After months of stalemate, revolutionary forces seemed to have made a crucial advance in their campaign against Libyan dictator Muammar Qadhafi. Over the weekend, the rebels pushed into the capital city of Tripoli, Qadhafi's final stronghold, and were have said to have taken over nearly 90 percent of the city. Said President Obama in a statement from Martha's Vineyard Monday: "This much is clear: The Qaddafi regime is coming to an end, and the future of Libya is in the hands of its people." [Read: Obama's Win in Libya]
However, only hours later, doubts emerged about the rebels' victory over the Qadhafi regime. Seif al-Islam el-Qadhafi, one of the dictator's sons that rebels had claimed to have captured, showed up at the Rixos Hotel where foreign journalists were staying. He took reporters on a drive to show them the parts of cities still under regime control, boasting that the rebels had been lured into a trap, that the his father remained in Tripoli, and that they were "going to break the backbone of the rebels." With his appearance as well as the escape of his brother Muhammad from house arrest, questions arose to whether rebels were exaggerating their control of the city. [See photos of unrest in Libya.]
Fighting continues in Tripoli. If and when rebels do assume full control, other concerns linger. First is the power vacuum that will be created once the Qadhafi regime falls. Argues Susan Milligan, "However awful a dictator may be, his presence usually brings a predictability and stability to the country." With tribal divisions already showing in the rebel forces, these cracks can widen to allow for Islamic extremist, often affiliated with terrorist groups, to assume leadership. Furthermore are concerns over weapons of mass destruction falling into dangerous hands. Tuesday morning Sen. John McCain called on the United States to "secure the weapons depots" in Libya and indeed the Pentagon reports that it is monitoring chemical sites. On the other side of the spectrum is the worry that United States might slip into another costly nation-building debacle like Iraq or Afghanistan. [See a roundup of editorial cartoons about the mideast uprisings.]
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Previously: What Now for Muammar Qadhafi?