A new era for the people of Libya appears to be close at hand. The showdown between the NATO-backed rebels and the forces of Colonel Moammar Gadhafi quickly escalated over the weekend. Rebels burst into Tripoli from three directions and took control of the capital. But pockets of resistance remain. Last night President Obama said the momentum against the Gadhafi regime had reached “the tipping point.” He said the U.S. will be in close coordination with the rebel leadership to help ensure a peaceful transition to democracy. Diane and a panel of analysts will discuss the latest developments in Libya and what lies ahead for the nation and its people.


  • Robin Wright Journalist, foreign policy analyst at the U.S. Institute of Peace and the Woodrow Wilson International Center, and editor of "The Iran Primer."
  • David Schenker Aufzien fellow and director of the Program on Arab Politics at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and former top policy aide on the Arab countries of the Levant at the Pentagon.
  • Nadia Bilbassy Senior U.S. correspondent, MBC TV -- Middle East Broadcast Centre.


  • 10:06:54

    MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Events in Libya are changing rapidly. Opposition forces say they've taken control of the capital, Tripoli, but pockets of pro-Qaddafi forces continue to put up a fight. Joining me in the studio to talk about what's happening and what's next for Libya and its influence uprising elsewhere: Robin Wright of the Woodrow Wilson Center, David Schenker of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Nadia Bilbassy of Middle East Broadcast Center.

  • 10:07:43

    MS. DIANE REHMThroughout the hour, I'll look forward to hearing your comments, questions. And as events on the ground change, we will be hearing about those. Join us on 800-433-8850. Send us your email to drshow@wamu.org. Join us on Facebook, or send us a tweet. Good morning to all of you.

  • 10:08:16

    MS. ROBIN WRIGHTGood morning, Diane.

  • 10:08:16

    MR. DAVID SCHENKERGood morning.

  • 10:08:17

    REHMQuite a rapid change of events, Robin. What do the rebels control at this point that we know?

  • 10:08:29

    WRIGHTWell, the reports out of Tripoli indicate that they control most of the capital, perhaps as much as 95 percent. This is a critical turning point. This is the end of Muammar Qaddafi's 42-year rule. We're beginning what, I think, is also phase two of the Arab uprisings. This is going to, I think, spur events, kind of inject some adrenaline in other parts of the region, but, whether it last hours or days, Muammar Qaddafi is now finished.

  • 10:09:00

    REHMNadia Bilbassy, what happened that allowed these troops to advance so strongly into Tripoli?

  • 10:09:09

    MS. NADIA BILBASSYWell, if you remember, Diane, last time we were in the show, we talked about this place called Bi'r al-Ghanam, and I said at that time that it was very significant gain for the rebels. And the fact that they were pushed by the support of NATO, of course, which has played a vital role, a very important role, they decided to take it all the way to Tripoli. And some reports indicated that, from Misrata, they walked 20 to 30 miles to descend on the capital.

  • 10:09:35

    MS. NADIA BILBASSYWhat, though, was the final point that make them take that military decision? We still don't know. But the fact that they did it and the city crumbled overnight, we've seen this jubilation of hundreds of thousands of people yesterday in what used to be called Green Square. Now, it's called Martyrs' Square after, of course, what -- how many people were killed in the battle to liberate Tripoli in particular.

  • 10:10:00

    MS. NADIA BILBASSYWe have to see now the situation is very precarious. The security situation in particular is, where is Qaddafi? Some say that he's held in Bab al-Aziziya, which is the place where his compound, his whereabouts is not known. Whether he's still there or not, we don't know.

  • 10:10:16

    REHMAnd, David Schenker, the key to all this could be where Qaddafi is, whether he will surrender. What do you expect here?

  • 10:10:28

    SCHENKERWell, we saw that his leading deputy for the past 30 years or so was interviewed publicly, and he said Qaddafi won't surrender. A terrible quote actually exists. He doesn't have the courage like Hitler to kill himself. I don't see Qaddafi surrendering. We heard very early on, the fighting, that they would fight to the last bullet. But that last bullet is quickly coming to an end. I think he's looking for a safe landing right now.

  • 10:10:55

    SCHENKERThere are a limited number of places he can go. The typical refuge for these type of dictators would be Saudi Arabia. But in 2004, Qaddafi was implicated in a plot to kill then-Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, so they're likely not to take him. You can look at some other countries. Venezuela has been a very good friend of Qaddafi. Even Pakistan, he provided sanctuary to the Bhutto's some years ago.

  • 10:11:18

    SCHENKERAnd, finally, another good choice would be Sudan. But there's others -- Chad, et cetera. This is really going to be an issue for the ICC to look at. Saif Islam has already been demanded by the ICC. The rebels will turn him over for justice, and this may go on for some time.

  • 10:11:36

    REHMHow important is it, Robin Wright, to find Qaddafi to bring him to trial?

  • 10:11:43

    WRIGHTIt's very important for not only Libya but the entire region. And I think it comes at a time -- very interesting time where you see Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and his two sons standing trial. And there is a sense for the first time in the region that justice may be achievable, that leaders can be held to account. And whether it's a local trial or the International Criminal Court, there's a sense that Qaddafi should face some kind of tribunal.

