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Tuesday, March 1, 2011     FOR YOUR EYES ONLY

Libya chaos: Opposition in disarray, Islamists keeping their powder dry

CAIRO — The opposition has failed to unite its forces in the drive to topple Libyan Col. Moammar Gadhafi.


Western intelligence sources said the opposition, despite the defection of thousands of soldiers, has failed to form a united rebel command that could overpower the Gadhafi regime. They said the rebel drive toward Tripoli has been haphazard and ineffective against Gadhafi's largely-mercernary force.

"Right now, everybody with a gun is a general and there is no cooperation," an intelligence source said.

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The sources said Gadhafi has managed to divide the opposition to his regime. They said several leading tribes have refused to join the revolt and instead are taking a wait-and-see approach.

The sources said the opposition has been receiving generous funding from Saudi Arabia, long a target of Gadhafi. But they said the opposition has been divided by both tribal rivalries as well as the emergence of an Islamic movement guided by the Muslim Brotherhood in neighboring Egypt.

The Islamists were said to be hoarding weapons sent from Egypt rather than fighting the Gadhafi regime. The sources said the Islamists appeared to be preparing for the day after Gadhafi's expected ouster, when the opposition was expected to fight each other for control.

Libya's major tribes have also failed to join the opposition. Instead, the tribes were seeking to carve out power zones that would serve as bargaining chips in a post-Gadhafi Libya.

"They are more interested in killing each other than in killing Gadhafi," another intelligence source said.

On Feb. 25, an opposition drive to Tripoli failed. A force of several dozen fighters in 4x4 sports utility vehicles drove toward Tripoli and was eliminated by Gadhafi troops, many of them African mercenaries.

"Entering Tripoli is not easy," Brig. Gen. Ahmed Gatrani, a rebel commander, said.

At this point, the opposition has taken control of eastern Libya near part of the border with Egypt. But the Gadhafi regime was believed to remain the authority throughout the west and much of the south. On March 1, thousands of Gadhafi troops were deployed near the Tunisian border in what appeared to mark an imminent offensive against opposition forces.

"The only way to stop this is to kill Gadhafi himself," the source said. "He is a survivor and knows how to compensate his loyalists."

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