“In a White House statement on Obama’s telephone call with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Obama took his most direct position yet on the escalating violence in Libya.
“‘The president stated that when a leader’s only means of staying in power is to use mass violence against his own people, he has lost the legitimacy to rule and needs to do what is right for his country by leaving now,’ it said.”
“Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton echoed Obama’s demand in a statement saying that Gadhafi’s government would he held ‘accountable for its violation of human rights.’
“‘Moammar Gadhafi has lost the confidence of his people and he should go without further bloodshed and violence,’ Clinton said in her statement.”
“Moammar Kadafi retained his stubborn grip on Tripoli on Saturday, blocking entry to the city with military tanks and clearing the streets of protesters with irregular security forces…
“‘Very few people want to demonstrate. There were so many people killed yesterday,’ Adel Ben Halim, a 48-year-old merchant in the capital, said in a phone interview. ‘It was beyond a massacre.’…
“‘Nine people were killed in just 15 minutes in a neighborhood on the east side of the city when eight mercenaries opened the back door [of an ambulance] and started shooting at the crowd,’ Ben Halim said. ‘They used the ambulance for the element of surprise.'”
“[T]he revolutionary forces will most certainly have to capture the capital, which means getting past the Gaddafi stronghold of Sert, and past the superior weaponry of Gaddafi’s loyalist forces and mercenaries in Tripoli itself. In recent days, Hussein has been placing calls to military officers and residents in Sert, which stands in between Benghazi and Tripoli. ‘We don’t want to treat them as they were treated before,’ he says, meaning inhumanely. ‘And we don’t want to behave like killers. So we made an appeal, as a warning, to allow us to move freely toward Tripoli.’
“In the past week, the eastern revolutionaries say, Gaddafi has been losing control of his country, one piece at a time. His forces, diplomats, ministers, and bureaucrats have fallen away. There is unity among the rebels, he says, as well as increasing determination to reach the end game. ‘We are preparing ourselves, and we will march to Tripoli to bombard Bab Bin Gashin,’ Hussein says, referring to Gaddafi’s Tripoli stronghold where he believes the ruler is hiding. ‘We have planes and pilots who were assigned by Gaddafi to bomb Benghazi, but who refused and landed here safely. We have pilots who are ready to crash their planes in a suicidal way if necessary.’
“Is the ultimate plan to kill Gaddafi, as many eager revolutionaries along the Mediterranean coast say? Hussein peers up over his rectangular reading glasses and offers a wry smile: ‘We hope to catch him alive.'”
Khanna: That’s often what happens with sanctions, unfortunately. Right now these are short-term kinds of sanctions. This is an effort to try to squeeze the man very quickly. This isn’t one of those things that is going to drag on for years and years, quite frankly, because he doesn’t have years left in his life. But that said, they’re going to have limited impact on the ground. Because right now, it’s not about money. It’s about how much weapons does he have, how many tribes does he control? That’s what matters more right now than whether or not we’ve frozen assets in Geneva.
Mitchell: If the sanctions don’t work, in your mind, what should the United States do?
Khanna: They’re going to have to consider more serious options. Flying to Geneva, the Human Rights Council, is one thing. And they can make statements and declarations. They’re going to have to consider more serious measures. They may have to support the potential independence, in fact, of the eastern half of the country, whose capital is Benghazi. That’s one scenario people were talking about. Potentially some kind of military intervention to try and sort of isolate him further within the capital. Or at least stop some of his military forces from conducting the raids and the assaults they are on the people. There’s still some options on the table. This is going to escalate before it deescalates.
“‘If you hear fireworks don’t mistake it for shooting,’ the 38-year-old London-educated younger Gadhafi said, smiling.”