sure are still encircling Tripoli in a ring of fire and steel and haven't budged. Hence the US pronouncement last week that Gaddafi's military capabilities haven't been significantly diminished.
So the beleaguered, raging, venom spewing Muammar al-Gaddafi of the now famous (or infamous) Zanga Zanga speech has been transformed into a more confident, smiling leader paying school kids a surprise visit and now receiving African heads of state on a peace making mission.
On March 5 I pronounced that Gaddafi was "for all intents and purposes finished".
I did not count on a popular protest movement being supplanted by an ineffective armed rebellion. In other words, I was wrong.
Wrong in the sense that this man who'd become a pariah all over again has been handed a (temporary) get-out-of-jail card by an opposition that forgot that this was about the people and turned the showdown into a bloody vendetta between 2 sides that have infinite resources but very limited abilities on the battlefield.
And somewhere in Tripoli sits Saif Gaddafi, that highly-intelligent person who I'm certain plucked his father from the clutches of the Zanga Zanga madness and helped deliver him to the advantageous bargaining position he finds himself in now.
The UN-sanctioned military action against Colonel Gaddafi's forces has begun. What we're going to see is a rolling back of his troops all the way back to Tripoli, or to possibly Sirte, ie the area of historical Tripolitania. Meanwhile the rebel army will be tasked with the chore of proving its mettle, something it has yet to do.
I'm not sure exactly what's happening on the ground. Yesterday we were told that Gaddafi troops were fighting their way into Benghazi, yet the Americans said they were 160 km away.
I never saw any proof of mercenaries fighting for Gaddafi and talk of that has died down.
Right now the situation looks a lot like the old Ottoman vilayets of Tripolitania and Cyrenaica.
It is up to the rebels to prove they're not a rabble. Or worse.
The anti-Gaddafi camp must now prove its mettle and make use of the military imbalance that has shifted in its favor.
Meanwhile Tripoli broadcast 2 audio-only speeches by Muammar al-Gaddafi after the beginning of the bombing campaign against his forces. I was immediately struck by the disembodied voice and immediately reminded of that of Saddam Hussein after the beginning of Desert Storm. But there is a big difference: Saddam was viewed by millions of Arabs, rightly or wrongly, as a leader, Gaddafi is seen as a nutcase.
Unlike Saddam who called on the Iraqi people to "Fight them". Gaddafi did not call upon his people to resist. I find that strange, but not unexpected from someone like him. He did say that he was arming the Libyan people now (as if he would take that chance).
What is certain is that this military action cannot last indefinitely. Otherwise it will risk alienating Arab public opinion which is at the worst non-committal so far.
Not so Amr Moussa, the Secretary General of the Arab League who after suspending Libya from the League and calling for a No-Fly Zone now seems to be having second thoughts.
Today he said, "What is happening in Libya differs from the aim of imposing a no-fly zone, and what we want is the protection of civilians and not the bombardment of more civilians."
Well, I'm sorry, Mr Moussa. What did you think a No-Fly Zone means? You were Foreign Minister of Egypt when a No-Fly Zone was imposed on Iraq and should know full well what it means. The first targets were inevitably going to be Libya's air defenses and command and control structures followed by Gaddafi's armor on the ground.
I wonder if this about-face is not somehow connected to Moussa's prospective candidacy in the upcoming presidential elections in Egypt. You know those elections, the ones to choose a replacement for Hosni Mubarak whom Amr Moussa served for 10 years as Foreign Minister.
Colonel Gaddafi in his latest talk, delivered over the radio, has told Benghazi that his forces are coming tomorrow and will show no mercy to anyone bearing arms against him.
He knows that he's racing against the clock with the UN security Council about to vote on a No-Fly zone over Libya.
Gaddafi has agents within Benghazi and I expect them to make trouble. They have already proven that they exist with the targeted attack on the Al Jazeera crew that killed cameraman Ali al-Jaber. But I doubt he can carry the fight all the way there over such long lines.
Doubtless he will attack from the air and sea but while I'm not a military expert I doubt his will to carry out a purposeful and sustained land campaign so far away from home base leaving both his headquarters and best forces exposed and extending his supply lines over territory that he has yet to take complete control of.
This is a transcript of what happened to a 3-man BBC team who tried to go to Zawiya. If this is how the Libyans treat the press imagine how they treat their own people.