  • 10:12:11

    WRIGHTI think the issue will be, you know, where? But the turning point in many ways, in the last 24 hours, was the arrest of Saif al-Qaddafi. This was the son who is his -- not only his political heir apparent, but the man who had navigated Qaddafi's reentry into the international community, his surrender of weapons of mass destruction, his, you know, compromise on Pan Am 103.

  • 10:12:36

    WRIGHTAnd without Saif around to counsel him on the ways out, without him to help navigate the kind of -- whether it's a surrender or that last phase, this will be tough. And the son he will be relying on is Khamis, who is the commander of a key military unit out protecting Tripoli.

  • 10:12:56

    WRIGHTAnd so the dynamics on the ground -- who is Qaddafi listening to, who is giving him this critical advice at the end of his political career -- will, you know, will be -- will help determine what happens next. And of course, it's the military son rather than the political son.

  • 10:13:13


  • 10:13:14

    SCHENKERYeah, I think that's an important thing, the Qaddafi son and what type of advice he gets. But the fact of the matter is, I think, the turning point, really, was that NATO actually changed the nature of his operations. You know, it had gone in with the U.N. Security Council Resolution in 1973, which basically said that the obligation was to protect the people of Libya, to prevent the massacre of Benghazi.

  • 10:13:40

    SCHENKERAnd we saw this thing was a very drawn-out operation because it basically stuck to that. But in the last few days, you had the nature of the operations change dramatically. So you had NATO flying sorties and hitting defensive positions in Tripoli of Qaddafi's forces. They had 40 -- they hit 40 targets in and around Tripoli in just the last two days.

  • 10:14:00

    SCHENKERThis was unprecedented. And I think the regime was already brittle. But this really, I think, pushed it over the edge, and it allowed the rebels to move on.

  • 10:14:10

    REHMBut, even yesterday, Nadia, Qaddafi went on state television and said, get out and take your weapons, all of you. There should be no fear. How many Qaddafi loyalists are actually left?

  • 10:14:27

    BILBASSYWell, that is very true, actually. And the funniest thing, he appealed to the Islamists. He says to the Muslims there, go and fight on my behalf because this is your way to heaven, which is -- I mean, it's typical of Qaddafi's kind of erratic behavior.

  • 10:14:41

    BILBASSYBut, I think, the fact that what we have seen last night, these amazing pictures of thousands of people very, very obviously happy to see the rebels among them, there were gunshots all over, and people are celebrating and embracing each other, that it shows that, actually, it's not what we thought, that Tripoli is not completely under the support of Qaddafi. But, saying that, there is also a report saying that up to 60,000 troops -- and we're talking about the Libyan Army.

  • 10:15:08

    BILBASSYAs Robin said, his son Khamis is in charge of one the brigades that's considered the most ruthless and the most loyal and the backbone of the Libyan Army, which is not, of course, comparable to any other army in the Middle East because he kept it, on purpose, undeveloped because he didn't want somebody to overthrow him. But I think this is really important, to see now where are the 60,000 loyalists.

  • 10:15:32

    REHMYeah, yeah.

  • 10:15:33

    BILBASSYAre they going to stand for him? Are they going to give up and basically -- but we had reports that in Misrata itself and other cities, already, the brigades belong to Qaddafi, are already siding with rebels. Let me just add one more point about the sons. I think the arrest of Saif al-Qaddafi is very important because he was considered the de facto ruler. He was the one who was groomed to take after his son.

  • 10:15:51

    BILBASSYBut also, there is two other sons being arrested, Muhammad and Saadi. Muhammad gave an interview in Arabic yesterday to Al-Jazeera, and he was saying, basically, that he was under house arrest, that the TNC rebels, basically, did not harm him. And this is very, very important indication of how the rebels are going to deal with the Qaddafi sons. He is not considered an important son because he was from the previous wife.

  • 10:16:14

    BILBASSYHe wasn't playing an important role in politics. Saadi is the same. If you remember, when they imposed no flight zone, he said, (sounds like) I can't go hunting. This is, you know, so he's not considered really that important son either. So I think Khamis and Saif al-Islam are very important. But the Libyan people wanted Saif al-Islam to be tried in Libya, not in the ICC, just like Mubarak and his sons are tried in the country.

  • 10:16:35


  • 10:16:36

    WRIGHTWell, absolutely. It's very funny when you look at Qaddafi appealing to the Islamists because this is -- he was so nervous about whether it's the Muslim Brotherhood or the group called the Islamic -- Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, that he warned about the cancer that threatened Libya. And today, he's now appealing to virtually anyone. I will say that, on the question of the military, Libya's military is weak.

  • 10:17:01

    WRIGHTIt's engaged in some actions in neighboring countries in small ways. But a lot of the Arab armies are actually much weaker than their numbers would indicate. They still have the big equipment. But in these final days, they will also know their future. And they will look to the identity of their tribe, their clan, their family as the unit with which they want to be seen, not necessarily the leader.

  • 10:17:27

    WRIGHTAnd I think one of the most telling interviews was yesterday -- I think it was on CNN -- where the young woman said that, up until yesterday, people weren't talking to each other. Their neighbors -- even telling them whether they sided with Qaddafi or with the rebels because they were so afraid of being turned in.

