Overnight, the Libyan transitional council in opposition-controlled Benghazi formed an interim government, appointing Mahmoud Jibril--shown above shaking hands with French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris on March 10 when France officially recognized the oppositon government--their prime minister.
According to Al Jazeera, the rebels didn't establish an interim government until now because they were worried about dividing the country politically, but felt the time had come, in the words of one opposition spokesman, to set up an "executive body to take control and provide an administration." The spokesman declared that "Libya is one unit--our capital is Tripoli and will forever be Tripoli ... We are striving to liberate the western parts of the country."
But can the rebels organize themselves sufficiently to--under the cover of the coalition's air strikes and no-fly zone --repel attacks by forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi? Qaddafi's troops, as we speak, are reportedly assaulting the towns of Misrata, Ajdabiya, and Zintan, despite the government's announcement of a ceasefire. In Misrata, 14 people were killed and 23 injured overnight as Qaddafi's troops seized control of the local hospital, Al Jazeera reports, prompting the rebels to request that the international community dispatch a hospital ship to Misrata's port, which is still under opposition control. On Wednesday morning, Reuters reported that coalition forces had joined the fight in Msrata, launching air strikes against Qaddafi's forces.
Even though Qaddafi's air force has been grounded and his ground forces near Benghazi pounded by coalition assaults, NPR's Eric Westervelt explains, the rebels are ill-equipped, "untrained young men with no coherent communication or command structure." Rebel spokesman Mustafa Gheriani told Westervelt that the opposition is trying to organize militarily now that the international community has intervened, though "the learning curve has been quite steep" and "emotions was the main driving force" up to this point. If the rebels can't rise to the task, Westervelt concludes, people fear "that Libya could be headed into a prolonged stalemate or a divided country" where the opposition controls the east and Qaddafi controls the west.
In his first public address since air strikes began in Libya, Qaddafi promised victory on Tuesday night, whether the battle proved long or short. Speaking from his compound in Tripoli--which has been a target of coalition missile strikes--Qaddafi called the Western powers in his country "a bunch of fascists who will end up in the dustbin of history."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.