"Three members of a BBC team covering the conflict in Libya have been detained and mistreated for 21 hours by the Libyan military.
Feras Killani, a Palestinian refugee with a Syrian passport; Goktay Koraltan, who is Turkish; and Chris Cobb-Smith, British, were stopped at a checkpoint at Al-Zahra south of Zawiya on Monday 7 March. Their local driver was also taken. Here, they describe what happened to them in their own words.
Feras: "They took everything, cameras, mobiles, asked for any memory cards and the bad thing was they asked 'whose gun is this in the car?'."
Did they show you a gun? Did the driver have one?
Feras: "No, there was no gun in the car."
Chris: "They weren't too bad to us."
The team was taken next to a barracks on the main highway, known locally as the kilometre 27 centre. They were interrogated by an officer who asked if they had permission to be out reporting.
Chris: "We had passed the barracks before, it had a distinctive black-and-white tank outside it."
Feras: "I think it was the main headquarters outside the city. It was a huge barracks."
Goktay: "We stayed in a room for a while. There was nice captain, he gave us Turkish coffee and cigarettes."
Feras: "They wanted to know how journalists worked, how Sky worked when they were in Zawiya. I told them in general how we work. He had some information but they wanted details.
"We were there about another 30 minutes and then a bad guy arrived. He had three stars on this shoulder, a captain."
Goktay: "He looked pissed off. He was a tall guy, aggressive as he came into the room."
Chris: "It was almost like good cop, bad cop. The good one left and then the other one stormed in."
Feras: "He asked a few questions in a very bad way, in Arabic. He was aggressive. I tried to explain we had only been in Zawiya a week before with the authorities.
"He said something bad about Palestinians, a lot of bad things, and he asked his team what they thought about Palestinians and they said the same things. He thought they had helped the Palestinians a lot, but Hamas has given a very bad reaction to Gaddafi. Lots of bad language.
"When I tried to respond he took me out to the car park behind the guard room. Then he started hitting me without saying anything. First with his fist, then boots, then knees. Then he found a plastic pipe on the ground and beat me with that. Then one of the soldiers gave him a long stick. I'm standing trying to protect myself, I'm trying to tell him we're working, I'm a Palestinian, I have a good impression of the country. He knew who we were [ie journalists] and what we were doing.
"I think there was something personal against me. They knew me and the sort of coverage I had been doing, especially from Tajoura the Friday before. I think they monitored the BBC and had an idea, not just the reports but also DTLs [interviews from the studio with a correspondent in the field]. They don't like us or Al-Arabiya or Al-Jazeera."
"He told me to return to the room and not to tell the other guys anything."
At this point Chris managed to get a call out - he hadn't been searched and had a phone - and called for help.
Chris: "We knew we were in trouble then. I said this is not good."
Feras: "The captain came in again after five minutes and asked if I spoke to the other guys. They had asked me if I was all right and I said OK. One of the guards said: 'Yes, he said one word.' So he took me out into the yard again."
"He asked the other guards to come and started to hit and kick me. I was speaking with him saying I only said yes and I explained we were nervous. At this point he sent me back to room after he cuffed me with plastic cuffs behind my back."
Goktay: "We were shocked when we saw him."
Chris: "Obviously the whole situation was deteriorating. In English he said to me: 'One question and you die.' He asked me if I had worked with National Geographic. Obviously they were doing their homework."
Feras was taken outside the room where they were being questioned and was beaten by a captain and others.
Feras: "They hit me with a stick, they used their army boots on me and their knees."
"It made it worse that I was a Palestinian… and they said you are all spies. Sometimes they said I was a journalist who was covering stories in a bad way.
"They put us in a car and the captain, the one who beat me, told the guard: 'If they say one word kill them'.
"He said to Chris: 'One question and you die.' He said if I say one word in English, he would kill me."
The car had a driver and a guard who kept his gun levelled on the three men throughout the journey.
Goktay: "He was pointing the gun at us, each of us in turn, an AK47."
They drove back towards Tripoli, past the Rixos Hotel where foreign media are based.
Goktay: "I felt horrible passing the hotel. The soldier had his finger on the trigger and I was worrying it would go off when we went over a bump."
