On March 30, Gadhafi troops employed Russian-origin main battle tanks,
armored personnel carriers and rockets to repel a rebel advance and capture
Ras Lanouf, Sider as well as other oil towns, Middle East Newsline reported. The rebels said NATO, which on
March 27 assumed formal responsibility for the mission from the United
States, provided no combat air support during the battle.
"The rebels are completely incapable of staging any offensive," the
source said. "If NATO wants to get rid of Gadhafi, it will have to do so
The intelligence sources said the rebels, despite NATO's decimation of
Libya's air force and navy, remained divided and unable to counter
Gadhafi's firepower. They said this has prevented the rebels from
exploiting the NATO no-fly zone and retake cities lost to Gadhafi over the
last two weeks.
A key rebel target has been Sirte, Gadhafi's home city. In March, the
rebels twice failed to attack the city, and instead were driven back
hundreds of kilometers in a Gadhafi counter-offensive.
The sources said Britain and the United States were providing limited
training and equipment support to the Libyan rebels. But they said the
Western support has failed to overcome deep divisions within the rebel
"As we publicly debate the next steps on Libya, I do not support arming the
Libyan rebels at this time," House Intelligence Committee chairman Rep. Mike
Rogers said on March 30. "We need to understand more about the opposition
before I would support passing out guns and advanced weapons to them."
So far, most NATO members, who met in London on March 30, were said to
oppose direct combat support to the rebels. U.S. President Barack Obama, who
over the last week has turned into an enthusiastic supporter of the NATO
mission, has not dismissed the prospect of arming the rebels.
"I'm not ruling it out," Obama said. "But I'm also not ruling it in.
We're still making an assessment partly about what Gadhafi's forces are
going to be doing."
NATO leaders have acknowledged that the no-fly zone was insufficient to
even threaten the Gadhafi regime. They said this could result in the
mission lasting until the end of 2011, a prospect opposed by most NATO
"We are going to tip the balance [for the rebels]," a European Union
diplomat said in a briefing.