Colonel Gaddafi has vowed that he will not give up power without a fight, ruling out the possibility of following in the footsteps of the former Egyptian and Tunisian leaders. With that in mind, diplomats and experts are divided on the possible future scenarios for Libya.
There are those who talk about the likelihood of a drawn-out civil war, with heavily armed groups taking sides in a divided country. They warn of a lethal mix of pro and anti-Gaddafi supporters and heavily armed tribal groups.
One of Colonel Gaddafi’s sons has already taken on a leadership role, appearing on television and making passionate calls for the police and security forces to fight back. He has also talked about a conspiracy involving Egyptians and Tunisians, making nationals from those countries the target of pro-Gaddafi anger.
It remains to be seen, however, whether Gaddafi has the numbers to restamp his authority over the entire country. Some kind of partition of Libya seems to be a real possibility.
Another scenario could be a military coup. There have already been scenes of soldiers abandoning military bases and equipment, and political defections have also taken place.
One symbolic announcement came from Libya’s delegate to the UN, once a close ally of Gaddafi. His decision to abandon the Libyan regime was widely welcomed.
But Gaddafi is also propped up by a diverse range of mercenaries and elite security forces; for some kind of military takeover to succeed, there would have to be a united campaign. Some experts say that kind of coordination is almost impossible.
Foreign military intervention cannot be ruled out, involving either close neighbours or Western countries. If NATO, for example, got involved, it is likely there would be a humanitarian role.
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said: “NATO has assets that can be used in a situation like this and NATO can act as an enabler and coordinator, if and when individual members states want to take action.”
Some observers say any widespread, organised attacks on civilians would raise the likelihood of foreign military intervention.