Chris: "It made it even worse, an extra stab in your morale seeing the hotel appear and disappear but it was good because we knew exactly where we were."
It looked as if they were going to be driven into a military compound.
Chris: "I thought it was a good sign we were going to a legitimate barracks, it was a compound with an eagle on the gate, but we went straight past the front gate down a back street. The building was down the side, attached to the barracks and not behind the perimeter wall. It was a dirty, scruffy little compound about 100m (330ft) square. It was still light when we got there."
Goktay: "There was a big iron gate. It looked like a film set, like an execution place. They took us out of the car and in the middle of the compound there was a cage, they put three of us in the cage and the last thing I saw before the door shut, they hit Feras with an AK47. We started hearing him groaning. They turned up the radio, all Gaddafi songs."
Chris: "They were wearing uniforms with no badges of rank. Some of them had their faces covered."
Feras: "They were kicking and punching me, four or five men. I went down on to my knees. They attacked me as soon as I got out of the car. They knocked me down to the ground with their guns, AK47s. I was down on my knees and I heard them cocking their guns. I thought they were going to shoot me. It was a fake execution. Then they took me into the room."
It seemed to be something like a guard room. Plain concrete with a heavy door, looked like a cell though they wondered if the guards slept there.
Feras: "They took me inside and left me alone for a few minutes and then they started. It was three by four, with an iron door, like a cell. After 15 minutes they were hitting me and kicking me very hard, the worst since I arrived, they put cuffs on my legs. They put three layers over my face, something like a surgical hat, the thing a nurse would wear but over my face."
"I was on the floor on my side, hands and feet cuffed, lying half on a mattress, and they were beating me."
"Before they covered my face up, a big black guy, a very strong guy, pulled my head back by my hair and hit me on the face.
"They were saying I'm a spy working for British intelligence. They asked me about the $400 and £60 and some dinars I was carrying. They asked if I was given the money from the intelligence department I worked for.
"I can't remember how long it went for."
Goktay: "It was about half an hour. We could hear it… I think it was Feras, maybe it was another inmate. The driver was constantly praying. We could hear screams. I thought it was Feras."
At this point Chris was able to ring the BBC team in the Rixos Hotel again. In the call he said the Libyans were torturing Feras.
Chris: "I waited until I calculated the guard had walked off and chanced it. The driver was going spare, he knew that if we were caught with a phone at that stage, let alone actually using it, it would make things even worse, if that was possible."
Feras: "After they finished beating me they taped the mask on my head. Then another guy came in and I heard him ask the other guards: 'Why have you covered his face, he's a journalist, he can't breathe?' He told them to uncover my face. I was like that struggling to breathe for seven or eight minutes. I was in a very bad position. My face was on the floor. They pulled the mask back."
Goktay: "The black guy came into our cage and they put masks on us. Gaffer taped them on and handcuffed us. They took the driver out and then me. They said in Arabic 'go' - I thought they would shoot us from behind. I was saying in Turkish that I'm a friend. I thought they would shoot us, I could hear guns loading. I was scared to death I thought it was the execution moment."
Chris: "I could see out from the mask, I wasn't convinced we were going to be shot. I wasn't being pushed around as if they were about to shoot me. They helped me get out of the cage. It was a bit of a drop and they helped me down, it still wasn't pleasant. I could breathe. I think they did this [masked them] so we couldn't see the surroundings when they led us to the cell."
The driver was taken elsewhere. In the room/cell they rejoined Feras.
Goktay: "His face was pale, and twice the size. His hands covered in blood."
Feras: "A good guy had cut the cuffs off. They were so tight he cut me slightly. They put other cuffs on less tight."
Goktay: "He was lying on the floor, cuffed."
Chris: "We were hooded and cuffed and we saw Feras bent double, lying on the floor, face swollen, obviously in pain."
Goktay: "I was really scared, panicked. Chris was trying to say to me it was going to be OK. I thought they were going to kill us and blame al-Qaeda or the rebels."
Feras: "I was taken back out to the cage and the others were left in the room."
Chris: "It was probably the guardroom, where the guards usually rested. There was a metal door but it wasn't locked and bolted the whole time. We were there from about half eight or nine until three in the morning."
Chris and Goktay had no food, water or access to lavatories. Throughout the night they could hear the screams of people being tortured. Goktay said he saw women who had injuries, he presumed inflicted by their interrogators.
