Qaddafi's credibility gap
The day after African Union leaders said Muammar Qaddafi agreed to a cease-fire, he resumed shelling two Libyan towns.
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The violence marks the third time that Qaddafi has violated a cease-fire offer almost as soon as it's been made, and underscores the lack of credibility he and his family have with the rebellion. The man who Zuma called "Brother Leader" on Monday is a despised figure throughout the Libyan east, where the daily death toll of his attacks are added to the thousands of his political opponents murdered during his 41-year reign.
Witnesses today reported artillery fire at the western gate of Ajdabiya and in the center of Misratah. Ajdabiya is the westernmost town in the rebellion's hands while Misratah is the last redoubt of resistance in Libya's west, and has weathered deadly tank and mortar fire for weeks now.
Kim Sengupta of the Independent was in Misratah yesterday and reported at least five civilians killed by an artillery barrage on the town that came within hours of Qaddafi's purported offer to Mr. Zuma and other members of an African Union delegation.
In Benghazi today, members of the rebel government said shelling of Misratah has continued. Qaddafi's soldiers control some parts of town and while many of his tanks have been destroyed by NATO air power, missiles continue to slam into apartment blocks almost every day.
Qaddafi expects to hang on to power
The current stalemate is clearly wind at the back of Qaddafi's regime. I left Libya on Sunday night after almost six weeks there. On the Egyptian side of the eastern border, I and a friend were greeted by a middle-aged man with that "state security look" that anyone who's lived in the Arab world for any time comes to know. He identified himself as a Libyan and was almost aggressively cheerful.
But within moments, the threats began. "You know that no Westerners will ever be allowed back in Libya again," he said, his voice dripping with scorn. "Six million Libyans hate you because of what your planes have done, your war crimes ... and because you violated our sovereignty by entering Libya without a visa."
It's true that my friend and I had entered eastern Libya, out of Qaddafi's hands since Feb. 21, without visas. But we were welcomed with open arms by a people overwhelmed by a freedom to simply speak their minds and talk to reporters without fear of reprisals for the first time in decades. While I have no doubt there are some Qaddafi supporters in the east, in more than a month there I didn't meet anyone who admitted to it. I pointed out that we were welcomed in Libya, that people opened up their homes to us and again and again thanks us for coming. "Those people aren't Libyans," he said. "They're all agents."
The presence of what I assume to be a security type from Qaddafi's regime loitering about at the Egypt border, where presumably he's trying to keep an eye on the comings and goings of rebel supporters, is a tiny piece of evidence that Qaddafi expects to hang on to power – and is taking steps to secure it. But the "those people aren't Libyans" comment fits in to what I'm calling the "no true Libyan" line of argument.