  • 10:17:42

    WRIGHTThey didn't make cell phone calls, and that -- once people -- the rebels started moving into Tripoli, there was this outpouring. And they suddenly discovered their neighbors were all against Qaddafi, too. And it was this profound moment that you see happening across the entire region, that suddenly you discover you're not alone in your opposition, that there are hundreds of thousands, millions who are also looking for something different.

  • 10:18:07

    WRIGHTThey're tired of a life that is controlled, repressed, in which they have no stake in their current life or their future.

  • 10:18:18

    REHMRobin Wright of the Woodrow Wilson International Center, David Schenker of the Middle East -- Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Nadia Bilbassy of Middle East Broadcast Center. We'll take a short break and be right back.

  • 10:20:03

    REHMAnd welcome back as we talk about unfolding events in Libya, where the rebels seem to have taken control of Tripoli. However, thus far, Qaddafi has not been located. Here in the studio, Nadia Bilbassy of Middle East Broadcast Center, David Schenker of Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Robin Wright. She's the author of a new book titled "Rock the Casbah: Rage and Rebellion Across the Islamic World."

  • 10:20:45

    REHMHere's our first email from Claude in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. He says, "This will be like the dog that chased the car. Now that he's caught, what will he do with it? The rebels are totally unprepared for success. This situation is certain to deteriorate into a chaotic bloodbath as tribal rivalries emerge and has already been demonstrated by the brutal death of Abdel-Fattah Younis. That the U.S. is blindly supporting such an unfocused effort is troubling." What do you think, Robin?

  • 10:21:32

    WRIGHTWell, Libya is a very tribal society. There are estimated to be about 140 tribal entities or clans, 30 of which are important, three of which have been Qaddafi's traditional base. That is always a danger. Benghazi has witnessed some rivalries emerge, Benghazi being the second largest city and the home to the opposition government, the Transitional National Council.

  • 10:21:55

    WRIGHTBut -- and there are two rival parts of Libya. I mean, you have, you know, the east and the west that are historic rivals. But having said that, I think the interesting dynamic is that you've had five months pass in which you have had an opposition council having to come to grips with the realities of, how do you build civil institutions? How do you pick up garbage? How do you allow nascent civil society to begin to emerge?

  • 10:22:21

    WRIGHTAnd the Benghazi experiment is quite interesting. I think we can't write off Libya. It is the one country of the 22 that has two critical ingredients for success: one is a small population, and the second is oil wealth.

  • 10:22:36


  • 10:22:36

    WRIGHTUnlike Egypt and Tunisia and any other country, you have burgeoning populations, very limited resources and, frankly, an inability to address democratic demands anytime soon, whatever the will of the people. Libya is one country where they have the oil wealth to reconstruct. They have a small enough population to address their needs and improve their life in a way that the rewards will be tangible in a short enough time, that it may not fall apart.

  • 10:23:06

    WRIGHTAnd if you can give people a sense of a future and a physical reward in the 30 percent unemployment in Libya, if you can give them a job, reconstructing the country, you know, it may not be as bad as a lot of people fear.

  • 10:23:19


  • 10:23:20

    SCHENKERYeah. No, I think Robin's absolutely right. The thing that differentiates Libya is the 40 billion a year in oil revenues and the small population. You have transnational council -- Transitional National Council that is headed by two technocrats. But you do have also the fact that the country is not really a country and never has been. It has no democratic representative traditions. It was divided into three until -- well, you know, let's say until 1969, a little bit earlier.

  • 10:23:53

    SCHENKERYou have, you know, Tripoli. You have Benghazi. You have Cyrenaica, and then, in the south, you have -- well, they call it Fezzan. And these places have never felt a unity or an alliance together, and people should be concerned. I mean, the idea that you have this ruthless dictator that has held together these 140 tribes, these 30 important tribes for so long and suppressed the differences, you know, would lead some people to say that the worst case scenario is another Iraq.

  • 10:24:26

    SCHENKERNow, we're not looking at -- 'cause Iraq has a lot of oil revenue as well. We're not looking at Sunni, Shias and Kurds. We're talking about all Sunni Muslims, but this would be a worst case scenario.

  • 10:24:35

    REHMBut here's an email titled "Pyrrhic Victory" from Marian in Newport News, Va., who says, "If Libya devolves into a fundamentalist Islamic state, NATO may very well rue the day they decided to intervene. Revolution could turn into civil war in Libya unless the sides can form some kind of coalition government. Whoever controls the oil will control Libya." Nadia.

  • 10:25:12

    BILBASSYIt could be. Look, I mean, there's so many people who have the conventional wisdom to say that we don't know what's going to happen in the whole entire Arab world after all these uprising and revolutions. The Islamists might come. They are most organized. The Salafis in Libya, the Muslim Brother in Egypt, et cetera. I actually tend to be on the opposite side. Yes. I'm caution about the changes coming. But, oh, I'm optimistic.