A young man from Zawiya was brought in to the room/cell where Chris and Goktay were held.
Chris: "He was terrified. He prayed all night. He peed himself. They threw the mattress out. He kept making throat slitting gestures as if he knew he would die, but he made it clear those gestures applied to us too. The guards kept coming in, screaming at him, terrorising him. They wouldn't let us stand up. If we did, they would scream at us too. The guards were also making throat slitting gestures to all of us.
"We were pretty much left alone but not allowed to stand up and stretch. They got angry if we tried. They didn't mind us talking.
"I sat on a filthy mattress with my back against the wall but facing the door so I could see anything that happened outside when it opened and through a crack when it was closed. I didn't sleep a wink, just watched the seconds tick by, trying to remain upbeat, trying to read something optimistic into every little incident.
"Gok and I shared the few cigarettes we had sparingly through the night, and then smoked the butts of the floor. It was cold but I didn't want to use the filthy blankets, or have them see me huddled and pathetic, though Gok told me later I sometimes was shaking."
Feras was in the yard in the metal cell, described as something like a prison van but without wheels. One guard believed Feras when he said he was a journalist, and cut off his plastic handcuffs. He spent the night doing what he could for the other prisoners, who were all handcuffed.
Some of them told him they had been arrested because their phone calls had been intercepted - including ones to the foreign media. At first there were four others already in the cage - two Egyptians who said they had lost their papers and two Libyans. Later they were joined by others.
Feras: "I spent the night in a cell. There were 10 to 12 men from Zawiya. Some were in a bad situation, with broken ribs."
Four of the other captives brought in after Feras were masked, with ankles and wrists cuffed. They were from Zawiya.
Feras: "The four from Zawiya tried not to tell me anything but later one of the guards told me they were fighters from Zawiya.
"All the guys were handcuffed and asking me to help them. There was water, one of them had two or three cigarettes so the good guard gave me a light. I helped them with water, helped them to pee.
"I was looking out of the cage. Cars were coming and going. I saw them bring in a guy and three girls, prisoners, too.
"Two of them told me they had broken ribs. The four who were masked. I helped them breathe by lifting their masks, saw they had been badly beaten.
"The four who were masked said they had been three days without food and with arms and legs cuffed. They said where they were now was like heaven compared to where they had been. They said they had been tortured for three days, and were from Zawiya. The four all knew each other. They didn't want to talk much. None of them said they were involved in fighting but the guard told me. Their hands were swollen and so were their faces.
"In the cage they were talking about what might happen next. They were speaking of their situation. Two of them asked me to burn their cuffs with a cigarette I refused. One of them said he had bad pains in his stomach, I called the guard who said: 'Shut up and let him die, don't ask again'."
The others were reunited with Feras and with their taxi driver when they were moved to another building at about 0300. They were crammed into a pick-up with a steel box on the back with other detainees.
Chris: "We were crammed in worse than sardines. The others were so badly beaten, and it was so full, that every time you moved someone screamed. They had mashed faces, broken ribs. We were handcuffed, really tightly, behind our backs."
Goktay: "We were put into a vehicle, a pick-up with an iron box on the back. Almost 20 of us."
Chris: "There was a jumble of arms and legs and bodies. They were beating one man who couldn't get in because it was too full, so we pushed up to make space for him. There was a community feeling in there. People were trying to help each other. Some people without handcuffs heaved me up to help me sit."
Feras: "Our driver told me we were driving towards the airport."
They were driven to a building that was much cleaner and seemed better organised. They believe it was the headquarters of the foreign intelligence service.
Chris: "It was smarter than the other places, better organised, less chaotic. It was good we hadn't been driven out of Tripoli into the countryside."
Feras: "I saw one of the guys who had arrested me at Tajoura last Friday. He said 'Feras, you again' and punched me on the side of my head."
Goktay: "There was a big operation going on. Lots of people. I could hear screams coming from the second floor. I could see people being taking to other parts of the building hooded and handcuffed."
Chris: "I could hear howls and yelps of pain [coming from the building]. There was a lot of coming and going."
Outside the building they were lined up facing the wall, and told to bend their heads and not look up. One of them screamed at Chris when he did look up. A man moved down the line with a small sub-machine gun equipped with a silencer.
