Hours after US and British figures called for "the head of the snake" in Libya to be cut off, NATO warplanes early Monday, April 25, pulverized a building in Muammar Qaddafi's Bab al-Aziziyah working compound in Tripoli. His offices and conference room was wrecked. A government official called the strike an attempt on the Libyan ruler's life which coalition spokesmen did not deny.
He did not disclose Qaddafi's whereabouts. About 45 people were hurt in the strike, 15 of them seriously and some still missing. The ruler's son Saif al Islam said such attacks would achieve nothing since the West was losing the war in Libya in any case.
There was no word about which nations took part in the Bab al-Aziziyah air strike. Targeting the life of Muammar Qaddafi was not mandated in UN Security Council resolution 1973. However, debkafile's military sources report that coalition leaders are increasingly frustrated by their failure to break the deadlock in the Libyan war and Qaddafi's ability to stand up to whatever they throw at him and even gain ground.
West European banking circles confirm that Security Council economic sanctions against the Libyan government are not biting. Qaddafi is using billions of dollars held in funds in the west to bankroll his war although those funds were supposedly frozen.
The pace of coalition bombardments of Tripoli was intensified in recent days when the rebels' celebration of victory in Misratah proved premature. By Monday, it was clear that the rebels were only in control of the port and a few streets, while most of the city remained under the guns and rockets of pro-Qaddafi forces. The rebels moreover faced a 48-hour ultimatum from local tribes to hand in their weapons and surrender.
Qaddafi tightened his stranglehold on the opposition facing him in Misratah by the paradoxical maneuver of apparently withdrawing his troops and handing the town over to local tribes loyal to him. This puts NATO in a quandary: The Western allies cannot attack those tribes without laying themselves open to charges of attacking Libyan civilians whom the UN resolution obliges them to defend.
Sunday, US Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, member of the Armed Services Committee, called for the head of the snake to be cut off. "The people around Qaddafi need to wake up every day wondering, 'Will this be my last.''" UK Foreign Secretary William Hague said he would not rule out the use of US Predator drones for assassinating the Libyan ruler.
The drone aircraft the US sent last week to Libya fired for the first time Saturday. Its target was not disclosed then, but shortly after the Hague statement, a NATO headquarters source revealed that the pilotless aircraft had destroyed a Libyan army rocket launcher.
The US, France and Britain have vowed to continue their air campaign until Qaddafi is out of power.
However, in Washington, US President Barack Obama faces rising criticism of the inconsistencies in his military policy for Libya. The most common is that America should never have gone in on the side of the rebels in the first place, but once it was launched, the administration should have acted with determination and not seen to be wavering back and forth.
The military commentator Anthony H. Cordesman called the administration's military decisions – starting from a fly zone over Libya up until the deployment of drones – farcical. Other military pundits indicated that the Pentagon's approval for sending the Predators to Libya was only obtained because Defense Security Robert Gates and armed forces chief Adm. Mike Mullen felt the need to obscure the Commander-in-Chief's inability to chart a clear American military course in the Libyan war. Both firmly opposed American military intervention in Libya from the start. But now, they have come to appreciate that Obama's inability to stick to any decision, including the one to bow out and hand over to NATO, is doing American more strategic harm that full intervention would have done.
Some Washington sources quote Chinese diplomats as reporting that North Korean interlocutors told them bluntly that if Libya is an example of American prowess, then Pyongyang has nothing to fear from Washington.