  • 10:25:35

    BILBASSYI think whatever is going to come is going to be much better than one state controlling the Arab world for 40 or 50 years, having one dictator. The Arab generations, the young people are growing up to knowing one leader only when democracy changed five or six. So regardless of the bigger picture, yes, I understand the road ahead is going to be very, very hard. And it's going to paved with so many conflict.

  • 10:25:58

    BILBASSYBut Libya, in particular, if I refer to some of the discussion here, I think another country in the Arab League is Somalia, is very similar, which is the tribal structure is similar to Libya in terms of you have so many of these tribes. And it ended to be a failed state. But Libya is going to be different because of the reason that Robin mentioned about the oil, and it's a smaller country.

  • 10:26:17

    BILBASSYAnd also, you have an opposition already, as you said, five or six month in training and supported by the West, et cetera. And I was impressed when I met Mahmoud Abdul Jalil. He came here to Washington, and he had a few discussion with a few journalists. And I think they're actually on the right path. It's true that we're going to have so much of unpredictability.

  • 10:26:38

    BILBASSYBut in the long run, I think, whatever is going to happen is going to take not overnight. I mean, we are very impatient. It's not going to take five month or six month or a year or two. We're talking about Latin America, the transfer from dictatorship to democracy, it take five, 10 years, maybe 15 years. But we should be able to be willing to wait for that long.

  • 10:26:55

    REHMAnd here's another email from Thomas, who says, "Please discuss how the U.S. will now be hit up for more foreign aid and funds to rebuild. Will Libya repay the U.S. for the cost of this war that we funded via NATO? They have oil. We have debt. Why should they not repay us?" Robin.

  • 10:27:30

    WRIGHTWell, one of the big questions is, you know, what -- how you reconstruct the country. And this is where there's $33 to $36 billion of frozen assets by the Qaddafi regime in the United States alone. There is a lot of money. I doubt that they're going to end up repaying NATO or the United States. But they will use their -- these resources to reconstruct the country.

  • 10:27:55

    WRIGHTAnd this is why there is the prospect of something good coming out of this, not just, you know, the kind of tribal rivalry that we're all worried about. I will say that it's going to be messy. Democracy is messy. We will be nostalgic at some point for the days when we could call one leader, like Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, and get something done, whether it was on Arab-Israeli peace, dealing with al-Qaida, the kinds of regional concerns we have.

  • 10:28:23

    WRIGHTThe -- it'll take a long time for all of these diverse forces to learn how to work together and how to divide up the spoils, economically or politically. The critical element down the road is writing a new constitution. That's when Iran's revolution was hijacked. It was a year-and-a-half into its revolution when the clerics stepped in and said there's such chaos over creating a new political order that we're going to impose an Islamic superstructure. A lot can happen.

  • 10:28:53

    WRIGHTOne thing to remember, and that is that, you know, 20 years after the demise of the Soviet Union, you still have a former KGB chief and communist in power, that in South Africa, a country we all think was a -- incredibly noble in its transition, the majority of blacks are, today, worse off economically than they were under apartheid, so that transitions do take a long time. Latin America, Venezuela was the first democracy, and today it's ruled by a strongman.

  • 10:29:21

    WRIGHTSo this is going to be awkward, messy. Times will want to go in and say, we know how to do this. We'll help you. And what we have to do now is kind of different from Iraq. We have to let the Libyans themselves make the decisions. What is so legitimate about Libya's uprising, unlike Iraq, was they did it themselves. And it will be perceived in the region as credible in the way that Iraq was not.

  • 10:29:47


  • 10:29:48

    SCHENKERYeah, I think that's absolutely right. The key here is that people in Libya see an improvement in their daily lives in rapid fashion. Where this doesn't happen, I think, you have slide toward authoritarianism. They just got rid of one, and they'll get another. Eastern Europe -- we see this in Russia. We saw this in many other states. We didn't see it in Poland because they managed to fix some things and did some dramatic reforms rather quickly.

  • 10:30:14

    SCHENKERThere are places, like the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, that can help them fix these crippled bureaucracies in Libya. They do a very good job, and I don't think it's going to cost us money to do this. I think the Libyan people will be committed to it. But you do have an Islamist stream there that people will have to be careful about and pay attention to.

  • 10:30:34

    REHMAnd do join us, 800-433-8850. Send us your email to drshow@wamu.org. Join us with your Facebook postings or your tweets. We see that reports are that communications are very backed up, even though rebels have seized control of state television. But the response around the world is interesting, Nadia, because flags of Qaddafi's government have come down. Flags of the rebel movement have gone up.

  • 10:31:19

    BILBASSYThis is true. This is what -- the scenes we saw last night is very similar to Tahrir Square. For a while, we haven't seen this in the Arab world, partly because Syria has cut off communication with the outside world. It didn't allow journalists to get in. And Egypt was the revolution that was televised. And what we've seen last night is actually -- is the same thing. So we see these flags all over, people wrapping themselves with the flags with a new slogan.

  • 10:31:43

    BILBASSYAnd we have seen it in Washington on Wednesday when the new ambassador, who become now the charge d'affaires of the TNC, has also put this flag on the old Egypt -- Libyan embassy. So this is significant. People are very euphoric, and it is -- it symbolizes so many things for them to see this new flag which represent a new day. But as we said, it is the day ahead that we're going to worry about.

