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Gaddafi defiant as the international coalition prepares his noose

19 March 2011

10:55 AM

19 March 2011

10:55 AM

The fog of war lies thick in Benghazi this morning. There are reported explosions and gunfire and Sky News is showing footage of a Soviet-era fighter jet combusting in mid-air over the city; it is
not clear if the aircraft was the victim of anti-aircraft fire, air-to-air combat or technical malfunction. Equally, it is unclear if the international coalition’s campaign has begun –
leaders will meet in Paris today to finalise diplomatic agreements before mobilisation, but defence analysts say that French and Italian aircraft could already be patrolling Libyan

The Gaddafi regime has been typically deranged in response. Some ministers insist that the ceasefire is real; Gaddafi on the other hand is bloodcurdlingly adamant that the West ‘will regret intervention’ under this ‘unjust and
invalid’ UN Resolution.

The regime’s contradictions may be a sign of its coming disintegration. Then again, confusion suits Gaddafi. Even now, he is tring to exploit Western worries, saying that his forces are being
attacked by ‘Islamists and al-Qaeda backed groups’. The rebel movement will certainly have Islamist elements, but independent witnesses in Benghazi and Tobruk are emphatic that it is not a
Mahdist cause.

Nevertheless, Gaddafi’s cunning has not lost its edge. As Tony Blair, the Quartet’s envoy to the Middle East, notes in the Times (£) this morning:

‘Events in Libya cannot be divorced from what is happening across the Middle East. It is here that Western policy is still evolving. The implications are vast.’

Events in the Yemen, a key ally of the West in the war on terror, have both vast and terrifying
security implications. Gaddafi may soon cease to be the West’s primary concern. Sarkozy and Cameron are right: time to put a boot to his throat and keep it there.  

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