How the Libyan Revolution Could Play Out

For days, Muammar Qaddafi has been cracking down on protesters as they advance toward Tripoli. How is this all likely to end?

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The latest reports from Libya suggest that the country's ruler, Muammar Qaddafi, is striking back violently against protesters in western cities near the capital of Tripoli, as military defections continue (even Qaddafi's nurse has left him) and international pressure on Qaddafi mounts. On Monday, opposition forces shot down a military aircraft and captured the crew as the government sought to wrest back control of Misrata, the country's third-largest city. The U.N. Security Council, meanwhile, has agreed to sanctions on Qaddafi and other Libyan authorities, imposed an arms embargo, and frozen Libyan assets, while NATO allies consider instituting a no-fly zone over Libya and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the Obama administration is ready to offer assistance to rebel groups.

What will ultimately transpire in Libya in the days ahead? Here's what some of the analysts are saying:

  • Everything Depends on Which Side Holds out Longest  The Wall Street Journal's Margaret Coker and Charles Levinson explain that Qaddafi's opponents control the eastern half of the country, most of Libya's oil infrastructure, and some cities in the west. Yet Qaddafi "is dug in in Tripoli and nearby cities, backed by better armed security forces and militiamen," they point out.
  • Either Way, Events Will Get Uglier  Regional experts expect opposition forces to eventually seize control of the capital and capture or kill Qaddafi, Maria Golovnina at Reuters notes, but they add that Qaddafi "has the firepower to foment chaos or civil war."
  • Libya's 'Leaderless Revolution' Is Vulnerable  Time's Andrew Lee Butters and Abigail Hauslohner observe that former justice minister Mustafa Abdel Jalil and a new revolutionary committee called the National Libyan Council have made competing claims about leading the opposition. Given that Qaddafi's security apparatus remains relatively strong in Tripoli, the reporters explain, the fragmented opposition, headquartered in the eastern city of Benghazi, "is growing increasingly worried that the regime may launch a counterattack to retake liberated territory, order an aerial bombardment or activate sleeper cells to terrorize the city." What's more, the rebels don't appear to have a "military strategy for completing the revolution, aside from hoping that Tripoli will liberate itself as Benghazi did." One protesters tells Time, "We don't need a plan. We'll liberate Tripoli with our hearts."
  • Qaddafi's Fall Is Inevitable  Yes, Qaddafi may still have partial control over Tripoli, concedes Mahmoud Al-Nakou at The Guardian, but "people now realise that they have passed the point of no return: either topple him or be killed. They also realise that Gaddafi's recent speeches and tactics show a desperate dictator who has almost entirely lost control." Al-Nakou predicts that when Qaddafi is toppled, Libya will embrace a form of government that blends demoracy and Islamic values, along the lines of Turkey's government.
  • But What Comes After Qaddafi's Fall?  Frederic Wehry at Foreign Affairs states that "Libya lacks both legitimate formal institutions and a functioning civil society," which suggests that Qaddafi will probably be replaced by a "chaotic political scene" in which the "forces of a free Libya" contend with "the regime's die-hard elements," including Qaddafi's sons and their militias. Wehry warns that "the weakness and fragmentation of the military and the tempting availability of oil resources highlight the very real threat of tribal warlordism."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.