  • 10:32:05

    REHMCan we talk for a moment about the cost to the U.S. of its involvement in NATO forces trying to bring down Qaddafi, Robin?

  • 10:32:19

    WRIGHTI don't know what the price tag is. There have been over 7,500 sorties since March, and that's going to be a major cost.

  • 10:32:26

    REHMBig time.

  • 10:32:27

    WRIGHTBut the fact is the Europeans have done more. The United States has actually been fairly low profile during this period because it didn't want to be seen to be engaged in a third war. But the interesting thing is the political cost. And in this way, this is where the Obama administration, I think, comes out ahead.

  • 10:32:43

    WRIGHTDespite the frustration about how long it took, it did it -- or will be perceived in the Arab world, in the international community as having acted in a way that was collaborative, that this was a joint action, unlike Iraq where the United States didn't get Arab approval, didn't get United States endorsement, had to build its own coalition.

  • 10:33:03

    WRIGHTThis time, the U.S. got an Arab League support, a U.N. resolution and used -- and worked through the world's mightiest military alliance, and so the contrast couldn't be sharper between Iraq and Libya. And I think the political gains, the way the U.S. is perceived in the world, will be much more credible having gone this route, even though it took longer. We could have done it much faster, but it worked.

  • 10:33:30

    REHMRobin Wright of the Woodrow Wilson Center. You're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Let's open the phones now, 800-433-8850. First to Houston, Texas. Good morning, Geronimo. You're on the air.

  • 10:33:52

    GERONIMOYeah, thank you. Very, very good morning. I just have a very quick question. It had been reported that -- with Gen. Younis that there were some tensions within the rebels, that the rebels do not propose or unified funds. So I was wondering if your panel can talk a little bit more about what does this mean for this transitional democracy, how these ethnic tensions will play, and, obviously, the political role in 2012 of the U.S. and the lack of money in order to finance these opportunity as Secretary Clinton said the other day.

  • 10:34:27


  • 10:34:29

    BILBASSYWell, yes, he's absolutely right. There is this division. And we talked about it in detail just now, actually. And we don't know how it's going to turn out, basically. But, yes, there is a tribal division. There is a big difference between people in the East coast and the West coast, et cetera. The bottom line, as I said, is these people managed, regardless. It was a horrible incident with the killing of Abdel-Fattah Younis.

  • 10:34:54

    BILBASSYAnd I heard yesterday, Abdul Jalil saying almost -- who is the head of the TNC, saying he was almost going to resign over it. And there was an internal investigation. But putting this aside, I think, they've managed so far to do something, which is to hold themselves together as a political entity and also as a military front.

  • 10:35:11

    BILBASSYThere's no doubt they need to play the huge role in supporting them and giving them the communication, and in this particular push on Tripoli. But together, we now -- we're looking for the next step, which is they're about to elect 200 members of the assembly. And we have to see who is going to represent everybody.

  • 10:35:29

    BILBASSYAnd, basically, they're saying it's going to be inclusive. They're going to consider every tribe, every demand, everyone who -- the exiled people who had been anti-Qaddafi, people who were remnant of the regime who defected. So this is going to be a critical test to see how, actually, the TNC is going to handle themselves, and who is going to write the constitution. It's very, very important. We've seen it in Egypt.

  • 10:35:51

    BILBASSYWho's going to have the upper hand to dictate? And, ultimately, how Libya is going to be shaped and how it's going to be turned out. But I will give them some credit, despite the fact that we said that democracy is very messy and it's going to be a critical time ahead. But I think they might be able to put something together.

  • 10:36:11


  • 10:36:13

    WRIGHTI agree.

  • 10:36:15

    REHMThe CNN is reporting that the rebels have now taken most of Tripoli. A former aide says that Qaddafi is not likely to surrender.

  • 10:36:32

    WRIGHTI've interviewed Qaddafi a number of times. And this is -- of all the world leaders I've talked to, he is the most unstable. I've always thought that there was some underlying medical issue. I think, from his appearance and his performance publicly in the last few years, it appears he's on some kind of medication. The thing that's -- you know, I also think that he does not want to leave Libya.

  • 10:36:55

    WRIGHTI think his inclination will be to fight, but I also think we may have reached the point where it's too late for him to find options. How is he going to fly out? Unless he is already outside of Tripoli. We've reached a point that the endgame has unfolded so dramatically, so fast that the options might be quite limited. And he may have to fight it out or surrender. And this is a man, because he is so unstable, may just keep on going until the end.

  • 10:37:26

    REHMRobin Wright of the Wilson Center. Her new book is titled "Rock the Casbah: Rage and Rebellion Across the Islamic World." Short break. We'll be right back.

  • 10:40:03

    REHMWelcome back. As we talk about unfolding events on the ground in Tripoli, with the rebels now having reached the point where CNN is reporting that they do control Tripoli, Robin Wright, you have talked to Muammar Qaddafi. You've gone into one of his tents. Describe that experience.

