Muammar Gaddafi addresses the people's committees in Tripoli, Libya on the 34th anniversary of the establishment of the socialist system in this North African state. Gaddafi warned U.S. imperialism of a bloody war if it invaded the country. a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Kadhafi 'will prevail,' top US spy warns
By Stephen Collinson (AFP)
WASHINGTON — America's top spy warned that Moamer Kadhafi's forces would "prevail," even as the Obama government reached out to the Libyan opposition with direct talks and humanitarian aid.
US President Barack Obama was set to hold a press conference at 1615 GMT Friday to address issues such as rising oil prices as the world heaps pressure on Kadhafi and grapples for a response to the fighting on the ground.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who will travel to the Middle East
next week and meet senior anti-Kadhafi figures, said a plan aimed at
establishing a no-fly zone over Libya will be presented to NATO on
"We are continuing to plan for the full range of possible options
including a no-fly zone," Clinton told a press conference, declining
however to indicate who would present it.
She said she shared people's concerns about such a move. "But we have a lot of experience in this kind of circumstance, from Iraq, the
Balkans and elsewhere, and we know how challenging it is to do any of the things that a lot of people are calling for."
Washington also said it would soon send humanitarian aid teams to
rebel-held areas of eastern Libya, but warned the move should not be seen as military intervention.
Kadhafi unleashed new attacks Thursday seeking to recover ground lost in three weeks of fighting, and pro-regime forces succeeded in
recapturing two eastern towns from out-gunned opposition rebels.
The shifting balance of the fighting provoked Kadhafi's son, Seif
al-Islam, to crow that victory was in sight.
And top US spy James Clapper caused a stir on Capitol Hill by
appearing to agree with Seif in an assessment of Kadhafi's military
"Over time I think the regime will prevail," said Clapper at a Senate
hearing. "With respect to the rebels in Libya, and whether or not they
will succeed or not, I think frankly they're in for a tough row."
Lieutenant General Ronald Burgess, director of the Defense
Intelligence Agency, said the momentum in the conflict had "started to shift."
"We have now reached a state of equilibrium. The initiative may
actually be on the regime side."
But Clapper's comments triggered an outcry, and prompted Republican Senator Lindsey Graham to call for him to be fired.
And the White House, which has insisted Kadhafi must go but been
reticent about a no-fly zone, was forced onto the defensive.
National Security Advisor Tom Donilon said Clapper's remarks were
based on a "static and one-dimensional assessment" of military forces and advantages enjoyed by superior Kadhafi forces in Libya.
He preferred to assess the situation through a "multi-dimensional
lens," saying political factors like Kadhafi's loss of legitimacy,
isolation and the determination of Libya's people to oust him could be crucial.
Obama was to discuss "rising energy prices among other things" in
Friday's press conference, a White House official said on condition of
anonymity, adding that the administration was aware of the economic
pain imposed by high fuel costs.
Donilon also appeared to raise the possibility of more formal future
support for the opposition in Libya, after US officials had previously
said they were assessing the goals and make-up of the rebels.
The White House also revealed new details of US contacts with the
opposition, including the National Council, on a day when France moved to recognize the rebels as Libya's rightful government.
"We are in direct contact with the opposition through a variety of
channels, including with all the senior members of the Council and
other individuals within Libya," Obama spokesman Jay Carney said.
In his congressional testimony, Clapper said Libyan air defenses,
including radar and surface-to-air missiles, were "quite substantial"
in comments likely to intensify the debate over a no-fly zone.
Looking further ahead, he raised the possibility of "a reversion to
the pre-Kadhafi, pre-king history of Libya in which there were three
Intelligence director's testimony about Gaddafi causes controversy
By Greg Miller
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 10, 2011; 9:05 PM
Testimony from the nation's intelligence director that Libyan dictator
Moammar Gaddafi will "prevail" in that country's conflict prompted an
attempt by the White House on Thursday to play down that assessment and a call by at least one key senator for the resignation of the nation's top spy.
The fallout was the latest example of the extreme sensitivity
surrounding public comments by U.S. intelligence officials on events
unfolding in North Africa and the Middle East.
The reaction to the remarks by James R. Clapper Jr. also reflects one of the precarious aspects of his job. As director of national
intelligence, Clapper is expected to provide blunt assessments that
aren't shaped by politics, even though such assessments often create political consequences of their own.
Clapper stepped into Thursday's controversy when he was asked to
address the conflict in Libya. Gaddafi "appears to be hunkering down
for the duration," the intelligence director said at a Senate Armed
Services Committee hearing, adding moments later that because the
dictator has superior military resources "over the long term . . . the
regime will prevail."
Clapper's testimony came after President Obama declared that Gaddafi no longer had a legitimate hold on power, and as the administration said Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton would meet with leaders of the Libyan opposition.
Within hours, the White House was all but dismissing Clapper's
remarks. National security adviser Thomas E. Donilon described
Clapper's appraisal as "a static and one-dimensional assessment,"
reflecting the lopsided division of military assets in Libya but not
other forces sweeping through the region.
Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) issued a statement calling for Obama to fire Clapper. The director's comments "will make the situation more difficult for those opposing Gaddafi," Graham said. "It also undercuts our national efforts to bring about the desired result of Libya moving from dictator to democracy."
