Libyan Rebels Take Tripoli


Hopefully this signals an end to the hostilities. At this time it appears no one knows where Gaddafi is:

Euphoric Libyan rebels took control of most of Tripoli in a lightning advance Sunday, celebrating the victory in Green Square, the symbolic heart of Moammar Gadhafi’s regime. Gadhafi’s defenders quickly melted away as his 42-year rule crumbled, but the leader’s whereabouts were unknown and pockets of resistance remained.

State TV broadcast Gadhafi’s bitter pleas for Libyans to defend his regime. Opposition fighters captured his son and one-time heir apparent, Seif al-Islam, who along with his father faces charges of crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court in the Netherlands. Another son was under house arrest.

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“It’s over, frizz-head,” chanted hundreds of jubilant men and women massed in Green Square, using a mocking nickname of the curly-haired Gadhafi. The revelers fired shots in the air, clapped and waved the rebels’ tricolor flag. Some set fire to the green flag of Gadhafi’s regime and shot holes in a poster with the leader’s image.

The startling rebel breakthrough, after a long deadlock in Libya’s 6-month-old civil war, was the culmination of a closely coordinated plan by rebels, NATO and anti-Gadhafi residents inside Tripoli, rebel leaders said. Rebel fighters from the west swept over 20 miles (30 kilometers) in a matter of hours Sunday, taking town after town and overwhelming a major military base as residents poured out to cheer them. At the same time, Tripoli residents secretly armed by rebels rose up.

When rebels reached the gates of Tripoli, the special battalion entrusted by Gadhafi with guarding the capital promptly surrendered. The reason: Its commander, whose brother had been executed by Gadhafi years ago, was secretly loyal to the rebellion, a senior rebel official Fathi al-Baja told The Associated Press.

Al-Baja, the head of the rebels’ political committee, said the opposition’s National Transitional Council had been working on the offensive for the past three months, coordinating with NATO and rebels within Tripoli. Sleeper cells were set up in the capital, armed by rebel smugglers. On Thursday and Friday, NATO intensified strikes inside the capital, and on Saturday, the sleeper cells began to rise up.

President Barack Obama said Libya is “slipping from the grasp of a tyrant” and urged Gadhafi to relinquish power to prevent more bloodshed.

“The future of Libya is now in the hands of the Libyan people,” Obama said in a statement from Martha’s Vineyard, where he’s vacationing. He promised to work closely with rebels.

Now we will see who exactly these “rebels” are as they try to form a government. I heard on the news this morning that they were going to the United Nations to open an inquiry into NATO bombings which killed civilians. I can’t find a link to substantiate that yet. If that is in fact true, it could signal a bumpy start to a relationship between the U.S. and the new Libyan government.

A lot of commentators are now saying that the Arab Spring is bad for the region, that all it has brought is instability. I think it’s important to remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day. This is going to take a long time and people are impatient. Democracies don’t sprout up overnight no matter how well-intentioned. Even the United States had a very bumpy start as we sought to disentangle ourselves from British rule, culminating in the Revolutionary War. There were growing pains and there will be difficult times ahead in Egypt, Libya, Syria, Tunisia etc. Israel is already blaming the fall of Mubarak on the recent attacks there. Now more than ever it is important for Israel and Egypt to do something they have never been very good at- diplomacy. It may take years for democracy to take hold. Lets not hold the Arab world to a different standard than we hold the rest of the world.

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About Stacy

Attorney, Publisher, Foreign Policy wonk

View all posts by Stacy

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