  • 10:40:30

    WRIGHTWell, one of the key places in Libya, maybe the most important when it comes to military installations, is Bab al-Azizia military barracks. And that's where I've always interviewed him. And it's a wild scene because it's a traditional military barracks. But they brought in these quilts, what they've built into an enormous tent, and that's where he does receptions and he receives visitors. And they also brought in sand, and they have a couple of camels there.

  • 10:40:52

    WRIGHTYou know, it's trying to create this very strange desert environment. Now, his father was a Bedouin sheep herder. And he comes -- he considers himself part of the desert culture. And they've imported this bizarre set of desert symbols into the chief military barracks. And one of the questions, of course, is at what point do the rebels take this over, this and kind of the government offices -- government.

  • 10:41:18

    WRIGHTHis key government and residential compound will be the two places that they will want to seize most of all.

  • 10:41:25

    BILBASSYI just wanted to add what a year can make a difference in history. Last year, if you remember, we were talking about this controversial issue of Qaddafi wanted to be in the U.N. to address the general assembly, which was about to report again. And he wanted to build this tent. And it was a huge controversy as where this tent is going to be built. And the New York police was all involved.

  • 10:41:45

    BILBASSYIt's a -- and now we're talking about him fighting for his last days of his life. But, I mean, I just wanted to add also one thing about his character, which is described very eloquently. He's a megalomaniac. I don't really see him handing himself in again. I cannot see Qaddafi wanting to be taken to the ICC or being in a cage like Mubarak.

  • 10:42:03

    BILBASSYI think he definitely would prefer to die. Somebody kill him, as he said, because he's too coward to kill himself. But I don't really see him being arrested.

  • 10:42:13

    SCHENKERThere are reports that Qaddafi has fled to Algeria, but that's not -- I mean, if you want a detailed psychological analysis of Qaddafi, just go WikiLeaks. They had the U.S. ambassador at the time, Gene Cretz, wrote a scathing indictment of Qaddafi about how he -- he's a big fan of flamenco dancing. And he talked about his European nurse and how he doesn't like to be on the second floor of buildings, and the guy clearly has some major issues.

  • 10:42:41

    REHMNow, here is a posting from Facebook from Felix, who says, "Now, we are stuck over there, and we are already overextended. Mutiny brings chaos. We're going to have to be over there to maintain law and order." How much is this going to cost us, David?

  • 10:43:06

    SCHENKERWell, I don't think that we're stuck over there. We did a few air operations, pretty major role in NATO supporting European...

  • 10:43:11

    REHMWell, we took the lead in those air operations.

  • 10:43:14

    SCHENKERWe took the lead initially, and then we played a supporting role. These were European planes that were primarily flying the sorties, you know, perhaps until the last days when they really need to get things done in Tripoli. You know, that said, you know, we are not on the ground. They do have assets. And this was never a U.S. strategic interest.

  • 10:43:33

    SCHENKERThis was an interest of Europe that was afraid of all these Muslim Libyans coming across and -- into Europe and as immigrates. It was an issue of oil. Italy gets 40 percent of its oil, France, 16 percent of Libyan oil. The United States only gets 2 percent of all Libyan oil. It's a drop in the bucket, so this is a European issue. And we did this to be part of NATO. I think it was humanitarian.

  • 10:43:57

    SCHENKERNow, if you want to look at the strategic issue, let's talk Syria. But Libya is not, in any way, something that the U.S. could consider getting in on the ground.

  • 10:44:06

    REHMAll right. To Upper Marlboro, Md. Good morning, Ty. You're on the air.

  • 10:44:13

    TYGood morning. I have a question about the leadership of this revolution. As the period that Qaddafi regime is, you know, on the verge of collapsing, I wanted to know if there's any, like, George Washington-type figure that the Libyans have that they can rally around. I hear a lot about, you know, representatives in Washington representing, you know, the interest of the revolution and the rebels.

  • 10:44:40

    TYAnd in Egypt, they have this vague kind of council of generals that's sort of running things now after that regime fell. And I wanted to know if there is a person in Libya like a George Washington.

  • 10:44:54

    BILBASSYI don't know if there's a George Washington anywhere that we can...

  • 10:44:58

    REHMBut is there a leader of these rebels?

  • 10:45:01

    BILBASSYYeah, this is true. I mean, as we said before, there is not one single person that you can say because it's a faction of different backgrounds and different tribes and, you know, different entities. But, I mean, the names that comes obviously is Mahmoud Jibril and Mustafa Abdul-Jalil. And he's the head of the TNC. So -- but he's saying that he's temporary figure.

  • 10:45:21

    BILBASSYHe's only there until the government is -- the new government is formed and a new general assembly is elected, et cetera. So he serves as a temporary or transitory kind of person, and it's even the same for the ambassador here. He was not given the title of the ambassador because they think this is only a temporary thing until the Libyan people elect a government. So you have something of a transitional council, but you don't have one person as such.

  • 10:45:49

    WRIGHTIn many ways, that's a good thing, that you have not one figure taking over -- one dictator taking over from another, that this is a collaborative effort, that they have all been part of this. They've had to go through -- they've had a lot of their own problems, divisions within. They've had to go through a purge in the aftermath or a kind of a sorting out process in the aftermath of the murder of this general who had once fought with Qaddafi and defected and was critical in leading the rebels.