Chris: "As you walk up the steps there was a big entrance and I was last in line. There were four of us including the driver. We were lined up against the wall facing it. I stepped aside to face a gap so they wouldn't be able to smash my face into the wall. A man with a small sub-machine gun was putting it to the nape of everyone's neck in turn. He pointed the barrel at each of us. When he got to me at the end of the line, he pulled the trigger twice. The shots went past my ear.
"They all laughed as though it was very funny. There was a whole group of them in plain clothes."
"After the shooting incident one man who spoke very good English, almost Oxford English, came to ask who we were, home towns and so on. Big fat chap. He was very pleasant, ordered them to cut off our handcuffs. When he had filled in the paper work, it was suddenly all over. They took us to their rest room. It was a charm offensive, packets of cigarettes, tea, coffee, offers of food."
Feras: "One man said to me 'sorry it was a mistake by the military'. But he said we were wrong first because we went out without permission."
The men sat there for another seven hours until they were returned to the Rixos Hotel and released.
Libyan TV claimed Zawiya has been retaken, showed images of a march in the city in support of Gaddafi. My take is some of those people didn't seem too enthusiastic about marching and Gaddafi still doesn't have Zawiya. It seems Europe is going to take the lead on events in Libya hence Gaddafi's emissaries flying to Lisbon and Athens with one more in Cairo. The King of Kings is not as comfortable as he purports to be.
Meanwhile in Egypt Christian-Muslim unity clearly evident in the revolution to overthrow Mubarak degenerated into fratricidal killing with 13 dead and 140 wounded. This is an issue that the New Egypt must tackle.
The other revolutionaries in Tunisia have achieved a major accomplishment in forcing the dissolution of the hated secret police, a permanent fixture in every Arab country.
And finally Syria has released activist and dissident Haitham al-Maleh from jail. Al-Maleh, who is 80-years-old, was freed under an amnesty that included prisoners over 70. True to form he told the BBC, "My release is only an end to the wrongful and unfair decision to imprison me... I will only have my rights back when I am compensated for the years I spent in jail and when the institution [military court] that punished me is sued."
"I hold a banner drenched in blood, I urge you to be brave, I lead you to your destiny, I lead you to your grave. Your bones will build my palaces, your eyes will stud my crown, for I am Mars, the God of war, and I will cut you down."
Colonel Gaddafi has launched his most vicious assault to date striking out east and west from his Tripoli stronghold.
At the moment Zawiya is bearing the brunt of Gaddafi's firepower. Situated about half-an-hour's drive west of the Libyan capital it is in the worst possible position out of all the urban centers held by the anti-Gaddafi rebels. It is cut off with no supply lines available and if the Libyan colonel's forces keep up their heavy assault unchecked then the rebels' position may become untenable and they may have to capitulate. With no hope of reinforcements Zawiya's fate looks increasingly bleak.
A similar fate awaits Misrata to the east of Tripoli. To expect a heroic defense of either city that will miraculously repel Gaddafi's forces indefinitely is unrealistic. The Libyan leader is encouraged by international indecision as to what to do about the situation and is using this opportunity to try and retake the cities and towns nearest Tripoli. He is also sending his aging air force to pound rebel positions farther east in Ras Lanuf. The rebels will fight to the last man because the course of war inevitably dictates: Vae victis*, even if they don't speak Latin.
Which is why the people of Zawiya defended by the rebels have actually repulsed a brutal onslaught despite the Brother Leader's overwhelming superiority in firepower, equipment and troops.
The wily and crafty Gaddafi must know that he only has a limited window of opportunity to achieve his immediate goals in order to maneuver himself into a stronger bargaining position. If I was in his shoes I would be getting increasingly angry and agitated at the lack of any substantial achievement so far on the part of the elite units sent in to battle the rebels. The gains on the ground have so far been minuscule when compared to the spent ammunition.
So can the anti-Gaddafi population and rebels hold out until the world figures out what to do?
The West is obviously seeking Arab cover for whatever action it is contemplating in Libya. So far the Gulf Cooperation Council has taken the lead but the Arab world as a whole needs to move quickly.
That the rest of the Arab republics are maintaining silence is an indication of how vulnerable they themselves feel and, in my mind, probably hoping that the Libyan leader emerges victorious.
