How Vulnerable is Qaddafi’s Position?

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on February 22, 2011

Vulnerable enough that a leading Sunni cleric–who appears to have a predilection for violence–is now calling for his death:

Influential Muslim cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi issued a fatwa on Monday that any Libyan soldier who can shoot dead embattled leader Moamer Kadhafi should do so “to rid Libya of him.”

“Whoever in the Libyan army is able to shoot a bullet at Mr Kadhafi should do so,” Qaradawi, an Egyptian-born cleric who is usually based in Qatar, told Al-Jazeera television.

He also told Libyan soldiers “not to obey orders to strike at your own people,” and urged Libyan ambassadors around the world to dissociate themselves from Kadhafi’s regime.

Qaddafi has spoken out to claim that he remains in Tripoli, seeking to counter reports that he had fled the country and had gone to Venezuela. He may want to leave, of course, seeing as how a number of Libyans in government have decided to desert him:

Libya’s UN ambassadors called for Gadhafi to step down today as protesters claimed to have taken control of Benghazi and fighting — including the burning of government buildings — spread to the capital of Tripoli where angry demonstrators stormed the state television station, set fire to government buildings and the Olympic Square.

“We have never been with Gadhafi. We are with the people,” Libyan Deputy Ambassador to the U.N. Ibrahim Dabbashi told ABC News. It’s “time for him to be prosecuted.”

Dabbashi said he wasn’t aware of Gadhafi’s whereabouts and that communication was limited because of the shutdown of Internet and phone service.

Libyan officials appeared to be defecting from the leader who has ruled the country for 40 years. Ali Ojli, Libya’s ambassador to the United States, condemned the violence by security forces in his country and accused the government of ordering the crackdown.

Two senior Libyan Air Force colonels arrived in Malta today seeking political asylum, saying they fled the country after they were ordered to attack protesters in Benghazi, according to various reports.

To be sure, a lot of these defections amount to opportunism, but that does not change the fact that Qaddafi’s position has been tremendously weakened. Of course, the regime is trying to hold on, jamming television signals that may broadcast images the regime does not want the Libyan people to see, and killing protesters. The situation in Libya may get a whole lost worse before there is any hope of it getting better.

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