Pointing out that previous Clapper statements have also created
controversy, the senator said the comments about Libya "should be the final straw."
Clapper often serves as Obama's primary briefer and is the
intelligence community's main voice on Capitol Hill. He has held the
job since last August, and has been faulted for a series of public
Last month, his office was forced to issue a clarification after he
erroneously characterized Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood as a "largely
In a December television interview designed to calm public fears about holiday terrorist threats, Clapper had to acknowledge that he was unaware of a bombing in London that had been the focus of abundant news reports that day.
He also raised eyebrows with other remarks in Thursday's hearing
before the Senate panel, saying at one point that China and Russia
each pose a "mortal threat" to the United States.
Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.), the chairman of the committee, expressed disbelief at the comment, prompting Clapper to clarify that he was referring to the capacity of China and Russia to threaten the United States with their nuclear arsenals, not their intent.
Clapper is not the only top intelligence official to come under
criticism for public testimony about the crisis in the Arab world. CIA
Director Leon E. Panetta testified last month that Egyptian President
Hosni Mubarak was expected to step down on the same day that Mubarak defiantly insisted he would remain in power. Mubarak did yield his position the next day.
In some ways, the criticism aimed at Clapper had more to do with the
setting and timing of his comments than with their accuracy.
Lt. Gen. Ronald L. Burgess Jr., the head of the Defense Intelligence
Agency, said he agrees that Libya has a military advantage and that
"the initiative" in the conflict "may actually be on the regime side."
Graham, who did not attend Thursday's hearing even though he is a
member of the committee, acknowledged that Clapper's analysis "could prove to be accurate, but it should not have been made in such a public forum."
When asked whether Obama is happy with an intelligence chief who
"conducts static and one-dimensional analysis," Donilon replied: "The president is very happy with the performance of General Clapper and we work together every single day."
West heads divided into pivotal Libya crisis talks
By Claire Rosemberg (AFP)
BRUSSELS — Western powers head into pivotal Libya crisis talks Friday divided over a British-French push for formal recognition of Moamer Kadhafi's opponents and a Paris plea for limited airstrikes.
Capping 48 hours of talks on Libya involving NATO defence ministers
and European Union foreign ministers, heads of state and government of the 27-nation bloc head to Brussels for an emergency summit aimed at delivering a joint response on events in the oil-rich country.
"Colonel Kadhafi must relinquish power immediately," the EU leaders will say at the talks, according to a draft of summit conclusions obtained by AFP.
They will also opt for "continued planning with NATO Allies" to
prepare for all contingencies, including a no-fly zone, the document
Britain and France have a draft resolution in hand to put to the
United Nations Security Council for an air exclusion zone over the
oil-rich country. But the council remains split on the issue and even
allies Germany and Italy have sounded words of warning.
"We do not want to get sucked into a war in North Africa," German
Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said Thursday.
"We want to have freedom. We want to support peace," he said. But
decisions had to be taken wisely and with care, he added.
At the two-day NATO defence ministers' talks that began Thursday, the alliance agreed to send more ships towards Libya's coast. But it
delayed any decision on imposing a no-fly zone, saying a clear UN
approval for military action was needed first.
"There is no rush to move forward without the UN," the EU's foreign
policy chief Catherine Ashton told a group of reporters as the bloc
tightened the screws on Kadhafi with a batch of new sanctions
targeting key Tripoli firms.
On military as well as on political options towards Libya and the Arab
world at large, Europe needed to move in concert with the region,
notably the Arab League which meets in Cairo this weekend.
"We have to work closely with the region in our approach," said Ashton who will be flying to Cairo on Sunday to debrief Arab League leader Amr Mussa.
"The Arab world has to lead."
The EU's top diplomat had no criticism of France's surprise decision
to recognise Libya's opposition as the country's rightful
representative. Recognition of governments was "a question for member states", she said.
But President Nicolas Sarkozy's sudden move, along with his call for
aerial action, cast a pall over talks between the bloc's foreign
"Recognition should be a European, not a national, decision," said
Italy's Foreign Minister Franco Frattini.
Berlin too objected, with Chancellor Angela Merkel not only taken
aback at France's recognition of Libya's opposition but also warning
against "use of military means".
"Merkel is surprised that France has recognised the national council," said a statement issued by the German lower house of parliament. She had also underlined the "scepticism of the German government over the use of military means in Libya," it added.
France and Britain nevertheless piled more pressure on their partners in a joint letter to EU president Herman Van Rompuy later, urging the union to consider the country's rebel national council a valid political interlocutor.
"We support the efforts of the Libyan Interim Transitional National
Council to prepare for a representative and accountable government," Cameron and Sarkozy said.
"We should send the clear political signal that we consider the
Council to be valid political interlocutors."
In areas where consensus is more likely, European leaders will also
address a looming humanitarian crisis and sign up to a policy U-turn
towards the southern Mediterranean that signals the end of an era of
Slammed for propping up despots and turning a blind eye to rights
abuses, Europe's leaders have pledged a "top to toe" revamp of aid and trade deals with countries on its southern flank.
"Europe bowed before these dictators, it paid no heed to repression,"
said Alain Deletroz, an analyst at the International Crisis Group.
"Europe is bidding to open a new chapter carrying a heavy burden from the past."