With Libyan rebels now closing in on the capital Tripoli, even if the Gaddafi regime continues to deny it, the dictator’s powerbase is now surrounded by land, sea, and air.
The endgame is in sight after 42 years in power. What are the options facing Muammar Gaddafi now?
A fight until bloody death is not being ruled out by either side. One spokesman for the rebel army thinks it is unimaginable that everyone in Tripoli will take up arms, even if some will.
“So I don’t think that the two million people in Tripoli will fight against the revolution. Some of them will – Gaddafi’s guards and the murderers, who are involved with him and his crimes. They’ll fight, because they have nowhere else to go,” said Colonel Ahmed Omar Bani.
Pictures filmed in the capital on Monday seem to prove that. There is tension in the air, but otherwise life goes on. Preparations are being made for a rebel assault that will, say many, be repulsed. Gaddafi loyalists are ready to go all the way in his defence.
Crowds reportedly came out on Monday night to chant Gaddafi’s praises as he broadcast a fresh message of defiance on the radio. “Pick up your weapons,” he cried, “Prepare yourselves for battle, and free Libya,” as if nothing had changed.
But nothing will ever be the same.
It is now known there have been secret negotiations next door in Tunisia in a discreet luxury hotel, talks that are reportedly close to concluding. Venezuela is reportedly mediating talks between the Libyan foreign minister and the rebel’s defence minister. A negotiated solution is probably the most viable for a country salami-sliced by tribal disputes. The rebels deny they are talking to any member of the Gaddafi regime, either directly or indirectly.
Another option is internal exile to some backwater oasis, as Gaddafi has repeatedly said he will not leave Libya. But it is hard to imagine him being allowed to slip quietly away into the sands, or staying there for long.
So why not arrest and try him? A June 27 international arrest warrant from the ICC for crimes against humanity stands, but the African Union refuses to recognise it. Rather than see Gaddafi stage a chaotic escape it would be better to negotiate an exile and force him to accept.
But where would he go? The countries the most often mentioned as destinations are Eritrea, Uganda, South Africa, Senegal, Venezuela and Cuba. Even if Gaddafi is now totally isolated on the international stage, it appears he still has a core group of friends in Africa and beyond.
The final option, which is similar to the first fight-to-the death scenario, is the most radical. An assassination. However political assassinations are more a thing of the past and would make a martyr of Gaddafi, which might not be the best result.