  • 10:46:14

    WRIGHTBut there is a sense, unlike Egypt and Tunisia, that there is a collective that is taking power. And that, really, is so critical to this next phase, that they're talking about elections, holding elections quickly, to replace him, that they're not claiming to be the national representatives, only to be the temporary interim leaders.

  • 10:46:36

    SCHENKERYeah, and they're incredibly credible. I mean, if you look at it, you know, Abdul Jalil was the former supreme court justice of -- and he was -- or the minister of justice in Libya. And he resigned because of excessive violence of Qaddafi. You know, Mahmoud Jibril himself, you know, has a doctorate in management. He's a very impressive individual from American University.

  • 10:46:57

    SCHENKERSo, you know, these guys are credible, I think, on the ground if you wanted anybody to be able to manage this transition.

  • 10:47:05

    REHMAnd Saidu (sp?) of Cincinnati, Ohio, says, "Nadia earlier mentioned this news as the beginning in the second round of the Arab uprising. Do you believe Algeria, Morocco, Mauritania will follow?"

  • 10:47:25

    BILBASSYWhat I said is what we have seen last night has definitely galvanized the Arab world once again. These scenes, we have not witnessed 'till -- since Cairo, since Tahrir Square. I don't know about Algeria and Morocco and Mauritania because each Arab country has its own dynamics. Morocco, for example, the king was very quick to introduce these reforms and to be inclusive. And we have not seen him on the massive scale.

  • 10:47:48

    BILBASSYAnd Algeria somehow kind of kept away. We have not seen demonstrations. But I think Syria -- it will give a push for Syria now. I think this is the country that we have to watch.

  • 10:47:57


  • 10:47:59

    WRIGHTI was actually the one who said that it was phase two. And I do believe that Syria is the most important country in the Middle East right now. This is a place where -- that is because of its strategic location, because it's involved on so many fronts, whether it's the Arab-Israeli peace process, Turkey to the north, Iraq on another border, Jordan and Lebanon, that, strategically, it's pivotal.

  • 10:48:20

    WRIGHTBut it's also the place where you've seen, in many ways, the toughest and most resilient stand every single week in the face of a regime that's been brutal...

  • 10:48:33

    SCHENKERAnd massacres.

  • 10:48:34

    WRIGHT...and doesn't have NATO behind it to help it, that the people have not taken up arms yet, has not disintegrated into a civil war, and that is also in a -- in terms of its location, location, location, as people say, it is close to the Gulf. And this is the last bastion, the last holdout, where you haven't seen, in terms of the oil-rich sheikhdoms, the kind of protests.

  • 10:48:58

    WRIGHTAnd once, you know, Syria goes one way or another, that signals to all the holdouts that, you know, if Bashar Assad can't hold on to power, then nobody can.

  • 10:49:10

    REHMNow, again, CNN is reporting that Qaddafi forces hold the hotel and the hospital in Tripoli. Now, how significant does that imply that those forces, pro-Qaddafi forces, still are?

  • 10:49:32

    BILBASSYI think the hotel might be slightly because all the foreign journalists are based in this hotel, and who control the message ultimately will have their voice to the outside world. Yesterday, I was watching the reports and this morning, and they were saying, basically, the spokesman for the government Ibrahim Moussa is nowhere to be seen, and who was left in the hotel was only the security forces.

  • 10:49:53

    BILBASSYSo this is significant in a way, but, I mean, as we see, Diane, the situation is very volatile and changing by the minute. So they might hold it now. An hour or two hours, they might not be able to do so.

  • 10:50:06

    REHMAnd yet the rebels are chanting, Libya is free, Libya is free. David.

  • 10:50:14

    SCHENKERIt's finished. I mean, there may be holdouts, but there's no chance this regime is going to resurrect itself. It's not like early on where it looked like the rebels were advancing, and then it was -- it turned back. There's no popularity.

  • 10:50:26

    REHMAll right. To Baltimore, Md. Good morning Sarah. Sarah, are you there? Let's try Greensboro, N.C. Good morning, Alex.

  • 10:50:39

    ALEXGood morning. How are you, Diane.

  • 10:50:40

    REHMFine, thanks.

  • 10:50:42

    ALEXGood. My question is about development. So if the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development were to give loans to the TNC to help rebuild Libya, what conditions would they place on the loans? And how would it shape the future of Libya's economy?

  • 10:50:57

    SCHENKERWell, listen, I don't think it's really a matter of money. I mean, part of what the bank can do is loan money. But part of -- a major part of what it does and what it did in Europe was to rebuild ministries and to help restructure the government in a way that is functional and is along a democratic model. They were extremely successful in Eastern Europe, doing this after the fall of the Soviet Union.

  • 10:51:23

    SCHENKERLibya, as we said earlier, is not going to need a whole lot of money, particularly if they can get these frozen assets back. Britain, I believe, announced today that it was going to return these assets immediately to the TNC, the ones that they hold. But the United States, I would imagine, would be not far behind. So I don't think it's really a matter of money.

  • 10:51:41

    SCHENKERThe conditions would be that they're going to push forward democracy, just like the IMF, that they will have to be transparent elections and governance that is, I think, you know, acceptable by a Western standard.

