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Libya's Gadhafi Pressured To Leave Office

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Libya's Gadhafi Pressured To Leave Office

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Libya's Gadhafi Pressured To Leave Office

Libya's Gadhafi Pressured To Leave Office

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So far, there's no sign Libya's dictator Moammar Gadhafi will leave office. He says he'll stay in his country and fight to the bitter end. As both sides in the crisis dig in, how strong are the forces at his side? Will they follow the example of some in the army and abandon him? If not, why? How strong and organized are Gadhafi's opponents, who now control the east?

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

And I'm Michele Norris.

Moammar Gadhafi says he'll fight to the last bullet rather than give in to international demands that he leave Libya. Much of the country is now under the control of anti-government protesters. But Gadhafi still rules Tripoli, the capital, home to nearly a third of Libya's population and he still controls some outlying towns.

As NPR's Philip Reeves reports, with both sides digging in, attention is focusing on the power and the loyalty of Gadhafi's forces.

PHILIP REEVES: Much of his army has turned against him. So have powerful political friends. He's lost control of a huge chunk of the map. But Gadhafi's not finished yet. He still has a hard core of support - a sort of praetorian guard, says Alia Brahimi, an expert on Libya from the London School of Economics. She says they are loyal.

Professor ALIA BRAHIMI (London School of Economics): It's not just the fact that they're guarding their economic and political privileges, but they do feel that they're fighting for their lives. In addition to some sort of indoctrination along the lines, I think they understand that their future lies with him.

REEVES: If Gadhafi fights on, possibly plunging Libya into civil war, military experts say he can count on at least 10,000 troops. There's an elite brigade led by one of his sons and a presidential guard led by another son. Right now Gadhafi can still call on the security services, some foreign mercenaries and big stockpiles of mostly Soviet-era weapons that Brahimi thinks he would be willing to use.

Prof. BRAHIMI: The fact that he is insisting that he will live and die in Libya does actually raise a specter of the fact that he might use everything that he has in his arsenal to the very end, to the very last bullet.

REEVES: Gadhafi has the Libyan air force, though it's not clear how much use this will be. Some pilots have refused to fire on their own civilians. There's speculation Gadhafi may also have chemical and biological weapons.

David Hartwell, a Middle East analyst with the publishers of Jane's Defence Weekly, doubts this. He believes Gadhafi destroyed his stockpiles of these, as promised when he made his rapprochement with the West.

Mr. DAVID HARTWELL (Middle East Analyst, Jane's Defence Weekly): I've heard lots of talk about it and it may be that there may be some sort of very crude bits and pieces lying around. But as far as the information that we're aware of, he doesn't have any.

REEVES: Some of Libya's tribes have long played a part in shoring up Gadhafi's power base. In particular, three tribes, says George Joffe of Cambridge University's Department of Politics and International Studies.

Professor GEORGE JOFFE (Department of Politics and International Studies, Cambridge University): Those three tribes, in effect, populate the security services. They populate, too, the Revolutionary Committee Movement, the movement that Gadhafi controls directly and that he uses to discipline the population. And they, therefore, represent a major source of power.

REEVES: Their support is far from certain. Joffe says elements within these tribes are now threatening to abandon Gadhafi, although they'll all eventually dump him if he ceases to provide them with access to resources and power. Gadhafi's mental state will be a huge factor in determining what happens next. Brahimi thinks he is unbalanced.

Prof. BRAHIMI: I think he doesn't respond to the incentive structures that most statesmen would. I don't think that he makes the same cost and benefit analyses that other statesman make.

REEVES: George Joffe cautions against dismissing Gadhafi as mad.

Prof. JOFFE: He is a calculating, effective manipulator of power. And I think we have to assume that even in these circumstances he is quite capable of making rational decisions.

REEVES: Joffe doubts Gadhafi can cling onto power long-term. The colonel is isolated. He faces a growing pile of international sanctions and the threat of prosecution for war crimes. He's lost most of his oil fields and Libya's second city. Reports say, overnight, his forces tried to win back the rebel-controlled town of Zaouia, but were rebuffed.

However, Brahimi does not rule out the possibility that Gadhafi will eventually successfully defend the rump of land he still holds.

Prof. BRAHIMI: It's not inconceivable because there's the one scenario where he lets the east go and he hangs onto the west and the east becomes some sort of independent entity.

REEVES: The result, says Brahimi, would be a Libya torn by perpetual conflict.

Philip Reeves, NPR News, London.

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