Colonel Gaddafi is not fighting to preserve Libya's sovereignty; he's battling for his survival. Which is why his forces are firing on unarmed Libyans demanding his ejection from power as you can see in this report by Sky's Alex Crawford. Make sure you read the full report.
In political terms world inaction does not mean apathy, and Gaddafi who dueled for decades with much of the world, and now living on borrowed time, knows that very well.
This is not a civil war as a lot of the world's media is now reporting. Journalists love to latch onto a catchphrase or a concept and repeat it until it seemingly becomes a fact. This is about a people's struggle to eject a despotic leader with much blood on his hands. Do not be fooled by his supporters in Tripoli. Those same streets echoing to the chants of Gaddafi's infallibility will also be the site of jubilant celebration at his eventual downfall. This is a war of liberation.
The trap continues to be sprung, crimes committed against the the innocent and someone somewhere is going to make a fortune from this tragedy.
It's time for the rebellion's political leadership in Benghazi to get on the ball and be proactive. We are told, by the media again, that Gaddafi now has the momentum. They are wrong. He is fighting out of fear and rage, lashing out at the the people who fight out of conviction.
His troops are far away from their homes and families fighting for a lieutenant who overthrew an aging monarch for the good of the people, he said. But then the officer crowned himself the King of Kings. Which is why Zawiya repulsed his vicious assault.
While he has been the one issuing the threats, some reverse psychology is in order. Now is the time for ultimatums, not negotiations. It is the only language Muammar al-Gaddafi and despots of his ilk understand.
* Woe to the vanquished
I woke up this morning to the stunning news that Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi's forces had "cleansed" Libya from the "gangs" and al-Qaeda operatives, reaching as far east as Benghazi and even Tobruk near the Egyptian border. Being a child of June 1967 I was quickly reminded of the outlandish claims back then by Egypt, voiced by one Ahmed Said on Nasser's Voice of the Arabs radio, that it was routing Israeli forces in the air and on the ground and that the liberation of Palestine was at hand.
Of course Gaddafi would do no such thing. The offensive launched by his forces is obviously aimed at retaking the regime's vital lifeline near Gaddafi's stronghold of Tripoli: oil facilities. Hence the vicious assault on Zawiya which, if successful, would secure the Libyan colonel's western flank and help guarantee him a continuing supply of petro-dollars.
You see, no one has suggested yet that sanctions be imposed to deny him revenue from exporting Libyan oil so Gaddafi is actually still being paid!
The rebels fought back with everything they have because they know that this isn't just about oil. Gaddafi's forces will exact terrible retribution on those who dared to rise against the colonel.
Gaddafi needs the oil facilities near his last remaining bases, the triangle Tripoli, Sirt (Surt) and Sabha (see map below). Which is why he may try to assault Zawiya and Misrata again and again as long as his forces don't get mauled.
Also of interest is the news that some British SAS soldiers have been captured by the rebels. I found out around 23:00 GMT last night while watching Libyan TV, hours before the news was reported anywhere else.
You see, Gaddafi's regime still controls and monitors the phone network in the country and lo and behold there was last night a recording of a phone call between the British ambassador to Libya (now in London) and Mustafa Abdul Jalil, Gaddafi's former Minister of Justice who broke with the regime and is now probably the most prominent opposition figure in the country.
That was preceded by several phone calls between Mustafa Abdul Jalil and Ahmed bin Halim, a Gaddafi opponent and former Libyan prime minister.
Both the British ambassador and bin Halim asked Abdul Jalil to intervene to release a group of 4 (later reported as 8) British "diplomats" captured by the rebels. Abdul Jalil, who doesn't speak much English, handed the phone to someone (obviously senior) called Juma'a who told the ambassador that these British guys landed in Libya in a helicopter and were subsequently captured and were being interrogated. [They were found carrying guns, explosives, maps and passports from four countries!
Not British diplomacy's finest moment. Nor the SAS' whose operation this was.]
A quick note about the modus operandi of special forces worldwide; they are usually helicoptered in and lie in wait, well hidden in the local environment, for days, weeks, sometimes months. They monitor movement, lines of transportation and any target they may be reconnoitering, in constant touch with home base. And when called upon they spring into action.