  • 10:51:56

    REHMHow do you think it is possible, or do you think it's possible, that what's happened here could affect what's happening in Syria?

  • 10:52:10

    WRIGHTOh, I think this will be a shot of adrenaline and reenergize the -- a lot of the movements in the region. A sense that Qaddafi using extraordinary force was unable to put down this ragtag group of fellows who had limited weapons, had to rebuild arms, were using anti-aircraft guns to adapt them for use on the ground, it's quite extraordinary.

  • 10:52:38

    WRIGHTI think Syria, especially given the fact that Mubarak is standing trial in Egypt, that there are all these things, this confluence coming together, that signals Assad's in trouble, I think by the end of the year we will have three more leaders who are out of power.

  • 10:52:54


  • 10:52:55

    WRIGHTYemen, President Saleh, Muammar Qaddafi, now almost a given in Libya, and Bashar Assad.

  • 10:53:00

    BILBASSYAnd Bashar Assad.

  • 10:53:02

    WRIGHTAnd it'll be a close call. I think it's going to take a while in Syria, but it is not tenable for him to remain in power any longer.

  • 10:53:08

    REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." To Grand Rapids, Mich. Good morning, Isaac.

  • 10:53:18

    ISAACYes. Thank you for taking my call.

  • 10:53:19


  • 10:53:20

    ISAACI have a question. The Scud missiles that are in Qaddafi's inventory, do they know if the rebels have taken control of them? If not, if Qaddafi's forces still have them, is there a fear he may use those to take off the refineries before al-Assad?

  • 10:53:39


  • 10:53:39

    SCHENKERI don't think that's a significant concern of most of the people that are watching this. Qaddafi fired off one Scud missile that landed in the middle of a desert, that there is not a whole lot of capability, technical expertise on the ground. And these things aren't particularly accurate in any event, and they're not tipped with chemical weapons anymore. So...

  • 10:53:58

    REHMCoarse oil prices have gone down today as the result of this. Stock prices have gone up, Nadia.

  • 10:54:06

    BILBASSYAbsolutely. And this is really good news. I mean, considering the fact, as we said, that United States only use 2 percent of Libyan oil. But I think, in general, in the market, there was good impact...

  • 10:54:14


  • 10:54:14

    BILBASSY...European in particular -- in the world, is just good improvement. And the fact that we might see the price of oil actually returning to the old prices, this is good news. But also, just to comment -- well, not 100 percent, but cautiously optimistic that that might happen. But also, add into the military, we don't know if the command structure is intact.

  • 10:54:36

    BILBASSYI mean, even if he has weapons, if he have service to air missile, et cetera, we don't know if Qaddafi (word?) is in hiding. And we don't know where he is isolated. Who's giving the order? Is his command, actually, structure still there and they able to give the order to burn the city or to defend him or to defect from him or--we don't know.

  • 10:54:53

    WRIGHTHe's no longer capable of taking the offensive. He is now completely in defensive mode. The Scud missiles, if they were ever going to be used, should have been used a long time ago. I don't think that they're a factor anymore. It's really just a matter of his survival and the kind of inner circle those troops left around him. His ability to attack the refineries -- he should have done that a long time ago. He hasn't had access to them for a long time anyway.

  • 10:55:16

    REHMQuick question from Abdul in Herndon, Va. Good morning.

  • 10:55:22

    ABDULGood morning.

  • 10:55:24


  • 10:55:25


  • 10:55:27

    REHMLet's try Mohammad (sp?) in Indianapolis. Good morning to you, sir.

  • 10:55:33

    MOHAMMADYes. Why hasn't there been any reporting at all on the slaughtering of the black workers that have come in from Africa to work in Libya? And many of them have just been outright slaughtered because they have been seen as those persons who worked for Qaddafi in fighting against them.

  • 10:55:49

    SCHENKERWell, I think the reports that I heard early on was that everybody who could get out from the expatriate workers that could, got out. I'm sure that there were some that could not, but there was really a mass exodus. A lot of the reports that I'm reading about Africans in Libya who've been killed are the mercenaries that Qaddafi had employed to fight in his service.

  • 10:56:11

    SCHENKERAnd you can read about them every day, about the bodies lying in Green Square of the African mercenaries. But I've not heard about, you know, broad-spread slaughter of some African.

  • 10:56:24

    REHMWell, let's hope that the slaughter has come to an end. Let us hope that those who are in charge will find a way to bring people together. Thank you all so much, Robin Wright, David Schenker, Nadia Bilbassy. And thank you for all your calls and comments. Thanks for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.

  • 10:56:55

    ANNOUNCER"The Diane Rehm Show" is produced by Sandra Pinkard, Nancy Robertson, Susan Nabors, Denise Couture, Monique Nazareth, Sarah Ashworth, Lisa Dunn and Nikki Jecks. The engineer is Tobey Schreiner. A.C. Valdez answers the phones. Visit drshow.org for audio archives, transcripts, podcasts and CD sales. Call 202-885-1200 for more information. Our email address is drshow@wamu.org. And we're on Facebook and Twitter. This program comes to you from American University in Washington. This is NPR.

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