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Tuesday, August 2, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

NATO officials: Chances of victory over Gadhafi thwarted by assassination of rebel leader

LONDON — NATO's confidence in Libya's rebel movement has plummeted in wake of the assassination of its military commander by his own men.


Officials said NATO has assessed that the assassination of Gen. Abdul Fatah Yunis has significantly weakened the credibility as well as military capabilities of the rebel movement, called the National Transitional Council. They said his death has dashed any hopes of a rebel victory over the regime of Col. Moammar Gadhafi.

Officials acknowledged that NATO underestimated the bloody rivalry within the tribes that comprise the rebel movement.

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On July 31, in wake of Yunis's assassination, rebels battled each other in Benghazi in what spokespeople asserted marked a campaign to eradicate a "fifth column" loyal to Gadhafi, Middle East Newsline reported. Yunis comes from the Obeidi tribe, the largest in eastern Libya.

"Since the issue of the tribes is sensitive, we did not want to stop them, from the early days," rebel Deputy Interior Minister Mustapha Sagazly told a briefing.

"The key to the Libyan resolution will be whether or not the close circle around Col. Gadhafi recognize there is no point investing in him," British Defence Minister Liam Fox said. "[That h]e is a busted flush, and that he will sooner or later have to leave power."

In an interview with the British Broadcasting Corp. on Aug. 1, Fox expressed NATO frustration over the rebel movement. The British minister said the rebel movement was a long way from achieving power and remained unable to capture Gadhafi strongholds.

"It always had limited capacity on the ground," Fox said.

On Aug. 1, Fox arrived in Washington for talks with U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to review the NATO mission in Libya. Most of the participants in the NATO mission have expressed concern that the rebel war would continue for years despite daily air strikes by the Western alliance.

"They [rebels] are being assisted in terms of communications and their logistics and making the best use of the equipment that they have," Fox said. "They may be getting equipment from elsewhere but they will still have limited ground potential."

On Aug. 1, Norway withdrew its fighter-jet fleet from the NATO mission in Libya. Norway had deployed up to six U.S.-origin F-16 multi-role fighters to target facilities of the Gadhafi regime.

At the same time, France relayed $259 million in frozen Gadhafi funds to the Libyan rebels. The French government said the money should be used for "food and medicine."

"The NTC will now be able to use these funds for purchases of a humanitarian nature," the French Foreign Ministry said on Aug. 1.

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