While Libyan TV broadcast these intercepted phone calls to show Gaddafi's opponents in a negative light, to their credit the rebels considered this act by the British a violation of Libya's sovereignty and promptly locked them up. I mean if you're coming on a friendly visit you call ahead and say you're coming, you don't just show up announced. On a helicopter bearing guns not gifts!
The opposition is naive if it thinks it can use Gaddafi's phone networks to discuss travel plans, weapons requirements and other sensitive matters and not have the Brother Leader display fraternal concern and eavesdrop on the conversation. The opposition needs an Opposition 101 crash-course. Pronto.
Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi, ably assisted by his intelligent son Saif al-Islam, has launched his counter attack.
The younger Gaddafi has invited dozens of foreign journalists to the Libyan capital and challenged them to find any evidence of regime brutality.
Meanwhile Colonel Gaddafi has given a somewhat bizarre interview in which he claimed his people love him and would die to protect him. He was excited enough to actually say that in English.
The situation in Libya has turned into a drawn out crisis. The anti-regime forces are consolidating their positions mainly in the east of Libya while the King of Kings of Africa is hunkered down in Tripoli and it will take a Herculean effort to dislodge him.
The West, led by the United States, has said "all options are on the table", meaning military intervention. In my view the other interpretation of this statement is right now we have no idea what the hell we're going to do.
Today I heard an interview with an anti-Gaddafi protester who threatened that "we will fight them like we fight him", them being the possibility of foreign military intervention in the country. Intervening militarily in Libya would be an extremely ill-advised move because there are already voices in the Arab world calling this a conspiracy and a plot and Gaddafi is gaining sympathizers where virtually none existed a week ago.
So there you go. The situation is quickly going nowhere.
If Tripoli rises against Gaddafi and members of the international media are there to record it then the Libyan leader is in trouble. That's the gamble Saif* advised his father to take, hoping that large injections of cash and subsidies will pacify the capital. On the other hand if Tripoli remains generally calm then no amount of diplomatic maneuvering can raise the stakes against Gaddafi.
What I also find interesting is that Libya's oil resources are believed to be much larger than its proven reserves because only 25% of the country's territory has been explored. Hmmm.. No, I'm not insinuating anything. Yet.
So where does that leave us? The Libyan opposition cannot take Tripoli by force, it doesn't have the firepower and even if it did then it would mean thousands upon thousands of innocent deaths.
On the other hand Colonel Gaddafi has lost a major part of his country which he simply cannot regain.
We are potentially looking at a redrawing of the map of Libya.
As a matter of fact I think there's a very good chance that we are looking at a redrawing of the map of the Middle East. That is the implication I touch upon in an analysis of the changes in the region which I hope to post soon.
* The London School of Economics has announced that it it will investigate charges that Saif Gaddafi plagiarized parts of his PhD thesis. Problem is Saif studied at LSE from 2003 to 2008 and we're now in 2011, and the prestigious university accepted a £1.5m donation from Saif!
According to the BBC, "Saif Gaddafi's examiner, the renowned economist Lord Desai, says that he had earned the PhD, and that the LSE had been right to accept his donation. His only regret... was that Saif Gaddafi had failed to learn enough about democracy:
"I read the thesis, I examined him along with an examiner, he defended his thesis very, very thoroughly, he had nobody else present there, and I don't think there's any reason to think he didn't do it himself."
"This is over-egging the pudding. The man is evil enough - you don't have to add that he's a plagiarist as well."
Making the rounds on the web today...
Warning to Earthlings:
A sputtering space vehicle has landed on Earth. On board is a weird creature believed to be called Gaddafi. He is armed with an umbrella and speaks unintelligibly and is believed to descend from the Pokemon species. Earthlings are advised against interacting with him and warned against popping any kinds of pills in front of him as this drives him nuts.
تحذير إلى سكان كوكب الأرض:
هبطت مركبة فضائية توكتوكية على متنها كائن غريب يطلق عليه القذافي، يتحدث بلغة غير مفهومة ومسلح بشمسية ويعتقد انه من سلالة البوكيمون. نهيب بسكان كوكب الأرض عدم التعامل معه ونحذر من تناول الحبوب أمامه مهما كان نوعها حيث ان هذا يثير غضبه.
A man on a long journey through a perpetual desert.
The opinions expressed in this blog are mine and mine alone. They do not represent the views of any of my employers, past, present or future.